On the weekend I noticed that the shopping centre was already getting busy. Cars were circling the carpark looking for that elusive parking spot, I could sense the frustration. Christmas chaos was returning. I felt grateful that the giving of gifts was not my primary concern and I was moved to consider what spiritual gifts I was yet to receive. Or maybe, I’d already received them but just wasn’t aware……..
For ministers working in the traditional church setting, Christmas can be both crazily busy and a deeply meaningful time of the year. I love the work I do as a minister of an online ministry, but it is a different experience for ministers such as myself who are not linked to a congregational ministry.
I’ve spent the past few Christmas seasons visiting local churches of various denominations. Last year I was blessed to hear live sacred music on Christmas morning at one of our most beautiful inner-city churches. It was a shared experience with friends that were visiting from New Zealand. Afterwards, we sipped coffee at Federation Square on a gloriously sunny summer day in Melbourne. A previous year I recall the magic of the Candle Lighting service in Hawaii, and later Christmas lunch on Waikiki beach with friends.
Recently, I was surprised when a family member commented that her impression of me was that I didn’t really ‘do’ Christmas. It seemed like an odd remark, as I’ve always experienced the Christmas season on a very deep level. I love the sacredness of the season, and the connection to tradition gives me a strong feeling of being deeply grounded. It’s a reflective time, a chance to look back over the year. Just when many people are gearing up for some major Christmas chaos, for me the pace of life appears to slow right down.
I realise that the month of December could feel very empty if I let it. I’m also aware that there are others who feel this emptiness too. Those without families or friends around them, some laden with the difficulties of life, lacking funds, food or even a home. But I’m reminded that the Christmas story is all about feeling displaced, it’s a story of pilgrimage for the Holy family. It’s a journey to a foreign place of great significance, and for each of us a personal story of our own spiritual journey. It’s a chance, if we choose, to take a step away from the outer world and move inwards. A time for our own period of exile. This is our pilgrimage, a journey to a foreign place, a search for an expanded meaning of ourselves, others and life.
‘To go on pilgrimage is not simply to visit a place to admire its treasures of nature, art, or history. To go on pilgrimage really means to step out of ourselves in order to encounter God where he has revealed himself……..’ ~ Pope Benedict XVI
And so, this month I invite you to ask yourself:
‘What pilgrimage am I on?’
‘What is to be revealed to me in the coming year?’
I like to think that I don’t ‘do’ Christmas any more. That the Christmas chaos that I used to experience is now Christmas calm.
Blessings for a wonderful Christmas!