In denominations like our own Episcopal Church, each new church season is a chance to set out on a journey. In Advent we journey with Elizabeth, Mary, and Joseph through the season of preparation. From there we set out for the 12 days of Christmas, starting with the birth of Jesus and ending with the arrival of the wise men and the beginning of Epiphany.
So it goes, through Lent and Easter and into the summer of Common time (and Vacation Bible School* for some).
I just came home from a visit with my dad where I help him put away the nativity set, pack up the ornaments from the tree (making sure to pick up every last bit of tinsel since it turned out dad’s cat likes to try to eat it), and stowing the lights until next year.
As I was unpacking from my trip, it occurred to me that many time in the liturgical year I spend a fair amount of time preparing to set out but very little time reflecting and unpacking from a season as it comes to a close.
When I get back from a trip, I put my clean laundry away, put the dirty laundry in the hamper, unpack my computer, and my knitting, and put away all of the odds and ends that I end up hauling around with me. Sometimes I bring home projects to work on for my dad. My latest project being a cover for a chair. When I do, I spend some time making a plan for the project so I don’t forget to work on it between visits.
All of this is important maintenance between journeys. If I didn’t unpack, do the laundry, and put things away, packing for the next trip would be a lot more work. Also, I learn things about how to pack and how much, or little, to take with me the next time.
This makes me think that making a spiritual practice of ‘unpacking’ from a liturgical season before setting off on my next metaphorical journey might deepen and improve my experience of each season.
Perhaps this year, I can take some time as each season ends to reflect on what I experienced during that season and what I can take with me as I ‘pack’ for the next one.
Jesus was on the road a lot during the time of his ministry on earth; but even in those few years he took time to rest away from the crowds. He didn’t just jump from one experience to another.
Taking time for quiet reflection helps solidify experience and helps clear the decks to make space for the next adventure.
*I know, it’s not an official part of the liturgical calendar, but Vacation Bible School was a bit part of my life growing up and for the people who put it on. It is a season of work unto itself.
Kristin Fontaine is an itinerant Episcopalian, crafter, hobbyist, and unstoppable organizer of everything. Advent is her favorite season, but she thinks about the meaning of life and her relationship to God year-round. It all spills out in the essays she writes. She and her husband own Dailey Data Group, a statistical consulting company.
© 2019 Kristin Fontaine