Will you notice?
Most years, I start the Christmas season full of expectation and joy and then fall in a heap on December 26th exhausted and burned out. There’s always so much to do and prepare: gifts to buy, parties and functions to attend, food to make, dinners to host, which always includes a thorough house clean. School finishes a few weeks out from Christmas here in Australia, so the kids are home, lists are made, the tree goes up… Christmas in full swing often turns out to be the busiest time of the year.
Which easily spirals out of control. Extra runs to the mall, extra dips into the savings or credit card, extra people over, extra events to attend… which all sounds well and good, and are all well and fun… but how much can you actually squeeze into one month?
I love Christmas; I even enjoy the buzzing sense of getting things ready. But for me, it easily turns into stress and rushing and buying and cooking and worrying. The season for joy and peace and togetherness all too often becomes the season of consuming and rushing and exhaustion; chasing the hope and joy we seek in gifts and food and events.
Do we ever find that peace we talk and sing about during the holiday season at Christmas time?
Jesus shared a holiday dinner with his friends. It was a big event, a special occasion. A lot of preparation, time, and money had gone into the evening. And around the table he said:
“I leave the gift of peace with you—my peace. Not the kind of fragile peace given by the world, but my perfect peace. Don’t yield to fear or be troubled in your hearts—instead, be courageous!” John 14:27 (TPT).
Peace is a gift. It’s not so much something you can buy, or create, or chase down. In fact, it’s one of those things where it seems the more you seek it, the more elusive it becomes. You can only make room for it and then receive it. Birth can be like that, too.
There’s not much you can do to bring it on; labor seems to find you when it will. Like peace, it’s almost a paradox of preparing and waiting. Making room, holding space.
Richard Rohr says: “The first is self-assertion, the second is self-surrender. The first is taking; the second is receiving. Those are two entirely different human dynamics. You do not catch a butterfly by chasing it: You sit still and it alights on your shoulder. Then it chooses you.”
Advent wants to choose you. But it’s voice is often drowned out by lists of things to buy, endless dishes to prepare, places to be, people to see, things to make, houses to clean… busy busy busy…
Peace is a gift. Not the fragile kind of peace given by the world; the kind that you can buy and wrap and place under the tree; the kind you can drink in a stemmed glass; the kind that comes from the distraction and avoidance that endless parties and events often provide…
But the kind of peace that whispers (or sometimes shouts) in the midst of it all “Don’t yield to fear or be troubled in your hearts—instead, be courageous!” It's the kind of peace that finds you in the waiting, and as you sit still, alights on your shoulder and chooses you.
The question is, are you too busy buying and doing all the things the “season” seemingly demands?
Or will you notice?
Today's Advent Reading: Isaiah 2:1-5; Matt 8:5-11.