Christmas is almost here! Christmas Eve is a week away and for my kids, it can’t get here soon enough. This season, for them, is about a building anticipation. The joy steadily increases as we get closer and closer to the 25th of December. Candlelight services and carols mean we’re almost there. They can’t wait!
But for me, it is just the opposite. I want it to slow down. I want to savor these last few moments. To linger in the beauty of this season. To relish this moment for the wonderful gift that it is.
But this is so hard to do. I have three talks to prepare, three services still to organize, gifts still to buy, my niece’s wedding just around the corner, family to see, travel plans to arrange, not to mention the daily homework grind with the kids, staff meetings, calls to return, emails piling up, and on and on.
C.S. Lewis writes, in an essay called What Christmas Means to Me, “Long before December 25th everyone is worn out-physically worn out by weeks of daily struggle in overcrowded shops, mentally worn out by the effort to remember all the right recipients and to think out suitable gifts for them. They are in no trim for merry-making; much less (if they should want to) to take part in a religious act. They look far more as if there had been a long illness in the house.”
Those words hit so close to home. (Literally, seeing as how we are all fighting coughs and colds). I fear that in our hurry to pack as much as possible into these days, our appreciation fades. We lose our ability to taste the goodness. We wolf it down instead. We need to learn to slow down and chew our food.
There is a proper pace necessary to live in joy, and compared to the world’s pace, it is uncomfortably slow. To move at this pace can be frustrating to others. Frustrating to ourselves. We become afraid that we are missing out, or afraid that by saying no, we’ll offend someone we love. But we must slow down. For the sake of our health, of course, but even more for the sake of our souls.
This is called temperance, and it has, unfortunately become a lost art. It goes the right length and no further. Temperance keeps us from gluttony and excess. It cherishes each bite, and knows when it is full. Temperance protects us, not only from over indulging, but from the numbing consequences of overdoing it.
Creating room for joy is costly, but it is worth it. It not only brings us pleasure, but it fuels our hearts. It fills us and spills over and becomes the greatest gift we can give away. When we slow down, we become present, we are here, and we begin to see again what a gift all of life is. That life itself is a delight. That each breath is a gift. And that the relationships we have here and now won’t always be there. This is not a season to endure or race to end, but a moment to cherish and hold on to.
So let me give you permission, and myself as well, to pause today from the rush. Say no to something and instead create a moment to rest, to relish, and to remember that each moment of our life is a gift. Each person in our life is an opportunity to extend blessing. And that life itself is meant to be cherished, one bite at a time.