Rest. Wait. Slow down. Listen. Be still. In our ministry, these are the words that we preach but find very difficult to practice. During the season of Advent, as we prepared the members of our two parishes for the coming of Christ and readying them to enjoy the hope and expectation that comes with His birth, we were simply hoping that we could sustain our energy long enough to get through it ourselves!
The four week season began with celebrations of Mary, a newly established parish Holy Hour, and the hosting of a musical program called Behold the Lamb of God. Directly on the heels of Advent began the preparations for Christmas Liturgies: creating spaces for all the extra parishioners, finding musicians, organizing Liturgical ministers, tweaking sounds systems, setting up video cameras, and more! It was a lot of work but to see so many people come to make worship a part of their Christmas celebration was heartening. I can’t forget to mention the staff Christmas party, held at our apartment, and a chili cook-off. Christmas was also a time to visit family, which comes with its own little delights and intricacies.
Now on the other side of the Advent and Christmas season, Sr. Pam and I are taking the time to look back, reflect, and bask in the wonder and the joy of it all as well as the ways God spoke to us in the midst of our ministry and our lives.
We thought that, in January, all things would return to their normal schedule. Now in ordinary time, we expected to find ourselves recovering from the holiday hustle and bustle, finding a time to rest and slow down. But God has had other plans. There have been cancellations due to weather and meetings to reschedule. There have been unexpected deaths and funerals to plan. There are phone calls to be completed and connections to be made. For many we know and work with, there is the aftermath of holiday family drama to deal with. Much as the fields rest and the animals hibernate, we had hoped to be doing the same in this post-holiday time. Flexibility has become our new best friend!
Resting, waiting, being still, and slowing down are not easy. These things will always be a challenge because we are in ministry. It is important to look for those times and, when they are presented to us, to use them well. We are learning not to fill up unexpected free time with something else but take advantage of those God-given moments. We are learning to just BE.
The winter season, with all of its special events, snowy weather, and dark days, is always a reminder that God is in charge. As much as we long for warmth, for rest, for calm, for normalcy, we must remember that even in this time of busyness and what seems to be irregular and sometimes chaotic, there is still good to be seen, there is still love to share, there is still beauty in the darkness, there is still life under all the snow.