I am normally a person who can handle a lot of activities at one time. I multitask with the best of them. I sometimes live by the principle of "I'm sure I can handle just one more thing." But sometimes, I hit a breaking point. Today is one of those days. It mostly comes in the form of realizing that I am so far from practicing what I preach that it is downright embarrassing.
As a minister in the Christian tradition, I am supposed to guide the people through Advent toward this very important time in the Christian year and calendar: the birth of Jesus! Advent is a hopeful, quiet, pregnant with anticipation and meaning time. It is a counter-cultural time. This is evidenced by the attempts to hold off the white and gold by adorning our sanctuaries with purple or royal blue. Some churches don't sing Christmas carols until Christmas eve. This is not a time that tells the stories of Black Fridays of long ago, gross national product, or economic recovery. It also is not even a time to journey up the mountain to procure the largest and most elegant fir tree to grace our living room windows. There is no gospel of Martha Stewart's Christmas and the shepherds don't herald free gift wrapping or amazon.com free shipping and arrival of gifts just in time for the unwrapping frenzy. Instead, we are waiting on a baby. In the words of Ricky Bobby, maybe an " 8-pound, 6-ounce, newborn infant Jesus,
don't even know a word yet, just a little infant and so cuddly, but
still omnipotent" baby Jesus. (thanks Adam Walker Cleaveland for reminding me!)
But maybe that isn't it either. I'm thinking that what I'm supposed to do and be during this Advent could not be further from the person I am. Frankly, I'm a ball of frenzy focused upon all the wrong things. When will the house get decorated for Christmas? How will I get the gifts wrapped in time? Where will our extended family gather for Christmas Day if my house is still a mess of construction dust, mis-matched furniture and a garage full of things that no longer fit in a down-sized property? Oh and this is just on the home front. Let's not even start to talk about the church and work. Upcoming services, end of year budget process, new officers and training, and and and....
So what will make it all stop? What can get me in the right frame. Well, today, for some reason, I stopped and took a picture of a piece of "art" that I have had in my home and now in my church office since the first or second year I have served as a minister of a congregation. There was this amazing woman in that congregation, Dorothy, who was over 90 years old. She came to the Senior Center and taught bible study because the "old people" needed her! She had cancer but did not let it stop her. She loved to talk about deep and important matters of life and death. Her conversation often turned to the baby Jesus and the grown up Jesus, and the Jesus that lives incarnate in each of our hearts. For some reason, today it just hit me how much I miss her. I bet I have not really thought about her for at least a couple of years. It was as if she was the one telling me to stop and pay attention to the really important matters of life and death.
This is the piece of "art":
What a very odd stop sign. This picture is made out of those very old Christmas cards and it belonged to Dorothy. She had brought it to the church to be sold at the annual Senior Center Craft Fair. No one bought her and the clean up crew was ready to toss her. I think I paid $5 for her and said it was a good cause. There are so many things I love about it. First, it was Dorothy's! Second, it is made of recycled products. Finally, I've always just been fascinated by the story of Mary, the annunciation, the birth and her role in Jesus' life. As a Protestant minister, I have often thought that we let the Roman Catholics steal her away or that we have rejected the adoration of Mary to a point that we've rejected all the goodness that can be found in her. For today, I want to remember how she prepared like every other pregnant woman in the world to birth an 8 lb 6 oz wonder and how all that preparation and the shock of it all must have made her slow down and even stop from the fear, the pain, the confusion and whatever else was occupying her.
So, I best get busy, but not with the stuff of everyday life, but with the deeper parts of living and sharing and listening and loving and knowing. To all a blessed Advent.