Sunday, December 25, 2011

Day Seventy-Nine: If It's a Blue Christmas

We opened gifts last night in Scandanavian style after singing carols in a circle, some of us in chairs and others on the floor. We choose songs oldest to youngest, then youngest to oldest. This morning we woke at different times, some enjoying stockings full of candy and soaps, others looking for coffee. Andrea, my sister; Anna from Estonia; Crystal from Weyburn, and my two oldest girls went to church in Regina. The rest of us met at Outreach after eleven to share a few words of encouragement and communion. Janet made a beautiful late lunch of cheese, scones, fruit, and Ian cooked up deer sausage. I fell asleep on their couch for most of the afternoon. I have just slipped home to let Dad's dog out and then to do dishes and tidy. Michael's laying down now.

I went for a walk this morning after writing morning pages. Angela and I are reading Julia Cameron's second book, Vein of Gold. She advocates continuing daily morning pages, weekly artist dates, and has added walking. Angela was so excited when she read the first few chanpters. "Sheena, it's all about walking." I read up to her chapter on "Imagic-Nation" last night by flashlight because Arwen was sleeping in our room. She says that walking fills us with images and true sight and that if we dream into this meditative state, we can alter our reality. Well, walking with Jenny, Dad's dog, along the closed road, fighting for the ruts, was less than dreamy. "Jenny," I'd yell and tug on the leash.

Christmas is a conflicted season. The hype and expectation can cause me to only see how much I fall short of the perfection of it all. Like my walk this morning. Like my grumpiness as Michael got ready to share a scripture this morning. Like falling asleep on the family this afternoon.

For the last few years, Michael and I have played a small role in the community's Blue Christmas Service. I asked Sharon, the United Church minister, if I could post the readings, and here they are below for anyone whose Christmas is less than bright or anyone like me who can stare at the burnt out bulb while the rest of the lights are flashing.

Blue Christmas
Calling Lakes Centre  
December 20, 2011    7:30p.m.

[from John 1:1-5 in part]

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The Word became flesh and lived among us, full of grace and truth.
In him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

Creator God, we come to you this evening from different places and for different reasons, but tonight we share this sacred space of quiet and candlelight with each other.  The burdens we bear weigh heavy on us at times.  We pray that you lift them from us as we offer them to you.  Calm our anxious hearts.  Relieve our troubled minds.  Hear our prayers tonight for our families, ourselves and others.  We ask for strength for today, hope for tomorrow, and peace for the past.  In the name of the One born of Mary and Joseph we pray.  Amen

Isaiah 40:1, 3-5, 11   

Comfort, comfort my people,
   says your God.

 3 A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
   the way for the LORD[a];
make straight in the desert
   a highway for our God.[b]
4 Every valley shall be raised up,
   every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
   the rugged places a plain.
5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
   and all people will see it together.
            For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
   He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
   he gently leads those that have young.

Comfort and Promise

The prophet Isaiah speaks of a time to come when God’s glory will be revealed.  In between is a rough,
uneven road that will have to be walked and smoothed out.  Valleys lifted up and mountains made low point to a time of equality, a time of justice where no one will have too little, and no one will have too much. 
Isaiah calls to us: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord.”  We have all known rough roads and times of wilderness in our lives; when a loved one dies, when money is too scarce, when serious illness comes to us, when we need to forgive or be forgiven but can not, or when the world’s injustices overwhelm us.
It’s in such times that Isaiah’s words come to us again;
“God will feed his flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead the (mother) sheep.”
This first candle of God’s promised comfort and care helps us begin to smooth out the rough places.

Genesis 1:1-5 
  1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

Light and Darkness of Creation

In the beginning God created the earth; out of void and darkness God brought forth light, not to replace the dark but to balance it.  God even named it; day and night.   In fact we spend the first nine months of our lives growing and being fed in the dark of the womb before we are born.   Stars would not be visible if the night sky was not dark.  Seeds sprout and grow out of the darkness of the earth.       
Sometimes we feel that our lives are filled with only darkness in its negative connotation.    Yet times of grief, hurt, loneliness or struggle can be opportunities to rest in some way, time to discover strengths about ourselves or others we didn’t realize existed…..times of growth.  It’s hard to see that when we are hurting, and it doesn’t lessen the pain we fell or make it any less real.          We light this candle as a reminder that dark and light go together, there can be good in both, and in all things God is with us.

Isaiah 60:1-3   

 1 “Arise, shine, for your light has come,
   and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.
2 See, darkness covers the earth
   and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the LORD rises upon you
   and his glory appears over you.
3 Nations will come to your light,
   and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

At certain times in the midst of the preparation and celebration of Christmas, we find it hard to sustain our enthusiasm.  We may find ourselves sinking into our past, our sorrows, our losses or our memories. 
We hear the words of God’s love; we may even be aware of God’s presence in our wandering but the heaviness of the moment wipes all that away.
And so we need to hear, one more time, the cry of the prophet Isaiah telling us to “Arise, shine; for your light has come.” 
This birth we await; the coming of the Christ child into our homes and hearts, this is the light that will carry us through our gloom.     This candle is light of hope and renewal.  Within each of us is the light of Christ’s coming and that light will shine through us to others.

Luke 1:46-55     

 46 And Mary said:
   “My soul glorifies the Lord
 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
   of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
   holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
   from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
   he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
   but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
   but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
   remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
   just as he promised our ancestors.”

Mary knew what it was like to be afraid.  Mary knew also the wonder of God’s presence.  And so Mary sings this song of praise to her God.  It is a song filled with hope; a song expressing her trust in God and the knowledge that the child she bore would mean new life for all.  Whatever shape our Christmas celebration takes may we also know the trust of Mary.  The sorrows and burdens of our lives will pass.  They will not disappear but they will be healed and, like Mary, we will sing our own songs of praise.  This is the candle of new life.

Light a candle in memory of someone or something lost to you, or as a sign of hope.

        Light has mingled with darkness.
        Hope is ours once more.
        The Light calls us forward;
        remembering the past and walking in faith into the future.
          Let us go from this place in the assurance that the peace of Christ, the love of God, and the gentle strength of the Holy Spirit are ours.  Amen

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