For four days last week, our home was a serene retreat for my dear friend to catch her breath and come to stillness. The days were sweetly paced and relaxed. While she was here I did well to keep anxious thoughts of Christmas preparations from worming into my brain.
On Friday night I dropped Shannon at the airport.
On Saturday I cleaned, strategized and settled on a game plan for the next three weeks.
On Sunday I followed my own ill-advised suggestion to head into town and shop for the Four Angel Tree tags I had picked up in the lobby of the Post Office. (Did I mention I have ten adult kids and twelve grandchildren to shop for? Did I mention I’m hosting our out-of-town family for our Christmas gathering which is ten days before actual Christmas?)
Let me throw in one more little tidbit to complete this extravagant pity party I’m throwing myself. We have one week after all this to put away decorations, load our RV for the winter, batton down our home and travel to spend Christmas Day with our daughter’s family before leaving for Arizona the day after Christmas.
Target on Sunday in December is not a desirable place for introverts and people with chaotic brain issues. What choice did I have? The Angel Tree deadline was Tuesday.
I’m trying to have a good attitude as I wrack my brain for ideas and shop for people who are amply supplied with this world’s goods. I can’t think about all the toxic plastic that will make its way to the landfill.
I’m working hard to pace myself through feelings of overwhelm and brain fog. I’m prayerfully baby-stepping my way through all this madness, trying to focus on the reason for the season. Ha!
No matter my attempts to slap the word Advent on it all, it still doesn’t feel like worship. So I Lamaze-breath my way through these transitional contractions and think of a very pregnant Mary riding cross-country on a donkey.
And while I’m asking Jesus how any of this stress and pressure we call the Most Wonderful Time of the Year has anything to do with celebrating His birth, he whispers:
I was born into this same chaos bringing hope and shalom to all who will learn from me.
Maybe the census that forced Joseph and Mary to travel ninety miles in the last week of Mary’s pregnancy was the ancient world’s version of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. There’s no question Ceasar Augustus was profiting as taxes were collected to fund his growing army to increase his power.
I think of the hustle and bustle, depicted in the famous painting above, that was happening in Bethlehem when God determined it was time for the Savior’s birth.
Merchants must have been scrambling to keep up with the demand for goods by weary travelers; bakers, butchers, lamp oil suppliers, all working hard to sell their wares and get ahead.
Let’s not forget about the innkeepers stuffing as many weary travelers into their spaces as possible or soldiers trying to keep the peace.
From the very beginning, Jesus has been stepping into our noise and offering serenity.
As I work out my worship of the Savior in this, dare I say the word, busy time, I’m coming to understand something about serenity.
Serenity is not the absence of noise.
Serenity begins with the act of coming to stillness.
Serenity is a choice to reposition our heart.
Serenity is the decision to reorient our thoughts.
Serenity is found within.
I’m not sure there is anything more serene than when a mother first lays eyes upon her child and when she draws him to her bosom and nurses him in the stillness of that bond. As Mary wrapped our Savior in her arms and drew him to her heart the hush of stillness settled over all that was happening around her.
Later in Jesus’ ministry, we see a similar intention. Our Lord often pulled away from the crowds to be drawn into His Father’s bosom where he regained his balance, drew in nourishment and soaked in the serenity of worship.
I’m seriously reconsidering how to not get sucked up into our American Christmas culture next year. I’m thinking about ways that I can do this thing differently; more in keeping with worship rather than greedy consumption and people pleasing.
My friends, it doesn’t matter what is going on around us, it matters most what is going on inside us. I’d like to close this meandering with a phrase I recently read regarding this season:
Suspend expectation and revel in the mystery.