Over the Thanksgiving holiday I noticed this photo once again, and found it drawing me in, as I prepare for the Holiday season. Around the circumference of the painting appears to be much chatter and clatter. In the more serene setting at the center, you find the hostess, carefully bearing the turkey. This had likely been a long labor of love for her.
As the flurry of holiday activities begin, I find myself needing to find quiet spaces. In these spaces, I can cherish the memories and sentiments that I bring into the season. These have also been a labor of love over a long period of time. I find that I cannot rush through the season. I need time to cherish and process.
First and foremost, are elements of my faith. As a follower of Jesus, Christmas is, for me, a celebration of the beginning of His earthly life–God’s ultimate self-revelation, as I accept it. My faith is encouraged each year in my reflection of Advent.
Then there are, of course, all the sentimental memories of blessed life with family and friends. Some of those family members are gone now, and memories of them are more poignant in this season. I, myself, change with every year. During this season, I celebrate certain aspects of whom I have become, and the blessings I have accumulated. There are also aspects of the changes that accompany aging, that provide fodder for more melancholic reflection, of course [“So this is Christmas, and what have you done? Another year over, a new one just begun . . .”].
New Shelves in the Pantry . . .
Finally, the blessed time we spent living in Bethlehem has sharply increased the pantry of ingredients for my reflection during this season, especially. There are the loving and lovely friends that we are blessed with from the region. We miss being present with them, and pray for God’s continuing favor upon them. Someday, we hope to be able to make a return trip and reconnect again.
There are also many experiences in Bethlehem that have added delightful layers onto the meaning and enjoyment of the season for me. Sitting quietly by a fire, at night, in front of the tent of a shepherd friend in the Judean wilderness, cooking, while the sheep jostle and bleat quietly nearby. Spending many times of reflective prayer in the historic Church of the Nativity. Being moved in the Chapel of the Innocents, a space under the Church, dedicated to the memory of the innocent Hebrew boys killed by Herod. Viewing and visiting Herodian, the visible symbol of the power of the cruel king. His man-made mountain home watches over the small town of Bethlehem. Experiencing the very ordinariness of the circumstances of Jesus’s birth, as he slipped, with limited notice, into the chaotic world of humanity. A world filled with the bustle of the activities of daily life, the acrimonious sphere of political activity, and the violence of war and occupation.
I carry many things to cherish on my platter. I cannot be rushed by the bustle around me, as I prepare to enjoy them as much as I can. I look forward to this season, each year.
May you have a meaningful, God-filled holiday season.