Christmas is creeping closer every day.
I find myself trying to breathe deeply and remember where we are supposed to go next.
Is tonight that Christmas party at work or is it the Christmas pageant at school? Who is having their holiday party today and what did we sign up to bring?
My mind is a flutter of activity; I find my center slowly seeping away into the chaos of busyness. And yet, a still, small voice calls to me barely audible amid the noise of advertisements and commitments.
So much of Advent is collapsed into the cultural holiday of Christmas. In fact, many churches invite Santa Claus to come to their churches at some time or another: a celebration merging church and culture.
It makes it difficult to separate the meaning of Advent from the meaning of buying and exchanging gifts and eating together.
Is there really any difference? Should there be some sort of separation of the two?
My mind turns to Mary who had just given birth to the Christ Child and received visitors in the form of shepherds.
Once these shepherds saw the Christ Child, they couldn’t help but share all of the things they had been told about this child.
By contrast, the gospel writer tells us “Mary treasured all of these words and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).
The word “treasured” is the Greek word “syntereo,” meaning to hold within oneself or to preserve a thing from being lost.
Here is a picture of Mary holding on to the joy of the birth of her son, but also holding on to the joy of this moment.
Perhaps Mary didn’t understand fully what it would mean to be the mother of God’s son and where her journey as mother would lead, but she did know enough to take a moment to preserve the joy of his birth.
And maybe we should too. Maybe instead of filling our schedules with one commitment and celebration after another, that still, small voice is inviting us to hold on to the joy of this moment, this season of hope and expectation and the joy it brings.
We, like Mary, don’t know exactly what the new year will bring. So maybe this invitation to preserve joy is an invitation to preserve and store joy for the journey ahead when it seems almost impossible to find joy, just like Mary.
Editor’s note: This article is part of an Advent 2018 series focused on the traditional themes of hope, peace, joy and love. Reflections on love will appear next week. The previous articles in the series are:
Advent Hope: When All Appears Bleak, God’s Grace Abounds by Guy Sayles
The Preacher’s “Peace” at Advent by Bill Tillman
Merianna Harrelson is pastor of Garden of Grace United Church of Christ in Columbia, South Carolina, editor-in-chief of Harrelson Press Publishing, and an EthicsDaily.com / Baptist Center for Ethics board member.