I’ve never had a December like this one.
Impressed with a friend’s insightful comment on Facebook about a school prizegiving ceremony, I asked her if she would be interested in doing a guest blog post about it.
She was gracious in turning me down, just pointing out that being a pastor, it was a busy time of year. She could quite fairly have asked if I’d taken leave of my senses. I can’t believe I asked a minister if she wanted to do some extra writing in December.
I’m not sure what it’s really like in the Northern Hemisphere, but all the stars align for us Antipodeans so that December (and increasingly, October and November) are basically madness.
Christmas is coming (for the whole world), so there is food preparation and planning, present buying, making, wrapping, tree decorating, carol singing, and for some organised souls, card writing. That would be enough to make time for and have a pleasantly bustling December, anticipating the Big Day on the 25th.
But in the Southern Hemisphere it’s also the end of the school and business year. There are projects to wrap up, reports to write, accounts to settle, cleanouts to do and about three hundred parties to go to.
These days it seems that every group you’re part of has its own end-of-year function. For some people this means one or two work dos, plus parties and dinners for the badminton club, the church music team and the residents’ committee. Not to mention Auntie Denise’s annual cricket game in the back paddock (this one is real for me).
Add in children, if you dare! Break-up concerts, prizegivings, final assemblies, functions for the playcentre committee, Scouts, ballet and Ripper Rugby.
The summer holidays begin with Christmas, here. So there’s also campsite booking, itinerary planning, tent airing, bike repairing, and car packing.
And I don’t mean to whine, but as joyous as the season is, Advent and Christmas certainly create a lot of work for the church! The Northern planners were on to a good idea when they sorted out a big feast for midwinter. Midsummer wasn’t even on the shortlist.
Forget about Christmas being hijacked by Santa or shopping. Down Under, we have a fundamental calendar problem, and it threatens to obscure the reason for the season just as much as the others. Because how can you focus on the wonder of new life when your To Do list is so long?
Our household is having a weird December though. For the first time ever, I am going to zero end-of-year functions. We were invited to a few, but for organisations we’ve only just joined, like my husband’s new workplaces and our new apartment building, so we didn’t feel too inclined to make the stretch to get to an evening party with a toddler.
Our sabbatical year continues, even as it ends, it seems. I’m writing no Advent sermons, planning no church meetings. SBJ isn’t even in the Nativity play this year.
But only tonight, realising how out of calendar I am feeling, am I thinking through how to keep this feeling for next year and beyond. Should we not join the swimming club and choir and school board of trustees at all or can we just avoid their end-of-year functions?
When I was working as a pastor, my friend Mike put me on to a book that changed how I thought of family scheduling. Making Room for Life describes author Randy Frazee’s typically chaotic family life, with endless sports games, homework, housework and meetings, and then talks us through how his household adopted a radically different approach that changed their lives and their community dramatically.
I’m pretty persuaded about the core of his approach, but I am yet to have to make all the hard decisions about, in particular, our boy’s participation in extracurricular activities that it would entail.
I’m very keen to hear how you guys manage December madness, whether you have kids or not. I’m also interested in the broader issue of packing our lives full of regular commitments. It’s probably worth a separate post or series – what do you think?