Would that I could BCC you. Consider this my Christmas email.

Although I enjoy receiving them, I have not yet become a person who sends Christmas cards or Christmas photos or Christmas letters, although last year I did send a Christmas email. At the time, it seemed there was enough going on in my life to warrant the festively disguised update, as 2007 had seen some fairly major events in my life, most notably moving to a new city, starting a new job, traveling to both coasts and planning a trip to Hawaii (which actually occurred in 2008, so that might have been cheating). I thought about it for a few seconds today, what would I write about in this year’s hypothetical Christmas email (hypothetical because I am probably not going to send one)? There was not very much that happened this year. I am at the same job, in the same city, in the same apartment. I did not get married or even engaged, I did not have any children. I stopped painting, took a few intro-level courses at the community college, decided that now is not the time for graduate school, and started writing a graphic novel. It was a very quiet year, and in some ways a sad year. It was one of those years in which “the Lord takes” and I learned what it means to let that taking, which is painful, bring me closer to God. There was not much that happened this year in the grandiose-event sense of things happening, but I learned a lot. 2008 has been one of my biggest years yet, as far as learning is concerned.

Perhaps because I am simple-minded (or perhaps because I am an INFJ) I like to categorize my life by year. I tend to categorize by age, such as, “23 was my year of adventure, 24 was my year of romance, 25 was my year of heartbreak, 26 was my year of… (yet to be determined!)” but I will occasionally mix it up and categorize by calendar year (I’m pretty zany like that). If I were to do that this year, I think I would simply say that 2008 was my year of growing. And there are growing pains, but they are necessary. Anyway, I realize that every year we are alive we should be growing, shouldn’t we? And probably I’ve been growing all along but have only recently become aware of what that looks like, to change in subtle but monumental ways.

Oh, I get so cryptic at the end of the year. Probably I am feeling a little sentimental because of the holidays. I am feeling a little guilty that I have not been blogging at all about Advent, but I haven’t really been blogging much at all, so I’m not necessarily a horrible Christian, just a horrible blogger (and a mediocre Christian). Okay not really, I mean, this is a busy time of year no matter what holiday you celebrate, if any. It’s unavoidable. All right, that’s a wrap. (And that’s a hint… to what I’m about to go do!)

From the archives…..

Here’s something I blogged last Advent and here is another.

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Boo hoo, like some kind of Scrooge.

Yay, my Welcome Wagon CD finally came!  Right when I sent an aggitated email to the distributers, of course.  Also, I added a button to subscribe to my feedburner… so subscribe!  You’ll find it in the right sidebar, just under the photo of me looking so skeleton-cool.

Gwen loaned me an American Elf book and now I have the renewed urge to draw a daily comic strip, buuuuut I still don’t have the time.  Gotta focus, Bea. 

I’m cold all the time.  Even the womb has been disappointing me lately.

I have not been in the Christmas spirit.  I decided early on this time around to reject the commercial aspect of the “season”, and my plan was to focus more on the holidays of my preference (Advent and then Christmas).  So I rejected the commercial, but somehow all the stuff that is meaningful to me has kind of slipped out of my sight also.  Which leaves me with nothing, except winter and this constant feeling of cold.  How depressing!  Tomorrow morning, though, Christ Presbyterian is going to be performing Handel’s Messiah so I am really really hoping that gets me in the mood.  Who knows… maybe we need some of the commercial stuff to keep Christmas real.  As much as I hate it, maybe I need to fight the crowds at the mall and choke on the B.O. of some ragtag Santa Claus to realize that there really is something about this time that is different from the rest of the year.  

Or maybe there really isn’t.  We don’t know when Jesus was actually born, right?  Maybe there is no real point to celebrating any of this.  I have this fantasy of celebrating New Years by going to bed at 9pm on December 31 and waking up the next year, no party, no ball dropping, no midnight kiss (which I never get anyway!)  Maybe that’s how I should celebrate Christmas too, just ignore it.  I’m just so bored by all of the tradition.  

What’s wrong with me this year?  I’m in some kind of holiday funk.

Correcting consumerism.

It began innocently enough.  Shawn was playing an instructional DVD which was teaching about light and color in digital art.  I made the comment that I would like to learn how to use Corel Painter, and my mom said, “Well, Christmas is coming.  Maybe you would like that program for a gift?”  We already have Painter, so I began to think what else I might like for a gift.  An ipod?  Computer accessories?  New clothes?  My mind settled for a moment on one thing, and I announced, “I think for Christmas I would like a digital video camera.”  Because it would be fun, to have one of those and make silly movies and capture the memories and what not.  But is it something I need?  Not at all.  It’s something that would be outdated in a year and I would be unhappy with it and want the newest model.  Don’t believe me?  I have a video camera.  It’s sitting on the top shelf of my closet because it’s not cool enough, it’s not digital, it’s not new.  I have an old ipod and heaps of last season’s clothes and stacks of books that I’ll never read, music I never listen to, and computer gadgets I never use, and I’m sitting here thinking of what I want next?  As if I need anymore stuff?

My good friend Rachel posted some great videos on her blog that kind of snapped me back out of my consumerist trance.  She posted the first three but you should watch the entire series.  They are informative and convicting.

My church has been talking about this thing called Advent Conspiracy, substituting compassion for consumerism.  Even if you’re not a Christian it’s worth a look:

Prince of Peace in a war-torn world.

I thought I’d write a little bit more about Mary and Joseph this Advent and in the end I didn’t write a thing about them.  Guessers may suggest it was a Protestant reaction against the virgin Mary (which is not true) or a skeptical mistrust of the earthly father of Jesus, who is barely mentioned after the Nativity story (Did he even stick around?).  But the truth is, I have all kinds of respect and devotion when I think about the parents who raised Christ in this world, I just didn’t have the time to write much about them.  In my private thoughts I did consider what it would have meant for a scared fifteen year old virgin to learn she was pregnant with the son of God, and why her fiance would stand by her in a time in history when it was not only acceptable but even expected that men put women in their place.  I know there was a lot of divine intervention through all of this to make sure that things went on as planned, but even considering that it is pretty evident that Mary and Joseph were some incredible human beings.  Those are the things I didn’t have time to write about this Advent, I apologize.

I have a little time today though, on this Christmas Eve of 2007, and I wanted to just say a few things about the Prince of Peace whose arrival we will celebrate tomorrow.  Something I have been wondering this season is, “Where is the peace?”  Since the birth and life and death and resurrection and ascension of Christ there have been countless wars and holocausts, genocides and massacres, and what’s worse, many of those were exacted in his name.  (My grade school mascot was the Crusader, for crying out loud!) Jesus may have been a pacifist himself, but we don’t go around calling every kind-hearted soul the Prince of Peace.  Even Ghandi didn’t get that kind of a title.  I don’t pretend to know history–I have no idea if the cummulative blood shed was greater in the time before his life or after his life, but I know that this post-Christ era is seemingly infinite and the body-count is growing.  How can we call Jesus the Prince of Peace when there is no end in sight, where violence is concerned?  Jesus may have saved the souls of this world, but he left us here on earth in no better condition than when he came.  Right?  So why the “Prince of Peace”?

I don’t really like to admit that my Advent meditation was, at times, less than adoring.  We’re supposed to focus on the savior, after all, and didn’t I even write a few words about that, about our expectations being horribly misaligned from God’s?  So I continued to ponder it and slowly my skepticism was clouded by a realization.  In Advent we are not only remembering what it is to anticipate a savior–a savior who has already come, as those of us in the A.D. know–but we are waiting this very day for his return, when he will bring peace!  This is one of those ideas that I’ve heard a thousand times–the second meaning of Advent–but I guess I needed to come to realize it on my own for it to fully sink in.  We celebrate the birth of a savior who presently brings peace and quietness to our troubled souls, but we also await a prince of peace who will return and obliterate the suffering of this world!  This is something to get excited about, this Advent.  Peace is coming!  And that name bears all relevance: we await the Prince of Peace.

What were we expecting?

As chores go, there are a few which I absolutely dread. Doing laundry. Scraping ice off of my car. Updating my website. I’m not talking about this blog, which is relatively maintenance-free, I’m talking about my painting website which I haven’t touched since January, almost a year ago. I have new paintings that I haven’t posted or even photographed. I have other projects that I am neglecting to highlight. And even if it were up-to-date, the overall design is just sloppy. As a painter I am average. As a webmaster I am awful. I just don’t enjoy it! But this whole marketing thing is something I plan to work on in 2008, even if it means paying someone to do my website. Graphic designers, place your bids.

Anyway, today is the third Sunday of Advent and after a wonderful service at church I was really hoping to write a post about it. But it’s not easily coming to me. Which is frustrating, because for the first Advent in my life I feel like I am actually approaching an understanding of this season, what it means to anticipate the Messiah and wait patiently for the fulfillment of God’s promises. Yesterday I did a small amount of Christmas shopping. I’ve been trying to stay at smaller, independent shops this year, partly to avoid the crowd and also to support local businesses. Well, for a reason that is unimportant here, yesterday it became necessary for me to brave not just one but two major shopping malls. By some Advent miracle I was able to find parking spaces with ease and keep narrowly avoided car accidents to a minimum. And when the wave of industrious holiday shoppers hit me inside the doors of Barnes and Noble I was able to smile to myself and think, “This is not what Christmas is about.” It’s not about buying things, but it’s not about admonishing consumerism either. In Girl Meets God, Lauren Winner writes:

“Christmastime may be the hardest season for churches. We are inured not only to the Christmas story itself, but also to our pastors’ annual rants against consumerism. Every creative attempt to make the season meaningful, to steal it back inside the church, away from the shopping malls and cheesy radio stations, has been tried, and most of those creative attempts have proved wanting. Perhaps the problem is that we don’t know what the meaning of this holiday, of Jesus’ pushing into the world, is. If we did, we wouldn’t have to worry about consumerism; if we knew what the Incarnation meant, we’d be so preoccupied with awe that we wouldn’t notice all the shopping.”

Right, so if it’s all about the pending Incarnation and not about anti-consumerism, then what does the Incarnation mean? Surely God could have found a way to save us without getting dirty down here in the business of being human. God Incarnate spent nine months holed up in the womb of a girl–that was his advent. We look at that and say, “How nice that God would make himself relatable to us!” And, “How humble, to be born in a stable!” Of course, that’s what it means, but is that all it means? In the sermon today it was suggested that God had another motive for writing his story this way. The Israelites were expecting a mighty King to deliver them from Roman oppression, to bring justice and peace in that order. And along came a baby, and it’s as if God said, “No, we’ll do this my way, thank you.” We were reminded this morning that Jesus didn’t come to meet our expectations, but to shatter those expectations and make room for God to do things the way he knew best. When Jesus came we didn’t need the swift administration of justice. In fact, if justice had come before the crucifixion we would all be a lot worse off. The Gentiles would be condemned and the Jews would forever need priestly intercession. I can’t imagine we would rush to the shopping malls to celebrate such disappointment. I don’t think we would even sing carols. No, it had to be in this order. First we needed a savior. Justice will come, I’m sure, but in its rightful time. I think that’s what we are waiting for on this side of the Incarnation.

Anyway, I realize this has been a mostly incoherent post which is what I meant when I said it’s not coming easily. I have plenty of thoughts about this stuff but it’s tough to articulate in a concise couple of paragraphs. You indulge me so by reading this far, really.  Here is where I should say something light and witty to remind you that I do occasionally offer something entertaining here, and that’s why you’re not about to delete me from your bookmarks, right?

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