It happens every single year. Without fail, Advent is moving on along and BOOM! Just like that, it is a week before Christmas. Suddenly, there is not enough time for just about anything. From Christmas shopping to writing sermons to preparing Christmas bulletins to finding enough time to spend time with God in prayer, it seems like everything is being crowded out by all the other things on the to-do list whilst also being the source of the crowding out of the other items on the list of things that absolutely cannot be late. After all, Christmas is a date certain. No moving it around. No trying to squeeze it between this thing and that thing. It is firm and is not moving.
Each year, when this happens to me, the immediate response is to try to cram as much into each and every day as possible with the hope that I can cram enough into a single day for enough days in a row that everything will somehow come together just in the nick of time. It is not a very wise strategy. After all, how can one cram prayer in between something and actually listen to what God is saying in and through prayer? No, the cramming of stuff into days simply leads to things being done rather haphazardly and without the thoughtfulness that I would like to provide to each of the things that remain to be done before the arrival of Christmas Eve.
After the initial shock of realizing that there are only 7 days until Christmas (*gasps for air* Only 7 days?!), I do my best to find a way to slow things down a bit. It seems rather backwards, but I have found that taking a deep breath, spending a little time with God in prayer, and then patiently looking at the supposed list of things to do in order to discern, “Of all these things that I am fretting over, what is at least one thing that I can let go of?” (Pro tip: It’s not prayer!)
In looking at the things that I have put on myself, I can also look at those things through a new lens in order to create the space I need to continue to practice relationship with God and with others. It simply will not do to rush this season of hope-filled expectation. It is important for us to patiently abide the time remaining in the season of Advent and to await with hope-filled longing for the good news that will arrive on Christmas morning.
At the beginning of Advent, I picked up one of the Advent Mediations and Prayers booklets from Seminary of the Southwest. With the best of intentions, I set out at the start of Advent to pray the season with the help of others from my seminary. I would sit down at my kitchen table, light the Advent wreath, and reflect on the words offered by the faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends of the seminary. It was only a matter of time before my pattern was interrupted by some other life event that seemed like it absolutely needed to be tended to before I finished my morning prayers.
If your Advent has been anything like mine, it might have been challenging to find a normal rhythm for praying in Advent. It’s okay. I have struggled with that throughout this season. The good news is that I don’t have to fret about that. I can simply pick up the booklet and resume praying. I have found that when I turn to prayer God is always there waiting for me. I have also found that the welcome I receive does not begin with a scolding – simply a joy that I have returned.
Yes, it is true that we have 7 days before Christmas Eve is here. Yes, it is true that Christmas Day is only 8 days away. Yes, it is true that it might feel like there is a mountain of things remaining to be done. It’s okay. Take a breath. Invite God into the remainder of this Advent season. I am certain that God will be in the midst of everything pressing in upon you, and I am certain that God is ready to greet you with joy and with welcome.