Clergy Corner: Stop and Smell the Roses

Too much rushing during the holidays risks our losing the gift of time

Photo courtesy of Michael Falgout
Michael Falgout, Pastor, Hemet Church of the Nazarene.

■ Michael Falgout / Contributed

Many years ago, someone planted rose bushes in my front yard. They dug and scraped to make room for them, watered, trimmed their branches. Maybe pricked a finger or two in the process. And now, I get to reap the rewards. The roses in my front yard require minimal effort. On busy days, I walk by them without paying much attention. But, on a good day, they call out to me and invite me to “stop and smell the roses.” They help me to slow down and appreciate the beauty of creation and the mystery of time.
An even longer time ago, someone planted and watered a beautiful thing we use to mark time together: the holiday seasons. Call it Christmas, something else, or ignore it altogether. Still it smells as sweet and is almost as palpable as weather. Like roses, most of the sights and smells and symbols of most holidays invite us to slow down and pay attention to the things that really matter. Things tangible and intangible like love, faith, community, wonder, family, and of course, holiday cookies.
But, there are also signs that we might not be slowing down or paying as much attention as we used to. In Shakespeare’s time, the feast of Christmas lasted no less than 12 days. Today, many families are lucky to get each other’s full attention for one whole day. Many rush to get holiday dinner over with as quickly as possible to fit in busier schedules. Black Friday encroaches further upon Thanksgiving Day. Public decorations seem to be in a rush to come out earlier every year, not to extend the holidays so much as to maximize business opportunity.

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Like roses, most of the sights and smells and symbols of most holidays invite us to slow down and pay attention to the things that really matter.

I’m sure there’s much to be gained by all this rushing around, hustling and bustling during the holiday season. But I’m afraid there’s even more to be lost. Like time–precious, meaningful time with others that is itself one of God’s greatest gifts. Sometimes we feel the weight of holiday obligations more than we feel the gift. There’s much to be done, a lot of expectations, so much to prepare. Perhaps we ought to remember the holidays were gifted to us before they were commanded. In fact, the Bible says the stars themselves were placed where they now appear to us in the sky from the beginning in order to help us mark sacred time in seasons, holy days, and years (Genesis 1:14).
And then, let us also remember that, according to the Bible, there is a social, if not ethical imperative for the community to celebrate and mark seasons together. With instructions for surviving the first Passover, God commanded the Israelites in no uncertain terms to “celebrate this day throughout your generations” (Exodus 12:14). To be sure, this sounds much more like a command than a suggestion because, to God, the way we keep and celebrate time is important to the life of the whole community in which we live.
So, however it is that you have come to understand and enjoy the gift of holiday tradition, let me encourage you to “keep the feast” this year with greater patience, attention, and vision. Let us swim upstream if we have to, against the current of hustle and bustle, and refuse to be rushed, so we can stop and smell the roses while there is still time. You might run the risk of missing out on some great deal or internet promotion, but you might also be surprised to discover deeper joy or wonder in the truth right under our noses…and, time enough to teach your children about the greatest gifts in life.

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