“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
C. S. Lewis
This year it took me a few days to decorate the house but it finally looks lovely and quite festive. You may remember that I usually stop to think what I want each Holiday season to be about that year, those activities that I will make most important and give a priority to from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day. I will include a link below to the old link.
This year, I wanted... no I needed... Christmas to be more serene. I needed the peace of familiar music, familiar decorations and food, and even a desire to watch old Christmas movies as well as family favorites from when the kids were home. I need at least a temporary sanctuary from the times in which we are living.
What I want the most this year is a closer walk with Jesus. I have long thought the season of Advent was special, a time when Heaven once kissed this planet physically and now spiritually each year. What other time of the year do we hear the name of Jesus in background music at various stores?
I have always thought of "thin places" as being a physical location but recently I listened to a podcast where they discussed thin places at various times in their lives, when it seemed the veil between Heaven and Earth slipped away and they felt a closeness to God they rarely feel.
When they discussed those times in which suddenly and unexpectedly Heaven came near, I knew exactly what they were talking about as that same thing has happened to me twice before and both in unexpected places.
The first time was when Stephanie was probably about a year old and I was pushing her stroller through my favorite department store after we finished with her well baby checkup. We walked past the china department, the bookstore section, and toward the tea shop for a much needed hot beverage and snack.
I suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of joy, totally different than anything I had felt before. It was like I was, for a moment, just where I was supposed to be and Heaven surrounded me in that store. Okay, so I know there was a cute baby girl, beautiful china, books, and yes, even a tea room (that was back when big department stores often had a tea room located within the store)... but it was more than experiencing those earthly items I always enjoy.
It was an actual feeling that I only experienced one other time and that was when we were traveling from where we lived in Iowa to my in-law's house about an hour from Chicago for Easter. I was driving while the kids were in the back seat and my husband was resting in the passenger seat. I was listening to an Easter program coming live from Jerusalem on the Moody Channel out of Chicago.
Suddenly, I felt once again as if Heaven was open and I could feel the presence of God in that car as I drove on an Illinois interstate. I felt as if... for the first time... I understood how one day in Eternity, the entire Church will be as one with Him... as if there was no distance between Illinois and Israel at that moment. Once again I felt that overwhelming sense of joy.
I would love to feel that again while walking this planet but the closest I have come to it was during various Christmas seasons. Especially when listening to beautiful music in a church and sometimes even while listening to music at home. There is something about the music of Christmas that creates an atmosphere of worship.
I am working on creating such an atmosphere in my home this season by what I am doing... and what I am not. Recently I was watching a pastor from Los Angeles talk about a person in his congregation who had lost all joy. He had become so embittered and entangled in what is going on politically that it affected his relationship with his wife, children, and even his friends.
He talked to this pastor at his family's request and was quite upset at the advice he was given. He even left the office saying he would never do what was recommended. What was it? To fast politics for a year, not to be involved and not to watch political conversations on media.
He ended up coming back to talk to this pastor as everything in his personal life was coming apart and reluctantly agreed to fast politics for a year. After only one and a half months, he was already a different person. The peace of Christ had returned and his relationships had all greatly improved.
The pastor had also reminded the man from his congregation that the results of elections and what is happening today do not rest upon his shoulders. He was taking all the changes in society too personally and it only resulted in anger and frustration.
As the pastor said in the interview, it doesn't mean people do not get involved in society but when politics become an obsession like it did for that man, it also becomes a god and we are to have no other gods before us. Just as some people cannot take even one drink of alcohol, some people have to abstain from the news.
I have already been careful about how much news I watch but I have decided this Advent season to abstain from political commentary even from Christians I trust unless there is some major tragedy such as war breaking out in the Middle East.
The world is not going to fall apart because I am not listening to commentary. I am certain that if that same amount of time was spent praying for what is going on in the world, it would have more eternal consequences for good.
This season, I am making my Christmas Bucket List only one week at a time. To be honest, November was brutal with the number of appointments and times I had to be away from home. I entered this season exhausted. Which is why it took days to decorate only the tree and three rooms of the house. More if you include the day I decided to polish the silver I wanted on the breakfront this Christmas season.
The house now looks quite festive and while it may not be exactly the Narnia magic I was striving for... it is close enough. So often close enough is just fine. Today I experienced my first morning sipping coffee by the light of the Christmas tree, something I enjoy the entire season.
This next week, I am bringing a few Christmas CDs into the kitchen where I moved the CD player last year. I have already watched a few movies, not a lot but mostly my very favorites from previous years. This week I want to watch a couple of the old movies like White Christmas and The Bishop's Wife.
I already watched a couple favorite Christmas music specials on YouTube and this next week, I want to watch some of the lovely music from The King's College Choir in Cambridge. Heavenly...
As far as reading, I am currently re-reading the sequel to A City of Bells by Elizabeth Goudge called Sister of the Angels. It is the December book for the Elizabeth Goudge Book Club on Instagram. I love this story and until recently, it was very difficult (and often expensive) to find a used copy but now it is available in paperback.
I will then re-read Christmas at Fairacre by Miss Read. It contains Village Christmas, The Christmas Mouse, and No Holly For Miss Quinn in one volume. They are all delightful Christmas reads. The font is big enough that I can read these books fairly easily but I need to go through my Kindle books to see if I can find a good Christmas devotional.
One thing we already did was to order Chinese takeout Friday evening for the first time in ages. It was delicious and there were no dishes to wash. That was a Christmas gift to myself from the family budget. I was still recovering from an eye injection on Thursday.
I loved going out with my daughter alone and with other family members over Thanksgiving. I think perhaps one day this week, I may have to take a little trip to the antique mall to see if there are any vintage ornaments for one or two dollars that I could add to my collection.
That is more than enough to ponder for the coming week. I mostly need restful activities and those that draw my attention to the One that we worship this time of year... and for all of Eternity.
I pray you have a lovely Christmas season and that you choose a few things you really want to do to make the season special. Often it is a easy as putting on your apron to bake something special or taking a favorite Christmas book off the shelf.
Mentioned in this Blog Post
My former Holiday Season List post... here. It still has lots of good ideas!
Sister of the Angles... here. (This is still pricey because it is published by a small publishing company that has reprinted some rare books.)
Christmas at Fairacre... here. (It looks like this is now only available third-party but they are very reasonably priced.)
Elizabeth Goudge Book Club on IG... here.
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Image: Season of Peace