This might seem like one of the most ridiculous things that anybody could say given that Christmas is just a few days away. But I'm going to say it anyway: SLOW DOWN!
Why do I say this? Well, it all stems from a conversation that I had with a family member at my grandpa's funeral late last week (hence the reason for a few more un-blogged days of advent!). And we were talking about how busy people seem to be - and not just at this time of year, but (or so it would seem) all year round. And it's really got me thinking; and what it's got me thinking is this: that not only do we all need to slow down, but that when we do so we'll find out what it is that is really driving us.
You see, this afternoon I find myself with not that much on. I need to leave to drive through to Edinburgh in about an hour, I'm out of the office having left for a meeting over lunch, and I'm kind of twiddling my thumbs for a while. And in a culture (and/or with a mindset) that says the more productive I am the more value I have this is a somewhat uncomfortable situation to find oneself in.
But I would reckon that this discomfort actually says quite a lot about me - and about any of us who might have experienced something similar. OK, it might (and I hope it does) demonstrate a positive work ethic and lack of laziness. Yet I suspect that there's something else lurking; something which might more easily be seen by the answer to this question: what gives me my sense of self-worth?
You see, if my self-worth comes from the things I do then I (and you!) will never have done enough: there will always be something more we can do. Similarly, if my self-worth comes from how well I do things I will never have done them as well as they could be done. Or if it comes from how much the things I do please other people there will always be someone who doesn't quite see eye-to-eye. (You get the picture, I'm sure.) And so if these are the sorts of things to which I inherently turn for my sense of personal value, then however well things go some of the time (or even lots of the time) I'm eventually going to come up short. But the more we fail to recognise this the busier we become as we try to reach that level of perfect-ness.
On the other hand, if our self-worth comes from someone entirely outside of ourselves - whose love/affection/care for us is in no way self-centred, selfish, arbitrary etc. - then it can no longer be caught up with what we do (or don't do). Of course, for me at least, this person is God; and to quote a Sunday-School-esque phrase: "There's nothing you can do to make God love you more, and there's nothing you can do to make God love you less."
And if that's true (and I believe it is!) then our value need no longer be caught up in the things we either do, don't do, or how well we do them; but rather in our relationship with Him.
And so as we approach Christmas - perhaps one of the busiest times of year for a whole range of reasons - I find myself challenged to look to Jesus and to slow down; to allow the natural rhythms of life to wash over me in an alien culture of 24-7-busy-ness; and to recognise and embrace the truth that my worth comes only through the life, death and resurrection of the One whose birth we celebrate at Christmas...