I used to beg my parents to stay up just a little bit longer so I could see if Batman was able to escape from his cliffhanger predicament. My dad’s reply was something like, “Is there another episode next week?” And I said, “Well … yeah.” “Then he makes it out okay, now go to bed!”

The longing, the desire, the sheer dread of what will happen next, echoes the thoughts of little Linus, the Peanuts cartoon character, in the pumpkin patch, wanting to stay awake through the night to view the Great Pumpkin. What is it about holidays that brings out that sense of anticipation?

The last Sunday of November, this year, is the beginning and first Sunday of Advent, a four-week season of preparation for celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. At one of the churches I serve, we are kicking off the season with a service of “Hanging the Greens.”

We did this type of service a couple of years ago, and the people really liked it. They said it was nice to hear the traditions about what we do and why we do it. So, we try to trace back through history and find the meaning and origin of things like wreaths, bells, evergreens, nativities, poinsettias, holly and ivy, etc.

Generations old and new can find real significance in displaying symbols and decorations of the holy day that represent more than just color, glitter and creativity. Several around town seem to have decided to adorn their homes already, probably based on the weather patterns, rather than the seasonal time of year.

I find it interesting that as a society we sometimes get carried away with the holiday hubbub and perhaps lose sight of why we do what we do. We might complain that Halloween costumes hit the stores in September, Thanksgiving decorations come out in October and Christmas seems to come out earlier and earlier each year, long before the Cowboys’ kickoff on Turkey Day, or Santa passes by the front of Macy’s at the end of the annual parade.

We might also get inundated with emails and mail flyers reminding us not only of Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, but also Giving Tuesday! After all, every holiday is about how we spend our money — at least according to most retailers and businesses. The almighty dollar seems to govern most of our behaviors. The more we get, and the quicker we get it, the better our lives will be. Or so many seem to think.

It reminds me of the year that I discovered our Christmas would be rather bare looking under our tree. We were an average family of five, yet we got to the point of not giving lots of toys and candy at Christmas anymore. We were older, and our gifts were more expensive, so fewer gifts under the tree. Yet my heart longed for that anticipation of seeing a bountiful bunch of brightly wrapped presents piled around the tree on Christmas morning. The longing led to an idea.

I scrounged the house for little boxes. I commandeered the wrapping paper and tape. I sequestered myself in my room and got to work. I wrote notes and wrapped. I put a present under the tree for each family member, which included one of my notes (and I had come up with five or six). So, 25 or more additional gifts went under the tree.

Christmas morning, my family and I shared the Gift of Prayer — each one of us stopped to pray, silently or aloud, for our family and for our faith. We shared the Gift of Service — five times, one of us went to the kitchen and poured some eggnog or apple cider for the rest of the family, served it, and then proposed a toast!

We offered each other the Gift of Gratitude, pausing to give thanks for five things that had happened this past year. We honestly and sincerely shared the Gift of Love, with heartfelt words, hugs, and/or kisses. Twenty-five times. Something that cost almost nothing helped bring about the best of everything. It was a holy moment.

Are you binge-watching your favorite Christmas movies (again) this year? Are you putting up decorations of the season that have meaning and significance for you, your family and your neighbors? Does what you do truly reflect the reason for the season?

This year, I’m anticipating growing deeper and deeper in love with celebrating well. Celebrating with purpose. Being in relationships that matter. We should be fostering relationships that remind us how much we are loved. And loving in such a way that every day is a holy day.

I hope you had a blessed Thanksgiving. I pray you have a joyous Christmas. Don’t miss the sacred moments, when even the littlest thing can mean so much. Don’t worry about the cost being too much or too little. Whatever the day, spend it wisely.

Written by Rev. Kenn Barton, member of Circleville Good Shepherd and Stoutsville Fairview UMC’s Pickaway County Ministerial Association.

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