A very dear friend of mine has made the distinction this Christmas season between ‘Bustle’ and ‘Huffing About’: the former bearing pleasant connotations of bright-cheeked shoppers and cheerful productivity, and the latter something quite unbecoming if not downright undignified. She sent me this quote from ‘Father Tim’ of Jan Karon’s latest ‘Mitford’ book:
I believe if I were charged with having a goal, it would be to live without fretting—to live more fully in the moment, not always huffing about as I’ve done in recent years…to live humbly—and appreciatively—with whatever God furnishes.
I just love Father Tim. He always speaks to the very essence of the matter, and with such humble sincerity that you can’t help but cherish the wisdom of his words. And these in particular I’ve taken very much to heart this Christmas season.
This same sweet friend joins me and another in a yearly triumvirate of holiday accountability and prayer. We three share a passionate sentiment for Christmastide and all its tender joys; we view the month of December as sacred in its entirety, and at least two of us weep when the Christmas tree finally comes down—after New Year’s, of course! But as women of like passions we face like temptations. As lovers of beauty and order we battle with the mockery of perfectionism. Energetic and excited over plans we’ve been dreaming of for eleven months we are always taken aback by the onslaught of holiday possibilities. Treasuring the birth of our Savior as the most unfathomable miracle of all time, we still confront the barrage of distraction and derailment our culture is only too willing to supply.
But the knowledge that I’m not alone—in my sweetest joys as well as in my struggles—has given me courage to keep true to the desires I have for a peaceful, Christ-centered Christmas. The advice and encouragement passed round the table at our little pow-wow back before Thanksgiving is still refreshing my spirit with gentle nudges throughout my days. I see their raised eyebrows in my imagination when I’m tempted to stress over non-essesentials. Their emails and phone calls have been the Lord’s own whispers of love to me. And the prayers of such godly women ‘avail much’.
But their greatest gift has been the silent example of their lives, which has bidden me to sit quietly at the feet of Christ each morning and savor the wonder of His coming to dwell among us. And that single thing has already made this Christmas the best I have ever known. Perhaps it is simply the knowing of Him that comes of such stillness, but I seem to see His beauty everywhere I look this season: in the first light of a winter’s dawn sparkling and glittering over a frost-encrusted world, the bright rays slanting through the cedars and the golden mist stealing up from the pasture; in the shining crowns of holly perched on the brows of all my pictures and the gorgeous shining tree all spangled with tinsel and fragrant with gingerbread; in the miracle of friends and relations and the miracles He’s wrought in our family just this year…
Tuesday was a day of Bustle. It was a busy day in the midst of a busy week, and I realized at its close that the only thing that kept it from careening along in a frenzy of huffing was the slim cord of a prayer taught me by an older friend long ago: Gather my thoughts and order my steps. From a round of crucial errands He did order my steps, providentially, by an insatiable craving for a peppermint mocha from Starbucks. Who should I run into in the parking lot but my mother—actually I almost ran over her; she went back in with me and we sat chatting over pleasant holiday things for nearly an hour, pretending that we both didn’t have miles to go before our tea at home that afternoon. It was a pause that refreshed, and that sent me on my way with a smile on my face. I dashed all over town: my favorite tea shop for some Winter Garden tea for a special visit next week; an enquiry after Christmas crackers; one last gift for two dear little friends ages three and-a-half and five and-a-half. And last of all, my wonderful farmer’s market, bright with beautiful seasonal produce—crates of clementines, fragrant pineapples, pomegranates, kumquats, lady apples, forfelle pears—and fairly glittering with imported holiday goods. I wandered dazzled as a child among the colorful aisles, savoring the excitment of such once-a-year treats as Wensleydale cheese with dried cranberries and real English bangers and blood oranges.
Not a Christmas goes by that I don’t read or quote the third stanza of It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, which never ceases to pierce me with its poignant entreaty:
Oh ye beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low
Who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow:
Look now! For glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing!
Oh rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing!
What a timely word for a tired age!
All too soon this precious holiday will join the ranks of Christmases past whose memories lie too deep for words. And my sweet friends and I will sit together over our ‘Twelfth Night Tea’ and sigh over how sweet it was, and discuss what we’ll do differently next year, and share what precious things the Lord taught us as we celebrated His holy Advent. And we’ll do our very best to keep all these things and ponder them in our hearts.