This advent, I have been rushed off my feet.
I love the atmosphere of the season of Advent. The darkness, the stillness, the waiting. In an ideal world, I would spend time every day during advent quietly contemplating the incarnation of our Saviour, and waiting in joyful anticipation for the celebrations of Christmas.
However, that is very rarely the case for me at this time of year. As a perpetual student, I’m often rushing to finish assignments before the end of term, or stressing about January deadlines that I have yet to start. I’m making and buying presents for family and friends, and trying to find perfect gifts for those hard-to-please relatives. I’m going to Christmas events, and catching up with people I love, and decorating the house, and planning the Christmas dinner, and inviting people round for New Year’s, and celebrating the extraordinary number of birthdays people seem to have in December, and going to church, and finishing off work, and the list honestly just goes on.
This can make me feel really guilty. I’m not making enough time for my faith, I don’t feel a sense of spiritual peace and awe, and I definitely don’t manage to wait until Christmas to eat mince pies and listen to carols. I get caught up in the chaos and before I know it all I want to do come Christmas day is sleep.
But I’m learning to be a little more gentle with myself.
I find a lot of comfort in looking at the Nativity story. Not the glossy, peaceful, angels singing, ‘Away in a Manger’ version, but the messy, teenage pregnancy, politically tense country, long difficult journey, last minute accommodation, giving birth in a barn nativity story. The version where nothing goes to plan, no one really knows what’s going on, and everything must have been really quite stressful.
Christ doesn’t arrive in peace and composure. Christ arrives in a whirlwind of confusion, in a hurry, in an unexpected place and an unceremonious way, and brings hope in spite of it all. And I’m starting to think that this could be a bit of an analogy for our lives.
I love setting aside time to pray and to prepare myself for the coming of Jesus, and I think it’s really important to do so. But I’m also confident that even if I don’t, Christ will graciously burst in on the most unlikely of moments while I’m busy making other plans.
Not just in church on Sunday mornings, but in the rushing and distractions, and the stresses and strains of every day, may Christ’s loving presence be made welcome in our hearts this Advent and always.