Today is Thanksgiving in the United States, which typically means the official kickoff to the holiday season. Today, turkeys will be basted, football will be watched, and politics will be gingerly avoided. Tomorrow, alarms will be set, deals will be sought, and Christmas music will be turned on (I will not accept an alternate opinion on this). And from now until December 25th, we will be in an all-out race to hit every socially-distanced party and bake every treat and wrap every gift and check off every box.
This year’s rush is particularly insidious because it comes at the end of a year we’ll never forget. Pandemics and racial unrest and a volatile election and stay-at-home orders have arrested our attention. We’re weary. We’re worn. And we’re in need of a slow-down of our souls.
That’s why it’s important for us to make an agreement with each other. Right now, before you speed past this post and sneak a sampling of your mom’s chocolate chess pie, make the following commitment:
This year, I will take time to wonder.
If you’re like me, you often get to December 26 and wonder exactly where the time went. Instead of wondering after the fact, why not plan for wonder while we’re in the season? Why try to cram in every last thing rather than unplugging, stepping back, and using this as a time to reflect on the beauty of the incarnation and the marvel that God became man and lived among us? Why try to accept every invitation from everyone else, and miss intentional time with your family? Why get caught up in the trappings of a holiday about Jesus, without ever spending time with Jesus?
In his excellent book The Rest of God, Mark Buchanan says this:
The truly purposeful have an ironic secret: they manage time less and pay attention more. The most purposeful people I know rarely over-manage time, and when they do it’s usually because they’re lapsing into drivenness, into a loss of purpose for which they overcompensate with mere busyness. No, the distinguishing mark of the purposeful is not time management.
It’s that they notice. They’re fully awake.
How can you pursue of posture of noticing this Christmas season? How can you become “fully awake” when celebrating the coming of the Christ child? How can you take time to wonder?
Here are a seven thoughts to help you slow down and savor:
- Take time to read…really read…the passages about the incarnation:
Micah 5, Isaiah 9, Luke 1-2, and Matthew 2. Don’t skim, but savor. Read and re-read. Read in several different translations. Read them multiple times over the next few weeks. Listen to those passages on your Bible app.
- Sit and stare at the fireplace.
Better yet, go out in the backyard and build a fire pit. There’s something therapeutic about listening to and watching a crackling flame that slows our souls.
- Use an Advent devotional guide or read a related book for a fresh perspective.
This year I’ll be reading Come, Let Us Adore Him by Paul Tripp. I also recommend Hidden Christmas by Tim Keller, Waiting Here for You by Louie Giglio, or God Came Near by Max Lucado.
- Take time to look at your Christmas ornaments again.
Pull out the preschool crafts and proudly display the handmade treasures. Remember the stories behind the stuff that you mindlessly hang on your tree.
- Read a book (or several!) with your kids or grandkids.
My daughter and I keep this as a tradition, going back to her very first Christmas with us. We add a new book to the rotation every year, and work through all of them leading up to the big day. (Here’s a post from a couple of years ago with most of the titles.)
- Write a letter or send an email to a missionary.
Some of them will be spending another year far away from regular traditions and familiarity of the states. Others are still on stateside lockdown, anxiously awaiting for their country to reopen so they can continue the work of the ministry. Thank them for their service for the kingdom and assure them of your prayers in 2021.
- Drive around town and look at Christmas lights.
With so many in-person events cancelled or changed this year, grab a thermos of hot chocolate, crank up the Charlie Brown Christmas playlist, and explore your city while you pray for your neighbors.
Here’s the key to the above suggestions: don’t make them one more thing you have to do. Instead, ferociously protect your calendar from filling up so that these are things you get to do.
How will you take time to wonder this season?
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This post originally appeared on dfranks.com.
Posted on November 26, 2020
Danny Franks is the Pastor of Guest Services at The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina, and the author of People Are the Mission: How Churches Can Welcome Guests Without Compromising the Gospel. Read more from Danny at www.dfranks.com
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