Anyone who grew up in the West or Midwest has heard of the National Western Stock Show, held each January in Denver. The National Western Stock Show is to cowboys what the Super Bowl is to football fans. Bill has been a member of the National Western for over 30 years, though admittedly he’s not a cowboy. We used to make an annual trek to the National Western complex just to walk around and see all the things we couldn’t live without if we were ranchers. And each year, as part of our activities, we would attend a rodeo.
I always enjoyed the rodeo, but the activity of which I was most leery was the calf roping. The handlers would open a gate and send out a calf, which would run as fast as it could across the arena. A cowboy on a horse in strong pursuit would then twirl his rope and toss it (he hoped) around the neck of a calf, bringing said calf to a halt. A sudden halt. Gaaak.
I would always flinch, despite the announcer’s annual assurance that the calf wasn’t hurt by the practice, nope, not one teeny little bit. That sudden stop from a 30 mph run via a rope around its neck didn’t cause a bit of angst or pain for that little fella. Nosireebob. Nobody, however, asked the calf.
I thought about those poor calves yesterday when I realized it was the first Sunday of Advent. I think you will all agree with me that Christmas comes earlier each year. Oh, I know that it actually comes at the same time – December 25 – but it seems earlier because the season starts earlier. I remember when I wouldn’t start my Christmas shopping until December 1 or so. This year, by the second week in November I was a basket case because my shopping wasn’t done. Or started. Christmas decorations had been up in the stores for weeks. By mid-November, I had already seen several of my least favorite commercials – the ones with some kind of expensive car sitting in someone’s driveway with a huge bow attached to the top of the car. Seriously, those commercials get on my very last nerve. I challenge you all to tell me even one person who got a car as a Christmas present. And if they did, I’m certain – CERTAIN – there was no bow.
But I digress. As our deacon lit the first of the Advent candles, I came to my senses. Stop it right now, I told myself. Because you see, I had gotten so caught up in worrying about buying Christmas presents and wrapping them and decorations and baking and such that I had forgotten to slow down and enjoy the season, which really is only now beginning. I felt like the calf coming to a sudden stop. Except I didn’t have a rope around my neck.
St. Luke’s gospel reminded me that this is the time of year when I should be thinking not only about the birth of Baby Jesus, but also about the Son of Man coming in glory someday. Jesus said “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness AND THE ANXIETIES OF DAILY LIFE….. Be vigilant at all times.”
I’ll be perfectly honest. I’m not too worried about my becoming drowsy from carousing and drunkenness (though I did enjoy the Beaujolais nouveau at our wonderful Thanksgiving dinner). I am worried, however, of getting so caught up in the anxieties that this season invariably brings to us that I forget that I should instead be enjoying this time of joy. The house doesn’t have to look perfect. The kids won’t die if they don’t have enough presents. Slow down, and remember that Advent is a time to prepare for the birth of Jesus.
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