Monthly Archives: December 2017
At the Christmas Eve service at my church, I read this short piece before I lit the Christ candle in the Advent Wreath. This is what Christmas is all about for me.
We all have the Light
We celebrate the birth of a man who, because he knew the light of God‑ness shines in all people, inspired us to live with compassion and to pursue justice.
Through stories of shepherds, Samaritans, widows, lepers, prodigal sons and mustard seeds, he embodied the idea that regardless of how we look, where we were born or whom we love, we all have the same shining Light—from the same Source—within.
Christmas Eve is also a birthday party for our daughter. She was the one who reminded me of this Light when she was born 23 years ago today. At the time of her birth I had dismissed God from my life as unnecessary, a figment of the imagination. We are all just atoms and molecules, I thought. And then she came to us with her individuality, her spark, her vibrant spirit, her Light, and I had to re-evaluate. And then our son came along—so different from our daughter—and yet shining with the same Light.
The Christ candle represents how beautiful and perfect and valuable we all are and how, because of that, compassionate justice is the only answer.
We light the Christ candle because more than two thousand years ago a man was born who showed us that deep in our hearts we have a common vision, purpose, longing and goal. Deep in our hearts we have the Light.
At a gathering of the local branch of the Canadian Authors Association, the writers in the room wrote down words to describe the writing experience.
Out of that we created a Writing Word Cloud.
Terror, right above Bliss.
Mystical right in the middle of everything.
Fun not far away.
Elusive in there more than once.
Tranquility and Solace.
Hard work, Glass Wall, Escape.
Mindblowing, Universal, Wonder.
Words to describe the writing experience, certainly, and life in general.
For the past few weeks I’ve enjoyed my evening cup of hot herbal tea in a yellow submarine mug.
The submarine windows remain dark and wave-splashed when the mug is cold.
But when I pour in boiling water, Paul McCartney miraculously appears and waves at me.
John, George and Ringo also make their presence known in other windows.
The Beatles stay hidden until I choose to create the right conditions to see them, and then I have to choose to celebrate and appreciate them.
The mug reminds me:
- If I can’t see something, doesn’t mean it’s not there.
- When there is something to be revealed, the conditions have to be right.
- Sometimes I have to make a choice to take action to make those conditions right.
- And then I have to choose to notice, celebrate and appreciate.
- I have to trust in what I can’t see as much as what I can.
Faith, hope, peace, joy, love surround me. If they begin to feel distant or elusive, I can pour some warmth on them and notice how they miraculously appear.
Last year I gathered the a group of young Sunday school children into class. We sat in a circle on the floor on big cushy pillows and talked about the two stories of Christmas—the Luke version and the Matthew version. The kids ranged in age from 5 to 7, so we didn’t delve into deep philosophical discussions, but we talked about how two very different stories get smooshed into one. We told each one separately, and we told them as they are usually woven together.
Inevitably, our road led us to Bethlehem.
“Is Bethlehem a real place?” a girl asked.
“Yes, it is.”
Gobsmacked, she rocked back on her pillow. Her mouth dropped open. Other eyes around the room also regarded me curiously.
“What do people do there?”
“Well, they do a lot of the same things we do,” I said. “They get up, wash themselves, eat food, go to school if they’re lucky . . .”
The children digested this information. In the brief period of silence that followed, I watched a transition on their faces. Before the girl asked the question and I answered, we’d been living wholeheartedly in the land of story. Before she asked and I answered, we’d been thinking about what the stories meant.
Then we crashed to earth. The minute I told them Bethlehem was real, their brains began to tick. They moved from the teaching wonder of story to literal dissection. “If Bethlehem is real,” they were thinking, “then how could all that other stuff really have happened?”
Inwardly I sighed. One second we’d been pondering possibilities and thinking about how two stories from thousands of years ago could help us live our lives today, and then—boom—we stumbled into analysis.
It’s not my place to tell them what to believe or not believe. My job is to present them with the stories handed down to us and start the discussion so they can work through it themselves over the course of their lives. I couldn’t (and most certainly wouldn’t) tell them that two different, often contradictory stories, are factually true. I couldn’t (and most certainly wouldn’t) tell them those same stories aren’t true in their own way.
“Oh yes, Bethlehem is real,” I carried on, “but let’s talk about what we can learn from these stories.”
Real Bethlehem, Story Bethlehem. Starting points for contemplation.