364 More Days

Yes, it’s only 364 more days until Christmas 2018. Yes, I’m already counting.

I’m always a little sad when Christmas Day ends. I know that technically if you count the 12 days of Christmas, we have until January 6, the Day of Ascension.  But still, it feels like some of the magic has ended for another year.

Maybe this year, I’ll go crazy and watch Christmas movies in months other than December. I could always pick a few to watch on the 25th of each month.

Or maybe I could go even crazier and actually buy some of my Christmas gifts early, so I can actually enjoy the Advent and Christmas season without worrying about who will get what.

Best of all, I can always be like that old Ebenezer Scrooge at the end of A Christmas Carol and honor Christmas in my heart all the days of the year, especially the Child in the manger who doesn’t just live in the hearts of men and women one day of the year.

But you can rest assured that I WILL be counting down the days until December 25, 2018. Darn tootin’.

 

 

Happy Winter Solstice!

Apparently, today is the Winter Solstice, a fact that almost slipped by. It’s 11:16 pm and I only just realized today is the shortest day of the year. After today, the amount of daylight starts increasing again with a view to Spring 2018. So, that means that it won’t be getting dark at 4 pm for much longer.

Today is also Short Girl Appreciation Day for any girl who’s 5’5″ or under. If you qualify, I definitely think you should celebrate. After all, some reach perfection earlier than others, right?

I confess that I don’t feel ready for Christmas. Not in the least. I have nearly all my presents bought and wrapped, but I don’t feel like my heart is prepared for the coming of the Child born in the manger.

I blinked and it was already Advent season. I blinked again and it’s 3 days until Christmas. I blink again and it will all be over until 2018.

I wish that it would all slow down for a little while. I want to take the time to relish and savor this Christmas season before it’s all over.

Today is also the first official day of winter. In the usual ironic twist of Tennessee weather, we’re having a bit of a warm spell. Not warm in the sense of breaking out the speedos, but in the sense of wearing lighter jackets. It could almost be spring (or early fall).

So, happy Winter Solstice/First Day of Winter/Advent!

May you truly come to the true heart of Christmas this season and celebrate the Child in the manger who still does not live in the hearts of men and women one day of the year but all the days of all the years.

 

 

Advent Sneaking Up

Every year, I say that I will experience all the fullness of Advent and Christmas and not one little moment slip by, yet increasingly each year I find that the days in December slip by so quickly that I hardly have a chance to catch my breath before it’s all over.

I don’t feel ready or prepared, yet Christmas Eve is only 9 days away. Back when I was a kid, 9 days would last forever, but these days when I sneeze, 2 days go by.

The first Advent and Christmas snuck up on people. Those living in Israel were expecting a Messiah, but almost none of them were looking in the right place at the right moment when He arrived.

Few would have ever suspected tiny Bethlehem to be the birthplace of the King of the Universe. Fewer would have expected Him to be born in such a lowly place — whether it was a stable or a room for the animals attached to a house– and had His first crib be a feeding trough.

It seems we’re still missing Him today. He gets crowded out by lights, gift wrapping, tinsel, and all the hustle and bustle that comes with the season. These are all good and well, but not when we’ve forgotten the reason why.

It’s good to make time to be still and meditate on the true meaning of Christmas, remembering that the Child we celebrate lives in the hearts of people not just one day a year but in all the days of all the years (to semi-borrow a line from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol)

“Lord, sometimes You come quietly and with no disturbance. Babies threaten no one, and no memorials are raised to mark their significance. May my life bring Christ quietly into the circle of human need so that those who need You will not be frightened by Your presence but enveloped in it” (Calvin Miller, The Christ of Christmas).

Stepping Inside a Movie

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the 1954 Christmas classic White Christmas. It remains my absolute all-time favorite holiday movie ever.

Each time I watch the part where they get to the Vermont Inn run by the General, I wish for a moment that I could step into the TV screen and live there.

I know it’s not real. It’s most likely a set built on a sound stage at Paramount Studios in Hollywood. Still, it looks and feels warm and inviting.

It’d be amazing if there were actual places like this. They’d almost have to be in the New England area or it would spoil the illusion.

Anyway, now you know my little secret. I want to live inside the movie White Christmas. With or without the floor show.

At the Right Time

“But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance” (Galatians 4:4-7, The Message).

In this Advent time, it’s good to remember that for thousands of years people were looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. Many trusted in faith and died without seeing what they hoped for fulfilled, yet they still believed.

We are on the other side of history, looking back toward that blessed event. How much more should our faith increase at this time of year, knowing that the promised Messiah has come and the Kingdom He spoke of is here?

Still, for many of us, this is a difficult season. For some, it’s a reminder of lost loved ones. For others, it’s a season where life goes from busy to insanity.

Still, this is the season where we are reminded of Emmanuel– God with us. Advent means that God is still here with us and won’t ever leave us. Ever.

 

 

Another Christmas Carol

“It was the afternoon of Christmas Eve and Scrooge was conscious of a thousand odors, each one connected with a thousand thoughts and hopes and joys and cares long, long forgotten” (from The Muppet Christmas Carol).

Yeah, I finally got around to this one. It was as delightfully muppet-y as I’d hoped it would be. I think I’ve now seen just about every important adaptation of A Christmas Carol that’s ever been put on film.

As stated before, my very favorite adaptation is still the 1951 British version starring Alastair Sims. That’s always required viewing for me every Christmas season. But this one will be added to my list of favorites.

Now matter how many times I’ve seen it in all its various incarnations, the truth of the story always hits home with me. Christmas may be a day on the calendar, but the spirit of Christmas isn’t limited to 24 hours. It’s all the days of the year, ever year for as long as we live.

Christmas above all isn’t about presents and decorations. It’s about remembering those who have enriched our lives but who are no longer with us. It’s about family and friends gathered together to celebrate another year come and gone. It’s about the God who became flesh and was born into the world and dwelt among us, showing that even though we could never get to God, He could (and did) come to us in Jesus.

My prayer for all of us this season is that we don’t get so lost in the commercialism and fast-paced hustle that we forget about the tiny baby lying in a manger. I’m praying we can all celebrate the Advent of Emmanuel, who’s coming changed the world.

And yes, it was great seeing all my favorite Muppet characters (even Beaker), especially Gonzo as Mr. Charles Dickens and Rizzo the Rat as himself.

Post-Thanksgiving Pre-Advent Thoughts

Apparently, this will be one of those odd years where Advent doesn’t immediately follow Thanksgiving. According to my understanding, Advent begins next Sunday. I’m not exactly an expert on these things, so it may very well be that I’m wrong about this. If so, be gentle.

Today seemed like a good day to look at old memories on Facebook and Timehop. I’m reminded that two years ago I was dog-sitting in McKay’s Mill for a very lovable and friendly dog named Millie who has since crossed the rainbow bridge.

I also see pictures of my late beloved Lucy, who was looking very contented and well-fed at the time. Part of me still wonders if I missed a clue that might have helped her live a little longer. Most of me knows that she was deeply loved and had a very good life. I was blessed to have her for those 17 years.

I also finally got around to one of the classics of modern cinema. I’m talking about Weekend at Bernie’s. No, it was not a great piece of filmmaking by any stretch, but it was a good representation of the good and bad of 80’s movies.

Today ends the extended version of the weekend known as Thanksgiving/Black Friday. I got caught up on my sleep, made it through a migraine on Saturday, and had a lovely day today.

I’m not sure what to read out of The Book of Common Prayer next. I guess I’ll get a head start on the Advent readings. It’s never too early to start getting my heart ready for the celebration of the promised Messiah.

Here’s a little taste:

“What is coming upon the world is the Light of the World. It is Christ. That is the comfort of it. The challenge of it is that it has not come yet. Only the hope for it has come, only the longing for it. In the meantime we are in the dark, and the dark, God knows, is also in us. We watch and wait for a holiness to heal us and hallow us, to liberate us from the dark. Advent is like the hush in a theater just before the curtain rises. It is like the hazy ring around the winter moon that means the coming of snow which will turn the night to silver. Soon. But for the time being, our time, darkness is where we are” (Frederick Buechner, The Hungering Dark).

Advent Thoughts in April

“God travels wonderful ways with human beings, but he does not comply with the views and opinions of people. God does not go the way that people want to prescribe for him; rather, his way is beyond all comprehension, free and self-determined beyond all proof. Where reason is indignant, where our nature rebels, where our piety anxiously keeps us away: that is precisely where God loves to be. There he confounds the reason of the reasonable; there he aggravates our nature, our piety—that is where he wants to be, and no one can keep him from it. Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous that he does wonders where people despair, that he takes what is little and lowly and makes it marvelous. And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…. God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken” (Dietrich BonhoefferGod Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas).

Ok, so I goofed. I meant to type in Lent quotes, but reverted to Advent quotes instead. Blame it on the lack of sleep. But this one applies not only for Advent season but for all seasons in which we feel excluded or weak or broken.

There is never a time when God is not the Emmanuel, God with us.

 

Boxing Day Randomness

Here it is, the day after Christmas, when the usual sense of post-holiday despair sets in.   Only this time, I’m at peace with the world and feeling very much contented.

I still love the joy on the faces of my nephews and niece at opening their presents. It’s such a fleeing pleasure that gradually dims a little as they grow another year older.

Speaking of growing older, I’m finding that my own joy comes less and less from the gifts I receive and more and more in the giving. It’s less about the spectacle and more about the quiet moments where the full meaning of the reason for the season sinks in a bit further.

I’m not taking for granted that everyone I love will always be around– even for next Christmas. I’m learning to savor all the times we spend together, to soak in as many memories as I can before it all becomes past tense.

I didn’t quite get around to all the required holiday movie viewing, so I may have to extend the deadline on that one just a bit. I still haven’t seen A Christmas Story, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, or Elf yet. I know, I know. I’m seriously slacking.

I’m also thinking of ways to carry on the Christmas spirit beyond December into the new year. I’m thinking of the sermon at the end of The Bishop’s Wife. David Niven’s character says that the best gift for the baby in the manger who’s birthday we’re celebrating is treating others like we want to be treated. Or better yet, treating others and loving others like Jesus has loved us.

There really should be some kind of special observance for December 27. I’m not ready to give up the Christmas season cold-turkey. Maybe I can commemorate it by continuing to live out that spirit of generosity and kindness and seeking to live a more Christlike life.

That should be a good start.

 

Boxing Day 2016

Christmas Day officially ended 37 minutes ago. Even though I know that the Christmas spirit lives on, I’m always a little sad to see the day end because I know it means the end of all those festive decorations and lights.

Still more than that, it means the end to the time when I feel most closely connected to the past and all those family and friends who are no longer here. Somehow, those memories seem to visit me a little more freely at this time and I’m a little more thankful for them.

The beauty of Christmas is that because of the child born in the manger, no one I loved is ever really lost to me. I have the hope of seeing them again one day. Those of us who have received the greatest gift of Christmas in the form of Jesus can grieve not as those who have no hope but will the full assurance of the blessed hope that Christ has given to us.

That’s the same hope that nullifies any fear of death and the grave. It cancels out any fear of what anybody here on earth can do to me. That hope not only gives me a future but also an abundant life here and now.

It’s now 12:45. It’s all quiet except for the sound of my geriatric cat purring on the pillow next to mine. I’m still trying to make sense of the blur that has been the last five weeks since Thanksgiving.

I know that the next Christmas Day rolls around in 364 days but I also know the promise that day holds will be good tomorrow and the day after that and through all the days of the year.

That same gift that came in the manger so long ago is still available to anyone who asks and seeks the Christ in faith.