Seasonal frenzy not the point of Christmas


We all go frantic at Christmas. We spend frantically, we party frantically, and in the lead-up to Christmas we make frantic preparations.

We are constantly multi-tasking at a chaotic, feverish rate at work, socially and domestically, but at Christmas it gets worse. It's considered normal to be fanatically busy at this time of year. Indeed, at any time of year, it is almost boastful to say, "I'm madly busy", as if being over-stretched is some sort of demented virtue. Our ability to withstand stress is a mark of character, and our exhaustion, a trophy.

All life requires a rhythm of rest and activity. There is rhythm in our waking activity and the body's need for sleep. There is rhythm in the way day dissolves into night and night into morning. There is rhythm in the quieting of the active growth of spring and summer by the dormancy of autumn and winter. There is a rhythm in the tides. The human heart perceptibly rests after each life-giving beat, and the lungs rest between the exhale and the inhale.

The earth maintains its rhythms, but we have lost ours. Christmas is one of the few seasons we continue to observe, and it should be a time for restoring our sense of seasonal rhythm. But instead Christmas has got caught up in the arhythmic, distorted pattern by which we live our lives.

Our culture supposes action and accomplishments are better than rest, that doing something, anything, is better than doing nothing. Because of our desire to succeed and to meet those ever-growing expectations and deadlines, we do not rest. Because we do not rest, we miss the signposts that would show us where to go, and we lose our way. We bypass sources of succour and solace. We miss the quiet that would give us wisdom.

Poisoned by our belief that good things come only to unceasing determination and tireless efforts, we miss the joy of effortless delight. We have forgotten how to rest, and for want of rest our lives are in danger. In our drive for success we are seduced by the promises of more money, more recognition, more satisfaction, more love, more information, more influence, more possessions, more security.

A successful life has become a violent life. We make war on our bodies, pushing them beyond their limits. War on our children because we cannot find enough time to deal with them when they are hurt and afraid and need love. War on our spirit because we are too preoccupied to listen to the quiet voices that seek to nourish and refresh us. War on the earth because we cannot take the time to place our feet on the ground and allow it to feed us, to taste its blessings, and give thanks.

Even at Christmas, we seem to have no time to savour life or to care for ourselves. Surely to live life at a dizzying speed is not happiness. Busyness has become a kind of violence in our lives. The only way to heal that violence is to take time to rest and nourish our spirit.

Unless we nourish the spirit, we respond to life in survival mode, where everything we meet assumes a terrifying permanence. If a car is travelling at high speed, even a small stone on the road can be a deadly threat. When we are moving faster and faster, every detail in our lives achieves an inflated importance, everything seems more urgent than it really is and we react with desperation.

Coming up to Christmas we become so easily immersed in the frenzy, despite our intentions not to. If we can disconnect from the frenzy of consumption and accomplishment and take time to restore our spirit, we will discover inner peace.

The frenzy of the build-up to Christmas is almost over. Whether we have managed to avoid its worst excesses, we have time, over the coming holidays, to rest and reflect. Let's take this opportunity to find the true peace of Christmas and to nourish our spirit with healing rest, respite, reflection and quiet.