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.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
the majesty of our God.
Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
“Be strong, do not fear!
The end of the year arrives once again and everyone I speak to is either exhausted or too tired to say they’re exhausted! It’s been another big year. Looking after our kids is a joy but hardly a walk in the park – except when it is a walk in the park and even then it may be a walk for them but we end up running. Or maybe it’s just me getting slow.
Right at the time when we are sighting the finish line of the year someone says, “Christmas” and we realise that we’re just gearing up for that manic period when family, gifts, food, parties, worship and ‘good cheer’ demand from us that we put the foot down again and speed up.
For the church, the season of Advent is all about the opposite. It’s about gearing down; waiting on the good news of God wrapped in the form of a human baby and reflecting on what sort of people we have become and what we would like to be. Advent is the beginning of the church year and it’s about new starts in heart and mind, body and soul.
Now, some of you are ‘party people’ so go for it – have a ball. But some of you also dread the demands of the season and long for the rare but real virtues of Christmas: peace and joy. Can I offer you an encouragement to ‘gear down’ this Christmas. To take each day slowly and savour not every opportunity on offer but, instead, to drink deeply of the moments that do offer you replenishment, peace and joy.
Our lives are not about productivity, they are about relationship. Our children, our lovers and our friends are deeply precious and what they most want is for us to be present with them at Christmas – and always. And we want that too.
So, go slowly and accept that you won’t make every stage a winner this Christmas but that you might be able to make a few stages really beautiful for yourself and others by creating space for them to be loved and loving.
In coming as a child, that is what God did for us. God created space by being vulnerable, being weak, being slow and being genuinely human. It was God’s way of saying, “I get it. I love you. Let’s spend time together”. That’s good news we can share in very real ways.
I hope that Christmas brings you peace and joy. I know it’s not easy and I know that it sometimes seems impossible but, as Czech dissident and first post-communist president Václav Havel said so well: “Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it will turn out.”
This year may your Christmas make sense because you have given yourself permission to ‘gear down’ and blossom in the wilderness of busyness.