The lead up to the end of the year is messy. Wrapping up the year that was, planning for the year ahead. So much to do, so little time. And in Australia, where Christmas coincides with the end of the school year and the beginning of the long summer break, holidays loom and the beach beckons.

For those who celebrate the Christmas season, and for whom January 1 marks the beginning of a new year at work, it can be an ambiguous time. We look back with satisfaction, or regret. We look forward with anticipation, or disquiet. It’s a time for personal and professional reflection. A time of endings and new beginnings. Of family, friends and noticeable absences. It’s a time of joy and (dis)stress.

The story my family and many of my friends tell at this time of year contains tensions and ambiguities too. There are ordinary folk and angels, shepherds and kings, wisdom and folly, riches and poverty, the extraordinary and the mundane.

It seems to me that these tensions highlight the need to pay attention to the small, seemingly insignificant things that point to larger truths. Trust is built one conversation at a time. Reputation is formed through behavior day by day. Organisational culture is an amalgamation of all the “ways we do things here” and plans are implemented one decision at a time.

I plan to have a messy Christmas, with all its complexities, and use the season as an opportunity to pay attention to individual relationships and celebrate community. I hope you have a messy Christmas too!