I love the practice of advent, the sacred space it creates for holy waiting. I love the quiet anticipation for our Messiah’s coming. I love the dim rooms lit only by candles, the soft twinkling of lights strewn across trees, the early evenings and the choirs singing Silent Night. I love the marking on the church calendar that urges us to be still and prepare our hearts for the coming King.
And yet, December is anything but quiet. End of year concerts, final examinations, social events, and longer work days have filled each of our squares on our calendar. We have pieced together a dozen or two schedules and will travel many miles in order to connect with as many family members as possible. Extra festive things are added to the to-do list – gift buying, present wrapping, cookie baking and tree decorating. Not to mention maintaining the normal demands of daily life. Our days overflow with projects and tasks, whether or not it is Advent.
I always start out with lofty goals at the beginning of new seasons. My expectations for what I should be able to do each day never seem to be in alignment with the reality of what I’m actually capable of getting done. Christmas is no exception. No matter the amount of planning or forethought I give I always end up with messy wrapping jobs and sloppy sugar cookies, buying presents at the last minute and neglecting to bring a white elephant gift to the party.
These things seem so trivial in writing. Who cares what color of bow you put on your gifts, or if there is a bow at all? And really, store bought cookies can be just as good. But for some reason we’ve all bought into the lie that this season is about frenzied festivities and haphazard hurry. We think hustle and bustle is the required pace for this season, and if we are moving slower than the rest of the world we’re doing something wrong.
Now I’m all for the holiday cheer. I love all the traditions and celebrations and the air of excitement in all the stores as I do my Christmas shopping. I just can’t help but wonder if we’re missing something better in this frantic pursuit of merry making. I can’t help but think Christ came for more than to give us a merry little Christmas. There is an unfathomable depth and significance to the coming of our Messiah in that dingy manger, and we are foolish if we think the parties and the gift exchanges and the food is the culmination of this season.
Last year we set up a little tree in our home. We almost didn’t, we wouldn’t be home much and it was already well into December. But one afternoon the snow canceled our plans and we went into the woods and found one that would fit in our small home. I didn’t want to get out all the decorations so we simply wrapped a strand of white lights around it and called it good. And in glow of this sweet, scraggly tree everything else seemed superfluous. I didn’t need wreaths or garland or scented candles or dozens of cookies or piles of gifts. One simple tree with some twinkly lights was enough.
There’s nothing wrong with ornaments and tinsel. There’s nothing wrong with shopping for just the right present and going to a few extra parties. But there is something wrong with running so hard and fast through this season that you run right past the one we’re celebrating.
Less is more, they say. They are right. Especially if it means less stuff to do and less errands to run and less events to plan and less traditions to keep. Especially if it means making room for more of Christ in this season. More time to sit in silence and listen to His word. Less hustle, less bustle. More space. More stillness. More time. More Christ.
If you only do one thing this Christmas, if you only have time for one more thing, stop. Make space to wait. Create stillness in your frenzy and anticipate the coming of our Lord.