The last two months have been busy: I vacationed for two weeks, which always means, for me, about four weeks—an initial week of packing and planning, two weeks away, and then a week of recuperating. So there went November with no postings and no blogging.
Then came December and a posting in which I gave you a brief glimpse into my convent life in Seneca, Kansas. The following week, flu visited. After it’s departure, I tried to live the expectation of Advent, but found myself instead caught up in the frenzy of Christmas.
I say frenzy because that’s what the last week has felt like: shopping for gifts and groceries, baking cookies and quick bread for gifts, wrapping and boxing all the gifts for sending to friends elsewhere.
Then, decorating the house and the tree and writing messages on Christmas cards.
. . . by Marcel Rieder, 1898
Next, shopping for the ingredients for the Christmas Eve meal at my home and for the pies and salad I’ll take to the Christmas Day family gathering at my brother and sister-in-law’s home.
And finally, getting ready for a guest who’s coming to spend a few day with me and the cats.
Each year, those of us who celebrate Advent and Christmas must decide how we will embrace these two seasons. This year, the planning, shopping, decorating, gifting, and visiting have ensnared me.
I started off with good intentions, but I’ve gotten lost in the maze of trying to do too much in too short a time. And that “too much” is mostly unnecessary if a person—like myself—would like to live the simplicity of Advent and of the age-old story that prompts the celebration of Christmas.
It is a story of the birth of a child. Like Nelson Mandela, this child grew up and found himself interacting with those imprisoned by illness and need, ignorance and hatred, fear and greed.
His response, like Mandela’s, inspires all of us. Both dedicated their lives to helping others. Both gave us the gift of their wisdom. Their lives were great gifts from and to the Universe.
. . . "The Magi Journeying" by James Tissot
The giving of gifts at Christmas comes from the ancient story of the Magi visiting that child born long ago in a far-flung Roman province. These wise men brought with them gifts for the child and so, we, too, bear gifts for others during this season. A tapestry depicting this event would be sewn with multicolored threads—the pink-tinged joy of dawn and the golden contentment of sunset.
This year, I have lost both in the flurry of gift giving. So yesterday I wrote myself a letter to be opened on the first Sunday of Advent in 2014. In that letter, I advise myself to enter the season of simplicity with a heart centered on the truths underlying the Christmas stories of a birth in Bethlehem, a visit by awe-struck shepherds to a manger, and a journey by three gift-bearing magi. Within these stories is a humanity I want to embrace. And that demands a simplicity I lost this year.
But the season is not over. And so last evening, I decided to give myself the gift of time. Time away from feeling that I must do this or that or something else that in the arc of my life is a merest grain of sand.
By giving myself the gift of time, I hope to enter into a simplicity that will bring forth the gratitude and wide-eyed wonder that for me is essential to the celebration of Christmas.
And when I return to posting on January 9, 2014, and to reading and commenting on your blogs on January 6—the feast of the Three Kings—I will be able to truly respond to them because I won’t feel the frantic need to get “this” done so that I can move on to get “that” done.
In your blogs, you share your lives with all of us. I am choosing to read those blogs when time permits me to respond thoughtfully and fully to the life you share. I trust fully that you understand this.
May the remainder of Advent and the entire Christmas season bring you whatever your deepest heartwish is. Peace.
The paintings are from Wikipedia.