A couple weeks ago I wrote the piece I am pasting below as an introduction to a LifeGuide(R) Bible Study, Advent of the Savior, which I am compiling for release this coming June. I was thinking how nice it was to be working on that project the day before our church’s Advent retreat—getting into the right frame of mind and all that. The next morning I woke up an hour-and-a-half late and missed the whole introduction to the retreat. And so I got to learn the same lesson again.
Two years ago I made plans to go on a silent Advent retreat with my mother. I had been attending the retreats sponsored by Karen Mains’ Hungry Souls ministry for several years. They take place in the first week of December—overnight, midweek. It’s hard to think of going away at such a busy time of year, but I had found these retreats to be a beautiful way to focus my thoughts on Christ during the season ahead. This year I’d invited my mother to fly in town to join me.
I walked out of the house with a suitcase to pack the car in the detached garage. Our nine-month-old puppy followed me and decided to make a break for it. He dashed out the garage door and around the corner toward the local restaurants and shops, with me chasing him about a half-block behind. He dashed straight into the street and ran into the wheel of a car. When I reached him, he was lying on the snowy, wet curb in a snarling lump.
I got him back home and wrapped him up in towels just as my mother arrived at my house ready for our contemplative retreat. I, however, was not exactly in a peaceful frame of mind. I wondered if something was broken, whether we should take him to the vet, and at the same time I was angry at his bad behavior (not the first such offense!).
That is the stuff of real-life spirituality. As we try to make space for God, our devotion is interrupted by the world around us as life presses in. And yet, a $325 x-ray determined that my dog was actually fine—just bruised. And my mother and I did have an opportunity to open our hearts for the coming of Christ on our retreat.
The weeks preceding Christmas can be one of the most difficult times for us to focus on God. We feel the weight of buying gifts, preparing for guests, putting up the Christmas tree and stringing the lights, baking cookies, and fitting in parties all alongside our regular work lives. Sometimes it feels more like work than celebration.
It takes great intentionality to make space for Christ during the Christmas season. Maybe that’s why the Scriptures offer so many angles from which to view the birth of Christ—the perspectives of his parents, his aunt and uncle, shepherds doing a day’s work. far-off magi and nearby despots—even the perspective of the prophets who preceeded him by centuries. When we allow ourselves to enter into it, Scripture reminds us that Christmas is not a task to be done but a celebration to be marveled at.
Epiphany is coming. Let your celebration continue over these next days.
Posted by Cindy Bunch
at January 2, 2009 3:30 PM