WHEN THE KIDS were small, we’d help them mark down the days to Christmas with our own homemade parade. With the shoe-box empty manger set up in the family room, the toilet roll wise men would set off on their month-long journey from another part of the house. I called it The Great Advent-ure.
The children would get to take turns moving the Magi a little closer each morning, finally arriving at the cribside early on Christmas Day. Purists will note that this arrangement failed to recognize Epiphany, but we figured that as December 25 is likely off Jesus’s actual birthday by a few months, we could be forgiven fudging things a little.
The traveling wise men had an especially difficult couple of passages on their trek; the day they spent in the open hallway, exposed to careless passing feet and an inquisitive cat, and the night they squeezed across a crowded mantelpiece, trying not to knock anything else off.
One of the four kids seemed to think that they could make Christmas come more quickly by moving the travelers ahead a few strides whenever we weren’t looking, so we had to begin marking their progress. We could have done with some of that special foam soccer referees have started using on the field to measure defenders’ ten-yard distance at a free kick.
If we found the stargazers had crept ahead of themselves again, we’d quietly move them back once more, explaining that one of them had dropped some of the francincense or myrrh along the way, and they all needed to retrace their steps to reclaim it.
The goal in all of this slow walk to Christmas was to try to foster a sense of anticipation, a measure of wonder, an appreciation for delayed gratification. To counter the idea that adventure has to mean speed and noise. To instill an appreciation for the thrill there can be in waiting, savoring the deliciousness of what is to come.
It’s a lesson I am still having to learn myself, as I do my own adult version of pushing the wise men forward a bit when I think no one’s looking. Imagining that I can somehow force God’s hand by saying or doing something to help things along, when I really know that what I should be doing is just waiting for His time.
So the holiday season is a welcome reminder that going faster doesn’t necessarily mean getting there sooner. Contrary to the loud, do-it-yourself, self-made-man, get-it-done shout of the world, the days before Christmas whisper a revised message: “Don’t just do something. Sit there!”
Stillness. Rest. Patience. Peace. Trust. This can be harder than being busy. Slowing down for The Great Advent-ure.
Photo credit: antonychammond via Foter.com/CC BY-NC-SA