One of the things that surprised me when I lived in Brazil (in the early 80s) was how many people didn’t like Carnival, the pre-Lenten mardi gras festival. Brazil’s carnival is world-renown for the Rio and Sao Paulo parades, with their fabulous costumes and impressive samba schools, but all towns and cities have celebrations. Carnival is a time to get together with family and friends, enjoy music, food, and yes, drink (although it’s not as rambunctious as it’s reputed to be). Brazilians tend to be proud of this national extravaganza, and some spend months planning for it. But not everyone is enthusiastic. “I hate Carnival,” my roommate would say, rolling her eyes, and she wasn’t alone. The hoopla. The social pressure (Where are YOU going to spend Carnival?). The expense. The mess. The noise. The enforced gaiety. The exhaustion. To the Carnival Grinch, Lenten fasting was a relief!
The North American counterpart to Carnival is Christmas, and for some this is their least favorite time of year. The hoopla. The social pressure (too many party invitations - or worse – none). The expense. The traffic. The enforced gaiety and family togetherness. The exhaustion. Christian activists lobby to put the Christ back in Christmas, but often that means encouraging people to say “Merry Christmas” at the mall. You don’t need to be a Grinch to find January a relief.
But it’s easier to step out of the Christmas craziness that we think (although harder for parents than the rest of us). Turn off the TV – poof! Throw catalogs and flyers in the recycle bin before reading. Don’t give a party (unless you really want to). It’s OK to decline invitations. Although I doubt he’d object, Jesus didn’t tell us to put up lights, decorate a tree, make five varieties of cookies or buy presents. These activities may be lovely, but they’re not needful.
The only thing needful is to come to church. Listen to scripture, pray, sing Advent and Christmas hymns, give generously to the poor. You may take a name from the giving tree or prepare goodies for a goody bag for the Whosoever Gospel Mission. If you’d like to help decorate the church, wonderful – bring a modest dish to the potluck on December 14th. Help us welcome guests at the coffee hour Christmas Eve. But mainly, come to worship. And invite friends! Worship is the best open house they’ll attend this season.
Grace and Peace,