Advent 2013

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I love Christmas.  The family traditions.  The food.  The decorations.  The music.  The movies.  Everything about Christmas brings warm memories for me.  I look forward to this season all year (ask my roommates, to whom I asked if we could get a Christmas tree in October).  Now that it’s here, I’m trying to make time each day to reflect on the reason for the season.  We hear that phrase over and over, so much so that it’s lost its meaning.  But this season, called Advent, is the time of year that makes me anticipates the celebration of the first coming of Christ on Christmas morning, but also reminds me to anticipate His second coming on that Day. 

However, this season to some doesn’t bring the childlike joy and anxious anticipation that bubbles up within me.  It is a painful reminder of lost loved ones or family members who are far away or children who’ve begun to make bad choices.  This past year, in my world travels (Japan and the Bahamas) and my interactions with friends, family, students, and members of my congregation, I’ve become aware of so much brokenness, hurt and suffering on a global scale.  I’ve heard people ask, “Why did God let this happen?” and witnessed others question their faith.  My heart aches with them and everything in me wants to bring restoration and healing to their brokenness.

But I can’t.  I’m not their savior, but I know the One who is.

For now, I can celebrate Advent with them, share Hope with them, and look forward to the second Advent, when Jesus comes back and fixes what I can’t.  

My neighbor bought me an Advent Calendar this year, and every day my roommates and I get to open a little tin and enjoy the delicious treat inside.  It’s a tangible way to countdown to Christmas and a reminder for me to be thankful this season.  I’m also reading John Piper’s Good News of Great Joy, a free ebook of daily devotionals written specifically for Advent 2013.

How are you celebrating the season this year??

 

An Unhurried Christmas

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This month has been ridiculously busy.  being in full time ministry during the Christmas season calls for overtime and increased productivity.  I wrote, organized and directed a Christmas production involving almost thirty people at my church (thus the banner I made above).  the students at ocean’s edge put on their annual Christmas show, Not So Silent Night.  On top of that, I finished my master’s degree from Liberty University Online on December 14, so had to complete final projects, papers and exams.  I’ve also been having problems with my car and am in the midst of getting new car and health insurance for the new year.  Additionally, I hadn’t done any Christmas shopping or preparation for spending time with my family until today, when everything else was out of the way.  At times it felt like I was just trying to keep my head above the water.  There was just so much to do!

For one of my classes, I had to read a book called The Life You’ve Always Wanted by John Ortberg.  Like so many of the other books I was required to read, I really enjoyed this one.  One of the chapters talked about developing a discipline of an unhurried life.  I’m one of those people who stresses easily about being on time… I hate being late.  I like to leave ample time in my schedule so that I don’t have to hurry. I hate the anxiety and adrenaline that accompanies haste.  I resent people, whether they are loved ones I’m spending time with or complete strangers in a beat up, pick-up truck driving ten miles per hour under the speed limit on a two lane road, who make me late.  I’ve got to go!  I have things to do!  Especially if I want to sabbath this week!

John Ortberg diagnosed me with hurry sickness.  I need to be productive.  I rush, even when there is no need.  I love multi-tasking.  I’m impatient in the slow lane.

The cure?  Purposeful patience.  Intentional slowing.  Practicing solitude.

I literally groaned when I read that.  The next time I went into Publix, I chose the lane with the slowest-looking cashier and the customer with the most groceries.  And I was purposefully patient.  On I95 in South Florida, I chose the lane furthest to the right to drive in, and put my cruise on 64 MPH.  Nightly, since the student I live with have gone home for their Christmas break, I have enjoyed solitude and began reading more of my Bible again (there was just not enough time before!).

These simple cures have changed my perspective.  I have seen results, even though it has only been a few weeks.  Today, I drove up to a mall in Boca, two days before Christmas which might have been one of the bravest or dumbest things I’ve ever done.  There was a long line of luxury cars at the traffic light to turn into the mall.  The parking lot was a free-for-all, with Land Rovers and Explorers alike creating their own parking spaces.  People’s eyes were manic with shopping fever.  Hurry sickness everywhere!  Yet, in my spirit, I was calm, relaxed and peaceful.  I accepted that I was not getting anywhere quickly and enjoyed a slower pace.  I did not get angry or flustered.  It was amazing!

It’s a shame that the Christmas season is so busy and hurried.  We focus so much on all we have to do, that we miss the reason why we’re doing it.  Don’t hurry Christmas.  You must ruthlessly eliminate it!

I’m flying home in the morning, and am going to enjoy an unhurried week with my family and friends in NJ.  I pray your Christmas is happy, healthy and unhurried!