Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas Burnout

Eight Christmas parties in one week.

On the first Sunday of December during my sophomore year, this sounded like the most exciting schedule ever. I was involved in a half-dozen groups and organizations, all of which decided that they needed to distribute frosted cookies at various events to properly celebrate the season. It was going to be so much fun!

By Wednesday, I was a little sleep-deprived, but hey, Christmas only comes once a year, right?

By Friday, I was starting to get sick, dragging through my classes with annoying Christmas songs stuck in my head. I wrote in my journal, “To survive this weekend, I’m going to need lots of prayer, Nyquil and Christmas fudge.”

By Sunday, I skipped my last party and almost fell into a candy-cane induced coma.

Instead, I stumbled through the snow to the prayer chapel. There, I mindlessly flipped through the hymnal, landing in the Christmas carol section so I wouldn’t feel like a total Scrooge.

I started to read the words to “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” and down in one of those obscure verses we never sing, I froze on this line: “O rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing.”
Have you heard them singing lately?

Me neither. Because sometimes we can be louder than the angels. We cram our schedules full of events, concerts, parties, shopping trips, movie marathons and jingle-bell tunes cranked up as high as they can go. None of these things are necessarily bad, but they’ve often kept me so busy that I forget what I’m supposed to be celebrating: Jesus’ birth.

But even when we forget, the songs—those carols we hear so often that we don’t really hear them anymore—still tell us what we’re missing.

“What child is this, who laid to rest on Mary’s lap is sleeping?”

“O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie. Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, a silent star goes by.”

“Silent night, holy night. All is calm. All is bright.”

You can hear it almost everywhere, from church choir rehearsals, Spotify accounts, karaoke performances, mall sound systems, and warbles from the shower. Our songs tell us what we value most at Christmas. Joy and cheer? Sure, those are there. But so is peace. So is calm. So is the quietly unexpected wonder of finding a Savior in a manger.

The angels are still singing, in hundreds of tiny little ways. Not literally (I haven’t heard any heavenly music lately). Not even in some super-vague metaphorical way. The angels sang to proclaim that Jesus was here, that there was something about this place called Earth that was worth saving, and that God loved us enough to send his Son into time.

Jesus is still here, and His presence makes a difference. There are still reminders that life here means something. And God still shows us how much He loves us. The list of unexpected blessings and the little joys of life that fit under these categories are going to be different for each person. But it’s good to make that list.

When I say that it’s good to slow down at this time of year, I’m not saying to stop your life, discard your obligations, and climb a mountain by yourself to meditate for a few weeks. It can be as simple as thinking of people in your life who you’re thankful for, taking an extra fifteen minutes in prayer even if you feel like you don’t have the time, or asking people “How are you?” and really wanting an answer.

Rest beside the weary road. The stress and sugar buzz can wait for later.

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