Article Dec 4, 2015

A divine hush in the holiday rush

A few weeks ago, we made a quick trip to the mountains, just long enough to gaze at a breathtaking blanket of stars, breathe deeply of the crisp air, and soak in the mountains’ silence.

I wanted to bottle it all up and bring it back home for the weeks ahead.

But we returned to a slew of festive invitations and scheduling logistics. I felt myself sucking air as I looked at an already busy schedule.

And it’s just the beginning of December.

How ironic that our calendars should hemorrhage with activity during what should be one of the most peaceful seasons of the year—a sacred time to remember and reflect, to give thanks, to honor him who came to quiet the frenzy of our lives. In the book of Luke, Zechariah says Christ came “to guide our feet into the way of peace.” But would we be able to recognize that peace even if it stared us in the face?

Contrary to popular opinion, we’re not victims of the holiday season. We choose to say yes to three holiday feasts, twelve Christmas parties, five concerts, one more dinner engagement, and superfluous gift-giving. Much of it is really good, important stuff. It’s friends and family and festivity. It’s community and commitment. But is it possible that some of this good stuff is cheating us of the best?

Imagine how absurd it would be for a child on Christmas morning to fixate on the wrapping paper and dismiss the gifts inside. Yet look how easily we get wrapped up in the whirlwind of festivities and miss Jesus.

All through Scripture, we see that what God really wants from us is our hearts, our love, our trust. Not our seismic insanity.

Maybe it’s too late to fix the frenzy this year—but one way or another, we can still make time this holiday season to hush our hearts in the presence of the Prince of Peace. To rest both body and soul.

This will look drastically different for each of us, as we find ourselves in a variety of circumstances and seasons, but let me give you a few simple ideas for slowing things down:

  • Reserve a few evenings on your calendar for staying in and resting. (And don’t apologize for doing it.)
  • Make one less holiday dish, simplify your decorations, or buy fewer Christmas gifts—and spend that saved time lighting a few candles, drinking hot chocolate and watching this video.
  • Turn off all screens (laptop, phone, etc.) an hour or two before bed—and read or journal.
  • And for you moms with little ones, consider the example of Susanna Wesley, the mother of famed Charles and John Wesley: She taught her 10 children that when her apron was over her head, she was praying and they were not to disturb her.

Friends, we are not at the mercy of our circumstances. We can set the stage for deeper communion with God. In the busiest times of life, it's tempting to either neglect the Word or treat it as another checkbox on our never-ending to-do list. Slowing everything down and quieting our calendars is a good first step in experiencing and enjoying Jesus again. Once our minds and bodies are in a restful state, we can often hear him better.

“Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind” (Ecc. 4:6).

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (Isa. 30:15).

Do you remember the story of the woman who broke her precious jar of perfume and anointed Jesus’ head? The disciples “were indignant, saying, ‘Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.’” Who could argue with that kind of efficient, generous, ministry-minded reasoning? But Jesus commended her, saying, “She has done a beautiful thing to me.”

For me (and I’m guessing for you too), time is as precious and valuable a commodity as what was in that jar. This daily treasure of 24 hours can so quickly be spilled out on nonstop needs, festive events and people’s expectations. But as we prayerfully consider our calendar, and learn to make room for resting in Christ, we might once again experience the beauty of this holiday season and hear him say to us,

"You have done a beautiful thing to me."