Friday, December 19, 2014
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
My sister asked me the other day how we celebrate Christmas now that we are Orthodox. So here is your answer, my dear sister.
Celebrating Christmas now has so much more meaning than it did when we were Protestant. Growing up my mother instilled in me the importance of Advent devotions. Every Christmas our church (I grew up Lutheran Church Missori Synod) would hand out Advent calendars and stickers and my family would read the reading every evening, starting 4 weeks before Christmas, around our lit advent wreath. I loved this tradition and I have such find memories of this! Now that I am Orthodox, Advent, or as it is called Nativity Fast, has so much more meaning. Orthodox fast for 40 days before Christmas (there will be a separate post on how the Orthodox fast soon), starting November 15 and ending, of course, on Devember 25. "It is a period of fasting, prayer, Scripture reading, church attendance and participation in the sacraments to enable us to capture the full meaning of Christ's coming." (Making God Real in the Orthodox Christian Hom by Anthony M. Coniaris)
Fasting during the Christmas season is hard for me because of what I am used to. Huge parties! Festivities! Cookie Baking! Gorging ourself with every possible sweet food we can stuff into our mouths. I LOVE making Christmas cookies but I've had to alter my way of doing things. Now I make all of my favorite Christmas cookies during the 12 Days of Christmas (which is supposed to be celebrated 12 days after Christmas, not before).
I lived for Christmas Day growing up, as every child does. I can compare it to a wedding: all the preparing, decorating, planning, and cooking just for one day. All of this outward external preparation. But in the Orthodox Church all the preparation is internal via fasting, praying, attending church more, purging our homes of junk that we don't need... This is the best way to prepare for Christmas! After all the hard work of preparing ourselves internally when the time comes for Christmas, it's a much more appreciated time. It's a FEAST! It's a time to say He came and will come again! The days after Christmas are celebrated. Christmas isn't over for us the day after Christmas. We are still feasting! When everyone tires of all the decorations. We are still feasting! When no more Christmas music pays on the radio. We are still feasting!