Copied from a Facebook friend’s post: “New life starts in the dark. Whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark.” Barbara Brown Taylor
Lately, I have felt like a bear ready to find a den and hibernate. This is not my typical December mood, however, these past couple weeks of waning daylight and busyness have wearied me a bit more than usual. Naps sound enticing more and more each day! I suspect my tiredness is related to grieving the loss of my parents this year, continuing to transform their former home into our home, attending to the legal matters that come with a loved one’s death, and the emotional energy of living forward beyond the shadows of the grave. This past weekend I tried my very best to honor one of Dad’s gifts and yearly tradition of weaving boughs of evergreen into grave blankets for their graves and the graves of my infant brother and sister. As a novice I had to rely heavily on 20 year old memories of how Dad used to make them. The process was therapeutic in the least and brought me to tears several times.
I share this with you, not for your pity or sympathy but because I suspect several of you know the melancholy of loss during this season. And, while this will be our first Christmas without Mom & Dad, I know that everyone following will be different without them present. I know this from observing my mother struggle with the holidays every year, reliving the loss of family members and friends. I find peace knowing she no longer battles the overwhelming grief that often stole her joy. Having watched my father over the years, I also know the stress of this season on people who want so much in their hearts to give their love in the form of gifts for family and friends and have to pay the bills instead. Without any doubt this can be the most wonderful and difficult time of the year!
On December 21st I hope to celebrate the arrival of the Winter Solstice with a bonfire and good cheer as the longest night gives way to lengthening daylight. While there is nothing Christian about a solstice, Christianity did place the Holy Day of Christmas near the Solstice, not because it accurately fixed the historical date of Christ’s birth on a calendar (more likely to have taken place in July than December, actually) but in order to claim the pagan festival of light as our own celebration of the Light of the World. There is nothing wrong with honoring the changing of seasons and the natural ways of our earth, just read through the Psalms and you will find several celebrating the earth. So, if I can hold out to Monday before Christmas, I may not need that cave for hibernating!
While human life is filled with opportunities for anxiety and sorrow, Christmas gives us an opportunity for joy, for peace, for hope and for love. Surely, the day itself may bring heightened emotions and even drudgery for some, but even so our spirits may be filled a little more deeply when we kneel at the manger, humbled and wearied, full of grief and sorrow, shaking with anxiety and fear. For God so loved the entire World, yes everything and everyone, God gave the perfect gift – Jesus, and in him was life to be light for the world, to break through the darkness dragging at our souls and demonstrate how with mercy and grace we may find abundant life even in the midst of gloom and death. Be merciful with yourself and with others in these days so claimed by images of perfection and excellence. Be grace-filled and together we may all begin to feel the hope, peace, joy and love arriving in Christ our Lord!
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours!