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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Winter Wonderings

Tomorrow, December 21, 2107 at 11:28 a.m. EST, will be the Winter Solstice when the sun is at it's lowest point on the southern horizon for the northern hemisphere and at its peak for the southern hemisphere. This occurs every year some time between December 20 and 23. Half of the earth has its shortest day and the beginning of winter while the other half experiences its longest day and the dawning of summer. The sun and earth have been dancing this waltz of tilt and orbit for billions of years.

Humans have always lived in relationship with the cycles of nature all of which are in some way derived from the sun. In modern times of climate control, artificial light, global transportation, wide-spread food distribution, and time management we seem to have lost most awareness of these cycles. Nonetheless they are always with us and silently behind our illusions of control.

Unfortunately, along with loss of awareness of our interdependence with creation comes arrogance and complacency that leads to misusing and abusing the very environment that supports us. The truth is that creation will take care of itself with or without we humans. The human challenge is not saving Earth but caring for it so we can continue to live here.

It is no accident that we Christians, and Western culture as a whole, celebrate Christmas near a major solar cycle. The symbolism of light overcoming darkness aligns with the realities of day and night and winter and summer.  The cycles of our lives reflect the cycles of creation. Seasons come and go.

Also, at the center of the Christmas proclamation "Peace on Earth!" is a reminder to all of us that true peace is not simply the absence of conflict but more so living within the harmony of all creation by loving and caring for the world around us, each other, and ourselves.

That's why the angels in the Christmas story sing, "Peace on Earth to all people!" 

May we all have such peace in this season of light overcoming darkness.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A Christmas Carol?

Peg and I just spent a wonderful weekend with long-time friends, some whom we haven't seen in many years and others with whom we've maintained long distance relationships with occasional visits. We reminisced, told old stories, shared new ones, broke bread together, and were reminded of why and how we are friends.

There will be and is already a lot of this kind of re-connecting going on during these days we call the Holiday Season as families and friends gather around menorahs, creches, lighted trees, town squares, and dinner tables for religious and cultural traditions.   

These gatherings and encounters are not all merry, happy, or joyful. Sometimes they bring up painful memories, exacerbate strained relationships, and isolate people for whom the holidays are not so cheerful. Many people endure and survive the holidays rather than celebrate them. A lot of people do both.

Regardless of how or why we observe (or not) this season it is a time that reminds us as humans we are connected in countless ways and on many levels. Even when we feel isolated and alone there are others who share our feelings. We all share the fullness of this human experience we call "life."

Whether we say, "Merry Christmas!" “Hanukkah Sameach!” "Happy Holidays!" or "How do you do?" as the old song (or dare I say "Carol") at this link says, "...we're simply saying "I love you!" 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Give Christmas Day A Break

One of the best and worst things about Christmas Day is our anticipation of it.  To a child the weeks and days before Christmas are the longest of the year. To adults rushing about decorating and shopping there seems to never be enough time to get it all done. Whether the days are long or short, one thing is for sure, Christmas Day always arrives to our delight or dismay. All of our anticipation and expectation gets wrapped around one day.

Then the day itself is filled with expectations of just the right gift, a meal with all of the expected accoutrements, a particular kind of weather, the right music, being with particular people, wearing a traditional outfit - the list goes on.  That's a lot to expect of one day.

So, why not give Christmas Day a rest this year. Let's do what the traditional Christian liturgical calendar invites us to do - stretch it out into a "season" of Advent-Christmas-Epiphany.  Christians aren't unique in this approach. Most religions have seasons or days associated with major holy days / holidays.

Experiencing Christmas as a season of days (depending on the year, up to 37) rather than one day allows us to have good days and bad days, met and unmet expectations, reflection and celebration, good meals and bad ones, or exchange the not so perfect gift.

Pacing ourselves through the Season not only allows us to experience its fullness, it also invites us to know and experience the One Eternal Presence in our lives everyday - not just some or one. After all isn't this what Christmas is all about - God's Presence among us?