The last time I posted anything here, it was December 5th. Today is December 20th. Needless to say, the last fifteen days have been a bit … let’s just say “full.” But it was a good “full” – a “fulfilling” kind of “fullness” that seems to happen every year at just about this time.
I confess a misty sentimentality in the weeks, then the days just before Christmas. I am prone to sit in a living room lit only by the lights on the tree, looking on the ornaments hanging there, the kids’ preschool craft projects like “Scared Angel” and “Christmas Cutie,” the shell from Catalina Island that Erin and I got fourteen years ago on our honeymoon, the ballerina that once hung from the mobile above my crib, the souvenir ornaments from just about every family vacation we’ve taken together, the gifts Erin has received from students over her years of teaching.
Everything else goes away in those moments. Sermon writing, lesson planning, Ministers’ School preparations, worship planning, budgeting for 2008, the everyday stresses of doing ministry – it all just kind of fades out. I am aware of a warmth, or maybe a connectedness, or sometimes it feels like a sigh too deep for words. If I ever meditated I bet it would be a lot like this. Borrowing a page from Buddhism, I am practicing awareness.
The space and time that I spend in my Christmas Tree-induced trancelike state (which might be meditation) in no way diminishes all of the other activity that takes place the rest of the time. I mean, our family did four programs this week, three on the same day for goodness sake! There are extra worship services for which to prepare, readers and musicians to coordinate, and special sermons to write. Parties, lunches, open houses, decorations, gift giving, writing “The Christmas Letter” – it’s all there. But if I have my Christmas Tree Moments, I find I can handle the other stuff without freaking out. Or again as my Buddhist friends might say, I find that I am more fully present in those experiences because of the depth of my awareness.
Yes, the season is full. (So full that it crowded out my blogging time.) But it is a good full, not a frantic, barely able to hold it together, grind your teeth until your jaw pops kind of full. The fullness I sense in the season of Advent is a fullness of presence, an awareness of what is good, a sense that there really is something wonderful that is beyond us, around us, within us.
Isaiah wrote about it first and Matthew jumped all over it later on – Emmanuel means “God is with us.” If ever I lose track of that, you know where I’ll be headed. I’ll be sitting in the living room, in the dark, gazing at the Christmas Tree.