Tuesday, December 30, 2008

December 30, 2008 - Christmas Haste

Christmas has come and gone, without a blog entry. That’s mainly a function of my being so busy.

It was a good Christmas. Ania was back from Chapman University for the holidays, and Ben continues to be living here at the house, as he works full-time giving guitar lessons. My mother, Shirley, is now living back in New Jersey, having moved up here from North Carolina in September. Brother Jim came down from Boston for the holiday. From Claire’s family, we welcomed her sister Eva and her daughter Elizabeth (who also live in our house), as well as her brother Victor from Baltimore, with his kids, Chelsea and Nick; and Claire’s sister Ramona, from New York City. There were a few friends here, besides.

It made for a full table at Wigilia, the traditional Polish Christmas Eve vigil supper from Claire’s family tradition, which we somehow squeeze in between the 7:00 and 11:00 pm Christmas Eve services. (Here’s a picture of Claire spreading some straw on the dining-room table, assisted by Murphy the cat – the straw goes under the tablecloth, and is symbolic of the straw of the manger.)

A few days before the holiday, we had about 30 members of the Youth Connection group here for pizza and snacks, after their annual Christmas caroling expedition to homebound and nursing-home folks.

As for the Christmas Eve services, we had the usual children’s service at 4:00, followed by Candlelight Services of Lessons and Carols at 7:00 and 11:00. My sermon, “A Hasty Christmas,” focused on that line from Luke’s Gospel that describes how the shepherds “went with haste” to Bethlehem.

It’s a perfectly ordinary phrase, but to me it seems to offer a basis for reflecting on how many of us tend to approach the holiday. There are two kinds of haste: the stressful kind that pushes you, and the wondrous kind that pulls you. While the shepherds may have had good reason to fear the angels (who, in good biblical tradition, were anything but gentle emissaries of sweetness and light), I like to think they rushed down off that hillside because of the wonder of Word-made-flesh that was apparent in that humble stable.

From the sermon:

“There is another kind of haste, besides the sort that pushes us. There’s also the haste that pulls us. It’s the same sort of haste grandparents feel, as they’re waiting in an airport lounge to go visit their new grandchild for the first time. It’s the sort of haste a young man feels, when he’s off to pick up that special young lady to take to the prom. It’s the sort of haste that says, ‘Come on, let’s go – every minute we delay is a minute we won’t be there!’

It’s the sort of haste we’ve all come to know, when Christmas is at its very best. It’s not the tyranny of the to-do list, but the joy of a churchful of people singing carols; the glow of the candlelight, passed from hand to hand during ‘Silent Night’; the swell of the organ, as we roll into that first stanza of ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful.’ It’s the sort of haste that beckons us onward, that wins cold hearts over, that pulls us out of the December doldrums and sets us gently down into a holy place, a place of light and love and faith.”

One of my growing edges, in these days of watch-and-wait monitoring of my lymphoma, has to do with maintaining the right kind of haste in my life. Better to be pulled than pushed. Better to be motivated by wonder than by worry.

It's a tough balance to maintain – but I’m working on it.


CLL Spouse said...

One blog linked to another and I found my way over here.

I like the distinction you made between the two types of haste. It's good to ponder as a new year approaches and I think again about what to keep in and what to weed out.

God's richest blessings on your New Year!

brooke r. said...

i like that distinction in different ways to look at haste. very beautiful and yet another way to look at christ's birth. i got a completely different view from paul h. on christmas eve here in logan (which was just as meaningful).

i love that faith is such a complex thing. i have this image of a geode in my head - any time you turn it you get a different reflection of light on it and you see something different.

anyhow - i am glad you had such a lovely christmas (i am wondering if murphy ended up playing with all that straw, i couldn't do something like that in my house - my max would not be able to have that straw there like that without playing). i hope you have nothing but blessings in the new year and that this awful cancer disease leaves you to just live your life.