Three days into December and some of us are already feeling the holiday exhaustion. Add to it that it feels like the holiday season snuck up on us coming so close to Thanksgiving this year. A season that originated around messages of love, peace, and joy can quickly turn into a few weeks of packed schedules, mixed emotions and stress. I think we eventually tolerate the busyness of the season after experiencing it as an adult for a few years. What we may not realize is the commercialized, task-driven holiday wears us down physically and emotionally, while also numbing our spirits to all that God wants to do in us during this very special time of the year.
It is no surprise that the observance of Advent has increased dramatically among Christians in the North America. Many of us are yearning for a more meaningful holiday that goes beyond gifts and parties. I think we know implicitly that remembering and celebrating what God has done for us in history, specifically all that was given when Jesus came into the world, is a means of grace for us. Somewhere deep in our spirits, we know that singing the songs, reading the scriptures, retelling the story and allowing ourselves to revisit the manger has a mysterious way of taking us to a place where we can experience God in a deeper way. Maybe this is why we all bring so much expectation to the holiday season, and secretly feel so disappointed when it ends. It is as if we felt like a gift was coming to us, but never arrived.
The truth is, God definitely wants to meet us in a special way this Advent and Christmas season. In fact, He has already done all that needs to be done to make this the best holiday season we have ever seen. There is a revelation and a breakthrough awaiting each us of and available to all of us as we journey to remember the holy night. The Holy Spirit, even now, is beckoning us to see the Christ-child with fresh, new eyes. How should we then respond? With a more intentional practice (or should I say walk) this season.
As it always is with following Jesus, faith is evidenced by walking, trusting, confessing, listening, and drawing near. The challenge of this season is that all that is good and festive about this month tends to work against our desire to experience the meaning of Christmas more fully. And let’s be honest — very few of us can simply pack up, head to the mountains and take a Christmas sabbatical. How might we experience all that God has for us this season without throwing out the lists, plans and calendars completely? May I suggest you take 5 minutes of SELAH each day?
Selah is a word found in the Psalms that is pretty difficult to translate accurately. I have heard many define it as ‘pause and reflect’. I like this definition because it is something that we can do effectively in a few minutes (I do like efficiency!). For years, I have encouraged busy college students to take a Selah-moment. That is, 5 minutes when you quiet everything, internal and external, to embrace the fact that you are loved deeply by your Creator. In a season that is full of busy-ness, I offer the same encouragement to everyone. It’s not exactly mountain-top spirituality, but it is a great place to start. It is not a huge amount of time, but for many it might be more accessible than the half-hour or more some others are able to spend in quiet time.
There are so many resources out there for us to really engage the season that all you really have to do us put in Advent or Christmas devotion in an internet search. A few quick suggestions though:
- Campus to City Wesley Foundation will be tweeting out daily scriptures during the Advent Season from @CCWJourney on Twitter. Our hope is that students (and anyone who wants to) will take 5 minutes each day to reflect, pray and ask personal questions using these scriptures. Whether you are a regular participant in CCW or not, feel free to join us on this journey over the next few weeks.
- For my personal reflection, I am reading through Enuma Okoro’s Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent this year. This devotional has already started helping me enter this season with a renewed perspective. Each day’s devotion may take a little more than 5 minutes, but it will be worth it.
- And folks, you can never go wrong with My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. Pick up the devotional, leave it in the car and read it while you wait for the kids in the carpool line. It is amazing how God has used words that spoken by Mr. Chambers before 1917 to speak into twenty-first century life. I highly recommend this devotional for Advent and all year-long.
What might 5 minutes do for you this holiday season? What whispers from heaven might you finally be able to hear because you silenced your stress for 5 minutes? What changes might you feel led to make because you took 5 minutes to focus on your King and not your calendar? What blessings could be waiting for you that expensive gifts could never give because you spent 5 minutes focused on the greatest Gift of all?
May we all respond appropriately to the Holy Spirit’s invitation to see Jesus with fresh eyes this season.