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This past week, up to my elbows in a burlap table runner, candles, fancy dishes, twine-wrapped utensils and a positively enormous raw turkey, I turned to my sister and said, “This sure is a lot of work for a meal that will last less than an hour.”
She agreed, and then added, “But life is so short. We might as well make it beautiful along the way.”
There are so many events in life where the preparation time far exceeds the actual event: the late nights spent sewing a Halloween costume; the practicing of a piece of music for a two-minute performance; the hours spent dribbling a ball or perfecting the jump shot; the cooking of nearly every family meal.
In our impatience, we may forget a few things.
First, the journey along the way is just as important as the final product or event. Sometimes it’s so easy to focus on the outcome that we lose sight of how we’re getting there. Do we choose our words and actions with intention? Do we take the time to fix mistakes? Are we honest in our choices? Do we make decisions at the expense of others?
Second, God cares about creating beauty. I believe there’s a reason we’re attracted to bright colors, sweeping vistas, a vase of flowers, the graceful lilt of an athlete, a thin, haunting melody and an arresting photograph. Those images, sounds or smells evoke meaning. They allow us to feel more deeply.
In “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” Annie Dillard writes, “After the one extravagant gesture of creation in the first place, the universe has continued to deal exclusively in extravagances, flinging intricacies and colossi down aeons of emptiness, heaping profusions on profligacies with ever-fresh vigor. The whole show has been on fire from the word go.”
I simply love that idea, that the world deals exclusively in extravagances for no other reason than to bring us joy, to remind us that creation is never wasted.
As we enter this most wonderful time of year, it’s easy to put on our holiday blinders. The to-do list is simply so long. The monumental task of creating a magical Christmas for those we love can seem overwhelming. The calendar is so overrun by concerts and parties that there isn’t a spare moment to pause for reflection. I know I’m not the only parent who arrives at Christmas morning breathing a sigh of relief that I’ve survived yet another December.
And yet, life is so short. There’s a reason we wrap our house in bright lights, roll out thick sugar cookie dough, perfect that tenor line of “Angels We Have Heard on High,” read aloud from the glossy pages of “The Polar Express” and sigh when the Sugar Plum Fairy twirls across the stage.
Dillard writes, “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.”
This Christmas, let us be there, part of the whole show, flinging our intricacies, watching the season unfold and finding ways to make the creation process as meaningful as that last shiny package under the tree.
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