Sunday, December 25, 2005

come to the quiet

Last night, after much debate over the logistics of Christmas morning, the kids voted 2 to 1 to open gifts AFTER church. I was worried at being distracted while preparing to lead worship, and wished I could focus as usual, and the kids seemed to agree. Molly, who lost the vote, in her exhaustion, was very upset last night, but today it didn’t seem to bother her at all. The kids then, had to go to church early as usual for dad to do his deal, and then remain there for two services without the aid of Sunday school. The whole family realized that this was a great literal lesson in putting Jesus before presents on Christmas.
So sandwiched in between the excitement of Christmas eve in a house with children, and the chaos of opening gifts on Sunday afternoon, there was a quiet, reflective respite in our home and hearts. Late last night we hung chrismons on our Charlie Brown tree, explaining each one’s symbolism as we went, and we did a series of Advent and Christ Mass readings, before heading off to bed.
All afternoon I’ve been thinking of my advent thoughts concerning the pain that is stirred at Christmas time in so many people. About my theory that one can’t quite separate the pain from the joy of Christmas. That perhaps the joy is not fully known without the juxtaposed knowledge of pain and heartache. I hadn’t thought about how all that played into my most recent thoughts of Friday and Saturday. In my desire for quiet Advent and Christmas reflection and worship, I saw that Jesus came quietly in the midst of hoopla, same as I need to quiet myself inside in the midst of the hoopla. Jesus could have been born in a quiet place at a quiet time. He could have come in a big noisy way in a big noisy place. But he came quietly in a noisy place.
We’ve made Christmas to be a time of extremes. The majority completely ignore the celebration of Christ’s birth, having fallen headlong into the commercialization of the season and the social expectations of giving and receiving mandatory gifts. On the other end of the extreme are those like me – grumpy folk desiring quiet, pensive, thanksgiving and reflection.
But it occurs to me that neither of us is getting it. In my thinking that the meaning of Christmas is missed by the distraction of the distracted, I missed the meaning of Christmas. For surely as the joy of Christmas can’t be known apart from the knowledge of the sorrow, the quiet and peace of Christmas can’t be known apart from the atmosphere of chaos and distraction.
The environment is not ready made. Like the shepherds, we have to learn to drop our stuff and come to the quiet. While all around, the bustle buzzes, we have to grow quiet in the midst of it to understand. Christmas does not exist outside of the din and distraction. It was into that that Jesus came. Here is our context. I have got to stop desiring to be free of it in order to find the meaning. The meaning is that it is in this context that it is given to me. In this context I accept it.
This realization plays in all of life. I am not given to live withdrawn physically for the sake of discipleship. The context of my discipleship is in the midst of it. I am required to learn to be still internally - as the internal in a cloud of chaos.