The buskers are out in full force, cascading the city in a mix of jazz, blues, rock and classic Christmas carols. Every few feet there is a new delight to behold from a group of human statues, standing perfectly still in their grey or gold, to a window display of the brightest colour and movement, a square filled with Christmas decorations and a fully dressed tree reaching far into the sky. The city is buzzing with a kind of nutty magic, as people rush from store to store looking for that special gift for Mum, Dad, Aunt Mary or Uncle Hubert. Some prefer to line up for one of the many attractions, waiting seemingly for hours, to quickly walk around a gallery of gingerbread or catch a glimpse of the red suited crusader. For others, the line itself is an attraction.
This last week, the lead up to Christmas has been a strange one for me. I’ve been in slow motion, when others seem to have hit hyper drive. Two days after arriving home from New Zealand, I went in for day surgery to have some lose bone removed from my jaw, the result of a wisdom tooth extraction. This short procedure left me in recovery mode, but has also given me the unique gift of slowness.
Initially this didn’t feel like a gift, as I struggled through the fog left by anesthetic, pain and analgesic, however as the fluffy white curtain began to part I saw a different quality in the world around me.
I wrote this one morning;
5 days till we remember and celebrate Christ’s birth. The reminder that he is with us, incarnate amongst us. He moved into the neighbourhood, he became flesh and blood. He identified with us, his creation. He took on our infirmities, our frailness, but also our beauty, our confusion, our everything.
In the midst of the multi-cultural concrete jungle is His presence, his stamp, forever with us. He took on the reflection of his beauty in us. Lesser than his own beauty but a recognition and redemption of ours. We can see beauty in the green amongst the grey. Yet more beauty is revealed in the people around us. Perhaps a deeper more intricate beauty, one that is often hidden, yet has the potential for such healing and joy and freedom. Christ, intricately linked with his creation, perfecting his image in us.
To see the hidden beauty in others is an exercise in slowness. Perhaps as I practice it I’ll get quicker, but I’m not sure that I want to. As you slow down and watch people the intricate acts of everyday kindness are breathtaking. The father making sure his young daughter doesn’t fall over on the tram; people making space for each other to eat lunch on a crowded bench at a café; a volunteer giving up their Christmas with family to make family with those who have none; the passion in the eyes of someone struggling with addiction as they recall stories of another time; the wonder in the eyes of a young child, that ends up consuming their whole body as they point out city decorations; the smile of a waitress, no doubt run off her feet, as she serves yet another coffee; kind words spoken in conversations with strangers; and the list goes on.
Perhaps an even more difficult task is to recognize this same beauty in those we connect with, our nearest and dearest for whom in the hustle and bustle of the everyday can easily get taken for granted. The gift of slowness gives us the opportunity to watch, to notice the little things and if you are incredibly lucky, slowness will even allow you to lock eyes with a loved one and drink then deep into your very being.
This pre-Christmas time has been a different one for me, not filled so much with the frenetic pace of preparation but a preparation has been happening none the less. One that I hope will bear more lasting fruit than many of our Christmas activities. Fruit that perhaps we all need, as the realities of radicalized disaffected young people comes closer to home. The incarnation which we celebrate at Christmas is a reminder of hidden beauty that has been revealed, not for its own sake, not in a pretentious ‘look at me’ way, but revealed to remind us of who we are created to be. It’s a beauty that can change the world. It is a beauty that must change the world.