We all seem to be in a terrible hurry, especially this time of year. It’s as if we’re in a contest to see how many things we can cram into December, and right about now, things are starting to pop back out. There just isn’t room.
The speed of the holidays is manic, and its sound is shouting. We’re racing to meet a deadline (which happens to be the birthday of our Lord), after which we’ll run a few more laps to make sure we catch the post-holiday sales. And let’s not even mention what happens in our kitchens. It starts out happy, with spoonfuls of cookie dough and giggling, but it ends with muttering, cupboard door slamming, and hearing the stroke of midnight come and go before we fall into our beds, exhausted and overcooked.
The speed of Advent, in contrast, is slow.
We remember Mary and Joseph, as they painstakingly made their way to Bethlehem by donkey, stopping every so often so that Mary could rest her aching back. We remember the journey the wise men took, following only the star for months and months, believing they would arrive when they needed to arrive. We remember those long months that Mary and Elizabeth spent together, holding each other’s hair back when the morning sickness came, and whispering far into the night. And we remember the labor itself, of which we know very few details. But if Jesus came out like most of us did, it was a long night, and in between contractions, Mary and Joseph almost certainly played gin rummy.
During Advent, we are reminded to slow down and breathe, because he’s coming when he comes, and there is very little we can do about it, except wait. And while waiting can be terrible business, it can also be wonderful, as long as you give up trying to control every single thing about it.
What would it mean for you to replace hurry with a deliberate slowness in the ten remaining days of Advent? To prepare meals slower, to drive slower, and maybe even to talk slower? To go to bed earlier? At your next Christmas party, try to simply be in the presence of the person with whom you’re talking, instead of glancing around and wondering how you’ll make it through. Waiting can be wonderful, as long as we give up trying to control every single thing about it.
I’ll leave you with one of Ruth Haley Barton’s prayers*. Perhaps it can be a lifeline to you, slowing you down, and anchoring you into the calm waters of Advent.
O God of peace, I pray that you will sanctify me entirely, even during this season of busyness and distraction; may my spirit and soul and body be kept sound (even as the world around me gets more and more frantic) and blameless (even as I am tempted to give up and give in to it all). I do so desire to be awake and alert to all the ways the Lord Jesus Christ comes into my life amid impossibly full days. O God, I know you are faithful and that you can do all this. Amen.
* Taken from 2014 Advent Reflections