It’s snowing: a couple of inches on the ground and still coming. The schools have dismissed early. Businesses are sending employees home. The plows are out and busy. I’ve shoveled twice so far.
They warned us about the weather when we moved to Iowa from Alabama ten years ago. “You just get used to going right on with your life,” they said. “Life goes right on,” they said.
But it doesn’t does it? We cancel everything when it snows here just as they do down south. The difference is, in Iowa we have snowplows and the roads are cleared every few hours. You can go pretty much wherever you want whenever you want during a relatively minor snowfall like this one. You just plan extra time and drive slowly.
So why do we cancel so much of our lives for so little snow? Is it really safety we’re concerned with, or are we looking for an excuse to interrupt ourselves, to settle in with a pot of soup and a book or a movie? I’m sure it’s a mixture of the two, but it’s the excuse I’m most interested in: why do we need one?
There’s a stigma, I think, attached to stillness. If we take a day off, or even an hour, we feel guilty for ignoring all the things we ought to be doing. We measure time in accomplishment. Especially at this time of year, most of us are sick to one degree or another because most of us are exhausted, to one degree or another…and still we keep on.
It’s only been a few years ago that I began to enjoy, and understand, Advent and Christmas. The turning point came when i realized that Jesus is coming whether I get everything done or not. I can work myself into a lather over all the concerts and church services and caroling events and family commitments and social engagements, or I can enjoy it all knowing that Christ’s coming is not dependent on any of it. As the prophets never cease to say, “The zeal of the Lord will accomplish this.”
So, if I stop because I’m tired to read or nap or pray, if I stay home from a party here and there, if I turn down an invitation or two for a choir to sing, not only does God not mind, he rejoices over me in love, delighted that I’m still long enough to receive him.
This afternoon, I’m home too, and I’m glad of it–with or without the snow. I could have stayed at work; I’m only six blocks away so there’s no real excuse for me to loaf. Still, I’m home and warm and still, just because Jesus is coming. I’m glad it’s snowing because it helps everybody else to be still too. If we need an excuse, so be it; it’s better that slogging away without one. Who knows, maybe someday we’ll learn to STOP and celebrate sunshine…and leaves falling…and the first crocus bloom…and the smell of lilacs or fresh-mown grass…and the picking of the first ripe tomato…and Thursday afternoon…
Enjoy Christ’s coming today. Any excuse will do. Snow is a nice one; it has a pretty voice.
“The zeal of the Lord will do this”–I suddenly wondered if God too needs stillness in order to be zestful (or zealous, for that matter)! For if we are to slow down, it has something to do with the resting God ordains–and does herself–on the Sabbath.
But then–perhaps the coming of Christ in Advent can also be as zealous as the coming of the snow and sleet, sideways and headstrong, something to be reckoned with!
Birth sometimes comes gently, more often perhaps comes roughly–but I think you are right to remind us that Advent and Christmas are about stopping and bearing witness to it. Noticing it.