Inside my house I can only hear the train whistle(from across town) or the church bells(from a ½ mile away) in the wee or early hours of the morning. I live pretty close to uptown Charlotte NC, but unless the traffic noise is nonexistent, I can’t hear these signals. The train whistle calls me to adventure. The church bells awaken another response in me, this time to silence. Our minds are like a city: the busyness and traffic noise of everyday life drown out the deeper signals of the heart and soul.
Here we are in the midst of Advent when the busyness of the season and the anxiety of getting everything right drown out the quiet voice of God who would speak to us of his love. Advent is a time of preparation, of emptying out of ourselves so there is room for what is being born in us, the sacred, the new, the voice of God in a small baby. The issue in Advent is this: will the birth of Jesus again have to be in some stable apart from our lives or will we welcome him into the places where we live?
In the midst of the busiest season of the year we have to be intentional to remember what the season is all about: the birth of the son of God, the date set during the solstice, the return of the sun. The major challenge is to become empty of ourselves and the busyness of the season during the advent season leading up to Christmas. Keep this advent season sacred: welcome the Christ child into your heart.
1. Every day take some quiet time in gratitude for the gift of Jesus’ birth and for the return of the sun. Remind yourself of the bounty you already have in your life.
2. Even in the busyness of your days keep peace in your heart. Don’t succumb to the pressures to go, go, go with tension; hold the anxiety that is in the air at bay, so that you can go peacefully through the month.
3. Be kind to yourself and to your family and friends. Plan to enjoy every moment whether it is wrapping gifts or braving the crowds at the mall or sitting before the manger.
4. Ponder these things and keep them in your heart: like Mary long ago, treasure the real meaning of Christmas.
5. Take two hours or a half-day or a day of silence in the midst of December. Be in God’s presence.
6. Vow to enjoy wholeheartedly the sacred and profane aspects of the season: the birth of the Christ child and the excesses of the season.
7. Give your love wherever you are and to whomever you meet. Extend the true spirit of the season.
8. Help someone(s) who won’t have a good Christmas to have a generous celebration.
The seasons matter. They speak of the deeper rhythms of life. The church calendar reminds us of the life of Jesus. Both the season and the celebration of Advent remind us of the light that has been diminished throughout the autumn as the leaves fell and the days grew shorter. Christmas itself has been co-opted by our culture into one big orgy of buying, but the celebration of Advent brings us back to the simple, clear message that the birth of the Divine One happens in our midst even when it is largely forgotten in all the glitter of the secular celebration.