It’s always about more than you.
(Watch the video first.)
It’s always about more than you.
(Watch the video first.)
No matter your religious background or (non) affiliation, I’m sure you’re aware that Christmas is approaching. For Christians of many traditions, the 4-ish weeks leading up to the big day are called Advent, the lesser-know cousin of Lent. While Lent is often thought of as a time of preparation, Advent is looked upon as a time of expectation and waiting. In terms of Christmas, this “expectant waiting” is in regards to the birth of Jesus, but in the bigger picture, it is also a time when Christians are to wait with expectation for the return/second coming of Christ.
For me, though, all this talk of waiting with expectation helps me (and others) realize how often in our own lives we are doing such a thing already. Last Advent, a friend wrote how his presence waiting for the birth of a friend’s child was such an experience (an obvious close parallel to waiting for the birth of Jesus). For me, when I heard the pastor speaking of such waiting on the first Sunday of Advent, it made me think about my current situation, a status I share with millions in this country: looking for a job!
For me, I think what separates the “Advent” kind of waiting from the waiting you do when your car is sitting at a red light is that it’s a proactive waiting. At a red light, you’re just sitting there with nothing to do. But when a baby is on its way, there is so much to do before you’re ready for the baby to pop out! Not are there only necessary preparations, but there are also preparations you want to go through with (a certain diet, exercising right, etc.) that you hope with make the outcome turn out the best it possibly can.
The job hunt is very much a “waiting with expectation” experience for me. If it were only such that I could sit back and wait for the phone to ring and a job offer to arrive with no work on my part! But such is not the case. Instead, I continue to patrol job postings, write and send out cover letters, and then hope and pray that I might have the opportunity to interview. But after I send out a few cover letters, I don’t just sit a few weeks until I do or don’t hear from someone, but I continue the process of searching, writing, and sending as I wait… with expectation.
I have faith that I will one day get a job, though I don’t know when it will come or where it will take me. So I keep pressing on, working hard toward the final goal. And that’s really what waiting with expectation is all about, no matter what you might be waiting for.
… How still we see thee lie!”
Or so the Christmas carol goes. Unfortunately, Bethlehem is not the peaceful and quiet locale it likely was 2000 years ago. To travel between Jerusalem to Bethlehem, you must pass through a checkpoint to get through “the separation/apartheid/annexation wall,” not the most peaceful experience in the world (especially if you’re a Palestinian entering Israel, which I might add, only a few lucky ones even have the ability to do so). If you’re traveling from elsewhere in the West Bank, you’ll likely have your vehicle stopped at a checkpoint, too, and possibly stopped for hours, and if you’re truly unlucky, taken away to a jail somewhere.
The thought of Bethlehem, and thus Christmas, have had a different feeling for me this year since I traveled to the Holy Lands in the Spring. When I sang the first hymn at our Christmas Eve service, I teared up to sing: “Oh, come, all ye faithful, Joyful and triumphant! Oh come ye, oh, come ye to Bethlehem.” Amidst the reality that is the Israeli occupation of Palestine, it’s hard to think about being joyful and triumphant when traveling in the region. Even though (at least most of the time) there are no Israeli soldiers stationed in Bethlehem, that doesn’t mean the occupation still isn’t felt in Bethlehem, and similar towns in the area.
Many who live in Bethlehem and used to work in Israel are no longer able to travel to Jerusalem since the wall construction began in 2002. The town is nearly completely surrounded by the wall, and artisans and others have signified such reality by adding the wall to nativity scenes people set out at Christmas time.
As the world turns to think this season about the birth of Christ and the little town of his birth some 2000 year ago, let’s not forget the current reality for Palestinians living there — and remember, too, that the little baby born would have been a Palestinian himself.
Whether or not you’re Christian, I’m sure you’re aware that Thursday is Christmas. In my house (and I’m sure in many houses around the world), that means lots of hustle and bustle of preparations to be “ready.” This past weekend, my family (without me, thankfully) went shopping, with others, to be sure, to get the last minute gifts, and a friend of mine said yesterday she had picked the last item needed to make a certain gift and would be spending the next days until Christmas making it. Even today, my Mom plans to stay at work to itemize her list of gifts and presents to make sure she’s prepared for the gift giving of Christmas day.
Many times we think about being ready as having the necessary i’s dottend and t’s crossed in preparation for some main event. I think when we do that, we let ourselves down. When we focus on the end product only, we miss the little things happening along the way.
Last night, my brother and I helped out our Mom finish compiling materials necessary to send out the family Christmas letter. She was working to beat the clock of a pre-Christmas post-mark, but as we folded letters and stamped envelopes (and tried to delicately open some we decided needed letters), we allowed ourselves to enjoy the moment, laughing at the absurdness of it all (especially those who will say, “I wonder who opened this up before me?). My Mom even said, “I don’t think I’ve had this much fun putting out the Christmas letter before.”
In my house, we’ve been having a lot of discussion about the Myers-Briggs taxonomy lately, particularly the last letter, whether one is a Judger (J) or a Perceiver (P). These indicate how one prefers to live life in a more structured or spontaneous way and also how one relates to schedules and deadlines. A “J” person usually feels most comfortable with structure and tends to be good with deadlines and schedules, while a “P” finds pleasure in spontaneity and views time as a renewable resource with deadlines as more elastic than immovable. I think it’s good we have both of these, but there is something to be said about the P (which, as far as I can tell, I’m not) that allows one to be more present and embracing of the moment. Who get’s to enjoy life more: one who works now and plays when (and if) the work is complete, or one who plays and enjoys things now, saving work to the last minute (and accepting the consequences if time ran out)? There must be a balance in there somewhere, right?
In any case, I think being “ready” is overrated. I’ve given myself the leeway of the “12 Days of Christmas” for some of my presents, and even longer than that if necessary. I’ll also be wrapping up some “IOUs” or “in the coming months…” certificates, as well as at least one “certifate redeamable for…” Will any of my gift recipiants enjoy their gifts any less if they open it on 3 January instead of 25 December? I doubt it (and I hope not!).
When we’re so zeroed in on checking off our “to do” list, we set ourselves up to miss way too much. Is it more important to enjoy myself in the process of celebrating or to make sure I have all I think I need in order to celebrate? Will I enjoy myself any less if there are no Christmas lights on the outside of the house? (Our family is answering that question this year, and as of now, I think the answer is, surpring for some — no!)
We need to throw out our needs to be “ready” and replace them with desires to be “open” — open to the smiles and beauty that can pass us by when we’re looking the other way, open to the opportunities that we shirk because we decide we’re too busy with other things, open to the unknown and unforseeable opportunities that lie ahead.
Though I may not have my bags packed, that doesn’t mean I’m not open (and “ready”) for the journey ahead!