Sabbath in the Suburbs, chapter 5 (December)


It’s never too early to be contemplating how packed December is. (is it?) One of the things we’ve discovered at church is that we often want to have special events during Advent, special short-term small groups or more worship/prayer opportunities or extra fellowship times. But the reality is that we’re all so busy that it just ends up feeling like a harried season, not like it’s extra-spiritual.

So, how can we bring the Spirit back into Advent and Christmas? (rather than the spirit of consumption and of frenzied-hurrying, which we already have plenty of!)

MaryAnn mentions two studies in this chapter: One that found that we get more pleasure from “spending a little bit of money on experiences than spending extravagant money on objects”–in other words, that we get more enjoyment out of the gift of experience than we do out of the gift of stuff, and that the pleasure we get from those experiences lasts longer than the pleasure of the things. (p55) In addition, we know that quality time spent with people we love can be so much more valuable than a trinket wrapped in pretty paper. Has this been your experience? What is an “experience” gift that keeps on giving in your memory? What about a tangible object gift?

The second study was about the Good Samaritan. This study found that the major difference between those who stop to help someone who is suffering and those who walk on by is…hurrying. Those in a hurry don’t register the need until they are past the person. It’s a distressing realization when we think that our perpetually full schedules may be causing us to miss out on loving our neighbors. Have you ever felt like you didn’t have time to help someone in distress?

What would it mean to slow down everything you do–to do errands slowly, to saunter around the grocery store, to drive the speed limit, to simply experience every moment and every person around you? Perhaps try it out for the weekend and see whether it makes a difference in how you view the world, how you love your neighbor, or in your own spiritual life. Can you find a little sense of the wonder of the Incarnate God in the world around you, if you stop hurrying for a little while?

How might you approach Advent this year–to leave space for the Spirit to move, not only for everything to get done? (Like MaryAnn and her family, one way I do this is by not decorating and not sending cards. That approach won’t work for everyone, but I bet you can find someplace where some Sabbath can creep in!)


One response »

  1. I have never felt rushed or harried about preparing for Christmas. For a long time Howie and I just gave children and grandchildren checks for Christmas. After he died, I continued sending checks to my step-children and purchased animals from Heifer International for grandchildren. For many years, I had a tree in the basement that stayed decorated and I just covered it with plastic, put it in a corner and pulled it out each year. In fact it’s still there completely decorated. Since the majority of the ornaments are gifts from former students, it’s hard to throw them away. Now that I go away every Christmas, I don’t decorate at all. I only send Christmas cards to those who send them to me and don’t worry about when I send them, even if it’s after Christmas.
    I can’t think of an experience Christmas gift that I have received. Need more time to think on that. But a tangible gift that I do remember was a billfold that a girl in my homeroom class in high school gave me when I was in 10th grade. The school was grades 10-12 so it was the first time either of us had gone to that school, and we hadn’t been in school together prior to that. That Christmas she gave me billfold. I couldn’t believe that anyone would give me a gift (I had very low self-esteem) and asked why she gave it to me. Her response was, “Because I wanted to.” I have never forgotten that.

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