“You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)
“Saying Christmas is at risk due to supply chain problems leads me to believe that you don’t know the reason for Christmas.” This statement has been showing up daily on Facebook, and I have mixed thoughts about it. I find myself caught between the desire to keep Christ as the center of my Christmas AND AT THE SAME TIME knowing I will feel stressed about all the other things that I love during Advent – the baking, the cards and letters, the gatherings, being outdoors in the cold and snow, the decorations, but (this year especially) the gifts. This spring I ordered a birthday gift online; it arrived 5 months later than promised. This experience led me to start feeling nervous about holiday shopping way back in August!
Much as I would love to take a deep breath and just make my brain stop thinking about the logistics of my to-do list, I know it won’t be that simple. Which brings me to my “Advent Plan B”. Every day during Advent, I will take five brief “joy breaks”, one related to each of the five senses. I am committed to devoting at least 20 minutes per day, in increments of 2 to 5 minutes each, to pausing so I can experience things that bring me joy. Below are a few of my anticipated activities. Can you suggest some others? I am open to them, as long as they don’t involve shellfish or snakes!
- Sight – Pause to gaze upon something lovely, like my Christmas tree lit up after dark; watch a squirrel playing in my back yard; sit outside in a lawn chair looking at the sunrise or sunset.
- Smell – Go to my spice cupboard and inhale the aroma of cardamom or saffron; rub my fingers over an evergreen bough to release the forest scent; enjoy the smell of ground coffee or freshly baked bread or warm Jul Glogg (Swedish spiced wine).
- Touch – Pet my cat; stroke the plush fleece of my Green Bay Packers throw; grab a handful of snow and squish it through my fingers.
- Taste – Let a tiny piece of homemade toffee slowly dissolve on my tongue; eat some pickled beets or pickled herring; enjoy steel-cut oatmeal with dried fruit.
- Hearing – Let the voices of Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Amy Grant or Dean Martin sink me into nostalgia; turn off the TV or radio and just listen to the wind chimes or the rain on my skylight; savor the sounds of food (sizzling bacon, perking coffee, the frothy noise of beer being poured, the clink of ice cubes in a glass, the noise of corn being popped).
Over 40 years ago, an advertising team created a commercial for bath products. Confronted by the deafening clamor of traffic, grumpy people on the phone, crying babies and barking dogs, the frazzled actress calls out “Calgon, take me away!” She is immediately transported into the sensory serenity of a bubble bath, a space where nothing from the outside world can sneak in. That’s what I want to achieve with my Advent Plan B. Let me have snippets of time during my day when a smell or sound can take me to a place devoid of the crush of the world and empty me, leaving room for the God of hope to fill me with joy and peace.
Lord of sight and smell, of touch and taste and sound….visit my senses, allowing me to offload some clutter from my busy mind and make room for you to fill me. Amen.