I’ve been learning a new skill of late: the skill of practicing mindfulness. It’s a skill that helps to focus a mind that is overly busy and distracted. For someone like myself, someone who thinks about a million things at once, (often ruminating about worries and fears or mentally trying to solve all of life’s problems) the practice of mindfulness is helpful. It helps to discipline your thoughts in such a way as to be fully engaged in the present.
The model I have used to help me learn this skill is called Mindful Walking, a program put out by Headspace. It taps into the simple exercise of walking. Being a natural habit of mine, it is perfect. It begins with getting me to think about how my body feels when I walk; how my feet feel as they hit the ground. As I allow my mind to focus on this, I am drawn into the present. However, it is difficult to stay in this moment (thinking only of my movement) and my mind invariably drifts off to other things. When I recognise that I have wandered in my thoughts, it’s at this point that I recenter them; coming back to focusing on my footsteps. I repeat this exercise; training my mind to focus on the present.
This discipline of mindfulness, reminded me of the challenge of the Christmas season. The challenge to stay present. To mindfully celebrate and meaningfully celebrate the birth of Jesus; remaining mindful of the reason to all of these Christmas traditions we like to fill the season with. As a Christian, the meaning and purpose for all our preparations and celebrations is the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He is the reason for the season.
Nevertheless, it is all too easy to get swept along by the commercial, crazy rush of everything that seeks to steer our attention away from what is central to this season; Him. No sooner is the advent calendar started, the daily calendar of break-up parties, end of year concerts and graduations, food, family and presents fill our minds and our lives with a business that often detracts from what is most important and what it’s all about. Yet, in the midst of all this wonderful activity, Jesus calls us to worship him. It may be a discipline to return our gaze to who we celebrate and why, yet in our turning, we can experience peace. We can experience a fuller joy as we ponder and marvel at the King of Glory come to earth as a tiny baby.
So as you prepare your homes and your families, prepare also your heart and your mind. Make time to be still and marvel at God’s gracious gift to you. And when you are conscious that the seasonal distractions are becoming too much, your stress is greater than your joy, stop. Return to the manger, for God has a gift for you there…the Prince of Peace; Immanuel.