The following was originally printed in a previous issue. Yet, when re-reading it, I believe it is something that I hope I can share with you again. I also hope that I will see you at one of the many social gatherings that this season offers.
Thanksgiving <BURP!> was great. The Saints, “We go’n to da Supa Bowl!” Rain, cold, warm, cold, rain. What a week! Now the fun really begins with Advent, Christmas, Epiphany (12th Night), then the great season of Mardi Gras with Kings, Queens, Monarchs, Matrons, and merriment. It is that time of year.
As the shadows get longer, the days shorter, and our weather changes daily, it is also a time when so many people start to feel left alone, left out, on the side lines. I am always concerned about the lonely during this time of year.
Seasonal shifts have a subversive way of changing our moods. In the Fall, the cool air is a lift, and for others the long shadows invite introspection, even depression. Brothers and sisters, Kings and Queens, Bears and Otters, be mindful of each other. Estrangement, even self-imposed estrangement, is a sad and lonely thing. Reach out and simply acknowledge someone who may be alone or lonely. It will be a GIFT.
We are busy in our shopping frenzy. We are so busy in our frenzy to set the table just so. We are so busy and frenzied in those fundraisers, and cocktail parties, and the mandatory well-wishing. The insanity that comes with this season is like universal A.D.D. There seems to be an endless need to move about and to rush. How many folks seem wiped out after “The Holiday Season”? Too many I think.
So, take a friend or two and offer a quiet evening in the middle of it all. Just some unpretentious time set aside to reflect. Take a moment to say “No” to an event and rest a bit. If you are that concerned with being correct and everyone getting those gifts and cheer, remember that Christmas is not a day. It is a season and lasts for 12 days. Spread your joy out for the Season, not just the day.
That does not mean buy more stuff; it means don’t try to get every thought, card, cocktail, or dinner done by December 25th. Spread it out and pace yourself. It will be a GIFT.
Can non-profits ask you in any more aggressive ways to share your wealth? We are surrounded. Yes, it might be a tax benefit. Maybe not. ‘Tis the Season for giving and we non-profits are like sharks in the water. We smell blood. Relax, like the 12 Days of Christmas, you have a whole year to give. There used to be a group called Christmas in July that would go around and do rebuilding projects.
Don’t let guilt or competition wear you down. Paul actually said a good thing when he said: “You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”
Be modest in your personal purchases and give cheerfully. If there is no joy in giving then do not give. Find balance and don’t let the mass marketing of non-profits guilt you into anything. If you are so inclined, fine; if not. that is good too. Your real gift is yourself and how you treat one another. So, be kind, show courtesy, remain modest in your expenditures. It will be a GIFT.
If estrangement is the shadow of this Season then discord is the roiling seas. There is a very old passage that said, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other.” Such is the standard of real believers.
One of the hardest things to do is to forgive a trespass by family or friends or lovers. Yet forgiving or asking forgiveness is not just a Holy thing to do but it is heroic and therapeutic. Perhaps you may want to consider this “giving season”, a time of for-giving. A time to release yourself from an old wound, a time to heal and be healed. Doing so will, yes, be a GIFT.
For our faith tradition, i.e. Christian, this is currently the Season of Advent; Christmas will come soon enough. Advent is a powerful season. It is about hope and expectations in the midst of turmoil and darkness.
One of the larger symbols of Advent is not that cute calendar with all the little doors (though I do love them) but rather the candle. There are four Advent candles in a stand and one more is “The Christ Light”. The four are lit one at a time over the four Sundays of Advent. Each candle is a symbol of the increased hope and light of holiness. Each candle stands, respectively, for Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy. An Advent litany for Hope might look like this:
When I look around, I see shadows of hunger. So many people in this city and around the world will go to bed hungry tonight…
When I look around, I see shadows of injustice, the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, everyone saying, “Buy, buy, buy!” and someone somewhere will fall asleep under a bridge tonight….
In the face of hunger, we light a candle of hope…
In the face of injustice, in the face of despair, we light a candle of hope… (Light the first candle in your Advent wreath.)
Let the light from this candle say to all that God’s hope is coming on earth as it already is in heaven.
Friends, be not afraid, God’s hope is at hand!
Brothers, sisters, bears, otters, Queens and Kings THE Hope, God’s Hope, is in our own hands and if we hold to it tightly it becomes a reality.
Hope for what is pure and good and true and that which respects the dignity of all human beings.
Hope for yourself that you will know in absolute terms that you are a pleasing and sacred vessel.
Hope for the person next to you that they too will know that they are lovable and that such does not depend on appearances but on the heart.
HOPE LOUDLY! It will be the greatest gift of all.