After the Holidays
As the years have passed for me, I have come to see how much the holidays of November and December seem to have in common, even while they have their separate and distinct meanings. I don’t confuse them at all, but I sense the gratefulness of Thanksgiving that runs, almost without interruption, into the expectation of Advent. Christmas itself speaks of a wonderful birth. ‘Christ has come’! And then in just seven days, a new calendar, with implicit new beginnings. In the brief space of six weeks, these special days come and go, as one breath follows another.
Mixed with the long list of things to be done, all within days that appear shortened by fewer hours of daylight, the pace grows too fast. Each breath piles on to the next and I am almost out of breath. As I sing “the weary world rejoices”, I feel weary myself and I am of two minds: I love it all, much as I did as a little kid, but I relish the thought of a quieter January.
January is the month too young to bear much of the new year’s history. The regular tasks and deadlines make the usual demands, but the moments to stop and reflect can stretch out a little. Some need no consequence whatever. Even the most demanding routine feels a bit different; softer, gentler, less frantic in some way. It is easier, as the contemporary phrase goes, to stay for a while in the present moment. I can take the time to wonder if the Magi were in no real hurry. Without rushing, did they have it right in fact, believing that the promise of Jesus’ birth would truly last over time, even to this new year and beyond, in the midst of a world that appears always on the edge of brokenness?
These new weeks after a season of crowded holidays allow me to see how the ordinary things in my life are really wonderful; my family and friends, my work, a comfortable home - all of them gifts from God. Extended moments of reflection and gratitude save these everyday gifts from being forgotten. Even gratitude itself is a gift. It allows me to recall a prayer written by the 19th century German poet, Eduard Möricke:
“Lord, send what You will, joy or grief. I am content with both that proceed from Your hands. Yet, I pray that You not overwhelm me with either joy or pain. For in the middle lies blessed moderation.”