Christmas is coming – and I’m not ready!
Christmas is coming but I’m not ready. I haven’t done any Christmas shopping, worked out where I’m spending Christmas Day, started writing my Christmas cards … I haven’t made a Christmas cake, bought a Christmas pudding, or even thought about putting up Christmas decorations.
Some people have already written their Christmas to-do lists and are checking them twice to ensure that everything gets done as efficiently and stress-free as possible. Nobody will be missed! Everyone will have a great time! I have a list!!!
I’m just not ready! I have things to do. I have a full life, with work, studying for a degree, being part of a church, having friends and commitments to family at the opposite end of the state. There always seems to be so much to do at the end of the year: work that needs to be completed, reports that need to be written, essays that should be submitted, sermons to be given. My friends start complaining that I have no time for them anymore, and my mother complains I don’t phone her often enough. Life is not so much a whirlwind of activity, but a tornado of busyness and stress.
Are you like me?
Each January when I have time to take a breath – and before the year begins in earnest with its many demands and expectations – I sit down and promise to myself that this year it will be different. This year I will prioritise. This year I will say no. This year I will not have an overly-crowded schedule. This year I will keep a close watch on my time, only spending my precious time on events and people who add meaning to my life. I will give time to others and do things that make this world a better place. I will make time for exercising and eating well, for meditating and reflecting, and my friends will have as much of my time as they ask for. I will be present and be available. Because I am managing my time, I will be ready for anything.
But it doesn’t work – and by mid-February, I am back on the treadmill of life again.
There’s a subtle distinction between being ready and being prepared. “Being prepared” means having done work in advance to ensure that everything happens as it should. “Being ready” refers to an emotional preparedness or readiness. You might be prepared, but be anxious or worried about what might happen, or emotions might take you completely by surprise. I try to be prepared, but it is harder to be ready.
I wonder though, how much are we really ready for the things that happen in life? Are we really ready for the changes a new relationship makes to our lives? Are we ready for the upheaval – and heart-bursting joy – that a new-born baby brings to our world? Can we ever be ready for the way love blows our lives apart and puts them back together again? We prepare and have our expectations, but it is never exactly what we imagined. In hindsight, were we really ready?
Advent is a time about preparing and being ready. It is a time of waiting and watching and being expectant. In the last four weeks or so before Christmas Day, we are encouraged to slow down and look around. We mark time on Advent calendars, and we make our lists, and we prepare. Waiting for someone to arrive, watching for the signs, and expecting something to happen that will change our lives. What do you see? Can you sense that something is about to happen?
The world was not ready for the birth of Jesus 2,000 years ago. The world may not be ready even now for the demands placed upon it by this strange man – that we feed the hungry, love the unloved, welcome refugees, have appropriate, affordable housing for all; that we celebrate love, that old people be respected and young people have hope in the future. But for some of us, this is the gift that we want. That our world will be like this, and that we will be part of making that world come into being.
Are we ready for this? Hmm. Maybe not. But let’s make our preparations. Let’s be expectant. Let us hope.
I hope that you are getting ready for Christmas. I hope that all the good things about the coming of Jesus come to pass in your life. May you be ready to show love, give hope and be of good faith in this time of Advent and beyond.
Kathryn Lynch is an Assistance Chaplain with the Uniting Church at the University of Sydney and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.