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. 2:5-8, NRSV).

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.

Starting Soon: The 2018-19 Renovaré Book Club

How do we read for transformation, not just information? Choose books that stir the soul and have an enduring quality. Then read with God and others at an unhurried pace, attentive to what the Holy Spirit wants to teach. The Renovaré Book Club is designed for transformative reading. It runs October 2018—May 2019.

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