Franciscan Spirit Blog

The Gifts of Advent Day 10: The Beauty of Simplicity

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing.

(Isaiah 35:1)

If you follow contemporary trends in design and interior decoration, you can’t miss the move toward minimalism. As people find their lives becoming cluttered and out of control, they’re drawn to an ideal of wide, clear spaces, polished wood, and large expanses of glass. I can appreciate the beauty of this, but it’s not something to which I’m drawn.

I like a little homey clutter. I like letting my eye rest on objects that carry memories and emotions and connections to places and people I’ve loved. I try to follow the advice of nineteenth-century philosopher and proponent of the Arts and Crafts movement William Morris who said, “Have nothing in your life that you don’t know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

Beauty rescues us from a drab utilitarian existence. Simplicity doesn’t need to be stark and completely minimalist. Any time spent in nature, even in the depths of winter, shows us that our God is both prolific and even flamboyant in the colors and shapes and infinite variety of creation. Even the vast deserts and oceans are shifting displays of original beauty and blessing. As you’re cleaning and decorating this year, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Trust your instincts and rely on your own tastes and preferences. If you want a single stem of holly for your centerpiece, go for it and let it reflect a single-hearted focus on God’s grace. If you want every ornament you’ve inherited from parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents jostling for space on your tree, glory in the extravagance.

Gifts of Advent | Donation

Take a Deep Breath

Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:18–19)

A Simple Gift

Before you start decorating for the holiday, take a day or two to put away the decorations you’ve been enjoying for the autumn months (or perhaps the eleven months since last Christmas). Clear and clean the surfaces in your living space and enjoy the emptiness and openness for a time. Let the simplicity offer you some rest and peace as you prepare for the coming feast. You might want to include flowering bulbs (amaryllis and narcissus are popular choices) or a Christmas cactus as part of your decorations to bring to mind Isaiah’s hope-filled words about the desert blooming.


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