One of my favorite things to do during the Advent and Christmas seasons is to go to New York City. I don’t think there is anything else like it or a greater time to go to that city! There is so much hustle and bustle, but it is very different from the everyday busyness of New York City. A few years ago when I was there just days before Christmas, I decided to just stop, listen, and watch all that was happening around me. It was fascinating to take it all in, and despite all of the “noise” I was able to find the silence within myself in trying to absorb all that this season is about.
If you think about it, though, you probably don’t need to go into New York City to have such an experience. Just go to the Mall or to a Christmas tree lot or some other place that tends to increase in foot traffic over the next month, and remember to stop and listen to what is going on. I have to say, I find myself annoyed, anxious, at wits end, maybe because I wait until the final days of the Advent season to actually do my Christmas shopping, but something always finds a way to stop me dead in my tracks in the store or simply admiring the lights on someone’s house as I drive around.
As much as this season is about preparation for the coming of Christ in our lives, in the end times, and the birth of the child on that first Christmas, it seems like there is never time to just stop and listen to what is happening around us. As much as it is hard to find it, to really appreciate the depth of this season, silence is absolutely necessary; but it is possible to find it even while baking cookies, writing out Christmas cards, or standing in the middle of Time Square…all we need to do is stop and listen. The silence is already there and it is in the midst of all that is going on in our lives and the world.
The same is true of that first Christmas. There was much going on in the lives of the holy family; their lives were at risk of being lost, they were going to need to flee shortly after the birth of the child out of fear of Herod, and so on. Yet, in the midst of it all, this child comes into all of it and everyone around stops and listens…Mary ponders all things in her heart, the shepherds hear from the heavens, the magi change course in their lives, all this when this baby enters the world. We stop and listen and look in awe at the wonder of life.
If you do anything for yourself this Advent season, I would suggest you stop and listen to all that is going on around you; truly the “magic” of the season at work and the providence of God breaking into the world and your life. Stop and listen to the silence within your heart, especially when the tension starts to run high and things aren’t getting done, and stores are out of what you are looking for, stop and listen to the silence within. If you can do that, Christmas will take on a whole new meaning because in the midst of life you will have found the gift of the incarnation of our Lord.