Dear Father in Heaven,
Christmas is one week away. And despite promising myself last January that this year would be different--that this year I would plan ahead so that I could spend my time in quiet, peaceful anticipation--I instead find myself struggling for air because the stress of the season makes me feel like I can hardly breathe. Why do I get this way? Why do I let this happen to me? Yes, I'm busy--but everyone's busy. I would bet that even if I finished my Christmas shopping in August and addressed my Christmas cards in September and baked and froze cookies in October, things would be no different right now, because if I can count on anything in life it seems I can count on whatever time I have filling up with something.
So, it would appear I simply need to resign myself to being busier than I want to be. The question is how to manage that busy-ness and not let it manage me--how to maintain an attitude of joyful vocation and a sense of order amidst the chaos.
I have tried, God, and I can't do it. No matter how I try to turn my back on the world, it always seems to get the best of me, turning me into a frantic, stressed out, machine that seems to be able to focus only on getting all the items checked off the Christmas task list. So I am coming to you, asking for your help. Enable me to not be so overwhelmed by the world that I lose sight of the peace that only you can give, the peace that in fact you have already given, the peace that is already mine. Help me to walk in that peace, that . . .
I would look upon the stack of Christmas letters waiting to be addressed and give thanks for friends and family.
I would look upon the Steadfast Quarterly that needs to be formatted and proofed and give thanks for BJS and the privilege of editing their journal.
I would look upon the house that needs cleaning and give thanks for warmth and comfort and a space of our own.
I would look upon the wrapping that awaits and give thanks that I have presents to give and people to give them to.
I would enjoy the beauty of Christmas decorations without worrying about having to take them down before our post-Christmas trip and without regretting the ones I didn't have time to put up this year.
I would go joyfully to multiple rehearsals, giving thanks for the privilege of providing music to accompany the proclamation of your Word.
I would approach my shopping with enthusiasm, looking upon the congested roads and crowded stores not with exasperation but with joy, and praying that those I encounter are also preparing for a celebration that will have Christ at its center.
Please help me, Lord, to get away from the mindset of getting everything done so that I can turn my attention to You. The fact is I will never get it all done, and that is something for which I give thanks, because it is the blessing of a full and abundant life. Help me to embrace that abundance and to be at peace in it rather than seeing it as something to conquer with peace as the reward.
This is my Advent prayer.
"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."--1 Thessalonians 5:18