When I talk about Christmas, I start thinking about the Christmas break. For most of my life, I’ve been in school (scary thought!) so Christmas means a break from studying, papers, and exams. It means a chance to hang out with family and friends instead of attending classes. Often, instead of anticipating Christmas, I find myself counting down until the last day of classes or the last exam or the last day of work, when I am finally free to enjoy the holiday season.
As I thought about Advent this year, I realized I want this to be a time of rejuvenation. We all need a chance to step back from our day-to-day routines and relax. In fact, in the Christmas story, as soon as Mary heard the news from the angel that she would carry the Messiah in her womb, she left Nazareth:
Mary got up and hurried to a city in the Judean highlands. She entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. With a loud voice she blurted out, “God has blessed you above all women, and he has blessed the child you carry.” Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months, and then returned to her home. (Luke 1:39-42, 56 CEB)
I picture these two women working together, watching their bellies grow with the special babies inside, encouraging each other through this difficult time. Back in Nazareth, Mary will have to face the condemnation of her neighbours who think she’s pregnant out of wedlock; here with her cousin, who loves her and knows what God is doing, she can rest and prepare for the difficult time to come. Elizabeth was likely grateful to have the younger woman around to help her. I picture laughter and love as these women sew or weave special things for their babies and praise God together.
While we all appreciate Christmas break, we also tend to make that break very busy. I’ve talked about the to-do list I have for my break and rejoiced that we’re already finished our Christmas shopping so we don’t have to deal with the malls and stores. We’re good at making the most of our breaks, of almost needing a break from the break because we do so much during this season.
This year, I want to find time to get away as Mary did. To spend more time with my family. To focus on Jesus and what Christmas really means. To arrive at Christmas feeling not exhausted but rejuvenated by the preparation of Advent.
Check out the other posts in my Advent 2011 series:
First Sunday: Preparation
Second Sunday: Anticipation
Third Sunday: Rejuvenation
Fourth Sunday: Reconciliation