‘Living the Season Well’ by Jody Collins

I started reading Jody Collins’ book, Living the Season Well: Reclaiming Christmas, shortly after Labor Day. I wish you could have started it then too. It was the perfect time — summer was over, it actually felt like fall (even in Texas), and there were still three turns of the calendar before Advent.

“Start small. Start now,” Jody says in each chapter. This is a book to sit with and ponder and pray through. That’s how I read it and how I think I’ll still be interacting with it as Advent begins and all the way through Epiphany.

This Christmas will be different because it will be our first one in a new home and our first as empty-nesters. This past December 26 at 6 a.m., we bought an artificial tree on clearance — a tall, pre-lit one — knowing we would finally be in a house with tall enough ceilings to accommodate it. I have purchased only one new ornament, from the city where our daughter is in college. It will be the first to go up. I’m considering decorating more slowly, like Jody suggested, “Add the ornaments a little at a time — there’s an Advent practice.” When we moved, we purged a lot of stuff (including Christmas stuff) so simply opening boxes will be an adventure.

“Start small. Start now.”

Unlike Jody, I was raised with the church calendar. I grew up Episcopal and became Catholic a few years ago. Advent is my favorite church season, and although I’ve been observing it for years, I’m always looking for ways to make it new. One thing I have not incorporated into those four weeks is any type of fast. In chapter 3, “Getting Ready: Preparing Our Homes, Heads, and Hearts,” Jody talks about fasting’s traditional role in Advent.

“Start small. Start now.”

I’m still sorting and praying through all that, but I like that Jody did her research and incorporated thoughts of others on this subject, including Robert Farrar Capon’s The Supper of the Lamb: “He works through any crosses He can find. In a time of affluence, fasting may well be the simplest one of all.”

I don’t know what we will be doing on Christmas Eve and Day, but they will likely be hard. There have already been two family funerals this year. Another loved one is going through an unwanted divorce. But guess what? I’ve lived through hard holidays before. The Christ Child always comes. What will we do this year?

“Start small. Start now.”

Frankly, I have never known what to do after December 25, so I loved chapter 6 on Twelvetide and chapter 7 on Epiphany. For the first time in a couple of decades I do not have a child on the K-12 calendar. (Some years the kids have gone back to school as early as January 2.) This year my daughter does not need to back at school until mid-January. That leaves plenty of time to play with those 12 days. How will I do that?

“Start small. Start now.”

Living the Season Well is for everyone — for those who have never known such a thing as Advent existed and for those who have always loved it. Because getting ready for Christmas is truly about preparing for Christ to “be born in us today,” as the carol says. And no matter what happens in our lives and whether or not those days are HGTV-worthy, the spell of darkness and winter always breaks.

Jody ends with a Narnia quote, from the last paragraph of The Last Battle. I’ll add one of my own, from when Father Christmas arrives in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. The chapter is called “The Spell Begins to Break”:

It was a sledge, and it was reindeer with bells on their harness. But they were far bigger than the Witch’s reindeer, and they were not white but brown. And on the sledge sat a person whom everyone knew the moment they set eyes on him. He was a huge man in a bright red robe (bright as hollyberries) with a hood that had fur inside it and a great white beard that fell like a foamy waterfall over his chest. Everyone knew him because, those you see people of his sort only in Narnia, you see pictures of them and hear them talked about even in our world—the world on this side of the wardrobe door. But when you really see them in Narnia it is rather different. Some of the pictures of Father Christmas in our world make him look only funny and jolly. But now that the children actually stood looking at him they didn’t find it quite like that. He was so big, and so glad, and so real, that they all became quite still. They felt very glad, but also solemn.

“I’ve come at last,” said he.

Check out Living the Season Well and ponder how you might prepare for His coming this year.



  1. Well, this is lovely, Megan. Wow. And yay, you found something helpful in this season of your life between the pages of my little red and white book-I’m so glad.
    Here’s to faux trees (complete with lights) and a long, slow start to Christmas.
    (and I loved the Narnia quote you shared–such a quiet yet vibrant picture of Father Christmas. I’m gonna have to read that book again.)

  2. Love this — guess I’d better get my brain in gear and order a copy for myself.