This Sunday marks the beginning of Advent. It is the season that marks the expectation, the waiting and the preparation for Christmas, the celebration of Christ's birth. It also marks the beginning of the church year, when the readings and the rituals observed throughout the year start anew. However, what I like most about this season is the repetition of things past.
Our family traditions include decorating the Christmas tree, making cookies and chocolate treats, cooking a breakfast strata for Christmas morning and Southern dressing for Christmas Day. It's also the time for family Christmas parties, Advent wreath making and tree lighting, gatherings on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Above all, it's time to spend with family and friends.
It's our daughter Maggie's favorite time of the year. Her first Christmas, when she was just 2 months old, she laid on a blanket under the Christmas tree and stared at the lights while I decorated it. She was mesmerized by the lights and the hanging ornaments. It's not only the decorations and bright lights that enthrall her; it's also the presence of family and friends, the shared memories and laughter.
And it's not only the season but the repetition of family traditions, small and large, that provide the comfort, reminder and framework to enjoy the season. So too does spending time with those we love, celebrating the birth of Christ, who provided hope and life to a darkness-filled world. This structure and framework provide a solid foundation from which to live.
Today we, too, have many reasons to feel dark, to feel overwhelmed, to worry about tomorrow: a static economy, international health issues and rapidly changing international relations. We do not live in a stable world.
It is during such fluid times that following traditions, routines and rituals can provide us with the most comfort. It allows us to remain centered and focused while the outside world is churning. It pulls our focus away from all that could happen to what is actually happening at any particular minute.
With our children now in middle school and high school, I am keenly aware that the years of easy Christmas planning are dwindling. This knowledge gives me pause, and helps me to enjoy the details and the small moments we have together.
This Christmas season, I'm attempting to worry less about the future, knowing that it is out of my control, and I am trying to slow down and appreciate the moments that we have. While it's made me more aware of how little power I have, it has also made me more aware of the power and grace of God.
God's grace appears not so much in large events, but more in the small, powerful moments of my day.
While it's always tempting to do more, to be involved more, especially this time of year, this is exactly the time we need to slow down, to do less, to be present more with those whom we love.
This Advent, remember that the season is not just about the event, but about the expectation, the waiting, the preparation, the everyday events where you can see God's grace shine. Slow down and let your presence be your present this season.