Well, the end of this week finds us all in the waning days of 2011, as the old year gasps and wheezes, and the new one awaits coronation in a matter of hours. Then, when we try for the first time to write or type “2012”—we’ll be the ones gasping, finding it hard to believe another year has come and gone. Or, if you’re like me, you’ll just write “2011” until about May…!
Christmas was a good time at our house, and at church. I’ve told a lot of people this year that while I love Christmas and all things Christmas—I have a love/hate relationship with December. Just too many obligations, too many places to be and things to hafta do before the “mother of all deadlines” arrives on December 25th. While I love our Christmas Eve services, and this year a bonus Christmas morning service—to be honest it was quite a relief when noon showed up on Christmas Day and I was home, cooking some lunch and anticipating the opening of presents and then a long winter’s nap… It seems like Thanksgiving arrives and then the next 5 weeks are spent in a break-neck race to something. That’s a lot of why I really focus in on Advent; we don’t do a lot of “liturgical” church-y things in our circle, but we could all use more of the liturgy of rest, quietness, contemplation as an antidote for so many of the things that are wrong with our society…and likely, so many of the things that ail us!
Christmas brings with it so many good things, and, I’m thankful to include in that list good memories. I know that is not true for everyone at Christmas, and I’m sad for them. I’ve spent so many Christmases now that they all pretty much run together—but I have a collage of memories that I am able to enjoy, snapshots of 50 years’ worth of December 25ths. I become a child again, in some ways, when I see the lights and candles, and when I hear the carols. A little Andy Williams or Nat King Cole or Bing Crosby constellate the “star trek” back to the universe of my childhood Christmas. Christmas truly is for children—and those of us who act like them! This year we were treated unexpectedly to a present none of us could have imagined getting—a real White Christmas—complete with 5 inches of snow that fell straight down from the sky, most all day. I will have that picture, now, to add to the rarified events of Christmases past. It was good!
And these quieter days in-between Christmas and New Year’s Day are good, too. These are days when, for most of the world around us, no one is too ambitious about very much, days when we can sort of recover from the pace of the last few weeks and get ready for the always too-soon-too-demanding days of a brand new year, struggling uphill against holiday negative inertia to regain some of the momentum we had right up until November 22nd or so. It’s kind of hard on the last Friday of the year to want to do anything at all…
I find it strange that as many delightful memories as I have of Christmases near and far gone, I have almost as few memorable snapshots of New Year’s events. That could be because I’ve slept through a lot of them! And the ones where I stayed up to “ring in” the New Year, it was so late and caused enough brain damage that I can’t remember the event. Call me an old toot if you want to, but I really fail to get much of a charge from staying up to watch a calendar change. Actually, when you realize that every single day is a brand new day, made perfect and opportune and precious by God’s grace—then Dick Clark and a dropping crystal ball countdown in New York seem fairly mundane events. Every Day is the real event, not to be missed or wasted in its “everydayness.” If I were to have a resolution for the coming 12 calendar pages, it might be just that—to cherish every day and treasure it for what it is—instead of wishing away the time, or wasting it on piffle.
It would surely seem that killing or wasting time must certainly have some more than negligible effect on eternity, and since each moment is precious we should embrace each of them and celebrate them and seek God’s guidance in how we’ll use this limited resource. There are many in your circle today who will not be there come 2013—I do funerals almost every week, many of those services for people who had no idea months or even minutes before that their time on the planet was about to end. Of all the things we have, beyond our faith in Jesus Christ, what could be more precious than time? It is the currency of our lives, and we really must make every day and every relationship count as we spend it away. Do you have some connections that could use a little attention? The greatest after-Christmas present you could give anyone is just a little more of your time. Spend it wisely in the coming year!
These quiet “in-between days” are good ones as they allow us to breathe deeply before we have to brace ourselves and jump into the cold raging flow of one more January 1st. But don’t forget that there is no guarantee you’ll make it to the next one. The Bible talks about living “circumspectly”—that is a funny King Jimmy word that means to live with an awareness of all that’s happening around us. And it tells us for emphasis to “be wise and not foolish” when it comes to using the time. After all, every day of our lives is an “in-between day”—another day in between our first and last breaths.