We finally got our tree up last Friday. Christmas shopping is something that we are trying to get to, but strangely, there isn’t a lot of stuff left in the stores – at least not the stuff on the lists. I am trying to get Christmas cards sent today. We’ve had Christmas plays and basketball practice/games and science projects (really? A science project in mid-December?), trips to the doctor, and rehearsals, and school and work responsibilities and something going on every night. In the midst of all of that has been the normal Christmas stuff and there are neither enough hours in the day nor the strength to do everything even if there were.
I made a vow a few years ago to never say that I was busy. What good does it do? Well, I am still not busy, but the rest of the world is and it keeps dragging me along in its chaos. I just keep showing up each day and putting one foot in front of the other. So, yes, I guess I have been busy.
But, even though I am tired, I can say that I am at peace. My family seems to be as well. My wife is amazing and she is always happy. The kids seem happy too. They just keep going and are always smiling. Good attitudes abound. I am grateful for that. My natural pace is much slower and more meditative. I like quiet times and long conversations and then silence and being with a few people and lamp light and jazz and reading. That is just my personality. So, when you put everything on hyper drive, I tend to not be the happiest – unless it is to try and meet a crisis or accomplish something significant. It is hard for me to see the Christmas rush in that way, though. Significant, I mean.
I often wonder if our busyness at this time of year isn’t a dramatic ploy to keep us focused on things that don’t actually matter, as though if we slowed down a bit we might actually think about what we are celebrating? We hardly have time to consider what it meant for the Son of God to put on flesh and make His dwelling among us. The Incarnation escapes us because we don’t have time to inhabit the moment that we are actually in much less contemplate God Himself inhabiting our space and time. Running from thing to thing to make the season meaningful tends to have the opposite effect, it seems. Or, that is how I have seen it. I have seen the “stuff” as a barrier. Maybe I have been wrong.
The chaos comes whether we want it or not. We get carried along and when you have kids it is pretty difficult to put a stop to it all. But, watching my family this year (especially my wife), peace seems to abound anyway in their lives. I can’t explain it. They are beautiful in all of their laughter and energy and activity and in wrapping up in blankets on the couch after long days to watch Duck Dynasty or in heading out the door yet again for another practice. There is a sense of peace and joy in the busyness that I have not seen before and with every hug and smile and laugh and joke, it seems that the calm that I long for is not always found in a corner with a book and Christmas music playing. It is found with them as they inhabit space and time and exude joy and massive amounts of energy.
I think that I am learning more about the Incarnation and what the Birth of Jesus means from watching my family. Jesus came into our world. He did not put a stop to everything. He inhabited it and brought salvation. He is found when we believe in Him wherever we are. My wife and children have the same kind of present-ness. They inhabit space and there is joy with them wherever they are. They are not waiting to get to some other point to experience life. They grab it now. Maybe this is a stretch to link the two things of the Birth of Christ and regular family life together. I don’t mean to diminish the Birth of Jesus or make a metaphor where none exists. But, that birth on that day that we celebrate happened whether the world was ready or not. If you were looking for something else, you missed what God was offering right then. It happened in space and time and history was changed. If you wanted more peace or more stuff or more things or a better situation, you missed what WAS and what God was doing right then. You missed God.
That is how family life is. Life is happening right now. We can groan about the busyness and difficulty and the schedule and all that we have to do – God knows that I do, even if no one hears or it isn’t out loud. But, when I do, I miss the beauty of the moment and what God is doing and how love is there and these days go fast. We can see it as busy or we can see it as life and how we see it is what matters most, I think.
I don’t want to over-spiritualize or make the birth of Jesus into an allegory. That is bad theology. But, I can’t help but think that those who would have been ready to receive Him were the ones who made space in their heart and mind for what WAS instead of thinking about what was missing or what should not have been or what should have been. If I can have that attitude now, then the busyness and the shopping and the “stuff” of Christmas that often causes me to groan can become an opportunity to meet with God and experience His love in others. And, it becomes a chance to love and be loved too.
So, I am learning from my children and my wife and busy December days that joy is found in the moment we inhabit because that is the only moment that actually exists. And, God is there too.