How to Slow Down Christmas
Power plays and big takeovers and loud commercials.
That’s the way the world turns and Wall Street rolls.
But God, when He comes, He shows up in this fetal ball.
Just this seed unfurling, impossible power contained in the small.
The beginning of December, that is what I set out on the counter: just a bowl of seeds.
Through Advent, through all these crazy, waiting days, waiting for the Bread of Heaven to come down, we plant seeds of wheat for every seed of kindness, try to remember to just smile, breathe, laugh and clean up the next mess.
God, He gestated. God was a seed. I think this, holding a seed in the palm of my hand.
“Just one seed at a time.” My youngest with the mop of ringlets tells her older brother in her sing-song voice.
“One small kindness? One small seed.”
She’s put away her brother’s strewn shoes, a secret gift, a little thing planted in the expanse of a day.
So she’s planting her seed, a little love that grows big.
She uses her index finger to press her seeds down into the dirt and the dark.
This is what we have to do: push back all this dark.
Because the economy scrapes its dark underbelly too low and who can breathe with the squeeze? And some phone call can hang up on all our dreams and everything goes dim. And one kid, one parent, one hope, can falls into shadows overnight.
And this Gospel? It doesn’t come wrapped in twinkling lights and satin bows; it comes straight into our pitchest black. The Gospel of Christ, it’s a messy, bloody thing and this is how God was born, bloody and bruised, and that’s how God chose to die, bloody and beaten. And our God, He knows the comings and goings of our blackest bloody battles, and this is exactly where He meets us.
The Gospel is good news in the eye of the worst news.
Advent is the believing this, and this is how Christ comes:
“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him…” Isaiah 11: 1-2
Out of my truncated, out of my broken off impossible, Jesus’ unfurls hope. God buds from the impossible. Our Savior comes as a sprout from a stump. Our salvation comes by way of the small, breaking through the dead ends.
Who in the world lives slow enough, wise enough, mindful enough, not to miss the slender shoot?
Who sees the sacred small ways of the infinite God? O Lord, help.
Advent is an active waiting. And Christmas comes to those who wait for the whisper, who look for the little, who seek the small, scandalous signs of the every-where presence of God.
The way to see the Savior this Advent is to see the small and wise men make ways to slow the season down.
“Water it slow.” That’s what our youngest says, us bent over dirt and seeds, the watering can tipped.
So this Christmas, this daily pouring out in acts of kindness: a hot cup of coffee, a sticky note on a mirror, a treat left as a surprise. A phone call, a bed made, a thank you card, a helping hand — just small ways to slow the days down to love.
And for each small act of kindness, we plant one small seed wheat.
Somedays are messy and we spill the dirt, bicker, slam doors.
But it grace still happens and a seed still sprouts, a shoot out of the black earth, a small act of kindness that grows bold love straight up into the dark.
And come Christmas Eve, we’ll gather the slender sprouts and lay them all down in the manger for Jesus – like straw – like shavings off our heart for Him – a bed for the Christ babe, the infant power play that uprights the world.
I watch our littlest girl, how her small hand unfolds a seed in the light.
How one small seed unfolds slow for the manger straw to hold the seed-made God.
How to Slow & Make Your Heart into Straw for the Manger
1. Fill containers with dirt. Label each container with each child/person’s name.
2. Fill a bowl with grass seeds/wheat seeds.
3. All Advent, look for ways to do small acts of kindness: a hot cup of coffee, a sticky note on a mirror, a helping hand of surprise. Small things — be the gift!
4. And for every small act, plant one seed. (There’ll be messy days. There’ll be grace. Anything done as a gift for Jesus is an act of worship — it all matters! Plant your seeds.)
5. Water throughout Advent. Water slow.
6. On Christmas Eve, gather the sprouts of grass. Lay the grass in the manger for the Christ Child. Young or old, we can all make our lives into a gift for the Christ-Gift.
The way to see Christ is in Christmas is to slow down — and see & be & do the small.