Evelyn Underhill once said, “A lot of the road to heaven has to be taken at thirty miles an hour.” Frankly, I think the road to Christmas should also be taken at 30 miles an hour. Personally this is extremely hard for me. I only have two speeds – stop and fast. Thirty miles an hour is like a slow form of torture; like getting behind every driver going five miles under the speed limit when you’re in a hurry.
(This post is a shortened version of Sunday’s sermon, to listen to the full podcast, click here)
Still, I know that to truly honor the Advent season and feel spiritually and emotionally ready to embrace the thin space of Christmas, I need to slow down. My absolute favorite night of the year is Christmas Eve. Liminality disappears and the boundaries become blurred between this world and the spiritual world. The energy of love, peace and hope is palpable… if we’re in a place to feel it. If we’ve been going 80 mph for the last three weeks and we come skidding into that Christmas Eve service, how will we expect to calm ourselves enough to truly be present and experience the magic? It’s next to impossible.
So, here are my suggestions. First we need to get beyond the superficial trappings of Christmas. Bake the cookies, trim the tree, decorate the house, write the cards if that is all important to you, but do not let it consume you in such a way that you ignore your heart. Your heart should be the focus of this season. How is it with your heart? What does your heart need to receive for Christmas? Is it aching? Are there ways it needs to be healed? Does it need to know joy again? Does it need to let go of something? Does it need to find acceptance or forgiveness? What gift of Christmas would make your heart more whole? Then hold that desire before you for the next three weeks. Write it down. Recite is as a mantra. Wait with it. Pray over it. “My heart needs find forgiveness.” “My soul needs to let go of…” “I need to make peace with my past.”
I firmly believe that God works more diligently on our hearts and souls than on anything else. When we set this prayer or intention out there, it is almost like giving the Spirit permission to enter in and begin the healing.
Second, we need to wait deliberately, at 30 mph, for Christmas. Find ways to slow down and BE. Dance to Christmas music, watch “White Christmas” for the three thousandth time, savor the Christmas cookies you just made, meditate, enjoy this time.
I’m going to give you a gift now… I’m giving you three “nos”. Maybe this will help you slow down. You can say no, you won’t bake three dozen cookies for your kid’s Christmas party. No, you aren’t buying as many gifts. No, you don’t have to endure the drunk relative anymore. No, 12,000 Christmas lights are a few too many. Whatever you need to slow down, you have three “nos” to help you. Just blame it on me.
Have a wonderful, slow, peace-filled Advent,