Making Space to Remember: On Remembrance Day & the Christmas Season

Making Space to Remember: On Remembrance Day & the Christmas Season

The fact that it’s been six whole days since the calendar turned over to November still seems surreal to me. The first week of this month has flown by. 2018 is practically gone. Before you know it, Christmas will be here and gone, I’ll have a two-year old and then he’ll be gone off to university. Because – you know, that’s how fast time goes by.

Seriously though – time seems to just fly right on by. No matter who I talk to – university student, young adult, mom of littles, empty-nester or senior – they all share the same thoughts – “Life is busy. The days are not long enough. Where does all the time go?”

We live in a world that moves at a frantic pace. I just finished reading this article in Psychology Today that talks about some of the reasons it seems that time is flying by. One of the reasons, the author surmises, is that we are under so much pressure in our daily lives, time seems to be getting away from us. They compare it to being in a sports game trying to make a comeback – a quarter seems to slip by much faster when you’re losing than you’re winning.

And in our world, we always live like we’re in the last quarter dragging behind by a few points. 
There is always some catch-up to do – with work, relationships, housework, hobbies and fitness. Many of us feel like we’re already behind on “Christmas” – even though it’s still nearly 7 weeks away.

I love the fact, that smack-dab in the middle of this crazy time of year, comes Remembrance Day. Away from the commercialism and madness of Halloween and Christmas, Remembrance Day just feels like a pause. It’s a time to be somber and to reflect. Can you think of any other time when groups of people across our nation will just stand together – doing nothing – in silence?

Pause and think about those two minutes of silence for a moment. At 11 AM, we all pause to remember the end of war. Whenever I attend a Remembrance Day ceremony, as the Last Post plays, those moments seem to go on forever. They don’t feel rushed, they don’t feel like they flew by – they feel slow, long, sacred even.

Without making light of those moments, I think they serve to teach us a greater lesson. 
We choose to be silent when we want to really remember something.
A pause like the one we experience on Remembrance Day only occurs when we want to understand it, to grasp it; to allow the gravity of what we’re experience to truly impact us. Which is why, though one hundred years removed from the first World War, many still well up with emotion during those moments of silence. 
We realize how tremendous the cost was for our freedom. If you’re like me, you imagine faces or names – perhaps fashion stories and families – of those who laid down their lives for us. Their sacrifice was great, and pausing in silence allows us to remember. And feel. And be thankful.

Those moments at Remembrance Day have become a little bit reorienting for me. Life shouldn’t be so busy that I can’t pause to remember – not just great heroes of history, but smaller things too – like why I’m thankful, what the purpose is in my day, and how I can be more present. 

Practicing two minutes of silence on Remembrance Day reminds me how refreshing silence actually is – and that I need to work it into my everyday life – especially at this time of year.

You see, despite the busyness of the world around me, I am the only one who can determine the pace of my steps and my soul.
I can choose silence, solitude, routine, and rhythm.

Despite the cute outfits and colorful toys and classy decor that line store shelves, I am the only one who can determine the extent of my spending and willingness to stretch my dollar further than I can go.
I can choose stewardship, ethical spending and less. So much less.

Despite the fact that my December calendar is quickly filling up, I am the only one who can choose to say yes only to the things that are truly life-giving, mission-centered, and family-oriented. 

Over the past few years, I’ve chosen to work those moments of silence – both literal and figurative – into my life through practicing Advent. Rather by reading a devotional, giving something up, or creating some mindful traditions, making more of Advent – the season leading up to Christmas – forces me to pause. It forces me to think. To reflect. To breathe. To give thanks. 

I stumbled across this quote from Edward Hayes a few years ago as we approached the Christmas season and it’s one of my favourites. I stick it on my office bulletin board every year during December:

Take time to be aware that in the very midst of our busy preparations for the celebration of Christ’s birth in ancient Bethlehem, Christ is reborn in the Bethlehems of our homes and daily lives. Take time, slow down, be still, be awake to the Divine Mystery that looks so common and so ordinary yet is wondrously present. An old abbot was fond of saying, “The devil is always the most active on the highest feast days.” The supreme trick of Old Scratch is to have us so busy decorating, preparing food, practicing music and cleaning in preparation for the feast of Christmas that we actually miss the coming of Christ. Hurt feelings, anger, impatience, injured egos—the list of clouds that busyness creates to blind us to the birth can be long, but it is familiar to us all.

Edward Hayes, A Pilgrim’s Almanac 

This year, I don’t want to be fall prey to distraction and dizzying busyness.
I want to be present, to pause and to remember.
So this Christmas season, there will doubtlessly be days where I’ll be running around with a frantic look in my eyes and sweat pouring down my face as I prepare for children’s ministry.
But there will also be nights when my front door is locked and I sit at home with my little family and a warm cup of coffee watching movies and reading stories. 
And I hope in each day, I find a little moment of quiet.
To give thanks, to reflect and to remember.

And I hope you can too!

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