“Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28
This is the most wonderful time of the year, or at least that’s what the carols sing and what people write on Holiday Cards. But truthfully, it’s a little ambitious to claim that, isn’t it? Sure, it’s a wonderful time – but the most wonderful? Most stressful sounds more accurate to me – this season is full of high expectations. Parties to attend, cards to send, shopping to do, lists to create, cookies to bake – really, the list goes on. Instead of being this wonderful, whimsical time of year full of joy, it can be a burden.
I think we all know in our hearts this isn’t the way the Advent season is supposed to be. No matter which holiday you celebrate, there are similar goals and purpose for the season – to meditate and reflect, to gather with family, to practice giving joyfully. Advent, specifically, is defined as anticipating the arrival of something; a season for preparation and rest. Preparation, because we’re resetting our focus and hearts towards the day when we’ll see Christ again, but also rest because the work is done – ‘It is finished,’ our Savior proclaimed.
Yet, here we are, drowning in our to-do list and feeling very far away from the spirit of the holidays and the magic this season brings. I feel it, too. I feel the pressure of doing Christmas ‘right’, attempting to mix traditions with modern expectations all while seeking Jesus. It’s impossible to find time to both brave the crowded stores and attend all the things, yet have ample hours at home with family to celebrate everything ‘Christmassy’. There’s an irony in enjoying in every moment and purposely infusing the holidays in every single second without pause -but it’s not the holidays unless you’re really enjoying it, right?
I don’t want to celebrate my Christmas like that. I don’t need a crowded, over-priced, exhausting holiday- is that really beneficial at all? I certainly don’t need to get so caught up in trying to stay on top of schedules and gifts and events that I forget to be really, truly present and just rest in it. Present in the little things of advent- the lights flickering on the tree, the fireplace warming our home, Joy repeating ‘snow’ a thousand times over because she loves it so much. Resting, purposely doing nothing – because growing closer to our Savior sometimes looks like intentionally finding quiet spaces or saying no to things that normally would be yes.
So I’m choosing that for my Christmas celebration this year. The rest, the silence, the joy.
The rest, in saying no to over-commitment. Parties, Kindness Elf, and volunteering in the capacity I normally do has taken the back burner. I’m allowing myself the room to be available and present for my family. It’s trimming the edges of my life and so what matters can thrive – it’s hard, but necessary.
The silence, in choosing to put away my phone and turn off the television. Just sitting, together, in anticipation and true conversation. This is where being present actually matters. Taking time to separate ourselves from the normal, daily distractions has been a healing part of advent for me – and hope has stemmed from it.
The joy, in finding things that I am truly grateful for. Allowing hope to fill my soul and encourage my dreams for the future. This is when I’m finding and seeking after God’s promises and claiming them for my own. For me, this ‘joy’ part has not come easy- but the small, often overlooked things help me find it.
I don’t know the commitment you have this season, or whether the thought of the next few days fills you with dread or glee. But I do hope that no matter how you feel about the next few days, you’ll allow yourself the gift of rest, to be still and seek joy. No matter how busy this season has been for you, it’s not to late to slow down and embrace slow, sweet moments.
This still can be the ‘most wonderful time of the year’, just not necessarily in the way everything says. Capture this Advent season and make it your own- after all, what can be more wonderful then resting our hearts on the hope we’ve been given?
Merry Christmas, sweet friends.