I know we are not supposed to apologize for an absence from writing, so I will try not to do that. I do feel a simple explanation is due to my friends and readers, however, out of common courtesy.
I grew tired of talking constantly about the pain, the agony that I had experienced at The Community of Jesus. I needed a break from it. I have had that break, and have spent some time thinking about what direction to take next. I have decided to be eclectic, to let the topics flow as they will. I imagine some will be positive and grateful, some will be angry and seeking justice, some will be what I am learning at College, and who knows whatever else. I feel a freedom to bounce around everywhere.
In the time I have been silent on this blog I have taken a course on the Psychology of Trauma. It triggered some reactions in me, but I have been able to cope with them, and have learned a great deal. I have also taken a course on Introduction to Theology, which has been a wonderful exciting discovery.
We are in Advent. I am strongly against the commercialization of this religious holiday for many reasons. The birth of Christ, and celebrating that birth, has nothing to do with spending money. What is gift giving all about, anyway? Well, his birth was a gift to us because his life, in word and deed, gives us some of the most beautiful and life-giving examples of life that are to be found. That is worth celebrating. And in the spirit of being grateful for that gift, yes, we can give to others.
Which means more? To go to a store, buy some material item (probably on sale) out of a sense of duty? Or to think about one (maybe small) item that a loved one or friend actually has shown a need for. Maybe a blouse to go with a sweater they love, but don’t have the money right now to buy. That shows that you heard their comment, and care about them, wanting to provide something that will make them happy, but more, to show they are appreciated. What is love anyway? Caring, noticing, listening, and taking action prompted by what you have heard. My gift giving this year will be thoughtful, small, and based on actual comments I have heard my people make.
As I sit here musing, it occurs to me that justice is being played out, and that no harm is done. Long before Christ, people celebrated the winter solstice. The evergreen tree was a symbol of everlasting life, and light to dispel the darkness are symbols in a wide variety of faiths. Christians have no monopoly on these. Christians took existing celebrations and “Christianized” them. No harm in that. Sounds like a good idea to me. The reverse is also true. December is not Christian month. Entrepreneurs have exploited every opportunity for making money that they can for centuries. It is up to us, the consumers, to pick and choose, and to use our critical thinking. They can only sell what we buy.
What about decorating? In the 4 years since I left, I have not done much with Christmas. I was hurting too much. It all seemed so fake. I didn’t want to operate on auto-pilot, and I didn’t know what I believed, felt, or wanted. This year for the first time I am enjoying some of the decorations. For instance, take the lights that some homes put up. To me, it is not really about Christmas, unless of course there is a crèche scene there. But it is beautiful nonetheless. I look forward to taking my grand-daughter to see some of them. It is a wonder, and lights in the night, colorful, bright, pretty, are awesome especially to a young child. I have fond memories of my childhood surrounding light displays. Does it tell me of the message of the Gospel (good news)? Not directly. I can read my own message into the lights – light in the darkness, joy when all seems black and cold, etc. I do that. But I now realize I can enjoy the lights as a Winter message. It doesn’t have to be strictly Christian. Who said December had to be strictly Christian? Anyone can celebrate light in the darkness.
I have my little fake tree up and am putting the ornaments on it. It makes me happy to do so. Beauty can be celebrated at all times. The star announces Christ’s birth. The tree is a symbol of everlasting life, which we are promised. (There’s another whole blog in that statement about the psychology of belief in life after death.) The lights remind me to look for the sparkle in the midst of worries, troubles, questionings; all the stuff of life that can feel unhappy or stressful.
I was well trained to not celebrate Christmas until the night before. Advent was Advent. Christmas lasted until Epiphany. I remember feeling so out of step with the rest of the world, especially since we left our tree up so much longer than others did. We weren’t allowed to open any presents on Christmas Day. At first we couldn’t on Christmas Eve, either. Then we got permission to let the kids open their stockings on Christmas Eve, and then we gave one present to each person on the Eve. But Christmas Day stayed a strictly religious observance, with lots of church and a big communal meal. I’m glad those restrictions are out of my life now. But I also am aware of the need to sift through and retain what was good from my former life. I do think it is good to remember the ‘reason for the season’ and not get carried away with possessions. It’s an ongoing journey of learning, and I am so happy to be on the journey.
May the season hold many blessings for you, whatever your frame of reference.