A few years ago, when asked if I would host a big Christ­mas par­ty at my home, I was thrilled. Delight­ed with the oppor­tu­ni­ty to make my home sparkle as nev­er before, I cranked up the vol­ume on the car­ols and decked the halls for all I was worth.

And boy, did I enjoy it. No chal­lenge was too big, no detail too small for me as I dec­o­rat­ed my way into hol­i­day bliss.

Per­haps you can guess the rest of that sto­ry. My tem­per became short as the hours of work grew long. In the end, my house looked ready to wel­come Christ­mas; my heart, not so much.

As I con­sid­ered how best to pre­pare for Christ­mas this year, I was tempt­ed to go the same route of dec­o­rat­ing fren­zy. After all, that sort of activ­i­ty is ful­fill­ing to me. All that hoopla makes me hap­py. Then my Advent read­ings took me to these famil­iar words:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equal­i­ty with God as some­thing to be exploit­ed, but emp­tied him­self, tak­ing the form of a slave, being born in human like­ness. And being found in human form, he hum­bled him­self and became obe­di­ent to the point of death – even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:5 – 8NRSV).

As we jour­ney along the path of spir­i­tu­al for­ma­tion, our goal is to be trans­formed into Christ­like­ness. But oh, that humil­i­ty and obe­di­ence part. That part does­n’t come easy. How many times have I tried and failed to be hum­ble and obedient?

If I were to rank the spir­i­tu­al dis­ci­plines I like the least, the prac­tice of sim­plic­i­ty might be at the top of the list — espe­cial­ly at Christ­mas­time, when I am drawn toward excess of every kind. But prac­tic­ing the dis­ci­pline of sim­plic­i­ty is exact­ly what I need.

And so I am par­ing down rather than gear­ing up. I am giv­ing away instead of col­lect­ing. I am dec­o­rat­ing less rather than more. And I am trust­ing that, although I may be for­go­ing some things that make me hap­py, there is some­thing greater than hap­pi­ness to be gained.

Like all the spir­i­tu­al dis­ci­plines, the prac­tice of sim­plic­i­ty is a means of grace. Richard Fos­ter describes them best: We are doing what we can with our bod­ies, our minds, our hearts. God then takes this sim­ple offer­ing of our­selves and does with it what we can­not do, pro­duc­ing with­in us deeply ingrained habits of love and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

Which sounds, after all, like just what I want for Christmas. 

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Originally published December 2016