Its always midnight somewhere. At least every 60 minutes. I think that is how it works as the earth rotates. Wonder about in outer space? Does time exist there? But I digress.
Midnight on Christmas Eve. (Soon midnight on New Year's Eve). Every 60 minutes in time to celebrate the beginning of all that is new. The day changes from Eve to Day. Birth every night. Just like Christmas Eve into Christmas Day.
This advent journey has taught me something: every moment is an opportunity to choose. We can choose to stay stuck or we can choose to move forward. We can can choose to ruminate on the past or we can choose to dream of the future. We can choose to be rueful or we can choose to be optimistic. It is all up to us, every moment, every day. It does not mean we will never be sad, never experience regreat. It simply means we can choose to place our faith in something/someone greater than ourselves or we can dispair in the darkness.
It is always midnight somewhere. And with the passing of midnight, the stars shine, the moon glides across the sky and, yes, the sun rises once again. It is as certain as I am telling this now. We only as happy as we choose to be.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday. Amen and Namaste.
I alternatively look forward to Christmas and dread it. How can that be? I have so many fond memories of Christmases past. Its difficult not to hope to repeat them. And yet I know that is not possible. And so I dread the next one because it won't measure up. I tell myself that is okay. It really is just another day. Jesus wasn't really born on December 25. Probably not even in winter. It is an arbitrary date. A date chosen by the Catholic church to co-opt Saturnalia and Winter Solstice paganist celebration. Yet...
Yes, Christmas has more meaning than that. It is not the date we celebrate it that matters. It is the spirit...the Christmas spirit that matters. And strangely enough even though the holiday seems rather sad at times, it really is just a reminder of what is important. Love, light, sharing. Giving. Keeping the flame of hope alive. That is what this advent thing is about. That is what I have learned on this year's journey through advent.
The time is at hand. Let us rejoice.
"The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it..." John 1:5 as rephrased by Rev. Sharon R. Graff, Pastor, Gloria Dei Church, Huntingdon Valley, PA
The light has not overcome it. That is what this advent thing is all about. No matter how dark the night, it will not overcome the light as it comes. There will be the dawn. The light chases away the shadows of the night. It is the hope and the promise of this advent season.
I can remember lying in bed as a child in the cold, dark Michigan night. Snow had fallen during the day into the night. I would push back the curtains beside my bed to see if anything was happening outside. The windows were frosted in the freezing air. I could see the lights of the houses next door and across the street. The snow had hushed the sounds of our street and the main roads nearby. It was as if the entire world had been tucked in for the night on this Christmas night.
Then I heard it. Sleigh bells. I swear. I was old enough to be doubting the existence of Santa Claus, but young enough to still hope. And sleigh bells, I swear they were not far away. I rubbed the fog and frost from the window and peered out intently. I could not see anything. Just the sleeping neighborhood of modest houses. It was late. I was supposed to be asleep. But how could I sleep? There were sleighbells somewhere down the street.
Then I realized I should be asleep. If there was a Santa, he would not come if I were not fast asleep. "He knows if you are sleeping, he knows if you're awake." Not unlike God I remember thinking. So I scrunched down into the bed, and I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I knew it was morning. Visions of sugarplums may have danced in my head overnight, but all I recall is having heard those sleighbells in the snow.
All things are possible, if you believe. I imgaine the kings and the shepherds, Joseph and Mary, and all the angels of heaven believed and they, as I, made the journey through advent and welcomed the coming of Light. All tales have there basis in truth, even the myth of Santa and the story of the birth of Jesus.
Dedicated as one might be, there does come times when one is just not into something. Not today...not at the moment. As I am taking this journey through Advent, sitting in meditation or observing traditions and expectations as we anticipate the Big Day, I sometimes feel like I'm really not getting it. I just want to ignore the whole thing. Anticipation can be wearing.
When I find myself slipping into this retrograde of emotions, I stop myself. I think, well, yes, no one can be expected to maintain a constant state of inspiration and expectation. A rest is deserved if not absolutely necessary. So I take one.
And there you have it. Another blog along the road's journey through Advent. Sometimes if you just start, it carries you along over the rough spots, out of the ruts and into the light. Amen for these little mercies. And for grace. It is all good. Another lesson learned on the journey through advent.
In December there is the tradition of the hanging of the greens. We cut spruce and pine branches and hang them in our home. We even cut down an evergreen tree and stand it up in our living room. We decorate it with shiney glass balls, garland, tinsel and sparkling lights. Granted, many of us have opted for artifical trees, yet the meaning remains. The evergreen is a symbol of eternal life.
In my family we have always had a Christmas tree. We had blue spruce, balsam and Douglas Firs, Noble, a Ponderosa and even a Scotch and Deodor. It wasn't until I was livng alone that I finally switched to artificial. And there are two years I didn't have a tree at all. One was the year my beloved Aunt Bobbie died during the holidays and the other was a year I just wasn't "feeling it." Dark years. So now I put up a tree, decorate it brightly with ornaments new and old (I have some really old family ornaments) and enjoy it. Even if no one comes by. I enjoy it because it reminds me that some things are eternally mine. Memories. Love. Faith. Friends. Family. And more.
The evergreen is to me all the above. The journey through advent takes us through the piney valley of cherished memories and encourages us to make more. It is what you put into Christmas that matters.
I will be a lot of things in this life, but one of them I'm never going to be is satisfied.
Maybe I don't always feel comfortable being hungry, (my many trips to the pantry and refridgerator would be evidence of that), but being satisfied implies contentment that I am not sure I will ever have. I don't recall ever being completed "satisfied" with how things are. There are just too many ways things could be better.
It is wise to to know things can only get better. No matter what. So why would I want to be satisfied with how things are? There is only growth while you are living. Otherwise you are not living, merely getting by, existing.
They say curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought him back. Perhaps that is why cats are said to have nine lives. The satisfaction didn't last. It never does. And that is a good thing.
So on the journey through advent I am finding it is blessed to be satisfied with the knowledge
Snow. There should be snow. And mistletoe. And someone I actually want to kiss under it. And children singing carols. Father Get Up and Bake Your Pies, Here We Come A-Caroling, Maybe a reindeer or two? Maybe one with a bright red shiney nose! And how about a great big roaring fire in the fireplace? An, then it might seem like Christmas!
I am of course in Southern California. In my homeland, Michigan, we would be treated to the smell of rutabega cooking on the stove, my Uncle Frank's cherry tobacco in his favorite pipe. Pumpkin pie. Mincemeat. Roast turkey and ham. And there would be sleigh bells in the air, silver bells in the city and church bells pealing in joy. Hustle and bustle as the day of gifting approaches. A dash of wonder in the clear blue sky as we gaze up skyward to see the twinkling stars, watching for the the Star that would guide us.
These are a few of my favorite things. "Should be's" and "used to be's" and "might still be somewhere, somehow". Dreams of white Christmas, of being home for Christmas, of sugar plums dancing in our heads. The joys of Christmas as the movies would have us believe it to be. Miracles on 34th Street and a wonderful life.
Somehow I know Jesus and Santa would get along. The Buddha and Krishna and Mohammed would enjoy a cup of nog together. I believe in all of it this time of year. There is magic. It is a thin place where the veil between the heavens and the earth evaporates for a time. Like Scrooge we emerge from the house shouting "Merry Christmas!" after a night where we were visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.
I do believe. Here comes Santa Claus. Jesus was born in the manger of a virgin. The world will be as one. There should be snow, at least a flurry, so soften soften the chill of a winter's night.
Today I attended a luncheon which was followed by a sing-along of all the old familiar Christmas carols. The songfest was accompanied by a member on our wonderful old Austen organ. Instead of sitting in the pews, we were invited to sit in the choir loft which faces the organ. Some of the participants were given jingle bells to play along with the appropriate songs.
Together we sang secular and traditional Christmas hymns. At first some were a bit shy about singing. “My voice is not good.” “I’d rather listen.” “I hope no one is recording this.” These were some of the comments as we began. Soon inhibitions faded and we were singing our hearts out. Here Comes Santa Claus, We Need a Little Christmas, The Chipmunk Song, Silver Bells followed by Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Silent Night and Away in a Manger. And there were others, all sung with gusto and we journeyed down Christmas memory lane on this 13th day of Advent.
There is nothing like music to bring back the memories of Christmases past. As this was a “senior” event, imagine the many memories collected in one place! We sing because it feels good. It calms our hearts and warms those legendary cockles, which, my research tells me, is the very core of our being. Amen. Who can sing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and not be transported back to when you heard it on the radio as a kid then sang it over and over until you were asked to “Please! Change tunes!” Or when your sang it to or with your the children in your life or it became an earworm you couldn’t shake upon hearing it at the mall?
During advent music is truly the theme music of our lives as we make the journey through this time of year. We expect it. We long for it. We join in. And we feel comforted to know it will always be with us this time of year. How, indeed, can we keep from singing?
Advent means taking time for oneself, even if that means missing a blog entry. Wish I could say that is what I did, take time for myself. Not really. Have been busy, busy, but that is okay. Earning my stars you know.
Seriously, this is the time of year we really do need to make time for ourselves, to sit and reflect on the meaning of the season as we await the annual celebration of the coming of a very special light into the world. No matter what you believe (or don't believe for that matter) about the Christmas story, you have to concede that this one baby grew up to have a major impact on the world as we now know it.
The birth of Jesus (and all the legends, stories and truths surrounding it) is something to be reckoned with. The advent period before Christmas gives us time to really think about it. With all the shopping, baking, ringing of bells at red kettles and jolly or sacred music being played ad infinitum, it is easy to lose sight of this fact. It all began simply, plainly and with a modest entrance.
That is what this season seeks to remind us. We just need to stop and listen to the small quiet voice, open our eyes and see the Light.
Its late. There is nothing on television. The house is quiet. The dogs have gone to sleep. This is one of those late evenings when sitting alone, my mind begins to meander a bit. It was four years ago this evening that someone I know was hit by a car in Las Vegas while walking down the sidewalk. His partner was killed immediately. He came to stay with me for some time. His life was turned upside down. He has moved on now. My life changed too...how could it not?
Another friend's partner died today after a long, devastatiing illness. While I was not actively involved, I was always aware, always keeping my hands folded that peace would come to that household. It seems to have tonight.
This morning I met with the heirs of an estate I am co-administering in Bloomington. This was the last time they would be in the house where there brother had lived until he died. After almost three years, they have not resolved their grief. They went through the house gathering items that had no monetary value, but had some meaning to them. Watching them, I felt as if they were trying to keep them memories alive by grasping at anything that might remind them of their beloved brother.
Tonight I finished assembling my Christmas tree branch by branch. I put on the lights. Tomorrow I will put on the ornaments. One by one, I will hang each one, each having a particular memory attached to them. It is a ritual I must do myself each year, one a procrastinate on because I know it will be the reliving of Christmases past. I notice there are many more yellow lights on the tree than is usual. I switched the outdoor and indoor lights because I found the indoor lights first and held my helper ready to go. It is growing on me, the predominance of golden lights.
I imagine this is how it always has been on cold late autumn nights as Christmas approches. Snug inside, preparing for the holidays, the High Holy Days, the Winter Solstice and the turning of the year, the quiet of the night allows time to reflect and take stock. A star will soon shine in the night sky to guide the way. During advent, much shall be revealed. Much shall be resolved. Much shall be rejoiced. 'tis the season.