This year has raced by. It only feels like a month since I made my new year’s resolution, and it is now almost Christmas. I suspect that you are also wondering where 2017 has gone. 2017 was filled with the busyness, concerns, joys and sadnesses of our everyday lives. The year has come to a close and we can all take a breath and look expectantly towards 2018.
Some of you will take a holiday; spend relaxing time with family and friends; take time off work; read a book; enjoy the sun; or, simply enjoy some unstructured days. Like you, I look forward to a change from my normal routine. Days to do nothing, to be lazy, perhaps to turn my mind to things that I hadn’t a chance to think about. The end of the year is a wonderful time because it is a time when I can simply be me. We can rest with the opportunity of re-creating ourselves.
During the year our lives are often based on habitual ways of living and coping. We respond to the demands of daily life in such a way that we can move effortlessly from one weekend to the next. This need not be unpleasant, yet at times it can seem as if we live automatically in the fast lane. There is no sense of living with freedom. We seldom make really fulfilling choices. This is because the reality of my own world makes demands of me which, in a sense, dictate my life. If you are like me, you can live very happily in these circumstances, nevertheless it is good for us to have the occasion to stand outside of this.
The end of the year is a time when we can stand apart from the usual humdrum of life and experience what it is like to be ME, not the “me” which is constantly meeting the demands of others. Experience yourself through friendship and love; through re-establishing your own personal space; and, through being with God.
Do you remember what it feels like to be alive? To hear the rustling of the leaves in the wind, to feel a cool breeze on your face, to hear the ground under your feet? Pay attention to the gift of being alive. Ignore for a moment the worries and pains of life, and experience life within yourself. A change in routine with an inner attentiveness is all you need to do this.
In the spiritual tradition of the Church, a small break is like a small retreat in which we let go of all those things which propped us up, and allow God into our lives so that we might see and hear anew: to see ourselves and our world in simple truth; and, to hear the inner “me” dialogue with God.
The path to personal freedom is most difficult. It is at once challenging and liberating. What I value and incorporate into my life at the end of each year needs to become part of my daily life. When I was the novice master of the Discalced Carmelites in Australia, I used to teach my novices to every day do something which they enjoyed and authentically made them happy to be alive. A short walk, some music, a cup of coffee had with the right intention is all you need. Be truly alive for 10 minutes a day, and your life will change.
This Christmas, as we celebrate the entry of God into our world as one like us, let us walk into 2018 with the new born Christ, who came to be part of our lives as our friend and teacher.
I wish you a blessed and holy Christmas, and pray that you will be re-created this New Year.