I’m looking out the window at the new year getting ready to start. From my vantage point inside my cozy apartment it does not look like the seventeen degrees my computer is reporting for Bentonville this morning. Same old bare trees, green and brown grass, and piles of dry leaves blown against the fences.
In a few days I will store away my Christmas memorabilia until next year’s calendar dictates the time to bring it back out again.
Back to normal.
I remember a friend years ago telling me her little boy, two or three years old, just about broke his heart crying when they took down the Christmas tree. I guess he had assumed it was the “new normal.”
So here’s what I think.
It is unfortunate that commerce has done its best to usurp the season and make it about greed, but before this all got out of hand there was something else there. There still is. The hopeful “Spirit of Christmas” struggling to stay alive under all the ads for Black Friday and After Christmas sales.
At least we come around every year to a season when we remind each other to try to do something good for our neighbors, where we try to make at least a fleeting connection with family and friends, some who might otherwise drift away altogether.
All the sparkling lights and music and performances of A Christmas Carol come out, and they make us look. We at least tell ourselves stories about how hearts can soften and we can open our eyes and see what really matters.
I don’t think anyone has “taken Christ out of Christmas.”
Everyone who wants to celebrate the birth of Christ does it. The church holiday has not been erased or forgotten or forbidden. It shines on for anyone who wants to to participate. Most Christians that I am aware of celebrate Christmas both religiously and in the secular fashion.
And that is fine. It doesn’t narrow the field, it expands it. Goodwill towards everyone, in and out of church.
Wasn’t that Christ’s message?
Frances and Bernie Underwood 1923, according to the note on the back of the photo. My mom at five years old with her first brother.
I woke up with a compelling need to find this photo and connect with the power and hope in those two round faces shining out from ninety-five years ago somewhere in Philadelphia.
I also woke up with Mom’s voice in my head: For crying out loud in a bucket! She did not swear, but this phrase fit the bill for her when a little something else was called for.
Sunday’s reading, Isaiah’s voice crying out in the desert, has also come to mind.
I like to think that Mom and Bernie reconnected happily in heaven after years of estrangement. I like to think Mom and I will reconnect some day on a better note. I hope for healing of the many disconnects and distances that have happened in our family, anybody else’s family, and the larger family of the world.
I’m not doing a good job of finding a way to express how this is all impacting me this morning, but I think Isaiah has it covered (40,6-8)
A voice says, “Cry out!”
I answer, “what shall I cry out?”
“All mankind is grass,
and all their glory like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower wilts,
when the breath of the Lord blows upon it.
Though the grass withers and the flower wilts,
The word of our God stands forever.”
Living alone, it is easy to fall into a habit of grabbing the nearest, quickest food item in the kitchen, maybe eat it over the stove or on the way out to the car. I find myself guilty of this habit more often than I like to admit. I tell myself its just fuel and that is what is important.
But food and meals offer more than fuel, and this morning I took the time to remember that.
A quick browse through a cookbook reminded me of the simplicity of baking an egg in a ramekin. I didn’t have the ingredients in the recipe on the page but checked the fridge for possibilities.
A few single pieces of leftover produce presented themselves, and soon I was slicing off a bit of zucchini, onion, bell pepper, and tomato. A quick sauté in a bit of olive oil and into the ramekin.
The act of chopping vegetables always takes me to warm places in my memory of certain occasions of preparing meals for or with friends or family. The colors on the cutting board mingle and make me smile. The sizzle and aroma in the frying pan build the anticipation of a good meal.
I broke an egg over the prepared veggies, dolloped a spoonful of half-and-half over that and sprinkled some parmesan cheese on top,
It took ten minutes to bake in the oven. In barely more time than it would take to toast a piece of bread and slap some peanut butter on it, I sat down to an inviting feast.