Beloveds,

Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. You know what that means, right? Yes, that, too – family and good food and laughter and maybe we’ll even manage to sneak in a nap or two. Who wouldn’t love a good holiday nap?! As a mother of two energetic little girls, I sure would. Now if only the two of them would get the memo!

But you know what else that means, right? Shopping, a whole lot of shopping! Just about every window display will scream holidays and packages and glittery paper and ribbons. And with shopping comes craziness because somehow it seems like around the holidays people forget how to drive or be patient with one another. Have yourself a merry little Christmas but you better not take that parking spot! And then, once you somehow managed to survive the battle around the mall parking lot, then there is decorating and singing and wrapping and baking and caroling and parties and concerts and train rides to the City and the overindulgence of food and cookies and candy – and more shopping, of course – so much more shopping. As exhausting as this list sounds, however, I’m excited!

I’m excited about all the holiday magic and that sparkle in my daughters’ eyes and those moments when they drag their pillows and sheets from their upstairs bedroom only to situate them around the Christmas tree. They love them a good, old-fashioned sleepover under the Christmas tree! But somehow this year I am also dreading this season. The shimmering messages of a picture-perfect Christmas get overwhelming. How do I keep up with all that? I had tried before but by the time the calendar reached a new year, I knew I missed out.

No, I didn’t miss out on the reason of the season; it’s always a big part of what we talk about as a family of two pastors. But maybe I missed out on living in the season and being in the moment: Always two plays ahead. I guess I was this living, breathing to-do list, a whole bunch of professional-quality pictures posted on my Facebook (I could seriously sell some of my pictures to Country Living), all the while trying to keep up with the unrealistic expectations set by the faceless Christmas machine. As a fairly young mother, I bought into all of that, I’m sad to admit.

But maybe I missed out on even more. Did the reason of the season live in me during the most hectic and not than much less frantic holiday? Did the cashier in HomeGoods meet Jesus in me? Did the church I served experience Christ’s love in me? Did my children see their Savior in me? Did the gifts I had given out reflected my values as a disciple of Christ? Was my shopping informed by my United Methodist beliefs? I don’t dare to answer any of these questions but I know that this year, this year I will prayerfully attempt for the answers to find me as I’m yet again granted the privilege to preach the Word, to visit the sick, or to chat and sing and celebrate and laugh in the midst of my church family, or as I bake David’s favorite gingerbread cookies with my children, or as we dance silly to so many of our favorite Christmas tunes. And maybe this year, as I’ll look around the church or the shopping center or the grocery store or one of the crowded streets in New York, I will see the answer in you, too.

Grace and peace to each one of you, beloveds,

Pastor Romi