A tale of Christmas and traffic

I travel on the TTC a lot. Meetings. Classes. Shopping. Visits. Out comes my Metropass and away I go. As our beautiful city grows in size and population I find it is becoming a challenge to get from one place to another.

The calculations become more and more complex. Should I leave 15 minutes earlier than I normally would to arrive on time? 30 minutes? I know that my friends with cars are making the same calculations. Is it faster to take this route or that highway? Is there construction? How about a parade?

Listening to our new mayor and councillors we know what a major concern this is to most Torontonians. In the east, the Queen and King routes are among the busiest in the city. Whoever can solve this issue is going to have the voters’ confidence and the citizens’ favour.

As many of us head toward the festive season, we find that the holiday highways are becoming more bottlenecked as well. Halloween is barely over and already the sounds of Christmas carols can be heard throughout the land; or at least in the malls. Parties multiply. Decorations are elaborate and costly.

I try to cram more and more activities into a dwindling number of days. It seems to be a recipe for holiday road rage. Or maybe just a deep desire to pull over onto the side of the road and rest for a moment. That would get me a ticket, I’m sure.

“Shelley, where were you? It was the best party ever. Come to the one next week.”

“Well, we certainly could have used your help with the fundraiser. Next time; okay?”

Sometimes the fallout seems worse than the traffic jam.

But I love Christmas. I think that many of us do. And I suspect that our fellow travellers from other traditions love their festivals too.

How can we avoid the traffic jams on the holiday highway and still arrive at our destination in a joyous spirit?

This last Sunday at church we sang the hymn There’s a Voice in the Wilderness Crying. In that song, I met again a traffic controller who reminded me there is an alternate thoroughfare winding through the festive season. The controller has the name John the Baptizer. Every year he shows up and offers a different map to the annual trek. He proclaims a calmer route to our destination. A detour.

John lived at the margins of his society. He had a message that falls uneasily on my modern ears, yet the sophisticated crowds of his own day seemed to love him. They flocked to hear him. They journeyed far outside their comfortable neighbourhoods. What was his alternate route? How did his signboard read?

“Repent.” Just one word. “Repent.”

Oh no – a religious fanatic. Repent has become a harsh utterance of judgement and control.

Yet the root of this word simply means “turn around,” go on another path. Or as Fr. Thomas Keating says, “Look in a different direction for your happiness.”

Maybe Dr. Phil’s version would be “… and how’s that working for you?”

Are we actually on the right road to get to our destination?

Many of the great sages have invited us to journey on this alternate route through the crowded holiday season. It’s the route of quietness and reflection.

It’s the lane of loving and listening to the cries of a hurting world. And the amazing part is that although the route might feel like it is leading us to a different place altogether, we find that as we make that last turn of the corner, there is our desired destination – right in front of us. And we’re rested, and joyful, and filled with childlike hope.

May you find your alternate route as you celebrate this glorious season.

 

Rev. Shelley McVea is the priest-in-charge at St. Saviour’s Anglican Church (stsaviours.ca), at Kimberley and Swanwick Avenues. Services are at 10:30 a.m. every Sunday.


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