An observation on Observance…

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As I write this, people all over the world are about to commence the observance of Advent for 2013 as we approach Christmas (Advent this year starts December 1). In reflecting on this, the word Observe stands out. It is an interesting word. In looking at various definitions of the word, one said, “To Observe is to mark or to be attentive to something; to consider carefully.”

Our lives are full of times of observance. What are some days in your year in which you mark and are particularly attentive to something? Perhaps you have a moment or time of observance on the anniversary of the death of someone you love? Or perhaps every year on your wedding anniversary you and your spouse have a time of observing both the ceremony and the journey that you have taken together since then. And of course, some birthdays are times of observance.

What we really should be careful to note here is the difference between celebrating and observing. One can mark an occasion any time. But a party is not necessarily an observance.

Note carefully that observance goes beyond just marking the occasion and enters into the occasion in a much deeper way. In observance, first of all we are attentive to it. That word is another that deserves our fullest consideration: attentive. We humans of the modern era are not all that good at being attentive. We flit and move between this place and that; this email and that Facebook post; this book and that conversation often going through motions and not giving much attention to any of them. To be attentive requires us to not just acknowledge something but to give into it. In being attentive we invest some time, some thought, some energy and emotion into that thing we are observing.

Then, once we have given the focus of our observance our full attention, we take the time in the depth of that moment to carefully consider it. What does this thing mean? How does it affect me? How does, or should, it change me? What should I do now or how should I now live as a result of this thing that I am observing?

In the case of something like Remembrance Day, it might be about moving to a moment of thankfulness and gratitude for the time of peace we currently enjoy and most times don’t give a second thought to. In the case of a marriage, it might be about the ways in which we love and should continue to love our spouse. In the case of a birthday – especially one’s own – it might cause us to see both how we’ve grown and how we’ve stagnated and how we need to change in the coming year ahead.

Being NoXS Minimal allows us to embrace true observance – without the clutter and noise and busyness and weight of complexities of life holding us down we find space to enjoy the simple things and to be fully present in the moment. At times like this thankfulness, gratitude, contentment and, dare I say it, true happiness are allowed to emerge and can fully bloom in our lives.

Jesus is shown in the Bible as being one who observed. We are told he observed times of prayer, solitude, silence and worship. His disciples too, in the book of Acts, are shown to be observing times of prayer and worship, reading the scriptures and breaking bread together. Note that the latter wasn’t just communion or Eucharist, but actually eating meals with one another. When was the last time you fully observed during an evening meal with friends and family?!

When viewed through the meaning outlined above, this is obviously not just a “moving-through-the-motions” action, but one in which involved great thoughtfulness, time, attention and investment of self.

Observing is a lost art, but vitally important. In striving to live lives of NoXS, we would do well to take times that are meaningful to our families and create some family rituals or times in which we don’t just celebrate but in which we also observe together. And there is no time to start as good as the present! Perhaps this Advent season, as we consider the coming of Christ, is as good a time as any to put our hand to truly Observing the Christmas season…?

With every blessing as we move into our observance of Advent,

Mark G

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