By Joan Kelley, oneLifemaps Facilitator
What rhythm and pace have you felt as you have approached Christmas this year?
We have four children ages 16 down to 8 and so the pace at our house can be quite hectic to say the least. This summer my oldest son, Will, was diagnosed with leukemia and now our pace has a much different look and feel. Will’s illness has required attention and simplicity that has not been necessary before. After his diagnosis, our plates were immediately cleared. As I look back on it now, I realize that was a gift. And now as we slowly and selectively add things back into our lives, we are watching our pace very carefully.
I’m finding this Advent season now has a new rhythm and pace as well. It seemed awkward at first and so I have had to begin with preparing my heart and mind. This has taken some discipline on my part to simplify and figure out what was truly important this year – doing less “stuff”, buying less “stuff”, saying more “no’s”, holding loosely to most things and holding tightly to God. Our “stripped down” version of what Christmas used to entail now holds more meaning. It’s simplicity seems to more closely mirror the conditions of our Savior’s birth. And while so much has been taken away, it has resulted in more humility, more awe, more awareness of the precious nature of life and family. I have slowly change my attitude from hurry up, clean it up and check it off to being more present in the moment and comfortable in the quiet. It has felt good to slow down, to be closer to my God-set inner pace vs. the self imposed pace the world pushes on us and we chose to own. This part of the advent rhythm has taught me about the rests in the melody that make the other notes so beautiful and sweet.
The Advent rhythm for me has then seemed to move from this time of preparation to anticipation and expectation. While the world has been in high gear about shopping and getting it done, I have tried to move my heart to delight. My children have helped me remember that God loves a playful expectant heart. I love their pure delight in moving the new character each morning into the nativity Advent calendar that hangs on the wall. My son went to bed and asked, “Can I move the day 3 sheep up? Pleeease! The day is almost here. Can I move baby Jesus in and make Christmas happen faster?” I’m trying to work on filling my soul with some more anticipation and wonder as we move closer to the time. I’m hoping to hear the melody of Advent in a more “forte” kind of way.
My final verse in this rhythm of Advent seems to center around pondering and savoring the story, the baby, the moments of awe. This is where the preparation and anticipation begin to weave together God’s story and my own. I’m beginning to spend time thinking about what it would be like to be “in the scene.” What would it feel like to be a shepherd, a wiseman, Joseph, Mary? Who does God want me to identify with this year? What does God need for me to bring to the manger this year – an uncluttered mind, a listening heart, a self-less soul, a new perspective on life, a renewed or reconciled relationship? How can I authentically bring these gifts and not just a beautiful empty box with those words on the label? How can I sing the familiar songs with a greater awareness of their fuller meaning? This chorus of questions has helped remind me how my story intimately fits as a part of the Christmas story. Like Mary, this Christmas, part of my gift is “treasuring up all these things and pondering them in my heart.” I’m hoping to do more treasuring and pondering in these days to come.
I’m thankful for this rhythm of advent I am learning this year – preparation, anticipation and pondering. I hope you can find the Advent rhythm that God has set before you this season and you can stop and think about it, savor it and pull it forward into the new year.
“So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. “ --Luke 2:16-20
How can I find the rhythm of Advent that God has placed before me, even in these last days before Christmas?