I seriously thought about entitling this essay “Why I Suck at Slowing Down in Advent”, but that seemed slightly irreverent.
I really do love Christmastime, since there is so much fun to be had under our roof and in our community. With four small girls hustling and bustling through each and every day, I can’t help but catch their contagious spirit. At least, I try to embody their joy until the moment that I just can’t anymore. It’s almost like the shear abundance of sweets and the occasional extra glass of wine that works its way into our systems this time of year. It’s yuletide bliss until the hangover sets in.
Why is this a Challenge?
All around are constant reminders to slow down and savor what God brings us during this season, which is the anticipation of the salvation that is ours in the birth of Jesus. For the first time this Advent, I sought to be especially intentional about slowing my pace at an otherwise frantic time. I realized the first step was admitting I had a problem. I don’t like to slow down, especially when it gets pushed upon me as a side dish in a heap of Christmastime merriment.
I grappled with this realization of my own shortcoming and tried to pinpoint why I justified not slowing down in Advent each year prior.
Startling reason number one: these four daughters of mine. I don’t think they could even exist in our small town without adding 200 additional activities each December.
Reason number two: I work for a university, and the semester ends in mid-December. With the closing of the semester comes an enormous amount of grading, coupled with an even larger number of existential crises from my students.
And last on the list of excuses: all of my volunteer commitments hit max velocity at Christmastime. Loving each of them as I do, I can’t just pare down the list without an equally enormous amount of guilt following me in the process.
This sacred time of heart preparation collides with immense anticipation that the greatest gift will be ours. I thought, this year, Advent would come for me in the story of Jesus’ family I read my children each night over dinner, or through activities and resources waiting eagerly in my inbox for us to explore.
Spoiler alert: Advent doesn’t look at way in our house this year, and it might not next either.
But I Think That’s OK…
A foot of snow, plus a long string of illness, three days (so far) of school cancellation, and all of the aforementioned activities, and Advent under our roof looks a lot like the book still in the shrink wrap and no candles lit on the beautiful wreath and papers that aren’t graded because all the students needed an extension.
Advent has been swallowed up by the anticipation.
I’ve decided, at least tonight, that this is just fine. So for now, Advent means that I’m showing up. I will be present, hopefully smiling, for the people and causes that I love. And with my presence, I will intentionally love all of the blessings that God has given us. I will use our God-given gifts to give to others.
It is my prayer that this is what my daughters will remember. I don’t think they will necessarily recall all the activities I planned or if they learned all of Jesus’ lineage. They won’t care if all the gift tags for their teachers matched the wrapping paper or how many dozen cookies we baked for the pageant reception. They will remember my reflection of Christ’s love to them and to the world around us.
“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is, of course, that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life- the life God is sending one day by day.” ~ C.S. Lewis