The Christmas Rush

I've never been one of those people who get super-stressed during the holiday season. Maybe it's because I don't have kids. Maybe it's because I don't host parties. Maybe it's because my gift list is manageable and relatively short. Okay... it's probably all of the above and then some, but I've been thinking that there can be a different kind of Christmas rush: a new way to view the busy-ness of the season to see the underlying beauty.

For years (as in more than 20) our Christmas tradition had always included traveling cross-country to visit extended family. When I got married, this changed, and I was in Montana on December 25th for the first time since I was a toddler (when my mom was due to have my sister). However, the long-distance trips didn't stop after this, they were just put off into an alternating-year schedule. We had some local years, but there was always the next year's travel to plan for. This year is different. Things have changed with my extended family as some people have moved and my maternal grandmother has passed away. That doesn't mean there's not still family to visit, or a place to stay if we needed, but it does mean that Christmas as I've known it will never be the same again.

I'm remembering all of this because today I'm seeing this time of year in a whole new light. I'm getting to experience Advent, last-minute shopping, Christmas Eve worship, driving around to see lights, and (as pictured below) jazz concerts in the mall. I've immersed myself in this new culture, much like a visitor in a foreign country, and I have to say, it's beautiful!

Case in point: the concert. When I arrived (invited by a friend to watch her daughter play trombone), the students were just setting up. It was a perfect example of organized chaos! There were guitars tuning, horns warming up, sheet music being ordered on the stands -- the true definition of cacophony! And around it all, customers and parents alike were surely wondering how this assortment of gangly teenagers were going to pull it all together into a cohesive performance. Then the conductor stepped in and our fears were immediately put to rest. We were transported into a Christmas movie - the kind that features joyful holiday music to lift the audience and carry it through a shopping montage. The people walking by, loaded down with bags, slowed and smiled. Some even stopped for a bit to take it all in. And this was just what was in front of me. The music rang out quite loud enough for most every patron at our small-town mall to hear without seeing the source. I can only imagine what kinds of responses were playing out across the stores and how it may have stemmed the tide of the crowds.

Closing my eyes in that moment, I knew that the 'L' in RL4B this time was Listening as well as Looking. Not only was I looking at beauty, I was truly listening to beauty. This exhilarating rush of energy and sound had come roaring out to meet and counter the labored rush of the holiday shoppers. And I would have never experienced it if I had been out of town... had my traditions not changed so I could enjoy the Christmas rush.


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