By Jenny Smith
The other day I had an uncomfortable wake-up call to what’s important in life. My 6-year-old daughter found out we had an entire Saturday with no family commitments. My husband and I had a growing list of things we wanted to get done around the house. She just wanted to party. Literally. Saturday morning, she came downstairs with a stuffed animal and blanket under one arm and a list in the other hand. In her mind, this wide-open gift of a day would be filled with a PJ party, a dance party, crazy hats, decorations, balloons, cookies, milk and reading books.
I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I noticed the conversation in my head: “She’s sweet but doesn’t understand there are other things that have to get done. Maybe I can convince her to have a party for about an hour after lunch.” She understood that Dad and I really did have to do a couple things so she and younger brother danced around and blew up balloons. I went off to tackle my growing list of things I had to do. But I noticed the pull back to the room the kids were in. A song would come on, and I just had to dance. A streamer would fall so I helped tape it back up. Her energy was contagious.
I was oddly frustrated. This 6-year-old was interrupting my productivity with her party. But I knew this party was more important than anything on my sacred to do list. So I practiced celebration while dancing to the Trolls movie soundtrack in our kitchen. I cultivated joy while swinging my son around and hearing him giggle. I released stress from a busy week by watching them put together a gingerbread house. Our celebration was interrupting something. Jesus’ birth thousands of years ago interrupted the status quo of power in the world. This Jewish child of color, born homeless to an unwed teenager spent his formative years as an immigrant. Jesus showed us an different way to lead. The old way valued manipulation, fear, power-grabbing, bottom-line, top-down leadership. The way of Jesus valued forgiveness, grace, community, erasing boundaries, inviting the last to be first and loving the people with whom we disagree. It was a foreign and uncomfortable message then, and the good news is still a little awkward today.
Which is why we’re invited to the spiritual practice of celebration, especially at Christmas. What old energy is running your life that you’d like to interrupt? What painful power is at work in your community or world that you long to see shifted to something more transformative for all?
If it weren’t for my daughter the other day, the voice that whispered, “you’re only worthy if you keep achieving things and crossing them off your list,” would have won. As you finish your shopping, plan parties and enjoy family traditions, take time to reflect on your practice of celebration. Reflect on what old power you’re hoping to interrupt by dancing in the kitchen. Maybe you’re interrupting the story that says we should go through life alone on our own strength. Maybe you’re calling out the narrative that Christmas must be perfect. Or maybe, your acts of celebration this Christmas are your way of bringing powerful light to our darkness.
In that case, we need your celebration. We need you to put down the list and party.
Jenny Smith is pastor of the Marysville United Methodist Church. Her faith column runs monthly.