This reflection is the third in a four-part Advent series that will be posted each Wednesday on Living Lutheran.

Light a third candle to go with your other two. Light them slowly. Remember the last time you really laughed. Put a pair of pliers on your table and praise them for all they can do to get things unstuck.

Do not let your hands go weak.
The Lord, your God, is in your midst. (Zephaniah 3:16-17)

Praise is the purpose of Christmas. If we miss its joy, we miss Christmas. If we find its joy, we find Christmas. So often we spend Advent caught up planning and preparing that we miss out on Christmas joy.

My friend has a sign on her refrigerator that reads, “It’s not going to happen that way.” She is preparing herself for a day and a life of surprises.

If we want to get that kind of energy in our hands – the energy to clap or to touch or to wiggle – we probably need to reverse direction.

To have a different Christmas, we have to use strong pliers to grip tenderly and firmly onto our self-inflicted “punish-mentalism” and we have to lift it out of our hearts.

Do less, plan less, be more. Instead of working harder, we might work easier. Instead of a rest day, take a well day. We could skip out of the meeting as though we had an important call (maybe it’s coming from the Holy Spirit!). Get the Christmas cards out in July. Refuse to let Christmas turn your hands weak.

This Christmas would be a great time to notice the intangible gifts around us: a parent who can be enchanted by his child or a lover who can be captivated by her partner.  Joy, love, wonder – these are the presents we need to give and receive.

What we have already seen, if we would only look, is that the small gifts right in front of us can be tender and beautiful. Maybe our Christmas gift to each other can be to notice God in all that we have already seen.

Raise my hands, O God, high in the air. Point them up and out, let them snap and clack and wave.  Let me see and spread Christmas joy. Amen.

Donna Schaper
Donna Schaper is senior minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City.

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