Good-bye 2012

The East Coast is about to ring in 2013. I just got the boys in bed after coming home from a party at a friend's house. I don't know if I'll stay up for the next hour and a half.

2012 was quite a year. There is plenty I'm glad to have behind me. Plenty of struggles, hurts, sorrows, pains, etc. But, of course, there were a lot of great things. I went from being a substitute teacher to having a regular job. We had some good camping trips and a trip to the Boundary Waters. We had some good trips to visit family, including our extended family reunion in Pana, Illinois. My book was published. There's a lot of things I'm sure I'm forgetting.

It was a year of natural disasters, terrible atrocities, wars, the Olympics, an election, and plenty of other news (much of which wasn't really newsworthy). But 2012 is about over, and we are about to commence a new year.

Time is an odd thing. It is strictly dependent for us upon our rotation on our axis and around the sun. Time is completely different everywhere else in the universe. A day on Venus is longer than its year (243 earth days for one Venus day compared to 225 earth days in one year there). On Jupiter a day is less than 10 earth hours. The light we see from the sun is eight minutes old. If we could see what was going on around the nearest star, we'd be looking several years into the past.

It only makes sense that God is outside of time, even if we can't comprehend what that is even like. Time, as Albert Einstein taught us, is relative. It's an odd thing. It's very important, yet means very little.

But it matters how we spend our days, what we do with our time. Each minute is a gift. I too often abuse or waste those gifts. But sometimes, on a rare occasion, I do well with it. I use it to love God, to love my neighbor, to love my self.

I can't change the past. Though I regret some of it, it still remains what it is. But time doesn't have to be wasted completely. I can learn from it. I can strive to do better with it. I can let the tough times or the times of failure be times that I grow from.

As Captain Picard said in Star Trek Generations, "Someone once told me that time was a predator that stalked us all our lives. I rather believe that time is a companion who goes with us on the journey and reminds us to cherish every moment, because it will never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we've lived. After all Number One, we're only mortal"

May time be a good companion with you in the years ahead.


The Sixth Day of Christmas: Churches in CommUnity

I have a lot of fond memories of church growing up--things I miss:
  • singing in the church choir next to the old men who could really hit the low notes and teach me to sing in Swedish
  • getting the brown paper bag with peanuts, an apple and a Hershey's bar after the Christmas program was done
  • going to Christmas Eve (or a really early Christmas morning) service and seeing all the extended cousins
  • gathering for Sunday School opening songs (and the little brown church we put our birthday money in) before going to our separate classrooms
  • Fourth of July church picnics with a ice cold tank of watermelon and cans of pop
  • the older generation who passed on so much wisdom and love
Plus, on Easter morning all the churches in town (three of them--plus one from the country) gathered together for an Easter sunrise service which the youth of the churches put on. We also gathered together for baccalaureate and in the summer we all held a worship service under the tent at the Threshermen and Collector's Show.


Tonight three other churches in Northeast Minneapolis gathered together with us for "Christmas One." It was named that because a) it's the first Sunday in Christmas, and b) four unrelated churches were gathering together in unity.  One of the pastors reminded us that if we're going to accomplish what God wants us to do in our part of the city, that we can do it best by working together--that God doesn't just want each church to do their own mission. He wants us all to do His mission.

I confess that as an introvert, I don't really like large crowds of new people. I'm not a good mingler. But it was still fun to come together. We packed bags with some treats for kids in a local school. They took donations for a clothing ministry. And we all joined in worship, singing Christmas carols and partaking in the Eucharist.

Now, it's not the same as small town churches where everyone knows each other coming together, but it was still a good experience. It's not very often that four churches from differing theological backgrounds in a metro area come together for worship.


Today is also the Feast of the Holy Family--the sixth day of Christmas observed as a celebration of Jesus' earthly family. It seems a fitting celebration for today. The young, virgin Mary. The likely older Joseph. Betrothed to one another, but God steps in and throws a wrench in their plans: Mary accepts God's will and becomes pregnant with His Son. Joseph knows this won't go over well with their culture. Everyone will think she's been unfaithful and runs a high risk of being stoned to death. He's not sure he can believe what she tells him about the Holy Spirit impregnating her, but he is an honorable man who doesn't want to see her die. He intends to divorce her quietly and send her away to have the child. But God convinces him that it is all divinely orchestrated. Joseph stays with her, and they raise God's Son together.

Unity in a family is not easy. Especially when there are those "secrets"--like your virgin wife being impregnated by the Holy Spirit. Especially when you're raising the Son of God. Joseph and Mary without a doubt had their share of struggles. But they stayed together and seem to have done pretty well with raising the young Messiah.

I mean, sure He got in trouble with the law, rubbed the religious leaders the wrong way, and disobeyed social norms (like not talking to women and avoiding lepers). But otherwise He turned out all right. He did save the world, after all.


Christmas: Day 2

Today is the Feast of St. Stephen--also known as the day when good King Winceslas went out. Stephen was the first martyr in the Christian church. Paul (Saul) was on had, giving his consent to Stephen's death because he felt that the followers of The Way were a threat to Israel and Judaism. They were too counter-cultural, too revolutionary. Their community was stronger and tighter than any Paul (or the others who were there stoning Stephen) had seen before.

Stephen's offense? False witnesses claimed that he had said Christ would destroy the temple and change the religious traditions of Moses. And in many ways, they were right. Jesus' Way was a threat to their traditions. He was a threat to empty actions--sacrifices that didn't mean anything, prayers that were hallow, lives that didn't truly desire a relationship with God. Jesus' Way wasn't going to let the poor, the orphans, or the widows go neglected. His Way came to bring justice, peace, righteousness, and love. By all accounts, it was a threat to their traditions (just as it might be to many of our traditions in the church if we were honest).


I spent almost all of Christmas Day in bed sick. I awoke in the morning with a nasty stomach bug. I was able to come downstairs for a few minutes to be with the family while opening presents. I promptly returned to bed. I didn't get to watch the boys play were their new gifts, I didn't get to read the Christmas story, I didn't get to light the 5th candle on our yule log. I slept until after 4 that afternoon. It was by far my worst Christmas ever (and I know several other families were in the same boat--thankfully I was the only person incapacitated in our family).

Thankfully it was over by that evening, though I haven't had much energy today and have had a number of headaches and soreness. It has not been a fun Christmas.

I know for many people Christmas is a dreaded time of year. They feel lonely. They lost a loved one. There are too many painful memories from childhood. Religion left them disillusioned and disenfranchised. For whatever reason it is far from being "the most wonderful time of the year."


I find it interesting that the day after the birth of Jesus we acknowledge the death of the first martyr in the church. There's this tough juxtoposition: a cute baby wrapped in swaddling clothes who came to bring peace on earth, goodwill, and ultimately life, and then there's this righteous man who followed Jesus and was stoned to death because of it.

Faith has a lot of tough components to it. Most of us don't have to face martyrdom, but its reality is present for many throughout history. And I think martyrs have only been able to face death because of the hope they carry with them. If not, faith is worthless. (Well, not worthless. I think most people would agree that the principles Jesus wants us to live by--like loving our neighbors--still have a lot of merit, even if those people don't believe in Jesus.)

Hope says that this life isn't the way it's supposed to be--that we can make it better, but it will only become perfect on the other side of death. In Heaven there will be no sadness, sorrow, death, pain, or sickness. We will be God's and God's alone. We will be able to grow without the shackles of this world. The old world order will be gone, and a new one--a perfect one--will be in place.

I think that's why, as Stephen was facing death, he was able to say:
  • “Look, I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
  • “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”  
  • “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”
Only a man with hope would be able to face death in such a way. I know that I need such a hope to make the tough times of this life manageable. Someday, it will all be good again. Someday.


Christmas Eve

 We were in Iowa this weekend for Christmas with my family. My parents have been gathering us all together for the past few years to have time together as a family. We were in Okoboji at a hotel with a waterpark, which the kids all love. And we all get time together, which is better than presents.


We're home for Christmas this year. It started with the Christmas Eve service at church. It's one of my favorite services: candles, carols, the Christmas story, being surrounded by church family, hearing the children sing.

I made some soup and bread for supper. We gathered around the table, lit our Advent candles on our yule log, drank some (non-alcoholic) glogg, and read our Advent devotion for the evening.

We opened one of our family presents: a Ticket to Ride board game. Then, with some Christmas music on the stereo, we tried our new game--which we enjoyed. 


Over 2000 years ago this night (okay, so it most likely wasn't in December when the first Christmas occurred, but tonight is when we celebrate Jesus' birth) that a young frightened mother and her poor husband were facing a new journey in their lives. It wasn't how they expected their life together to begin.

As Mary felt her first labor pains, she doubtless was scared to be going through childbirth in the midst of a stable--a crude home for livestock was to be where her son, the second person of the Trinity, was to be born. It was not how anyone would have expected God to enter the world, for the King of Kings to make his entrance into humanity.

Yet, on this night, the waiting was over. Love came down. The Savior was born. God became one of us, all because He desires us. He yearns for us to spend eternity with Him. His Son would become our ransom from death, our way to life.

This night changed history. Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.


Advent 4: Hoping

When Hope Was Born

God did love the world so--
So deep I can't comprehend--
That He himself took on flesh
And humbly to earth did bend.

As a frail and needy babe,
He became like us, born of flesh.
God came down, born a man,
Humbly in a lowly crèche.

Within that newborn infant child
Are all love and joy we can find.
For in that crude manger bed
Was born the hope of all mankind.

Without hope the world is dark,
It seems like all is lost;
But all has been ransomed and redeemed,
For Christ's blood has paid the cost.


I like the idea of hope. I need the idea of hope.

Each day I see so much despair, hurting, brokenness, and struggle. I know this isn't how it is supposed to be. Each day, I have so many struggles, so many burdens I can't carry. I need the hope that I will be made whole someday.

Pastor Jan mentioned at church tonight that "hope is a function of struggle." Without struggle--without hardships--hope cannot exist. Hope would have no meaning. We've heard before how the struggles of life are good for us. They build things like character, perseverance, and hope. Of course, it matters how we proceed through our struggles. Sometimes we give up. Sometimes we give in. Sometimes we take the easy way out. Not to give us an excuse, but we are human. We don't always do the right thing. I don't always do the right thing.

But the right thing in difficult times is to persevere--to keep on doing the right thing. The right thing is to forge ahead knowing that life isn't meant to be ugly--that someday it will be redeemed, made new and perfect. The right thing is to cling to hope--not in a way that we give up, but in a way that we move ahead. Hope makes us vulnerable. It requires us to give up control. It necessitates that we place our trust in God.

This isn't always easy.  But in return God gives us strength ("but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength" (Isaiah 40:31)). This is why we wait. This is why we struggle through Advent. The newborn King brings us hope. He gives hope. He is hope. In this times of waiting, longing, and struggling, hope keeps us going. Until He returns and hope is fulfilled.


I Wrote a Book

I'll confess that I have mixed emotions. I'm very excited to have my name published on a book. At the same time, this isn't quite the book I want to write (I know that doesn't make sense--it's one I did write and was compelled to write). What I want to write is a great novel--a story that conveys great truths in adventurous ways. I want to write something accessible to all people. This isn't it. This book is fully targeted at people who want to live a little differently from the rest of the culture and more fully in Jesus. That's not going to be everyone. I accept that.

Still, I'm excited. It was a long process, and I probably would have done it a little differently at times, but I got where I wanted to be. And hopefully, getting one book published will be a stepping stone to other things.

I don't remember when I first wanted to be a writer. It wasn't in college or before then. I remember getting a really bad mark on a paper and not thinking I could write. So it's been since then. Probably in the last decade as I've found I enjoy writing through blogging.

And I've always enjoyed reading. Maybe a little too much. I confess to being a bibliophile. I love books. I think writing flows out of that. I do find great value in books--as an educator I know that reading skills are huge. I may have to rearrange my bookshelves so that a book with an author with the last name "Wenell" isn't alphabetically on the bottom shelf.

Currently the book is available through Wipf & Stock, my publisher. Eventually, it will be released on Amazon and even for Nook. I'm working on building a website for it, too (not that I expect much, but I'd like to connect further with readers).

I do have to note that I had no hand in the cover design. I'd like to take credit for it, but I can't. I didn't really have any say in it. So with that in mind, I'm quite pleased.

Anyway, check it out if you feel so inclined. I'll even sign it if you buy one.  :)


What if Linus is Right?

What if Linus is right? In A Charlie Brown Christmas our favorite bald-headed boy is roped into directing the Christmas play as part of Lucy's 5-cent answer to Charlie's (there is one point in the show where Lucy calls him only by his first name) dilemma about finding the meaning of Christmas. In the midst of dealing with the frustrations of directing a bunch of unsupervised children, Linus tells Charlie Brown the story of the first Christmas from the gospel of Luke:

Linus Van Pelt: "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'"
[Linus picks up his blanket and walks back towards Charlie Brown]
Linus Van Pelt: That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

What if that is what Christmas is all about. Not getting--or even giving--presents ("For God so love the world that He gave His only beloved Son"). Not shopping, caroling, or even decorating trees. It's not even about family or being home for the holidays (consider that because of Jesus' birth, his family had to flee their country to take refuge in Egypt).

Consider who the angel says is born to the shepherds: a Savior (someone to save us from all the trouble we get ourselves into), Christ (meaning "anointed"--meaning a King to reign from a Heavenly throne), and Lord (someone we kneel before and give control to). The angels know this is reason to praise God. They know that this birth will one day bring peace, and that His birth is for the greatest good of all humanity.

So how does these good tidings change our Christmas? Does it mean we need to get rid of family gatherings, presents, Christmas trees, and general holiday mirth? Definitely not. But it should change our hearts. Our focus should be something greater than making a list of things we want. Most of all, our focus should be on the One who came at Christmas.

And that is the good news. God came down and dwelt amongst us; Emmanuel: God with us. He is present. We are not alone. He knows us. He loves us. No fear, great joy, peace, good will, and glory to God.

What if Linus was right about Christmas? I think that sounds like good news. Very good news.


Advent 3: Rejoicing

I didn't get to hear the message tonight during church; I was helping with our Kid's Chapel program. The children heard part of Isaiah's letter to Israel. I took the 1st-3rd graders and we did a little mock interview with me as Isaiah learning about him being a prophet, what being a prophet means, and what he prophesied about. We talked about him writing about the coming Rescuer-Servant-King-Light-Lamb-Shepherd (there were a few more parts to the name, which I am now forgetting). We read about God telling Isaiah about the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. And the children said how they know Him as Jesus.

Rejoicing is not easy for many this time of year whether because of events in the past or current news. It's often not easy on a regular day with all the stresses of family, work, and life. No, rejoicing can be very difficult to do in the present. But rejoicing in the future--maybe that's what makes rejoicing possible. Consider the lyrics of this familiar Advent hymn:

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

We can rejoice knowing that Emmanuel--God with us--shall come to us (because He has already and has promised to return). We can rejoice knowing this life isn't the end--that death's dark shadows shall be put to flight, that the path to misery will be closed. Rejoice!


Evil Visited Newtown Today

Only after driving home from school with my boys tonight did I hear the news of what happened at another school in Connecticut today--though the radio dj didn't share the whole story out of concern for children who might be listening. So it was later this evening that I heard the whole news about the events.

Much as like the President, I didn't take the news lightly. I have two sons the same ages as many of the victims. I work in a school with hundreds of children I care about. I simply can't imagine having to live through such an event. I can't imagine being a parent of one of the children. I can't imagine being a young student who witnessed it all. My heart hurts.

In the midst of Advent, in the midst of waiting for the Savior's return, it is clear how much we need Him. The world doesn't need Jesus by way of telling them, "You need Jesus." While it may be true, that isn't the way we need Jesus. The world needs Jesus by having His people be His hands and feet.

Long before today happened, clearly the gunman needed help. His mother needed help (it sounds like she was probably a single mom who raised a son with needs she maybe didn't know how to meet). The victim's parents need people to be there for them in their grief and anger. The children who survived will need people to provide them safety, security, and a lot of love. There are a lot of people in Newtown, Connecticut, who need Jesus.

There are a lot of people everywhere who need Him. Our neighbors. Your neighbors. The children in my school. And I don't say they need Jesus tritely. But I don't believe that more metal detectors in schools, tighter gun control laws, or better access to mental health are going to fully solve anything. And I'd love to say that if we were all caring neighbors, reaching out to those who don't get reached out to, that it'd solve everything. And while I do believe that love is the answer, I know that even so, we'll still have troubles in our world.

Waiting during Advent becomes all the harder to do when news like this comes to us. This is supposed to be a time of peace, joy, and love. Now, for far too many families, it is a time of mourning, anger, and distress. As the governor of Connecticut noted, "Evil visited this community today." Indeed it did. Unfortunately, in some form or another, it has visited every community.

Those lights on our Christmas tree remind me that Jesus is the light of the world and that He calls his people to be light in the darkness. There is much darkness in need of light. Even so, come Lord Jesus. Come quickly. Come swiftly.


Advent 2: Waiting

It's been snowing all day. It's still going. We have the potential to near 16 inches. Church was cancelled tonight because of it. Our pastor posted a message about longing on the church website so we could "be present" even though we couldn't gather (I haven't gotten to listen to it yet, but I hope to get a chance to in a few minutes).

My wife has been gone all week at a conference in California. It's been a long week. Our oldest son has been under the weather all weekend. Nothing has been bad, but it's been draining. Unfortunately the snow has delayed her flight a little. So I wait a little while more.

Advent is about waiting. We identify with the waiting of God's people for their Messiah to come. We read about Mary and Joseph awaiting the birth of their son, the Christ. We await the return of Jesus. For four weeks, we wait for Christmas to arrive.

I've said before (as well as have others) that it matters how we wait. In waiting for my wife's return this week, I had some successes and some failures. I know I snack more than I need when I feel the stress of taking care of everything by myself. I probably didn't handle all the things with the boys as well as I could have, either. But we also did well at keeping on track: four loads of laundry washed and put away (another in the machine right now), bathrooms cleaned, countless dishes washed, sidewalks shoveled of snow. We celebrated St. Nicholas Day, making cookies and taking them to neighbors. I got our youngest to two birthday parties. We got some gifts for family members. I got to bed at a reasonable time each night, and I reached out to others when I needed. There were things I could have done better, but for the most part I tried to wait well.

We wait for Christ to return. We wait for our brokenness to be healed. We wait to be made whole. We wait for peace. We wait for there to be no more pain, sadness, or sorrow.

We can wait idly; we can wait actively. I think we are called to balance both--just as Christ spent time being and doing. But we can be and do in not-so-healthy ways. The healthy way to be and do as we wait is to keep focused. To keep our eyes on Christ. When we wait in the overflow of His love, we wait well. Our waiting pours out to those we are around. They are touched by that love.

I need to be reminded--sometimes frequently--that how I wait matters. Sometimes I do it poorly. Sometimes I do it well. There is grace and forgiveness, of course, but life is best when in the moment, I am waiting well.

Snowy Sunday

1. I believe our neighborhood must have the widest sidewalks of any city.

2. I'm not sure why I shovel them when everyone walks on the street anyway.

3. For some reason I had the song "How Deep the Father's Love for Us" in my head this morning while I was shoveling.

4. I should have written myself a note a month ago to take the snowblower in for a tune-up when I thought of it. Living on a corner lot is not fun with several inches of snow on two sidewalks (plus a driveway) without a snowblower.

5. Still, shoveling is good exercise.

6. I've had a sick 8-year old this weekend (just a fever and fatigue)--I'm sad we can't be outside playing.

7. If Monty Python taught me anything, it's to always look on the bright side of life...I love the beauty of a heavy snowfall.


St. Nicholas Day Revised

 My wife is gone all week at a science conference. It'll be a regular thing for the foreseeable future. This means we're revamping our St. Nicholas Day routine as she'll likely be gone this day every year. It works kind of well this year because we're doing a larger family gift instead of a gift on St. Nicholas Day and one on Christmas Day for each of them.

So, last night the boys decided to make cookies to give to neighbors. Unfortunately, we ran out of flour so we only made one batch of spritz cookies. Which made for no variety of cookies. (With my wife gone, I also wouldn't have had much time to make other cookies after they were in bed if we did have more flour.)

Today we bagged up the cookies. The boys made little cards to put in each bag that said "Happy St. Nicholas Day." They had wanted to do it anonymously, dropping off the cookies on their doorstep, ringing the doorbell and running. If we lived back in small town Iowa, we'd do that, but we thought we'd play it safe and let them know who the cookies were from and that they were safe to eat.

Advent is about slowing down and taking the time to reflect. It is the antithesis of the Christmas busyness and consumerism rampant in our society. Truthfully, with my wife gone, making cookies last night added to the busyness of the week. But Advent is also about looking outside ourselves, as well as within. And so we took the time to make some cookies (and the time afterward to clean up a messy kitchen). I think it's just as important to do something like that as it is to take the time to sit with our Advent devotions each night as a family.


We did revise one of the cards--Anders drew a Good Friday picture complete with blood dripping from Jesus' wounds. He had realized afterward that it might be the best picture to use with our neighbors...still, it's a good picture. And most of all, I'm proud that they are getting into the spirit, that they know that the giving is the more important than giving, and that Christ is the reason for it all.

They know that St. Nicholas isn't about reindeer, gift lists, and who's naughty and nice. They know he gave to those in need because of his love for God. They might have a little confusion about Santa Claus (mainly because of movies and Christmas specials), but over all they know that Christmas


Advent 1: What if Longing is Good?

Advent. It's here. To some that mean a lot; to others, not so much. In many churches it is a time when we prepare our hearts for Christmas. We recognize the waiting that happened before the Savior came.

At it's heart, Advent is about waiting, and waiting produces longing. Pastor Jan Bros shared at church tonight that in longing we become present with that which is unfinished yet in ourselves and in the world. That celebrating Advent is only possible for those who are aware of their brokenness. That since God is already aware of the longing in our heart, we are able to enter into the darkness of longing and know He is present.

I often run from longing. Longing for something produces discomfort. It often comes with ache. And I know that the things I long for aren't going to happen in the immediate future (at least not in their fullness): being on a vocational path, having obedient children, being a good father, being a good husband, having a good marriage, having brokenness healed, being whole, the fulfillment of hopes and dreams. Some of these will come over time...others will be along wait. But when those places of longing are accompanied with waiting (which is most of the time), I tend to repress my acknowledgment of the longing I have.

But what if God were present in the longing? Would I be able to face it? Because, of course, He is present there. Pastor Jan noted that in being present to our longing, our hearts become a manger of prayer. We make a place for God to dwell, and we turn to Him for the fulfillment of our longing aches. Indeed, the ache becomes a place of contact with God.

Part of Advent is acknowledging the longing of waiting for Christ to return. I wonder if I don't long deep enough for His return because I am too comfortable in this world (though it's not true comfort--there's plenty of needless pain and hurt--but more familiarity that comfortableness). I think that one of the things longing does--longing for justice, longing for restoration, longing for peace--is that it keeps me focused on Christ and being ready for His return.

So I'm going to give longing a try this week. I'm going to try to acknowledge the aches rather than ignore them. I'm going to try to acknowledge God's presence as a light in the darkness and talk with Him about those places of longing.

Somehow, even in the midst of the scariness of doing that, I think it'll be a much better start to the Advent season than making lists of wants,  spending time shopping, or rushing to and from events.