December is one of the busiest months of the year. Is it the busiest month?
It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the end of the year. Christmas has its own busyness surrounding the end of the year. Shopping for Christmas gifts brings its own anxiety. Family dinner can often bring another sense of anxiety.
And then there are the worldwide conflicts that create anxiety. Israel and Palestine. Russia and Ukraine. More than 35 armed conflicts in Africa that we rarely hear about. American politics that feels on the verge of exploding.
And yet this is the time of year when we celebrate the Prince of Peace entering into the world through a young peasant mother who promises in her Magnificat that God is establishing justice by lifting up the lowly and bringing the powerful down a few notches.
It can be hard to see that happening, especially when much of Christianity has used our faith to gain and wield power against others.
But before we get to the Christmas season, we have the season of Advent. During these four weeks before Christmas Eve, Advent invites us to slow down a bit. To take a look at the world around us. And along with Mary, observe what is broken in our world and proclaim another one.
Advent is connected with protest. It’s also connected to hope. You see, we can get accustomed to the status quo. Or we can just give up. We can start to believe that this is just how the world is and there is nothing that we can do about it. So, let’s just move on to Christmas.
But Advent slows us down. I don’t need to tell you about the tragedies in the world. You already know them. But the way the Powers that Be win is to make us feel hopeless. Indeed, Advent says that there is something wrong with the world and that, like Mary, we each have a part to play in the healing of the world – and the healing of ourselves.
And maybe that’s a good place to place to start as the year winds down. In the midst of all the anxieties of the season and of a world that is weary, what are some ways we might be able to slow down and heal the wounds inside of ourselves?
It may start with reflecting on the past year. What were some of the difficulties? What were some of the successes? What might be some goals for next year?
Life has brought me some anxiety this year. A friend of mine recently gave me some good advice for what to do with my anxiety. She suggested that I take deep breaths, hold my breath for 5 seconds, and imaging my breath breaking up the anxiety in the pit of my stomach. It’s a practice I started a few months ago that has helped quite a bit. If the season has brought some anxiety to you, it might help you, too.
And then there is always the recognition that the world’s problems are not for me to solve. There are people much smarter than I am working on bringing peace. Pray for them. And maybe the best thing we can do is to try to bring a little more peace into our own lives and our communities.