This month at First Parish we will be reflecting together in worship on our own relationships with stillness, and with the benefits that come from being still. This season is often a busy one, filled with activities and to-do lists. Perhaps, because of the pandemic, that will not be so true this year, at least not in the familiar ways. Perhaps you welcome the idea of “doing” less, or perhaps you dread it. But in either case, there are benefits that can come from the practice of being still. In fact, Blaise Pascal, 15th century French mathematician, physicist, and philosopher, once said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from our inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
What do you think? How are you at doing nothing…at simply being still? Is it something that you are good at, or is it a challenge? The dominant culture in which we are immersed signals to us constantly that we ought to be industrious, busy, efficient, on top of things…that there is more value in doing than in merely being. And so, in some ways, stillness is countercultural and often uncomfortable.
But it is also very natural. Trees know how to be still. Rocks are still, of course. And cats, too, much of the time. Winter is a season of stillness, the trees having shed their leaves, the fields lying fallow, the seeds and bulbs – planted, but dormant – waiting for the right time to begin the process of new growth. In stillness lies potential…the possibility of regeneration, of recreation, and of restoration.
The Christian liturgical season of Advent is also about stillness and possibility. It is a time of waiting, with hope and expectation, for the good news that is to come, for the rebirth of love, of joy, of delight. One of the most delightful moments of the season for me has always been the traditional lighting of candles during the singing of Silent Night on Christmas Eve. I know that is also a favorite moment for many of you.
Fear not! This year we are still planning to include that special moment of stillness as part of our Zoom Christmas Eve service. To that end, we would like to distribute candles and drip catchers to all who would like them. Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks about candle pick-up times and some options for candle delivery. Of course, you can also choose to use your own candles that night instead.
This year we have decided to offer only one service on Christmas Eve, but we do plan to record the service and make it available to those who want to watch it later. The time of the service will be announced within the next couple of weeks, as will information about how to access the recording when it becomes available, so stay tuned.
In the meantime, I wish you all the blessings that stillness can bring, as well as continued health and good cheer!
See you in (virtual) church!