The Advent and Christmas seasons are “Take a Walk Around the Block” seasons. What do I mean by that? Well, several things. For many of you, either family will descend on you or you will descend on family. In many ways, that is a wonderful thing! But, it also carries with it the tensions and frustrations that have built up over a lifetime. You will experience love; but someone will also ask you — for the umpteenth time — why you chose that career path or why you’re not tougher on your children. “But I told you last year!”
And the judgment- oh, boy the judgment. As if you didn’t have enough. I have a family who needs my attention. Am I doing it right? Was I too merciful? Too tough? In what ways am I ruining my sons’ lives? I shepherd a wonderful church with wonderful people. Am I doing them justice? Am I honoring God in my calling as their pastor?
I have an old boat in my garage that has a rotten transom I need to replace. The boys and I can’t take those fishing trips I have envisioned if I don’t. I also need it in case we have another flood event and my neighbors and parishioners need help. I have another old boat that I need to scrap. There are cracks in the wall from the foundation settling that I need to address. I need to put up some more smoke alarms around the house. And it’s Christmas. I must buy presents; I must make appearances. (The judgment one heaps upon oneself can be ruthless and exhausting). And more — it’s quiet and your brother from Oregon is insufferable sometimes. Your self-evaluation is not going well.
You need time to recalibrate your mind — a breath of fresh air. All that necessitates a walk around the block. (Just watch. You will see a significant uptick in the numbers of people walking around the block between now and Christmas).
And, as you walk, there are the Christmas decorations. Beautiful lights. Corny and tacky lights. Santas, reindeer, candy canes. But the decorations of the Christ child make you stop. There is something that has some real depth — some real hope. You stand, gaze, and contemplate for a while. That Christ child came to us to to forgive us. He came to heal our wounds — relational and otherwise. He came to take the judgment of sin and death onto His own body so we need not be afraid or tormented by them. For a moment, your inner critic quiets herself and joins you in contemplating the scene.
You finally feel you can return home and re-enter the fray — but, somehow, you return refreshed. You know — He is with you. He is for you. He has come and will come again.
That is the encouragement I need to make it through these seasons.