This week I would like to expand on something I wrote for our Advent booklet for this year. It continues with last week's thee of focusing on Practicing Simplicity.I have always loved the song, Simple Gifts. This beautiful song speaks of the importance of turning toward the presence of the Divine in our life, and how when we do that, we will experience a true sense of simplicity and freedom.
Simple Gifts was written by Joseph Brackett who was a member of the Shaker community, a Christian movement that flourished in the 19th century in the United States. There are many wonderful versions of the song available, including a recording by Yo Yo Ma and Alison Krauss, which I particularly like. You may want to find a copy of the song online to listen to as you reflect on practicing simplicity
The first two lines of Simple Gifts are:
'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free, 'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be.
As we reflect on these two lines during this holiday season one of the first things that stands out is the idea that simplicity is a gift. The ability to live simply and freely is both something that we can intentionally choose and it is also a gift that God is offering to us. When we allow ourselves to receive this gift, and then practice living simply and freely, we will find that in those moments, we can truly "come down where we ought to be."
Coming down where we "ought to be" can mean many things. It can refer to our work, where we live, being in right relationship with someone we care about, or being at peace with a major decision.
The next two lines in Simple Gifts are:
And when we find ourselves in the place just right, Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
These lines remind us that one of the ways we will know when we are in the place "just right," is when we will feel a sense of "love and delight." This place "just right" is, of course, not a description of a physical location, but rather a description of the inner state of our souls. When we are in the right place spiritually, we will manifest the spiritual fruits of love and delight.
Take a moment and think about an important relationship in your life. It is only natural that you feel a variety of feelings toward this person. Think of a time when you felt frustration and irritation toward this person. What was happening at that time? Did those feelings come on slowly or quickly? How long did they last?
Now think of a time when you were experiencing feelings of love and delight toward this same person. How did those feelings emerge? How long did they last? What was the difference between when you experienced frustration and irritation and when you experienced love and delight? Was the difference due to what the other person was doing or saying, or was the difference due to your internal spiritual and emotional state? Or was it a combination of both?
As the excitement and stress builds as we get closer to Christmas, we will be wise to intentionally choose to practice simplicity, as it most likely will not just happen on its own. We also will be wise to intentionally choose to relate to others with love and delight, especially as we gather with friends and loved ones that we may only see during the holidays. To be intentional in this way is to practice simplicity not just for ourselves, but is also a way to offer a simple and much needed gift to others.