Archive for ◊ December, 2016 ◊

Author:
• Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

Encore

 

As one ages, it’s more difficult to find holiday spirit. Oh, it’s out there – just look at small child’s reaction to everything from being a wise man in the Christmas nativity to seeing Santa Claus at the local mall.

Alas – for us non-children, the holidays are more apt to be about dealing with not having enough money or time, facing stresses and pressures, negative dynamics and disappointments. The list of reasons for not having any holidays spirit could take up this entire blog; but let’s take another approach.

What feeds you during this season? As you rush through the week before Christmas – are there any quiet moments that give you an “ahhhh….” feeling?

Here’s my list – and if even one of them reminds you of what makes you feel good about this season, this blog has been a success.

• The aforementioned image of a small child in a wise man costume at a church nativity (ditto the excitement of seeing a child’s reaction to Santa).
• Certain Christmas music, especially singing In Excelsious Dios with the Gloria chorus. Add singing Silent Night (by candlelight) at a Christmas Eve service
• Some of the old Hollywood black and white movies from the 40s and 50s (like Christmas in Connecticut). And, yeah, the very funny The Christmas Story with Peter Billingsley.
• A well-performed version of the Christmas Carol by Dickens
• Light snow on Christmas eve (okay – that works in New England, maybe not where you live).
• The Sundays leading up to Christmas in which we are reminded of the Christmas story and sing Away in a Manger.
• Lighting the Advent Candle each week
• Preparing for and putting on the church’s Holiday Christmas Fair. People dynamics and fiefdoms not withstanding, what a great fellowship gathering.
• Teaching the Christmas story to children in Sunday School.
• Going caroling to the church shut-ins. (Okay I don’t do this one since I’m not a singer, but still…)
• Buying gifts for needy children and taking food to the local food pantry.
• Some holiday Christmas parties, but not all.
• Seeing my grandkids Christmas morning: the wonderment before the frenzied gift opening.
• A quiet moment on Christmas Eve when everyone else has gone to bed and I stop to ponder all that has happened to bring me joy (and spirit) in the past year.

Now, my friends- begin your lists and…Happy Holidays!

Author:
• Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

Encore

By Gretchen

Every year we buy a real Christmas tree. We have our preferred tree lot and generally find our favorite tree at the very last moment the place is open – in the dark, extreme cold and preferably with intensely heavy snow or freezing rain falling. This year however, we went in the early evening. It was already dark, but there was nothing icky falling out of the sky and it was a balmy 45 degrees. Not only that, we fell in love with the very first tree we spotted! It was the right height, the correct width and beautifully shaped. We even got it home without it falling off the car. This was going to be a red-letter season!

Two days later, my husband and son brought the tree inside and secured it in a tree stand designated for the correct height of our Tannenbaum. I put the lights and garland on the tree, and the whole family had a grand time unwrapping ornaments and placing them care-fully on the tree. The end result was beautiful. It stood proud and gorgeous through our annual Christmas Party, and the next morning, it fell over.

The main concern when something like this happens is not the tree itself (it was born to endure the weather) and not the garland (it is soft and pliable), but the ornaments. I must admit we lost 2 or 3 glass ornaments that I can probably replace for next year. We also found items the kids had made when they were younger – broken, but glue-able. No one was hurt, not even the dogs, who still can’t figure out why there is a tree inside the house.

After the tree was upright again, my son spotted the remnants of a small glass nativity ornament in pieces. I looked and suddenly saw that the only piece that survived the crash intact was the baby Jesus. He had some rough edges and his manger was gone, but there he was.

There are myriad lessons we could extrapolate from this event, but the one that really hit me this year is that in church life, we have conflicts and disagreements.

We even outright fight with one another about the color of the new carpet in the sanctuary or the cut of the new drapes in the reception room/parlor. Not every moment of church life is peaceful and happy. In fact sometimes, it is anything but.

And sometimes, things come crashing down around us when something terrible happens in our church family – when we find out the pastor has been abusing women in the church, or the money runs out or someone is arrested for a terrible crime. The truth is that once in a while, the glorious edifice of the church, with its tall steeple and colorful windows and brilliant ornamentation, hides within it a congregation that is broken, whose life is crashing down around it.

One thing I know to be true, is that even when “the church” comes crashing down around us, Jesus always survives the destruction. Jesus exists beyond our mistakes and beyond other people’s mistakes.

Jesus is the thing that makes us who we are and Jesus is the one who will save us from everything that threatens us, even ourselves.

That is why we rejoice in this season and celebrate the birth and life of the one who loves us more than any other.

May your church’s Christmas and the New Year be filled with the Peace that comes from knowing Jesus survives, no matter what.