January 1, 2014

What Does It All Mean?

Nota - Este artículo es disponible en español aquí.

The busy-ness leading up to Christmas has given way to that somewhat uneasy ‘in between time.’ We did all the things we knew how to do to make Christmas Christmas—put up the ornaments and the tree, wrapped presents, made (and ate) Christmas cookies, observed Advent as best we could, and still got stressed out more than once. Maybe there were moments in all that where wonder found us. Whether we were the preacher or a member of the congregation, once again, we heard words wrapped around the mystery of God’s coming to dwell among us. Then almost as soon as it had arrived, Christmas was gone, none of the post-Christmas sales notwithstanding. Now all we see on TV is stuff about the year that was, the new year that’s about to arrive. Life starts feeling like a question: What comes next? What just happened? What does it all mean?

I’ve learned to treasure ‘in-between’ times like the week between Christmas and New Year’s with their ambiguity and the way they leave me feeling disoriented. First, this is an opportunity to ask myself—so how was this Christmas? We are great at adding new pieces, new parts to what we define as Christmas in our family, in our community, even inside our own hearts. It is harder to let go of the things that no longer have the same meaning or space in our lives. After the fact, and without judgment or rush, this may be a good moment to jot down some things to remember not to do next year.

I also ask myself if I tried to make Christmas or allowed it to find me. There have been many years when I got so caught up in expectations, imposed and unexamined, that I came to believe that if Christmas was going to have any meaning, it was meaning I had to create myself. Not! I love that liturgically, we insist that Christmas lasts 12 days. That means that after I have done all those things I was so convinced were essential to give Christmas its meaning, I find myself forced to slow down. In that time that stretches out somewhat uncomfortably, I get another chance to allow the meaning of Christmas to be revealed to me in an unexpected place, in an unanticipated moment. If nothing else, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is an opportunity to take at least one of those long winter naps that I am convinced are as much about the meaning of Christmas as anything else, with their capacity to renew, recreate, and refresh us.

It is still Christmas and I send best wishes of blessing, newness of life, and joy to you and yours this Christmastide.