Read Luke 2:19
Some years I am so busy in December that I find it hard to properly celebrate Advent and Christmas. Before I know it, Christmas Day is here – and then gone. And I’ve missed the wonder of the season.
The antidote for busyness is simplicity. We need to slow down and simplify our lives at Advent in order to gain fresh wonder, experience God’s peace and allow joy to stir again in our hearts. If you haven’t got time for that kind of thing, then you’re simply too busy!
So how do I do this? Here’s something I find difficult but know is true. Advent simplicity doesn’t happen all by itself. I have to intentionally simplify.
For many of us this is about use of time. The Wise Men gave significant time in order to journey to see the Christ-child (Mt 2:1-12). They took time out of their busy lives and were not disappointed. Similarly we need to think about how we use our time during Advent.
Most of us decide that there are certain things to do at this time of year. You probably write a ‘to do’ list which includes: buy presents; write Christmas cards; put up decorations; visit family and loved ones; attend a school nativity or Carol concert; etc. For those things to happen you give them time and to be sure you may well write an entry in your calendar or diary, something like: ‘Christmas shopping’, or ‘Visit Auntie Flo & family’. So why not do that with other important things at Advent? Why not write a ‘to do’ list or even diary-in these other important Advent things? Things like: go to a Christmas market at dusk – not to buy, but to watch, look, listen, smell, savour, enjoy (1 hour); sit in front of lighted Christmas tree in a dark room and think about light entering a dark world (30 mins); read the Advent stories slowly in Matthew one day (40 mins) and then Luke the next (40 mins) with a Notebook to record any reflections; attend a Carol Service in your church (1 hour 30mins). Many of us would like to find time for these kind of things, but can’t see how we can ‘fit them in’. The answer is to be intentional: write them into your diary as an appointment (like going to the doctor) and then attend the appointment!
If we’re to do this well, we must simplify. We mustn’t just squeeze more appointments into our lives, otherwise we’ll just get exhausted. The answer is to cut out some things during Advent. And if you think about it, many of us do this a bit already, so if you’re part of a club or society, they probably won’t meet so often in December. But what about being more intentional about other things, like watching TV? Most Brits watch too much, so why not watch less during Advent? Don’t default to switching it on when you come into the living room. And of course if you’ve already diaried-in doing something else, that’s what you’ll be doing! Advent simplicity doesn’t happen all by itself. I have to intentionally simplify.
When nursing mums are breast-feeding, it’s hard for them to do other things. They can try to multi-task at that point, but it’s best to slow down, to sit down and let the baby feed! That means that other things have to take a back-seat whilst the baby is feeding. But mums know that’s ok – the baby needs to feed!!! And actually there’s benefit in slowing down not just for the baby but for a busy mum too. In the resting. In having time with baby. In thinking and pondering. Breast-feeding forces this on mums, and it’s a good thing! The bible says that Mary, Jesus’ mother, spent time in those early days of being a mum and ‘pondered’ in her heart (Lk 2:19). She took time to think, reflect and be thankful. I imagine her doing this as she slowed down whilst feeding the young Jesus. You don’t have to have a baby on your breast to ponder during this season, but you do need to intentionally make time. If you do that, it will be worth it.
Advent simplicity doesn’t happen all by itself. I have to intentionally simplify.
ACTION: Get your Notebook and write a ‘to do’ list of a few things you’d like to do this Advent. Then prioritise them, numbering them from the most important (‘1’) to the least. Then get your Calendar/ Diary and transfer the list into appointments, starting with the most important. (If you can’t find time for them all, at least you’ve made space for the most important ones).
PRAY: Ask the Holy Spirit, the One who gives ‘power, love and self-discipline’ (2 Tim 1:7) to fill you with these qualities so you can keep these appointments and intentionally simplify this Advent and Christmas. Pray also today for someone known to you who is especially busy at this time of year.