Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.—Lamentations 3:21-23
When I awake, I am still with you.—Psalm 139:18
Christmas has come and gone. In our house, the evidence is everywhere: new toys and clothes, decorations that now have to be taken down and put away, and more chocolate and candy than we know what to do with. A month of anticipation and buildup, and the big day has come and gone. We went to the Christmas Eve service, had the big meals with family, opened the presents, took the pictures…and now it’s over. We were in the habit of a nightly Advent reading as a family, but that’s over too. So now what?
Holidays are a great thing, a gift from God. But they don’t last. They are like vacations in that way. For a season, there’s this really exciting thing to look forward to on the calendar, and then the big day comes…and goes. Hopefully it’s everything you dreamed it would be, but even if it is, the sun sets, the night comes, and then you have to get up the next morning and do something with yourself. The pages of the calendar keep turning. So while they are a great thing to look forward to, holidays are clearly not something we can live for.
Holidays are also like vacations in that they are expensive. Every time you turn around, there’s something else you have to spend money on if you’re going to meet everyone’s expectations of what the experience needs to be like. It’s stressful, and not sustainable. There is a place for feasting, but life can’t be one constant feast. For the sake of our checkbook (and our waistline), eventually we have to go back to normal things: normal food, and normal days where we get up and go to work instead of having parties and buying everyone presents.
And all of this is okay. It’s not a complaint. Our family had a great Christmas, and I’m really glad. But I’m also at peace with the fact that it’s over. I love spending extra time with my family and doing special things to show them how much they mean to me. I love giving and receiving presents, and I love really good food. I love days off. But most of life doesn’t look like that, and if those are the only things in life I enjoy, then I’m going to spend a lot of my time frustrated, just looking forward to the next special event on the calendar, whether that’s a vacation, a holiday or just the weekend. I know that a lot of people live that way, but as a follower of Jesus, I believe there’s a better option.
One great thing about Jesus is that He gives us a way to experience joy in the midst of “normal” life. Jeremiah says in the book of Lamentations that God’s mercies are new every morning. On the days when I wake up and it’s not a holiday, but just another day to fulfill my responsibilities, God’s mercies are once again available to me to enjoy. Like a lot of people, I spent a fair amount of time this last week shoveling snow. It was a daily thing, in some cases more than once a day. The question is, is that dead time, or is it God time? Can I experience God’s mercy while I’m shoveling, or do I have to dress up, go to a special place at a special time, eat too much, and spend a bunch of money to remember His goodness?
Brother Lawrence was a man who joined a monastery to devote his life to God, only to discover that he had been assigned kitchen duty, and that much of his life as a monk was going to consist of menial chores. At first he resented it, but then he decided to make the best of it and learn to experience God in his daily routine. Eventually he wrote a book called The Practice of the Presence of God about the ways he had learned to find God in everyday life. Here is a quote: “The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.”
As a believer, I possess God, and He possesses me, while I am shoveling snow. God is ours while we are at work, or doing chores, or teaching our children. I’m grateful for special moments like our Christmas Eve service, but I think Brother Lawrence would say that the peace we taste in a moment like that can be ours while we are doing the dishes, if we learn to turn our hearts toward Jesus in the midst of “normal” life. I want to learn to wake up every morning and remember: Again today, Jesus died for me, and rose for me. Again today He loves me. Again today He has set me free. Again today He is my companion through life, and has purchased for me an eternity in His presence. Again today, His mercies are new.
Thank you, God, for holidays. Thank you for times of joy and celebration. But thank you also that you are with me today, as I do my chores, raise my children, love my neighbor, and eat my simple meals. Thank you that you love me all the time. Amen.
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”—John 4:13,14