I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t feel a little overwhelmed this Christmas. For those of you who were here last night, you heard about the marathon of Christmas concerts that we had which now that I think about it, is akin to the Christmas concerts we had last year too. If you were here last night, you heard about the busyness of the season, the stress of our time commitments, and hustle and bustle of trying to get everything ready and set for this big day. If you were here last night, then you’re probably just as tired as I am because church twice in 14 hours is a lot for anyone.
But today is the day. Today is Christmas. Today is the day that all the hard work, all the preparation, all the hope of Advent has led us to. Today is the day that we can finally put all the busyness behind us, when we can forget about the stress, and we can just be.
I dunno, there’s still dinner tonight for many families and friends. Then tomorrow there are all the Boxing Day festivities we have going on. And not to mention that New Year’s is in just a week’s time, and we can’t really not do New Year’s. Well, you can’t unless you have 3 school aged children that run you completely ragged and you want to be in bed by like 9pm.
So it’s kind of a façade, really, that we think just because today is Christmas that we can finally put up our feet and relax. Life just doesn’t seem to work that way not just at Christmas, but ever, as there always seems to be one more thing to do, one more appointment or responsibility to take care of, one more thing to take that last remaining spot on our plates. All this busyness, at least for me, seems to make the seconds, the minutes, the hours and days go by super fast, giving me seemingly less and less time to get those things that I need to get done, done. I know this just could be the stage of life that I’m in, as I know I didn’t always feel pressed for time and I most definitely wasn’t always busy, as I do remember spending copious amounts of time just playing video games and reading comic books. Sigh, those were the days. But it seems like the more people I talk to, the more being extremely busy seems to be the norm for pretty much everyone of all backgrounds, family make up, or stages of life. It’s like although we have all the conveniences and time-saving devices we could think of at our disposal, being busy is just our new and usual way of life.
Now, I’m not saying this is a good or bad thing, I’m just saying this is the way it is. We might not like it, or we might even, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is just that… fact. It is who we are, the way we are, and what we are surrounded by.
Wouldn’t it be nice, really, to be able to kick up our feet and relax a bit? For me, I keep thinking about retirement and how laid back that will be, but in my conversations with retired folk it sounds like it isn’t hard at all to find ways to fill up your retired hours as well. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could at times take a break, have some space, and maybe do something for ourselves? But you all must know that even vacations and trips are busy, and often I hear people talking about “needing to take a vacation from taking a vacation.” Wouldn’t it be nice if only just every now and then, time would slow down so we could just catch our breath?
You know, humans aren’t new to stress at all. We aren’t new to feeling like there aren’t enough hours in a day, that we can’t get everything we need to get done, done, and just feeling like we’re drowning in our own busyness.
Take Mary and Joseph, for example. Of course I have to go there because it’s Christmas. But Mary and Joseph had a lot on their plates. With trying to hide their very unexpected and probably not exactly wanted and definitely illegitimate pregnancy, with trying to wrap their heads around what is happening with the child growing inside Mary’s body and even being first time parents, and with trying to get home for this darned census and not being able to find a place to stay so close to Mary’s due date, you better believe they were stressed. I would imagine the long journey was stressful enough, but throw in the pregnancy in there really ups the stakes.
I remember when Winnie and I were looking forward to being first time parents, actually I should say how we were “expecting” to be first time parents (not sure how much we were looking forward to it now that I think about it), but it was a very stressful time for the both of us. And I don’t usually stress easily, but I for sure felt that stress. We didn’t really have a plan on how we were going to handle things, we didn’t really have a baby room set up, we didn’t know what to expect, we were just scared. I’m just glad we didn’t have to travel anywhere especially near the end, because man were we tired, grumpy, and just at the end of our wits.
But then… Ryan was born. Yeah it was scary because a baby coming out the way a baby comes out is scary, and it was stressful. But he was born. And honestly… at that moment as I carried my son for the first time… time stood still. I just sat there and stared at this kid that has only known life for like 40 seconds and time stood still. All the busyness of the past 9 months of preparation, all the stress of getting things ready and figuring out how we’ll handle this, all the fear and anxiety around raising a child in this ever changing world, taking on this giant task, and just not knowing what to expect, all melted away as I just sat and stared, frozen in time, encapsulated by that moment. It was like I could have lived in that moment. Nothing else seemed to matter as in that moment, it was just me and my son. That moment when I realised how amazing life is, when I felt love in a way that I never felt before, when I saw the culmination of the love my wife and I share and how our family was beginning to grow… time just stood still.
And then he started crying and I was like I don’t know what to do and gave him back to his mom. But that moment prior? That was amazing.
So I sometimes wonder if Mary and Joseph had a similar experience. I wonder if at the sight of this baby born, all the stress around the census and their not-so-kosher family makeup melted away. I wonder if all the fear that they had around being first time parents and living at a time of Roman occupation in their Jewish nation was quelled now that they see the child they have been waiting for. I wonder if in the midst of all the anxiety, all the busyness, all the smells of the barn around them just faded into the background as time just stood still.
And you might think, time stand still? I thought that only happens in those comic books we talked about earlier. But you know what I mean. Of course, time itself doesn’t actually stand still or every really change its pace for us unless we travel at the speed of light or orbit a black hole, but our perception of time sure changes, doesn’t it? I mean we were just talking about how time seems to go by so fast when we are busy and stressed. Time seems to go super slow when we are bored or waiting for our kids to grow up. Time doesn’t seem to move at all when we are watching our pots, waiting for them to boil.
So maybe you have a similar experience of time standing still. I know not everyone has a kid, but maybe you had a moment that evoked so much emotion, so much heart-filling excitement, such mind-blowing love that it was like time didn’t move. Those moments that you feel like nothing else matters, that all your past problems and worries fade away, that it is just you, there, being.
For many it was at the birth of their first child or any subsequent children. For others it’s when someone other than family has told you that they loved you. Or when you’ve received a reward or recognition for something you’ve worked so hard on. Or when the doctor tells you that you are well. Or when you make it to the top of whatever mountain you were climbing. Or when you get behind the wheel of your first car for the first time.
These moments are the moments that make up who we are, form and shape our lives, and define and refine us moving ahead. These moments are the moments that we cherish, that we hold on to, that reside in our hearts and pulled out when we need them the most. These moments are the moments that might seem like any other moment to anyone else, but to us… to us they mean the world.
Today we celebrate one of those moments. One that we might not have experienced firsthand, but one that we experience all the same. It is one that we look at and examine and decipher, and find that it carries for all people so much meaning. It is one that happened so long ago, long before we were even born, but one that continues to move us, evoke emotion in us, and reveal to us a love that surpasses all understanding.
Of course I’m talking about the moment that God was born as a human. Word become flesh. God with us, Immanuel, showing us just how we much we are loved and cherished and lifted up.
And in this moment, one that we have recounted for centuries, may we just be. In this moment may the worries and concerns of the world be just melted away and fade into the background. In this moment, may we see God’s love for us, born into an infant child, expressed through an incredible act of grace and mercy, and brought into our hearts, filling us with peace and joy and calling us God’s own.
All in a moment, where time stands still and we can just be.
This Christmas, may we revel in the miracle of Christ’s birth and be invigorated by the love of God, that we can go forth into the world to share this love with all. Thanks be to God. Amen.