The days between Christmas and New Year's are "the between time" before we head into the new year. It is almost like everyone takes a hiatus before jumping back into the fray of tax season, inventories, end-of-year sales. There is really nothing to do that has to be done this week. So -- what to do? Seems we have to be busy, can't just sit and doze (although I do more of that these days). But these days are meant for that kind of living. Sure we have to clean up after Christmas, freeze the extra food, save the reusable wrappings and bags, sort through the cards one more time, write a few thank-your. But this week is an odds n' ends week and that is perfectly acceptable.
Everyone seems to be in a reflective mood; I received this text from my brother who lives in Las Vegas:
I wrote this this morning. It feels important so I thought I'd share.
"I like the old-fashioned, the imperfect and the old. Using the typewriter and the 35mm film cameras. I sense the rounded edges, the depth of black paint, the braising, and the patina. They connect me to craftsman who handmade the parts and imbued their essence to making these tools.
From childhood I stood in the machine shed of my grandfather's farm,watching him and my uncle grind their files and chisels into sharp edges. I walked beside them noting taut barbed wire fences, well rounded haystacks, well fed farm animals. Every animal and tool shown respect and care for what they gave to the farmer.
Today we're donating "eleanor " our 2005 Hyundai sonata with 237,000 miles to the Vietnam veterans of America. We treated her well,took care of her and she took care of us. She's been low maintenance until now. The engine is knocking a little and we put several thousand dollars in her last year.
She will be sold probably for parts but we can hope for restoration. It could happen.
Whomever buys her, will have a car with a little soul, who can take care of the owner as they take care of her.
These are the days to dig out that old journal in which you wrote one day and then got too busy to go further; to find the book with the bookmark showing where you last left off, answering the Christmas greeting that appeared from a long-ago friend. It is that time of the year to reflect, renew and rededicate.
Everyone has memories of Christmas past. For each one of us the memories are precious and centered around special foods, gifts received, traditions honored and of course the people. Those memories, whatever they are, are meant to be cherished and as the years go by and people leave us for whatever reason, the memories are still sweet and dear. We make new memories all the time and that is why it is important we take special pains to be sure they are good ones and ones we want to keep. I have wonderful memories of Christmas connected with Christmas Eve worship services and the lighting of candles, the honor of preaching the Christmas story and the wonderful glory of Christmas Day when “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” I remember Christmas times with lots of family and now I celebrate Christmas with new friends or establishing new traditions that honor myself as a special person in the eyes of God.
The more recent memories, however, are built on the treasured memories of my childhood when aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and my family were all still living. Out on the South Dakota prairie we gathered at the ranch under a sky that was filled with stars, diamonds in a sable colored sky. The yard light shown out as a “light house” to light our way down the lane to the house which was awash in light, where we were welcomed and loved.
When I was in junior high, I had to write a poem for an English class. I wanted to write about Christmas so with a little help from Mom, I managed to put this together:
Christmas Eve at Grandma’s, I never shall forget.
Though I live to be a hundred it is a time I’ll ne’er regret,
The days I spent out on the farm with grandparents and cousins, the real old-time charm.
At even-tide the relatives come with many a "Gladlige jule”! Laden with gifts to add to the pile
And more food to make us drool.
First the table grace is said, then the lutefisk, leafs and Christmas bread.
Then we all gather together once more to sing the old songs we all know and adore.
And the story is read about the Christ Child who was born in a manger bed.
At last the clock tolls twelve and all must depart. Another Christmas Eve has left memories in our hearts.
As I write these words, the dear ones pass before me reminding me of the love we felt for each other and the blessing of the real meaning of Christmas.
All the Christmas times were not so idyllic. We were all just human beings, of course. But the desire to let everyone know they were special was real.
I fear that these days social media and the continued trends in technology to separate us from those warm times of human touch and dynamic relationships have deprived us of what the Christmas Season is meant to be — a time of relaxation, a time to just be together, and a time to know where our roots are and where we belong. Of course we can’t go back, but we can use those memories and those times to help us build new memories where love and caring are just as real today as they were back then. Each memory becomes a stepping stone for what is to come. God bless you and Merry Christmas.
Pastor Julie Long, Broadus MT, ELCA pastor, rural minister. Accepting the call to loving and serving.
If you think history plays no part in your life it is because you choose to ignore it. We can’t escape history; we can’t run away from the past. We have to learn to live with it. That really is a gift parents can give their children — both sweet memories of the past as well as the struggles that have shaped who we are. Do we grow into men and women of courage and forthrightness or people of cowardice, hiding behind the skirts of dishonesty?
That has often been one of the criticisms of America — we are such a new country (relatively speaking to the rest of the world) that in the arrogance of youth we believe we can choose to ignore the past decisions we have made as a people, collectively and individually. That was the call of the American West and the great movements of immigrants to this country — to escape the old ways and the mistakes. But that doesn’t work. We can run, but we can’t hide and always we must learn from our weaknesses, finding a certain triumph in overcoming the past and its regrets.
Our past history is not only the individual relationships we have to deal with, but also those of our country. People living today were part of the Great Depression of the 1930s, World War II and the Atomic Age. My generation lived through the disruptions of the Martin Luther King, John and Robert Kennedy assassinations; the anti-Viet Nam war riots and the Civil Rights riots of the 1960s and 1970s. Remember the battles between the hard hats and the hippies and the 1968 riots at the Democratic convention in Chicago? New generations have the bombing in Oklahoma City, the “9-11” disaster, Desert Storm, and the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and always the tinder box of the Middle East. No generation is without its history and it influences who we are and what this nation is and will become if we do not learn from our mistakes as a people.
I was thinking the other day I will now be a part of three of the four impeachments this country has participated in. Nixon was not a popular president and his actions before and after Watergate made that apparent. What I do remember is a country where Democrats and Republicans were working together to see that justice was done — a justice that said no one was above the law. I can still remember watching John Dean’s testimony, and hearing those wonderful voices of Barbara Jordan and Chairman Sam Ervin from the committee. I don’t think anyone believed that kind of criminal activity went on in our country, but we learned.
The final vote of impeachment for Bill Clinton found me sitting in the car in the parking lot at a local grocery store and watching people moving all around while on the radio I could hear the voices determining the fate of the nation. Again the underside of politics and its picture of humanity and all its sins was being revealed.
Waiting now for the 4th impeachment, my third, I am reminded once again this is no small thing that is happening in our country. Impeachment has now widened to an international involvement and revealed a new viciousness and lack of self-examination for sins committed. The appearance of Jeffrey Epstein and his death makes him a “sticker child” for this generation of politicians. No one wants to take responsibility for deeds done. The underbelly of politics, the enormous greed to which people aspire and the call of power, the need to control, is once again laid bare. Whether or not we can rise above the partisanship and bore straight to the truth will be determined by men and women who take to heart the great call to “love justice” and to approach this moment with humility.
Sitting here recuperating from hip surgery I am blessed with time to do what an invalid is allowed to do —think, doze, read, visit with folks who stop by with yummy food. Of course it is not a holiday, but healing allows for this other world, a slower world, to poke its head in and say, “Howdy, time for me to sit a spell!”
It’s Advent and for those of us who parallel our regular calendars with the calendar of the Christian Church, we are now into a new church year. Advent is always a special time in the church when the paraments change colors to a deep royal blue, the music moves between joyful and penitent. The people of God are just waiting for the Candlelight service on Christmas Eve, the singing of “Silent Night” and then Christmas Day when the words, “Christ is born” ring through churches everywhere.
Advent has been celebrated since ancient times. Originally it was a time when the world plunged into darkness and cold and the inhabitants watched and waited for the days to lengthen and the sun to reappear. Someone told me the other day they are already anxious for the winter solstice so they know the days are getting longer. We are no different than ancient humans who hungered for light. Early Christians saw in this period of light and dark a piece of reality. All of life is light and dark.
My second day of Advent devotional (Richard Rohr) was a reminder of the importance of living with clarity and purpose. The writer said we do not live with certitude, rather we live in faith. There is always a darkness, an unknowing that follows our every step. We are not given the surety of the next breath. The next moment is not ours. We cannot claim anything or hold it fast; or lock it away. Jesus says what we lock up will only rust and decay. We have to plunge into the life we have been given with the joy of the moment. We are only given enough clarity so that we no longer need absolute certainty to live.
The Christmas season is all about light and dark. We light porch lights and Christmas trees and candles to hold back the darkness. It is as ancient a practice as humans themselves. When the darkness surrounds us the light is a reminder we do not need to fear. So we do not know what tomorrow will bring, not everything we demand or desire, but it will be a good day when we walk in the certainty of the light that is just beyond this dark moment.