I love this time of year, but I was missing it!
About two weeks before Christmas, I looked up from the trenches of work and realized that I’d almost missed Christmas. I was just blowing through this season without building and observing ceremony and tradition within my family. So, I pushed everything aside; turned on the Christmas lights; and went out Christmas shopping with my daughters. Then I took Leslie out.
As I mentioned in last week’s email, things have been crazy busy over the last several months. So busy that there have been days that I was just paralyzed—overwhelmed with simply thinking through all the stuff going on. Can you relate??
I was doing good stuff, but really, not good enough…
It was like the hours and minutes of my day were being stolen from me. I remember feeling like this when Camden (our oldest) was a baby, and I was driving downtown to Buckhead (Atlanta) for work.
Traffic caused what should’ve been a 20-minute commute to stretch to a hour and a half each way. When I left in the morning for work to wrestle against the other commuters, he was asleep, and when I got home at night at almost 7pm, he was about to go to back to sleep.
That didn’t last long…
Before Camden was a year old, I changed jobs to shorten my commute. My thought was that the hurried rushing back and forth was causing me to miss half his life. Therefore, even though I liked my job and was making good money, I left to remove craziness from my (our) life and simplify.
Margin was really what I was creating. There was nothing specific planned for the additional time I created with the move. It was just time. Time for moments to happen.
What was happening in my life was that busy-ness was packing my day! I was rushing from one thing to the next. My head was full. I always had to be somewhere. Things were crowded so I pushed…
Of course, I prayed over all of this, but I pushed. I didn’t wait for something to happen to change the circumstances. I prayed and then pushed forward looking for light down each of the paths I tested.
Two weeks before Christmas this year, I looked around and there were no Christmas lights on, and there weren’t many presents wrapped under the tree. I hadn’t bought Leslie’s gift. So, once again I pushed!
I pushed everything out of the way. Sure, things would go undone. We would miss opportunities in Teach Them Diligently. And, when I grabbed my daughters to go Christmas shopping, they had to put away other things, but I wasn’t going to take no for an answer. When I asked Leslie to go out and finish getting gifts for the kids, she, too, was busy doing other stuff (Of course, she didn’t put up much of a struggle in going out on a date.)
I think this is one of the points that Paul is reprimanding the church in Corinth on (1 Cor. 11: 17). They were sitting down and eating a meal together, but they didn’t stop to reflect or remember. They just ate. They brought their own food and just ate together with no pause.
During the Passover meal, Jesus paused the entire dinner and authored a new ceremony that was to be in remembrance of his ministry and gift of redemption. This pause is to generate thanksgiving for the amazing gift Jesus has given us.
You see, thanksgiving needs memory. It needs space and margin to remember. That’s how it is generated. Ceremony is dependent on pausing—setting apart a moment— and taking time to remember what you are thankful for. Holidays such as Christmas are special because they provide opportunity to tap into memory and those memories are framed by ceremony. This ceremony is set apart. It can be common, but not so commonplace that it melts into all the other activity you have in your life. Ceremony most be set apart and have a pause to remember.
I was really convicted by this truth just before Christmas because I was so busy, and when I wasn’t busy, I was so tired that I was basically unengaged. I was so distracted, busy, and stressed that I wasn’t taking the time to enjoy it with those I love.
That is what busy-ness does. It generates anxiety and disconnection. We need moments to remember. These moments generate or should generate thanksgiving. That’s the point! Without margin, thanksgiving is hard if not impossible.
This point is not just for the Christmas season. We need these pauses throughout the year, and you would be wise to build in your own family pauses—ceremony, tradition—throughout the year.
In our family, we do a names of Jesus tree with ornaments and devotions that coincide with the names of Jesus around Christmas. For thanksgiving, we have a candle with little pieces of corn around it that we have dropped in over the years. When the children were young, we gathered together before they went to bed to read a verse, pray, and talk about what we were learning in devotions. These traditions were not perfect or even smooth. Sometimes they were a little rushed or even forgotten some nights, but we did prioritize taking these moments.
Busy-ness, rushing, anxiety– these all work against taking these moments.
They steal your time. Everything melts into each other. Pretty soon,–your children are grown up and moving out.
You don’t need a Holiday to build out these ceremonies and traditions, but you do have to pause.
Push stuff out of the way.
The collective memory of families are generated out of set apart traditions.
Take action today! Don’t wait! Create some moments.