The already brimming schedules and to-do lists most of us carry are magnified and exacerbated during the holidays. Even as the American “holiday season” of Thanksgiving and Christmas is lengthened every year by retail establishments, somehow many of us still feel rushed into Christmas. I know I do. The very minute following that last bite of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, Black Friday is in full swing and I’m already behind on my Christmas shopping. Then, Christmas day arrives and
after a red and green, over-caffeinated whirlwind... it’s over.
If I haven’t allowed myself time for reflection or pause before Christmas day, I find I don’t feel grateful or spiritual about the gift of my Savior’s birth. I don’t feel His kingdom come. I don’t feel, Immanuel-God with us. Instead, I feel empty, tired, and maybe a little overstuffed from all the excess.
Even if the holidays can be exhausting, the truth is, I am most motivated when life moves quickly. I believe time is a gift and I try to spend it in ways that feel meaningful, helpful and worthy of the life God has given me. I am grateful for all God has given me to experience and steward, and yet, I’ve found it is all too easy to live in a state of busyness and constant distraction. When my life is only marked by doing, accomplishing, and constant productivity, I am drained and less motivated to spend time in prayer, or meaningful time with God and those around me.
What are the days leading up to Christmas really about? What in those four weeks before Christmas do I reflect on? Sometimes it's the birth of Jesus, and sometimes... it's the arrival of peppermint mochas and free shipping.
This isn’t to point the finger at giving and receiving gifts or drinking coffee, but to call attention to the importance of preparation-to acknowledge the significance of waiting, and the anticipation of Christ on Christmas Day. For someone like me, who likes to keep busy on purpose—God can do a lot in my heart if I have to pause and wait for Him.
In a word, before Christmas Day, we are reflecting on adventus- the Latin word for advent, meaning the arrival or coming of the Christ child who turned a harsh world into a world in which love and hope reign and abound in Him because He decided to draw near.
A couple of years ago, my church asked its members to create a dynamic worship space for Advent in the small chapel adjacent to our sanctuary. They asked for photography, paintings, mixed media art, and, I was asked to write a series of advent poems to be displayed next to the artwork. I am so glad I said yes.
Each week, my pastors sent us an email with the traditional theme each week in Advent, and on Sunday, we shared our reflections on the themes of Hope, Faith, Joy, and Peace in the chapel with our congregation.
As I wrote reflections throughout the season of Advent, it allowed me time to pause, to worship, to seek, and to prepare. I was also deeply moved by viewing the reflections of others. I’m aware that ruminating over the mystery of Christ through poetry is not something everyone can relate to, but, for me, the intentional dive into the Advent season instead of my to-do list allowed me to better understand the significance of Christ’s birth in my walk of faith. It also allowed me more time to spend with my God—a gift he first gave me when Jesus arrived as a baby born to Mary and Joseph in a chaotic world that needed Him. A world that needed, Immanuel. That Christmas, I felt it—adventus, His arrival.
What hasn’t been said about tenderness and mildness?
But still, his lightness bends me down,
Close to his heartbeat and breath,
to all hope and love contained
in swaddling clothes
White as a dove
Wishing you the light and love of the Christ Child this Christmas. If you need a moment of pause and reflection, follow this link to our Christmas Devotional eBook.