Welcome to the Hearth

Welcome to the Hearth

Monday, December 17, 2007

Oh, the stories we tell ourselves......!

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.


thailandchani said...

Naturally I much prefer your way of doing it. Often I've thought these stories and customs that go along with Christmas are primarily symbols for social control and reinforcing culture. They certainly have nothing to do with God.

miss*R said...

I haven't fully digested your post but loved it so far! I am not sure if you read my blog but I have decided to change christmas this year to suit my very own southern hemisphere and midsummer. I am using lots and lots of candles to celebrate the longest day of the year.. off to read the rest of the post.
You 'should' put all of your posts into an e-book and sell it.. I would surely buy one :)
bless you for being YOU. xox

miss*R said...

Just finished reading..oh my. I love reading your words and these, I am going to read to my family on 25th December. I have asked for no gifts from my children except for a packet of tea- lights. xoox

ladybug said...

Lovely to have your words on this subject as I too struggle with the story as told and what I feel in my heart to be true.
I love the Christmas story, but I'm not afraid of calling it that. If there is a story that people focus on at least once a year that helps us all to take a moment and remember what it is like to have nothing and to know that even people of great worth can be found in the humblest of places...blessed be! And we are all 'inn-keepers' in life letting people stay out in the cold because it is not convenient for us to find room for them in our lives....

One of my favorite quotes about the strive and struggle that people have within and between religions is from Joseph Campbell:

"the problems with religion today come from people taking the words as prose instead of poetry..."

Listen to the meaning and let the message resonate in your heart the best way it can. It doesn't matter what you hang by your chimney or over your door, it matters that you remember to care for others and nourish the light within everyone...meek and powerful...so that we all can walk more lightly upon this Earth together.


Tess said...

I haven't thought of it as real for years, but I don't really have trouble with it being a story.
Humans are steeped in myth, story-telling and symbolism and probably need this.
Like you, I wish it could be simpler though. I tried to stop exchange of presents within my immediate family this year, but people were so hurt. Oh dear.

Kikipotamus said...

I love the earth-based holiday that Iranians have, which goes back to pre-Muslim days and pagan roots: the sun's birthday. How interesting that phonetically, it is also the son's birthday.

A bird in the hand said...

I'm glad you wrote this. When I was a child, it was magic: midnight Mass, lots of candles and lanterns, the "Reveillon", and simple gifts. But I grew up and began to think for myself; and times have changed too. I take it all as symbolic, since we know that Jesus Christ was probably born on some other date, and Dec. 25 was fixed more as a matter of convenience. So much is man-made!
What I'm left with is Christ's message of love, and I try to live my life according to that.

The Othey Ivy said...

I lived in the Southwest briefly and loved seeing luminaria. Lately, when I think of them, I think of how important it is to foster an awareness of the authentic light within and not get too distracted by all of the dazzling external displays.

The Dream said...

Sister Kathryn-

One of the greatest compliments I have ever received was being told that I was a breath of fresh air.

Interesting post - giggling, considering, contemplating, cherishing your perspective. I immediately thought of The Sound of Music - "how do you solve a problem like Maria?"

Shine on, Sister, Shine On.