Busy at Christmas Time
written by Rev Gary Heard

Fighting the city traffic and the crowds can cause even the most good-natured person to suffer a rise in blood pressure. When the temperature is soaring into the high 30s, the pressures of Christmas shopping, chores to be done, and the lack of availability of staff to assist can make one feel remote from the “Peace at Christmas” wish which circulates in an almost glib manner. ‘How can one celebration Christmas with all that is required to be done?’

Year after year I promise myself to work on our family Christmas letter at the end of November, to get my Christmas shopping done earlier, and to ensure that I keep up with bills and chores so that Christmas does not become the hectic and pressured time with which I have become all-too-accustomed. Yet each year I find myself writing the letter later, fighting the crowds for that present or two I have failed to arrange, and champing at the bit at the ever-enclosing crowds of people and pressures, all the while wrestling with a romantic notion of Christmas which has rarely been part of my adult experience. At the same time I chide myself for failure to provide adequate time to sit and reflect on these things.

The reality is that it has ever been thus. Even at the first Christmas. People so busy and caught up in the events of the day that they may well have walked past the stable door behind which was resting the Son of God.  Some may have even walked in and out of the place, oblivious to the truth of what (who) was before their very eyes. That manger setting challenges the notion that God only comes to the still, to those who have created space, or who have little to do.

There have always been people who have adopted the hermit approach to faith: withdrawing from all of life to contemplate deep spiritual truths and discern God’s presence in their lives. But if that were required for all of us to know God, then we would assume that God wants us to give up work, family, recreation, even conversation.

The Christmas Story echoes the truth many people of faith have found – that God encounters them in the ordinary – even the busy – moments of life. Jesus was encountered at a wedding, by the well, in the temple and marketplace, as well as the desert regions.
So while you pay those bills and fight the crowds at the shops, keep your eyes peeled – God may well be in the midst of it all.

December 14, 2003
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