BY CHEYENNE POORTINGA
As the leaves on our trees begin the gentle shift from verdant green to gold and crimson I feel a shift within. Perhaps you feel it too. It’s that gentle tug that I feel each year as the days grow shorter and the nights colder. It’s the gentle whisper that wraps around my heart like a warm blanket, “Be still.” The other day when I heard this quiet whisper I almost laughed at the seeming impossibility of it.
As a home educator, a wife and mommy to a busy kindergartener and twin toddlers the notion of being still seemed foreign. But I paused a moment and realized that this is exactly what my heart needed to hear. Perhaps, your heart is longing for that same invitation. Be still.
All around us there are voices calling out, seeking our attention. Our inboxes are flooded with emails reminding us that there are only a few more shopping days left before Christmas. We are bombarded with opportunities, invitations and obligations in this “the most wonderful time of the year.” We want to make the most of this season. We want it to be magical for our children and we don’t want them to miss out on anything. But what if the best way to make the most the Christmas season isn’t to buy more and do more? What if the joy of Christmas can not be fully found in social gatherings, family obligations and aesthetically pleasing decor? What if the real magic is found when we are still? What if the secret of creating a meaningful and memorable season for our families is found in standing still and giving time to really slow down and soak in the sacredness of this season.
Growing up I remember the anticipation that would build up within as we awaited Christmas morning, and then the almost homesick feeling that would inevitably settle in the pit of my stomach as we headed off to bed after all of the Christmas merriment. As an adult I still feel it. There is such a build up to one big day that it almost always results in disappointment. But what if this longing and disappointment cycle is pointing us to something far richer and more beautiful than we can imagine. In almost every store you can find an advent calendar of some sort, there are Lego advent calendars, chocolate advent calendars and everything in between. But what are we really counting down to? What are we waiting for? A big party? A special meal? A chance to see distant family and friends? Is it all about the gifts?
In my heart I know that Christmas is all about the birth of the Long Awaited One, the Savior for whom the world was longing, and yet it’s easy to get lost in the endless to-do list of the holiday season. What if the invitation to “Be still” that I sense so keenly with the onset of autumn is the single invitation that I can’t afford to ignore this season? I am weary. My heart longs for justice, for things to be made right. Perhaps all that I long for, all that you long for, all that this weary world longs for is found not in beautifully wrapped gifts, but in a baby laying in an animal feeding trough two thousand years ago. What if the expectation that marks the Christmas season isn’t supposed to be all about a day of gift giving, but rather is a sort of backwards expectation as we join in the groaning of creation and the expectation of all those who came before us as they awaited the arrival of the babe who would change history and will one day make all things new. As we approach the busiest time of the year will you join me in responding to the invitation to “Be Still” and to let the lines from O Holy Night sing out in your heart?
“O Holy Night!
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior's birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!”
“Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us
praise His holy name.”
I hope that this Advent season will be unlike any we have known before. That our hearts will rejoice as we think back on that night in Bethlehem. My prayer is that this season will be filled with meaning and enshrouded in sacredness. May we take time to focus on what, and who truly matters. May we slow down to listen to the stories of the lonely, to smile at strangers and hug our kids a little tighter. May we stand still in awe before the manger and rejoice in the coming of the Savior.
If you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders, if you are heavy laden with worry and sorrow, if you feel that the world is broken I hope that the true meaning of Christmas will stir up a reason to rejoice in your heart, a “new and glorious morn” has come. Be still and rejoice, hope has come.