‘Tis the season to be busy. Fa la la la la. La la la la.
What songs are running around in your head this December?
This morning I dragged myself out of bed again at an unearthly hour because I needed to find some quiet but not just the quiet of sleep. I needed quiet, not just for my ears, but mostly for my heart. Because my mind had become busy again and I didn’t want to enter my day from a place of restlessness. I didn’t want to find myself driven from one end of the day to the other at some frenetic pace and go to bed frustrated that I had missed what was most important about today. Because I miss so much when my mind focuses on the wrong things.
So I chose to leave my soft, warm bed and shiver my way into dressing gown and slippers, to curl up in my armchair once again with my tea and the Book. And I read myself into consciousness, into quietness and into a new perspective.
I am studying my way through Peter’s first epistle, a letter written in about AD 63 to Christian Jews who had been dispersed through persecution and affliction and who now lived as “aliens scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.” The word “alien” immediately resonated with me, perhaps because I identify with it as a so-called expat, and perhaps because I realise that as believers all of us, in a sense, live in alien territory. This world is not our home. And yet how I behave as though this were not so, as though this were all there is. I feel like this is so often illustrated by our attitude to Christmas, which becomes a kind of microcosm of our whole lives. All the hustle and bustle around Christmas, which ends up obscuring and detracting from the main event, could be a miniature picture of our lives. We are so busy living our lives, caught up with the details, that we leave no time for life itself. We miss the main event. When the Son of Man comes knocking on the door of our lives, there is no room in the inn. We are so busy celebrating His birthday party that we don’t even hear the knock at the door. We are caught up in the living and we forget who gave us life in the first place
I couldn’t help wondering that if Jesus chose to return at Christmas time, would He find anyone waiting, anyone watching, anyone anticipating. What if even His church was so busy celebrating His first coming that they forgot to watch for His return? We have been learning over the last few Sundays in church that Advent was traditionally a time when the Church looked forward to Christ’s return. But, has it been so long that we have learned to only look back and have forgotten to look forward? Aren’t we so caught up in Christmas that we are forgetting to look for the One who Christmas is about?
For the Christians to whom Peter was writing, it seems that times of suffering kept their vision clear and their future hope alive. Perhaps for us too times of suffering are the only thing which can restore our faulty vision and re-direct our hearts towards future hope and a desire for Christ’s return.
Somehow, realising that Christ will return, restores a right perspective for me in this Christmas season. It somehow puts into perspective all the tinsel and all the glitter, all the supermarket shelves stacked high with gifts and all the pressure I feel to make this Christmas a happy one. And I am thankful. I am thankful because there is a dark side to Christmas too. There is the flip side of the coin. Not everyone can have a merry Christmas but the pressure to be happy at Christmas time can feel unbearable, especially in times of inescapable sadness. For some, Christmas is a season of grief and untold loneliness. For some of us there is crushing homesickness during this jolly season. For others, loneliness is at its most devastating because, … shouldn’t we all be surrounded by loved ones? That is when it is good to keep things in perspective, to be “sober in spirit”, as Peter put it. We may enjoy the hours of Christmas day or we may weep them away, but at the end of the day we need to keep our eyes on the big picture. Weeping or feasting may last for a night but Morning is coming. It isn’t today that matters so much as Tomorrow, that Day when Jesus returns. On that Day everything that we have ever known will pale into insignificance in the face of a new reality, a reality which is in fact more ancient than anything we have ever known. Will we not wish on that Day that we had never wasted a moment of our lives on the insignificant things that now fill our days? Won’t we suddenly see, with shocking clarity, the overwhelming reality of what had previously seemed like illusion? On that Day all that we have striven for on this earth, our possessions, and everything we have accumulated will evaporate in the blink of an eye and we will understand that the things we cling to were no more substantial than the haze of a hot summer’s day. Only the things which counted for eternity will remain.
But for now we continue to be caught up in the business and busyness of living. We don’t give the reality of Christ’s return due attention. Much like the first time He came. Our hearts are preoccupied with other things and we are not expecting Him. The space in our hearts and minds is so occupied with other things, that there is simply no room for Him. No room in our inn. No room in our lives.
But the King is coming. I want to be ready to receive Him. I want to clear out the rooms of my heart so they are ready to receive Him. I want to be ready this Christmas. And I want Him to find room in my heart, each and every day .For that I need to come to Him daily, to listen and be reminded that the golden bauble I am living in is just that …. a bauble, a bubble waiting to be pricked, and so that I might see that the greatest and best things still lie ahead of me, some day in the future.
It might be any day now.
How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.