It is no secret that the Christmas season is a paradoxical time. For the Christian church Christmas or the celebration of the Mass of Christ does not actually begin until Christmas Eve and then continues until New Year’s Eve. Sometimes there is a first Sunday of Christmas, sometimes not. For my mother, growing up on a ranch on the prairies of South Dakota, Christmas parties, and ice skating and programs were all celebrated between Christmas and New Year’s. It just wasn’t Christmas until it was Christmas.
The secular world has changed the rules and Madison Avenue rules the season. The tradition of the Magi bringing gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Christ Child as gifts for a king, have been translated into piles of presents and a tradition of going into debt for the accumulation of more than we could possibly need.
Decorating our homes inside and out is probably a mirroring of the bright star which hung over the place where the child lay. From Santa Claus, reindeer, stars, trees, bright lights now with music attached we light up our streets with all the colors of the season.
Drinking and eating and piles of food may harken back to Medieval celebrations when the days before Christmas were to be a sober time of prayer, fasting and self examination to prepare ourselves to be ready for the coming of Jesus. When Christmas came all the fasting turned into feasting in excess much as we do now.
Four Sundays before Christmas are known as the Season of Advent, of waiting and preparing for the coming of the Child much as Easter is preceded by Lent and Holy Week in preparation for the resurrection of Christ. In the Christian church, this time is the beginning of the Church Year as we wait in eager anticipation for Christmas.
The parallels of universal celebration and sober reflection run from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. For people who are grieving, there is a real disconnect between what is going on around them and what they are actually living. Some Grief groups meet more often during the holidays. And there is a service called “A Blue Christmas”. How do we find joy when we feel such pain?
The excesses of the season are all around us. In Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” the ghost of Christmas present is portrayed as a drinking, feasting Spirit, while underneath his robe he reveals the children of poverty and ignorance whom society has forgotten. The excesses of Christmas erase the Curry and Ives’ notion that Christmas is all wonder and light. People drink too much, spend too much, eat too much and age-old quarrels can flare when families attempt to come together to heal wounds
Christmas is a very complicated season. We (myself included) love the color and the wonder and the music and the gift-giving and the well-wishing of the season. God meant for the birth of God’s Son to be the high point of joy in our lives. How we prepare for Christmas has everything to do with how we will celebrate Christmas.
Somewhere on this site I have photos of a beautiful day last week! Thanksgiving and the days around it were in the 50s and I was running around without a coat! So we've had our Indian summer and are now moving into cold again! This bouncing around really leaves you wondering what's next!
I put up a few lights on my front porch, a wreath on my door, and once my creche is up I will be done! The creche is a beautiful creamy white edged in gold ceramic set Mom made for me years ago. She made one for Greg as well. Very precious.
As I continue down-sizing it is amazing to me what are my "treasures" -- those items I will not part with. They are often odd ball items but they have a hugely sentimental value. To someone else it is just "stuff", but to me it is "my stuff" and thus it has great value.
In discussing down-sizing someone used the words "Swedish death purge" which was unknown to me. Now I see there is a book by that name so I am going to have to track it down and see what it is all about! Sounds intriguing especially since I have a strong affinity to my Swedish roots! Maybe there is something more here than what I first thought.
I had a good visit with a dear friend this Thanksgiving Day week-end. She lives out of town but comes to visit her mother so I get to see her periodically. I have a photo of her at my first grade birthday party. We grew up at the same church and school; we have Scandinavian roots; we went to the same college; we are in the same professional career; we are both single, never married; Is it any wonder we are so comfortable with each other. Every conversation is simply a pickup where we left off last time. That is a true treasure.
Around this holiday season when family is far away, friends become the family we choose and cherish. On this Thanksgiving week-end it is good to remember "We are so blessed."
I think everyone is breathing a little easier, is a little more relaxed, now that the mid-term elections are over. Montana held on to its Democratic Senator in a tough re-election campaign. The next big election will be for governor and a second Senate seat in 2020.
I was out in the country taking home communion to a good friend. What a glorious day. Just thought I would share a few pictures with you. Enjoy, because today it is snowing, cold and icy.
I am back filling Zion's pulpit on a regular basis as interim pastor. The congregation will be looking for a new "shepherd of the flock", but in the meantime I am holding down the fort!
I have a mixed bag of emotions this day after election. The pressure from political advertising, the hated filled messages, the hope for a new direction for this country, those who want it to remain as is, the millions who were on the march to the ballot boxes from early voting right up to the closing of the polls last night was like a weight on my chest, pressing down and taking my breath away. It is a difficult thing when the legacy of one country has to bear the hopes and dreams of over 325 million people. And we bear added responsibility because throughout the world our elections are seen as free, safe, and secure. They stand as an example to the rest of the world. We do not expect violence or threats on those who vote or those who are elected. Our history and our constitution calls for a process that has worked in the face of 200 years of struggle and compromise, but I think there is a great pride in what we have accomplished and a national need to see it continue. The success of this historical venture surpasses all race, gender, age and ability.
The long lines of voters at the polls, those who voted by mail, those who voted for the very first time are an indication of the importance of our duty as citizens to get out and let our voices be heard. Many of the voting percentages were very close in a variety of elections so every vote mattered regardless of what the nay-sayers think. And it is imperative we work with every generation of young people to understand and be educated to voting.
I think there was still a tendency to vote for the party rather than the candidate. My parents always said, “Vote for the person. Are they the ones who will get things done for the betterment of this country?” The tendency to demonize the other party simply because they are the other party is dangerous. A one-party system is not the answer, that is a dictatorship of the worst kind.
Each election should be a reminder that we are building something good together. To live in “community” is to recognize the “other” as my sister or brother and to build on that realization to create a better place. Each election should be a promise to work harder together, to learn how to compromise, to know I won’t always get my way, but that regardless we clasp hands and work for the betterment of all.
I was not satisfied with the results of all the races, but who is. We all have our personal agendas at election time, but then those have to be discarded for the common good. In a day or two we will begin hearing about 2020 and even though we would love a reprieve from the rhetoric, the building of a safe and secure country where the blessings of liberty are for all begins again each new day. The job is never done. Our history is a never-ending story of pride, courage, justice and freedom.