I have this rule:
Don’t enter a mall in the last six weeks of the year.
I don’t consider myself a Grinch but I really hate the hustle and clatter that comes along with the holiday season – a cluttered mall always makes me feel boxed in and I look forward to the white calm the new year always seems to bring – both in and outside the malls!
December’s struggle is the tension of trying to engage fully, wait expectantly, and feast fully on the season’s gifts, all the while embracing a pace that gives me space to savour, reflect and live in peace.
All too often, I feel frayed, not full. I sigh with deep fatigue, not deep joy. I’m washed in busy, not beauty. Do you ever feel this same way? Not enough time. Not enough money. Not enough quiet.
But the way of Jesus is always The Way to Life.
I’m wondering if this season, we could slow things down and welcome an “uncluttered way” for ourselves. Perhaps this is the pathway to abundance during the bustle of the season.
The idea of living more simply and giving more generously is not new to us. But the season has a way of hijacking our best intuition and intentions. If you’re like me, I have a tendency to justify my spending and exercise my purchasing power in a way that has me buying more stuff, but feeling less satisfied.
- Is there a habit or tradition that you need to take a second look at this season?
- Could you actually enter 2017 with less “stuff” then you have right now?
If our culture has chronic “busy sickness” eleven months of the year, we are infected in epidemic proportions in December. Sure, getting together with all of our family and friends is expected. Schools, offices and clubs have annual parties, and all those extra errands choke out the minutes of our days making us feel more machine-like than human. But is there a better way?
- Is there anyone you can celebrate with in the new year rather than squeezing it in during December?
- Can you “plan” 5-10 minutes of silence in your day to breathe, focus and push the hurry away?
As a kid I day-dreamed about the perfect Norman-Rockwell-esque Christmas – I even cut out pictures of Rockwell’s Christmas Collector Plates from Ladies Home Journal and glued them in a notebook. Stockings and ice-skating, twinkly lights, fluffy snow and a house-full of joy - perfection!
The truth is, there’s nothing really wrong with any of this this. We’re drawn to things that are lovely, honorable, beautiful and good and we work hard to match our reality to our expectations.
As I enter this Christmas season, I’m hoping the only expectation I linger on is Christ-with-us. It takes deliberate intention to stay connected to the Source of Life during this season. Too often, my expectations for what things could and should be like is a subtle signal that my source for life is not God – it’s in something else. Instead, I want the Advent season to be focused on waiting in full expectation for the One who brings real Life!
- What parts of my expectations for the season are good and pulling me towards God? What is pulling me away?
- How can my prayer this week reflect this?
Perhaps one of the most challenging parts of simplifying our lives and making room for the stuff that truly brings life lies in the territory of our own hearts.
We all have our own ways of cluttering up our hearts that make us sick:
Worry; Split focus; Mixed intentions; Blind biases; Old hurts; Guilt; Unforgiven wrongs; Secret disappointments. Personal programs for happiness.
The list is long.
Maybe this is why the prophet Jeremiah described the human heart as sick - “the most deceitful of all things.” We have a way of misleading ourselves and cluttering our hearts with ideas and intentions that take up real estate and leave God out in the cold.
The Christmas story reminds us that God comes to us – Emmanuel – and He is not interested in setting up shop with us at a distance, but close. Within us.
God’s proximity to us is for presence.
God’s closeness with us is for connection.
God inhabiting us is for intimacy.
That’s what God’s love looks like for us: presence, connection and intimacy.
- What is distracting me or limiting me from growing my connection with God?
- How can I to build presence, connection and intimacy with God this week?
The Uncluttered Way
The Christmas season is a beautiful experience of longing for and welcoming ‘The Way’ that leads to the Truth we long for and the Life we crave.
Let’s unclutter our spaces and be full of Generosity.
Let’s unclutter our schedules and rest in Peace.
Let’s unclutter our expectations and experience Joy.
Let’s unclutter our hearts and make room for Abundance.
Give a meaningful gift this year.