Thursday, December 1, 2016

Counting Down to Christmas

"A Magical Moment"
- At the Desert Retreat House -

Yesterday I watched the TV broadcast of the annual “Holiday Tree” lighting in New York City’s Rockefeller Plaza. Like most “tree lightings” across the country, the event followed a predictable format: people gather around an unlit tree as anticipation builds and finally the “countdown” begins, leading to that moment when the lights are lit and the tree explodes in a burst of color as music fills the air.

Now that December has arrived, I imagine many people will be “counting down” to Christmas, preparing for a big holiday, eagerly anticipating that day coming at the end of the month.

As I think about it, like most people I have spent much of my life “counting down” the days, anticipating something yet to be.  We “count down” the remaining days at work or school before the weekend or the next big vacation time arrives, while we are in elementary school we anticipate getting into high school and when we finally get there we begin to countdown the days before we go to college.  Then of course in college we count the days remaining before we can begin a long-expected career out in the real world. But, of course, the countdown hardly stops with a first job since most of us are always looking for that next step up the rung in the ladder of life.

I imagine I have spent most of my life thinking about where I had been and anticipating where I wanted to go and I fear I probably missed a lot by squandering time so foolishly.

I am reminded of something Buddhist monk and teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh once said:

In everyday life we are always looking for the right conditions
that we don’t yet have to make us happy,
and we ignore what is happening right in front of us.
We wait and hope for that magical moment,
always something in the future when everything will be as we want it to be,
forgetting that life is available only the present moment.

In the Christian tradition, the season of “Advent” is celebrated in these December days before the festival of Christmas.  Some people think that Advent is a time for preparing to celebrate the Nativity of Jesus, but as I see it, Advent has little or nothing to do with “counting down” to Christmas. Advent is a season for developing “mindfulness,” learning how to wait patiently in the present,  embracing the revelations of each and every moment – open and awake to life as it is.

Priest and author, Henri Nouwen once put it this way:

A waiting person is a patient person.
The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are
and live the situation to the full
in the belief that something hidden there
will manifest itself in the moment.

In these December days of “Advent” when so many people find themselves counting down to the “magical moment” of the next big event, I am making a deliberate effort to stop and breathe, watch, wait, look and listen.  The magical moment is always right here.

No comments:

Post a Comment