Holiday Syncopation
By |   December 9, 2013 |   in Advent |   2 Comments

Syncopation: you either love it or you hate it.

In musical terms, syncopation is a break in the established time signature or rhythm of the song. I remember playing a jazzy blues tune that I liked for a friend in college. Three-quarters into the tune, the music broke rhythm and a couple of seconds of syncopation ensued. My friend said, “I really like the song except for the part toward the end.” He was referring to the syncopation. He then said: “It felt like a ‘hic-up.’”

A few years ago my spiritual director introduced me to what he calls “holiday syncopation.” Holiday syncopation is that time when your normal, everyday routine is broken in some way. Often your routine is broken by traveling—either through your own traveling or by hosting traveling guests.

I lamented to my spiritual director that holiday traveling always took a toll on my spiritual regimen. I said something like this: “I just don’t pray as much or read my Bible as often when I’m traveling. Then I come home and am so frustrated at my lack of discipline.” My director helped me to put it all in perspective by encouraging me to embrace the holiday syncopation as a spiritually formative moment.

Now, for each of us this will look different. For me, it looks something like this when I travel for the holiday:

  • Road trip. Where is God in the car? In conversation? In the silence? In the singing of a song together?
  • “Holiday rhythm.” This is the term that I use to refer to the way I embrace Christmastime holidays by eating, lounging around, watching football, eating some more, etc. Where is God in the relaxation? The gratitude? The spontaneity?
  • Jogging/exercising. Where is God in the brief “alone” time that I get when I go for a jog to work off some pecan pie?
  • Feasting. In the midst of the feasting, am I present to the opportunity to express gratitude for family, friends, and food to God? Have I thanked Him for the warm mug of coffee or cocoa in my hands?
  • Serving. Am I embracing my holiday traveling as an opportunity to serve those who host my family and I? Maybe it is through cleaning dishes, cooking meals, or doing odd jobs around the house where I am staying.

Join the Conversation

What do you do with holiday syncopation? Is it something that drains you, does it challenge you, or are you indifferent to it?
What are the traditions or other established holiday rhythms through which you could cultivate an intentional awareness of Christ’s presence in the syncopation?

Adam Feldman:
AdamLFeldman_2014_webAdam L. Feldman, D.Min., is the founding pastor of Metanoia Church in Ellicott City, Maryland, a church planter assessor and coach, and a writer. He is the author of Journaling: Catalyzing Spiritual Growth Through Reflection. He currently serves Metanoia as Pastor of Spiritual Formation and Preaching. Connect with Adam through his blog (, or via social media: Twitter @adamlfeldman, Google+, Facebook.
    • Joyce Hilburn

      Thanks for helping me understand these times as opportunities rather than interruptions. This is an issue I’ve struggled with as well.

    • Connie Cobb

      In considering this, I see where I focus on the people and surroundings at this time of year. I tend to abandon my normal life giving routines for the season ,and allow myself to celebrate through excess. By January, I’m desperate to get back to my norm. My question is why do I allow myself, in the celebration of the season, to be irresponsible and not do what I know is best for me? Sounds like Roman’s! Wretched woman that I am!! Can you tell I indulged in too much sugar last night?