December 18, 2019

Orienting Ourselves Through the Holi-daze

Dr. Pamela King reminds us about the significance of the holidays and orienting our lives to what matters through the holiday craze.

Yes, it’s the busiest time of the year. Lists are longer. Hours slept are shorter. Are we #thriving or #notthriving? As a culture, we tend to go big or go home. This time of year, however, we attempt to do both. We go big with work and social parties, final exams, charities, gift shopping, and holiday cards. We go home to decorating cookies, cooking a feast, and celebrating with close friends and family. I know that, despite all my attempts to “keep Christmas simple.” I seem to get caught up with the American way, which seems to be “more is more.”

This is problematic. Whether in the position or lacking the funds and freedom to buy and do more, we run ourselves into the ground with our busy schedules and holiday obligations. These cultural norms create yet another unachievable expectation and reinforces senses of inadequacy and ineffectiveness.

For that reason, I am especially grateful to Reverend Tish Harrison Warren who jolted me out of my “get jingle and jolly and jiggy with it” pre-holiday craze. In her recent Op-Ed piece in the New York Times, she provocatively pointed out people’s tendency to get distracted not only from the sacred significance of religious holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, but also with our culture’s emphasis on consumerism and bent toward celebration, we have removed ourselves from the important rhythm of the greater liturgical year. This time of year marks the four weeks of Advent right before Christmas.

Advent is a time of waiting, mystery, and darkness in anticipation for the birth of Christ. It is a time when Christians anticipate God drawing near to humanity in an unprecedented way. Christians acknowledge Advent as both a time of anticipation and preparation for the entry of the love, light, and hope of God for the world made flesh in Jesus Christ.

Advent is a time of waiting, mystery, and darkness in anticipation for the birth of Christ.

Such seasons of waiting and longing, of mystery and wonder, of darkness and uncertainty are all necessary to thriving. Although such seasons may not be fun or exhilarating and may be characterized by confusion and doubt, they can alert us to greater meaning and invitations in our lives. Like Advent, such times of waiting and mystery are not to be rushed through. To realize their significance in our lives, we cannot be bound by busyness but rather be open, present, and sojourn intentionally through the season.

If you are not familiar with the Christian Advent story, there are profound illustrations through the three groups of travelers. After the annunciation and being mandated by a census, Mary and Joseph journeyed to Bethlehem to the manger. After being alerted by angels while tending sheep, the shepherds set out to find a Savior. After discerning directions in the stars, the wise men started their pilgrimage towards the new King. In the middle of life, they were all spiritually alerted. Whether the messages were spectacular or subtle, these travelers attended and responded. We must do the same.

If you are like me who is busy making lists and checking them twice, pause and allow your heart and mind to wander (and even wonder) in the journeys of Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, and the wise men. How does your life currently allow for the awareness, attending, and activating of Advent?

Those represented in this sacred story all paused from their daily activities and responded to a summons or invitation that redirected their lives. They pivoted towards what was poignant.

Despite your religious affiliation and convictions, this Advent—between the lists, the lines, and the logins (and remembering those darn passwords!)—take a moment to wait, wonder, and dwell in the unknown, the darkness, and mystery of life. Attend to that invitation of orienting your life this season. Advent reflects a time of quiet disruption.

As Advent gives way to Christmas, as the short days give way to longer days, as 2019 gives way to 2020,  as one decade gives way to the next—what are you be being alerted to? What do you need to be aware of? What do you need to align your life to and activate on? Just as Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, and the wise men all paused and pivoted, be mindful of what is beckoning you and toward what you are called to orient your life. Wishing you peace and joy from the Thrive Center during this special time of year.


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