Many suffer holiday overload. Borrowing last year’s political cry, “We want change,” we can make the winding down of 2009 a time of reflection and expectation in our personal lives. After all, it is difficult to pray for world peace if we are at odds with ourselves.
Change requires being unafraid of nonconformity. In his 1961 United Nations’ address, President Kennedy said: “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.” If the holidays box us in, the way out is to ask, “What do I want?” The answer changes as life goes along.
When we bog down in “doing,” we exclude the “being” our inner selves crave. The first reflection should be on outward things that can be modified, maybe not instantly but incrementally. When those are manageable, we renew the reason for the season.
My Christmas tree metamorphosis, a downsizing that took years, illustrates my point. With our young children, we trekked to the Florida sand scrub for a Charlie Brown pine. When they were teenagers, uninterested in trek or tree, I bought lush evergreens, later replaced by an artificial spruce so large the room became forest. When our young adults moved out, I hung my Victorian ornaments on a tall, thin pencil tree. Last year, I gave it all to my daughter and settled myself with a tiny tree in its own pot with twinkling, pre-strung lights. After the holidays I bagged it and carried it to the attic. This year I will retrieve, uncover, and plug it in. That’s something I look forward to.
For those appalled by this transition, I warn: “Do not try this at home.” It’s not for you, and it’s not about the tree. I’ll keep silent about gifts, but I will say you won’t find me anywhere near a store on Black Friday or Christmas Eve.
Years ago, tired of the frenzy, I resolved to do what it took to enjoy God’s company during the holidays. Discovering that my dear ones went on with their plans without being scarred by my personal choices, thankfulness filled my Thanksgiving and the true joy of Jesus’ birth lit my Christmas. Hope leaps anew every January 1.
It would be a mistake to plan nonconformity as an act of rebellion or to prove something. Instead of being fulfilled, we end up empty. The popular maverick usually surrounds himself with others who soon look, sound, and think alike. It is as confining as being a slave to traditions we no longer enjoy.
What I have found and commend to others, the Apostle Paul said succinctly in the first century: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2 NIV).
On December 25, 2007, a newspaper feature caught my attention. Larry, a four-foot, female iguana from Charlotte, NC, celebrates the holidays by sleeping in the Christmas tree’s branches, curling against the angel topper. For her, a forest in the living room is “good, pleasing, and perfect,” the bigger the better.
If we are not afraid to “test and approve” the way we spend the coming season, its uniqueness will lighten our hearts and transform our minds. Like Larry, we will find the time good, pleasing, and perfect.
Linda Downing, a contributor to the Amy Internet Syndicate, writes “Side-By-Side: Seeking Simple Truth,” a weekly column for Highlands Today of The Tampa Tribune.