Chris Lazo, lead pastor of Reality Santa Barbara , writes about slowing down at Christmas and avoiding the trap of busy-ness.
This is ninety percent of all my conversations (including the ones I have with myself!). Most of us share a commonality: we’re busy. Whether it’s work, family, school, leisure—the busyness follows us everywhere. And nowhere does this seem more exacerbated than during the Christmas season. There are, after all, great expectations waiting for some of us. A few weeks off. The chance to visit family. Some time to buy presents. An opportunity to catch up with friends. For others, the expectations are bad. Our hometown has sour memories. Families are dysfunctional. We can’t afford presents. Friendships have changed. Half of us are busy trying to create good memories, while the other half is busy trying to erase bad ones. And yet in the aftermath of the holidays, we still go back to our regular routine more exhausted than we were before. All in the never-ending rush to either recreate or restore our own happiness. Busy!
It’s ironic that we are most active and busy around Christmas, which is when God became a helpless baby.
I have two children, Abigail (2 yrs.) and Jude (4 mo.). Jude can’t do anything on his own. He’s helpless in every sense of the word. I, however, am a very active, productive person, and spend much of my time marking off lists. But when I’m with Jude, my pace has to slow down considerably just to be on his wavelength. That usually means cooing, staring at him, holding him, and little else. It’s a necessary slowing down. All of which I am thrilled to do.
Now consider the “slowness” of God.
Here’s what I mean. The God who created the atom, photosynthesis, and imagined gravity into existence, also lowered Himself enough to become one of us (John 1:14). God’s Son became Mary’s son. Consider how slow God’s pace became to interact with us like this. Imagine a three-year old Jesus. Think about the incarnate God as a teenager. That’s not to mention the toilet training, preparing lunches, going to school, scraped knees, and playing in the mud. God did all of this as a human. For the first thirty years of his life here, God slowed down.
And he slowed down for us.
See, just like I have to mimic a toddler just to connect with my toddler, so God had to slow down to step into time and space with finite human beings. The slowness of God allowed Him to be present, even relational with us. Hence, “…they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us)” (Matthew 1:23, ESV).
So yes, you’re probably busy right now with lots of things that promise to give you a productive holiday season—perhaps even to the point of burnout. But Christmas will stop you if you let it. It confronts anyone who listens with a subtle message:
If God can slow down and still be God, you can slow down and still be ok.
Your family will be ok. Your ministry will be ok. You will be ok. Slowing down won’t hurt you; it will only make you healthy. This is, I think, an inner act of subversion. It’s refusing to allow the surrounding chaos to enslave you, because the Son of God invaded your chaos, and hit the e- brake. When you begin to let that sink in, you get a taste of heavenly freedom—the desire and ability to slow down and step into the space of others. Of course, this is difficult to manufacture without devolving into legalism; slowness can easily become something else on a list you need to “get done” before the holidays. There is a better way.
We can learn to live at a slower pace by drawing our peace from Christ in us.
Since he has done everything needed to make us whole, we can rest from busyness. We can posture ourselves in submission to his indwelling presence, which will, in turn, help us to slow down. Here are three ways to start:
Go to a quiet place this month, and just be with God. Enjoy his presence, without pretense, agenda, or goals. Try to do this regularly. Bring your Bible if you want to. Slow down, cut out the noise, and allow him to develop your self-awareness, worship, and prayer life. Just twenty minutes can be revolutionary.
Do something life-giving. Surf, read, hike, cook something odd, do something unprecedented. Just don’t let culture control what you must do. Enjoy life, and in so doing, rejoice that this life is God’s gift to you. Slow down and take it in.
Enjoy family. Friends. Church. These are the people God has given you, and ironically, December can make you miss the point… but only if you don’t slow down.