There’s a tension in our hearts and in our culture regarding Christmas.

On the one hand, we walk into a big-box store on October 31 and say, “Oh no. Already?” “Rudoph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” is playing over the loudspeakers, and even the Christmas-lovers amongst us feel resistant.

On the other hand, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Eve rush us by in a flurry of to-do lists, shopping lists, and worries over family finances. By the time we find ourselves staring at the dirty dishes of our Christmas dinner, we remember, with surprise and regret, the “reason for the season.” (Sidenote: I solemnly swear that this is the last time I will repeat that annoying rhyme. No more, I promise.)

There is a beautiful middle ground: Advent. But, how to practice it outside of our churches? How to bridge the gap between lighting a candle on Sunday and the pressure to deliver two dozen holiday cupcakes to our child’s classroom on Monday?

To be honest, I’m not exactly sure. What I do know is that I don’t want to frame this season with Black Friday shopping and day-after-Christmas gift returns.

Beginning this Sunday and for the twenty-seven days that follow, I will be posting images (the photographer has been hard at work), reflections, stories and poetry in the hope of walking a middle way.

A way that moves between the too-much-too-soon and the over-and-done-in-a-blur. A way that steps between Sunday’s church service and Monday’s overwhelming to-do list. A way between the sugary sweetness of a televised Christmas movie and the disappointment of a trashbag filled with crumpled wrapping paper.

My intention is to create (and share) a quiet escape from consumerism and the Jingle Bells that only succeed in giving us a headache. Whether you adore Christmas and all of its trappings or you find the forced merriment of this season just too much to bear, you will, I hope, find a respite here.

It won’t be entirely comfortable, however.

I don’t want to consider Mary’s joy without remembering Mary’s pain. Christmas is a birth-day, after all, and I’ve long been convinced that birth and death are strange twins, one always shadowing the other. Our hope, as Christians, is that death does not triumph. One day, death itself will die, and the newness and joy of birth, no longer shadowed by sorrow, will be ours for eternity.

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