Of all the months in the year, I am quite positive that I pack the most into the month of December. My calendar doesn’t have enough space to even write down all of the tasks and activities I have planned. The hustle and the bustle of the holidays is something I contend with every year, and I’ve yet to come out unscathed.
It just seems like everything on the to do list is a great use of my time. Decorating. Parties. Service projects. Sing-alongs. Christmas cards. Traditions. Shopping. Wrapping. Christmas movies. Caroling. It is all too good to leave off the list. And yet in honesty it’s kind of a let down. The day of Christmas comes and goes and leaves me feeling a little frustrated, as if there was some deeper spirituality available just beyond my reach.
Last week I had a thought-provoking experience. It was a very busy morning and I was getting a lot done. I had already been to a Christmas party-planning meeting and was getting the housework checked off my list so I could make address labels for this year’s Christmas cards. And all those tasks needed to be well underway before the school kids returned, for I knew homework, chores, lessons and activities would dominate my evening. And so I rushed about, thrilled to be listening to Christmas music.
As it happened, in the middle of my very productive flurry, the POWER WENT OUT. I couldn’t do laundry in the machine or dishes in the dishwasher. I couldn’t even use the computer to work on address labels. And my car was in the garage with the door shut, so I couldn’t go anywhere. I felt frustrated, overwhelmed and confused about how I should be spending my time.
After doing all that could be done without electricity, I stood on the stairs and whispered a silent prayer.
“What should I do?”
It was eerily quiet without my usual background music and the hum of busy appliances. Even my four-year old was strangely serene. Suddenly I had a realization. Stillness. The true sound of Christmas. I had been gifted an afternoon of stillness to spend with Christ.
It suddenly made sense to me that Christmas never was found in the hustle and bustle. Consider Mary and Joseph as they pursued lodging on the eve of the Savior’s birth. In every place they looked, people were busy and anxious. Every space was already full. Every corner in commotion. I think it was no coincidence that the Mary and Joseph were compelled to look elsewhere. The accommodations they found were a blessing to them in their desperate situation. And while humble, the stable stands as a metaphor for us today. The Savior came to the earth in a quiet, peaceful place—beyond the hustle and bustle of Bethlehem.
After Mary brought forth her firstborn son, angels went to share the news. And who did they seek out? They did not go back into Bethlehem where so many were lodging for the night, where busyness and the cares of the world concealed the beautiful miracle that had taken place among them. No. The angels went into the quiet places, the shepherds fields, to share the good news. I can’t help but feel sorry for those who were so close to that event, but not invited to share in it. And yet, that has often been the case with me. I have been too busy celebrating Christmas to fall on my knees and worship the Christ-child.
Like many things in this life, Christmas seems to be a paradox. We truly love Christ and because of our enthusiasm to celebrate the His birth, we fill our lives, our hearts, our to-do lists—ultimately leaving NO ROOM FOR HIM.
While there is so much good to be found in the traditions of Christmas, the most important task on our to-do list should be worship and reverence. No gift we purchase, no song we sing, no ornament we hang, no garland we string, no movie we watch, no party we plan, no goodie we bake –will bring us the full measure of the Christmas Spirit. For Christmas never was found in the doing. Rather, it has always been found in the being. In being still. Thoughtful. Generous. Forgiving. Grateful. Full of love. Full of wonder.
Christmas is found in the quiet moments when we consider God’s incomprehensible love for us and His profound gift given on that first Christmas morning.