Aspiring to a Simpler Advent
'Tis the season...of overwhelm? In worship on Sunday, I mentioned all of the goings-on at Westminster--opportunities for service, learning, community, and growth. In the same breath, I cautioned against saying "yes!" to every opportunity. What may have seemed like a strange mixed message was, at the heart, quite a simple one: Watch out for overload. (This may be my soapbox topic this year!)
Culturally, December is a smorgasbord of festivities: pumpkin spice lattes, freshly-strung Christmas lights, holiday parties, trips to the tree farm, and more! In our life together at Westminster, too, there is much to do, like our Advent devotional small group, our Giving Tree (which benefits Hope Village and a family from Olympic View Elementary), and our Sights & Sounds event later this month. Frankly, I love this season for all that is happening--and how fun much of it is! But, year after year, I have found my family is pretty depleted by the time Christmas actually arrives. This year, I want to keep it simple.
The idea isn't to refrain from doing what you love; the aim is to invest your time and energy intentionally, into things that nourish and encourage you, so you wake up Christmas morning feeling renewed and fully present.
I'll share with you some of the goals I'm working toward this season:
Seek God in a new way. Our Advent devotional (Expecting Emmanuel) promises to be a great template for ongoing reflection on God's word this season--but there are other ways, too. Ready to start a new morning quiet time with scripture by candelight? Want to start an evening walk with God, savoring the changing sky overhead? Feeling the nudge to find a prayer partner for accountability? Try it!
When you say you don't have time to do something, pause and consider. Sometimes, when I think, "Oh, I don't have time for this," I have neither time nor interest. I'm not feeling within it an invitation from God. Other times, though, I'm choosing industry over presence. When I'm walking out the door for work and one of my children wants to share a piece of art, for example, I hope I'll make time for what may be a powerful moment of connection.
Consider alternative gifts this year. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are geared to kick-off a season of consumption. Over the last few years, I've tried transitioning my family to fewer "things" and more experiences and impacts. For both of my sisters, I contributed to a local charity in their names. For my kids, I encourage relatives to give the gift of quality time--in whatever fun package they can think up!
Choose a way to give back that feeds your soul. I've aspired to give folks plenty of options for service through Westminster--and you have only to ask our Mission chairs, Dorothy Culliton and Andrew Rayment, for a list of more ways to push up your sleeves and help! There are also many, many causes in the broader community worthy of your investment--places where God's love is being shared abundantly and tangibly. One of the projects I'm undertaking with my kids is putting together another box of "to-go" bags--complete with a mini water bottle, granola bar, and other sundries--to share with anyone who asks while we're out and about in the car.
In the midst of the busy-ness, hold fast to spiritual rhythms that keep you whole. "Spiritual rhythms" is a term of which I've grown rather fond--because it captures that complete set of spiritual disciples and self-care rituals that keep us showing up as our full and healthy selves. These might include regular prayer, sabbath, and time in community. What does that look like for you? How can you safeguard it as things get busier?
I hope you give yourself permission to choose well how you spend yourself this season. Whatever you choose, may it give you life--and may you show up fully within it. These two things--life and presence--are vital pieces of "preparing the way" for love to be born, right here and now.