yesterday we started the christmas decorating process. and wow is it daunting. box after box after box to open up and see what lies within, freeing ghosts of christmases past from crumpled up newspaper. all the current decorations have to be taken down and put away and things cleaned before the Christmas decorations go up. we spent a great deal of time on this yesterday afternoon, and didn't finish. there are still boxes to be opened. there is still a space for a christmas tree. there are still cards to be sent and things to be bought and packages to wrap and so on. daunting.
in church yesterday we read from luke 1 when the angel gabriel is talking to mary and he tells her that she is going to be pregnant and have this child. and its not just that (as if that wasn't enough), but he tells her in verses 32 and 33 that the child "will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the hosue of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." wow. such a high dramatic beginning to all of this.
how do you begin a season that way? whether it be a pregnancy or a job or a project or just getting ready for Christmas, how do you begin when the bar is set so high?
mary retreated. that's right. she got away. she got out of town. literally. she took the 80 mile trip to the hill country of judea to visit her (also pregnant) relative elizabeth, and she stayed for three months. we don't know exactly what she was doing there, but it isn't hard to imagine that she was taking some much needed time to get her mind right, to get her heart right for such an overwhelming future.
what about us? we might not have three months to retreat (although a three-month caribbean cruise sounds okay to me right now), but we can certainly carve out some time in our hectic schedules to retreat from it all and be sure to get our minds and hearts right for the weeks that lie ahead! sure there are boxes to wrap and cards to send and trimmings to....trim...but these things will all get done. and if we take the time right now to retreat to the "hill country of judea," we may find that those activities will be accompanied by joy, delight, wonder and expectation, rather than dread and anxiety.
my prayer for my family (and yours) this advent is that you will slow down and evaluate your advent; that you will retreat to the hill country, find your elizabeth, and get your head and heart right for Christmas. do it now, before it's too late.