Anxiety is a crushing feeling. Philosopher and Eastern mystic Wein Wei made the astute observation that anxiety is “preoccupation with the future.”
“Preoccupation” is an interesting word. When broken down you realize the peril the spiritual person, the Christian, is in when dealing with preoccupation. The prefix “pre” obviously means before. “Occupation” can mean duty or work, but can also mean dwelling space. For the Christian, when we are dwelling in a space not yet ready for us, we are not where we’re supposed to be.
Jesus hints at this in the Gospel of John when he tells his disciples that where he is going they “cannot yet go.” They cannot be preoccupied; the present moment has enough issues to deal with! In another instance Jesus is much more to the point, where he encourages the disciples to notice the flowers of the fields and the birds of the air and take into account that they worry nothing for tomorrow, but focus solely on the day at hand.
Christmas can be a time of anxiety, of preoccupation, for humanity, too. I think this has to do with our desire to take the beautiful and mangle and twist it until the blessing becomes a burden. It seems to be our nature to do so. It takes intention, mindfulness, to continue to see blessings as blessings. This is why partners and spouses must be mindful of one another, lest the blessing of union become a burden. This is why those who work need to take vacation. Vacation offers rest, but it also offers time to reflect on how fortunate it is to be able to be productive in this life.
Likewise the blessing of the Christ and the festivities that surround it must be met with mindfulness. Savor each day leading up to the blessing, for even the days before blessing are blessings in themselves.
The final verse of this week’s Isaiah passage begins “In that day…” as a way to look toward the future. This is good, of course. We can always be excited for things to come. But we must not be preoccupied with the things to come.
For perhaps “In that day…” actually means today.
Question for reflection: In what ways can we remind ourselves to be focused on the day at hand? What practices can we adopt (Intentional prayer? Meditation?) and what practices can we let go of (constantly checking our gadgets?) to be mindful of now?