Ready or Not

Dear friends,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…

In him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…

The Word became flesh and lived among us.

John 1:1, 4-5, 14

I am not ready for Christmas. This has nothing to do with organising family and food or buying presents or setting up a nativity scene or Christmas tree. It has to do with a spiritual sense of unreadiness.

The whole year has been geared toward supporting and helping people get through the twists and turns of a pandemic situation. It has been about coping with change in as positive a way as possible. It has been about trying to be proactive and engaged and forward-looking. It has been about striving to do more than just ‘survive.’ Most of us will have been focusing on the same things, even if we have each had a different emphasis.

This is what I have noticed: as we began to emerge from the lockdown situation, people, including myself, began to feel more and more fatigued. (I suppose the fatigue was already there, however we became more aware of it as restrictions began to ease.) What I am imagining is that we have been heading toward something — a goal, or that imaginary ‘line’ that we know we have to reach. In my own thinking, that ‘line’ was the end of the year. “I can get there,” has been running through my head much like the little red engine who repeated “I think I can, I think I can…”. My hope was to stumble as best I could across that line and relax into a short break after Christmas.

What I wasn’t prepared for was that the ‘line’ came earlier than anticipated. So, I have been surprised by the feelings of fatigue and lethargy that have swamped me, and how hard it has been to keep going — to turn up to meetings as prepared as possible, to churn out the work (reports don’t write themselves, apparently), to keep enthusiastic and positive when engaging with people, to find the joy that I know is in my life.

Today I find myself reflecting that I am not ready for Christmas. I’m not ready to embrace the moments of wonder that God was born into this world that we all might be embraced forever in God’s love. I’m not ready for the hope, peace, joy and love that is celebrated in this season. And I’m certainly not ready to sing carols and hear again this story of the birth of Jesus.

But this is the thing… I don’t have to be ready. I remember in the school yard playing games of chase, and the person who was “it” would call out, “Here I come, ready or not!” This year, more than ever before, I am hearing God call out to me, “Here I come, ready or not!” God is not waiting for me to be ready, to have everything prepared (this, again, is more about my heart than the Christmas trappings). God will not be held up by my lack of energy or enthusiasm. This year, as with every other moment in my life, God will quietly re-enter the world and nestle alongside me, gently whispering love and grace to my weary soul.

And strangely enough, I find that I am ready for the hope, peace, joy and love of this season. I’m ready because I need it so much, and I strongly suspect that you do also. I’m ready to be caught up in the story of a baby’s birth that signifies the only thing that has kept me — us? — going through the past two years: God is with us, born in us and through us into the world, again and again and again…

The greatest gift I can offer to you, however weary you might also feel, is this word: Immanuel — God among you all.

Wishing you a most blessed Christmas, a very happy New Year, and at least a bit of a break!