It’s the most magical time of the year and, for many of us, the most hectic. Advent marks not only anticipation and preparation for the miracle of Jesus’ birth, but also those last few weeks before Christmas when we collectively drive ourselves crazy with all that “has” to get done. The baking, shopping, wrapping and Christmas cards. There’s decorating, cooking and attending (or hosting) parties. There are bells a-ringing and songs to sing. The entire season is…well, quite frankly, kind of loud and exhausting.
I was taking a walk this morning with my little granddaughter out in the woods behind her house. It was foggy but warm enough to be outside, just right for an impromptu hike. Everything was so still and peaceful. We stopped from time to time as she listened to the call of a chickadee or examined some dried prairie grass. It got me thinking that the first Christmas was probably rather quiet; a small stable away from the bustling town, some cows and sheep slowly eating and resting. Even those wise men following the star across the desert would have a quiet journey hearing only their own conversation and the footsteps of their camels. Perhaps Advent isn’t supposed to be about frenetic activity at all. Maybe instead it should be about calm contemplation of hope and acceptance of God’s promise fulfilled. In this loud, clamoring race to the 25th, where the latest/greatest-must-have-and-do-it-all attitude reigns over every aspect of our waking moments I wonder: Is there any room left for stillness in Christmas?
I’m reminded of a little boy years ago who had been talking for days about the perfect Nativity scene he saw in a store window. He insisted on showing his mother so off they went. The shop window was filled with ornaments, bows, tinsel and glittery snow covering tiny lighted ceramic houses, an entire Alpine village. As he scanned the window his disappointment was obvious, “Oh no, it’s gone.” The rest of the festive decor was unimportant to him; he knew the humble little stable was the heart of Christmas, the real story.
What the little boy didn’t know was his mother already bought the Nativity to surprise him on Christmas Eve. It remained the central story for him every Christmas thereafter and I’m delighted to say that it is now proudly on display at his house in Ohio.
This Advent I urge all of us to look, like that little boy did, beyond the trimmings and trappings, and instead, seek out the real story of the season within that quiet stable. This post offers no recipe this time, no Pinterest pin to a yet another great project, no last-minute deal of the day. Nothing more to add to the to-do list. Here’s a quiet moment for you to think about those you love the most. Only then will you find the stillness that comes with a content heart.