Ah, advent! My annual regret is back again: I knew I should’ve made my Christmas cards in the summer when days were long and time abounded. At least this year, by very late November, I know what they’ll look like and how many I need to prepare. At least now, when Mum tells me when the international posting dates are (or were), I’ll be on my way to readiness.
And somehow cards are the least of my worries. I’ve already semi-dealt with the niggly decisions about where to spend Christmas which I tend to avoid as long as possible, torn between conflicting desires to be here, there or everywhere. And then it’s working out what to say yes to and what to say no to, getting a balance between being stroppily present at everything and ending up doing nothing.
Every year I want it to be different. I want to feel a sense of wonder and anticipation, to carve out time to ponder what it’s all about and let reality sink in. I want the process of making and buying gifts to be one which reflects deeper truth. As we sing carols and hear familiar stories, I want it to hit me like it did the first time. I want to catch my breath, to be bowled over. I want glimpses of something else, of glory whatever that is, to filter through into my normality. I want to come, to behold, to adore.
Your questions go round my head. Am I tired? A little bit. Worn out? Less than I have been but I know that I could easily go that way. Burned out on religion? No, but if I’m going to be this would be the time of the year for it. ‘Tis the season of events and sign-up sheets, to which I often add my name feeling neither joyful nor triumphant, nor even particularly faithful. Can’t be too miffed mind you; if all that stuff wasn’t happening I’d be annoyed that no one else seemed bothered enough to help others unpack the amazingness of the Word moving into the neighbourhood.
Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.
As I try to fit to-do lists and appointments into a rapidly-filling month, I do want my life back please. And as much as I wish you were advocating running away and burying my head in the sand, I don’t think that’s what you’re getting at. But this is the time of year, when the world seems noisier and more distracting, that I most need you to show me what it looks like.
The unforced rhythms of grace are counter-cultural and counter-intuitive, but I want to learn. So I’ll walk with you into a busy month and work with you, trusting you for real life, real rest, real joy. For me and for a lot of other people who really need that too.