Is it Christmas yet!? I CAN’T WAIT!!
Is it almost Christmas?! ARE YOU SERIOUS!!
In our holiday culture, most folks basically break into one of two camps when it comes to the 25th day, of the 12th month of the year. We are either excited that the day and time is almost here, or we are anxious that the day and time is almost here. Even if Christmas is not a part of our faith tradition, still we all get caught up in the clock at the holidays. So we bemoan the fact we just do not have enough time to get it all done: buy the gifts, wrap the presents, mail the cards, bake the food, make the beds, get to the big day without collapsing. Or we gleefully anticipate the arrival of the 25th, especially if you are a kid or just love all things “holiday”. We cannot get there soon enough and want time to pass quickly. We want our holiday NOW.
You might call this affliction a time warp of sorts. Time slows down at Christmas. Time speeds up at Christmas. What were the longest two hours of my life as a kid? The time on Christmas morning that I and my brother and sisters got up at 4:30 a.m. and then waited for my folks to wake up, all so we could finally rush the tree and open our gifts. What are the fastest two weeks of my life as an adult? The fourteen days before the 25th when, along with “doing” Christmas for a living (which I love), I also need to clean the house for holiday gatherings and shop and figure out just how to celebrate the holy day for myself.
Sound familiar? Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock.
Yet the truth is that the 25th has just 24 hours in it, like all the other 364 days of the year. It will arrive right on schedule and then depart on time, beginning at midnight on the 24th then concluding 1,440 minutes later. Though as humans we may experience the passage of time in different ways, as much too fast or too slow, time itself is always non-negotiable. Time’s sure and dependable passage is woven into the fabric of the universe. Time neither waxes nor wanes, expands nor contracts. Time just is.
Our stewardship of time though: how we appreciate it or how we take it for granted, how we fear it or how we accept it: that’s another story. So here’s my simple wish and prayer for all of us, as we approach the end of another year and 2015 draws to a close and we anticipate the 25th. Since time is a holy and precious gift from God, finite, can we just enjoy the passage of time? Can we be fully alive to the one moment we find ourselves in, at any given time, and not just during the holidays but all year round too?
I confess I have a personal stake in this spiritual question. Six weeks ago I turned 55 and ever since then I find myself in a struggle of sorts against time. Time for me now feels as if it is just flying by. Wasn’t it just yesterday I was sneaking down the stairs and looking in wonder at the brightly lit tree in my childhood home? Wasn’t it just yesterday that my Dad and Uncle Frannie were at the Christmas dinner table? Have they been gone from this life for that long? So too I am blessed with young people in my life, some of whom cannot seem to let go of a desire to have their lives speed up. For them time is in the way, an opponent. They want to get out of high school and go to college. Get on to the next job which will absolutely be the one. Move on from this time, the faster the better.
But here’s a Christmas truth about Christmas time, and all time, that will never change. The only time that is real, is right now. We can miss the past, pine for the past, rue the past, try to live in the past, but finally the past is past. We can anticipate the future, fear tomorrow, struggle to bring it on more quickly, dream of it, even demand it now, but finally the future is not yet.
As the truism goes, time is a gift from God; that’s why it is called the present. So this year, may we all pay more attention to God’s gift of time and embrace a “noel now”. Be in the moment on Christmas Eve when you light a candle and pray for peace. Be in the minute on the morning of the 25th when you share a quiet cup of coffee with the spouse who has been with you for decades. Be alive with good humor and grace when Christmas goes south: when the tree falls over or the roast burns or Uncle Jim has one too many egg nogs.
Time is all good because time is all now. We’ll get to the 25th. But for now? Life is right here. Right now. Happy holy days.