I am always being told to slow down; are you? Speak more slowly; don't be so impatient; why don't you sit down and chat for a moment?
“Slow down you move too fast…” although the words from the Simon and Garfunkel song are from years ago, the message has never been more relevant. We live in a world that is moving at an ever-increasing pace. Fast food. Fast internet. Fast service. If you don't move within a nanosecond of the light turning green you get abused. We want things turned around quickly.
We see occasional hints of a reaction: the slow food movement for example. But who has time for that? I don’t know about you, but I find the perpetual busyness and pace of life has infected my approach to life. I bounce from one thing to another—barely stopping to enjoy the moment; just ticking off one thing after another as I look forward to the next task, the next chore, the next experience, the next event.
The modern world doesn't help of course, as the consumer cycle rolls from one occasion to another. At the moment Christmas is in the air—but we know, come December 26th, that the first signs of Easter (chocolate of course and not crosses) will be appearing in the stores. It suddenly struck me the other day how little savouring of the moment there is in this rush. I forget what triggered it, but I remember the profound sense of regret that something important had just passed, and that I had almost entirely missed it. I did not dwell for a second on the significance of an occasion, and consequently, there was no joy or thanks: just a sense of relief that the event had come and gone and I could move on to the next task.
And Christmas is a huge barrier as I try to climb Mount To-Do List. You know the drill: finish up work, plan presents, buy presents, arrange farewells, attend work and social functions, plan Christmas days (endless emails organising who is brining what), buy ingredients, prepare food, go to Church (Lessons and Carols, Family Service, Midnight on Christmas Eve, Christmas morning) etc, etc, etc. In all this mad rush there is a moment being missed. A significant moment. A seminal moment for the Christian faith I claim to exercise.
A Slower Christmas
This Christmas I want to try to have a “slower” Christmas. I want to slow things down; to savour the moment; to reflect at some length and depth on what has become a too-familiar occasion. We know all too well the meaning of the phrase “familiarity breeds contempt.”
One thing I am determined to do is to enjoy (and not despise) the carols played in stores as the soundtrack to Christmas. Sure, the incessant noise is annoying, but this noise is not so bad … they're playing our songs—at least sometimes—after all. I intend to slow down, to take a moment and listen to the familiar words and recall the wonderful story and theology embodied in the very best of carols as they are played. And I plan to give thanks that these songs still have some currency in our world. Small-beer, I know—but I intend to pause before nativity scenes and reflect, albeit briefly, on the moment they are attempting (often imperfectly) to portray. I want to slow down, and read … mark … learn and inwardly digest the scriptures. I want to revisit the narratives of Luke and Matthew; their story of the birth of Jesus—their rich Old Testament background of promise; their joyous note of fulfilment.
And I want to invite you to join me in a slow reading of John 1:14 over the next few days; to slow down and consider this verse that takes us to the heart of the incarnation. I want to look at it phrase by phrase over approximately twelve days, in a vague gesture toward the Christmas song.
Of course we will be having our cake and eating it a little here. The meditations themselves will be brief … there are things to do after all. But we will take our time wending our weary way through the text—and hopefully find much to consider and contemplate as we live through the Christmas season.
This might not be your cup of tea, but can I encourage us all to try and slow down this Christmas—however we can? Let’s try to enjoy a slow Christmas and grasp again the significance of what this festival celebrates as we consider the wonder of the Word becoming flesh and dwelling amongst us.
Photos: (Header) Staci Flick, flickr; (Body) pexels.com