I've been really brooding over this entry, trying to decide if I dare bring up the subject. (I have been told almost from the beginning of my life as a nun:" You're not what we expected, you're not what people outside will be expecting; you're going to blow a few minds...but you are just what we need right now. What a breath of fresh air!") So, I guess it should come as no surprise to some when I say that the whole Christmas story, be it the Santa Clause version or the Away in the Manger version, just doesn't work for me and hasn't for about the last 15 years. Do I believe in Jesus? Yes. Is the Christ the Center of my life? Yes. Am I committed to the Church's mission of encouraging, affirming and working towards the full development of the human person? Yes to all of this. It's the stories we tell ourselves about how it all came about and mostly the way we have woven this elaborate tapestry that is coming unraveled for me. Suffice it to say, many scripture scholars and educated, thinking people of the 21th century would say that the so called virgin birth, wise men, angels and shepherds congregating around a humble stable on December 25th 2000 years ago is probably just a story. Though I firmly believe there is a Santa Clause and have been blessed over the years by the lavishness of this much loved Christmas Spirit, decorating my house for this season or even the shop where I sell my work, in the traditional symbols of a North American Christmas is just plain not working. It's been years since I have had a traditional Christmas tree. The Nativity set has been appropriately parked on one of my library shelves and stays up 365 days of the year. What do I do about this season of the year while the rest of the world goes crazy decorating for Christmas almost seconds after Halloween is over? As you may have noticed, there is a decidedly weighted theme in my blog entries: It's all about the LIGHT.
About this time of the year, approaching the Winter Solstice and darkest time of the year, I spend about a week creating Luminarias: little containers that hold a candle. They often have dancing figures, spirals and stars cut out of them. This is the story I tell myself and others:
Divine Creator knew well in the making of Sun and Moon and the casting of their seasonal waxing and waning, that there would be a period of increasing darkness that would cause the people to lose heart and huddle in fear. Divine Creator sent forth messengers of Light in the guise of strangers, humble and plain, to uplift the people and bring them hope.
It was said that anyone who welcomed such a messenger would be blessed with prosperity and all good gifts. A custom developed among the people to place lanterns and lights in the windows and along the path to the door as a sign of welcome to these great Beings of Light.
This is one such sign of welcome and blessing. May this luminaria honor and inspire the Messenger of Light within and all around you! O shine, shine, shine O radiant Image of The Divine!
It is not that Christmas can't be Christmas. The simple stories we tell ourselves may have been easier to wrap our minds around in years gone by when we were children and our world was a lot simpler. But, once there is an awakening to the More of it, These stories, sweet as they may be, are just not enough. I have asked people not to give me any gifts because I feel I have too much stuff. Each year I look for new ways to express the dawning light within and the gracious hospitality I believe I am especially called to tend to at this time of year. It is certainly a time of hope and a time to unwrap the many surprises life gives me. What I have enjoyed most as I share with people my thoughts and feelings about Christmas, is hearing how others are also weaving the tapestry anew with fresh symbols and ideas and special food recipes that help to extend the warmth and hospitality of celebration of Emmanuel, God with us! I look forward to your insights and inspirations.