Happy Holidays to you and yours! We have had such a wonderful year and are so thankful to all of our customers and artists and friends and family. We are grateful that we can be a part of your celebrating and creating and inspiring.
As you might imagine, I had several pages that I could have written on the subject, but I find myself somewhat short on time and focus - there are a lot of different things rolling around in my brain. We've had a busy week and my sister correctly described me as her "frazzled sister." I should be able to marshall some thoughts by the end of this post, but also had some words from other people (and from products in the shop) that seemed appropriate to share.
From Isthmus' editor/publisher: "Regardless of circumstances, we all have it within ourselves to be generous and to hold the well-being of others to be as important as our own. And we can all activate that generosity on some scale, the size being irrelevant to the spirit. If ever there were a time of year to engender that spirit, this is it."
"It is a time for family, friends and goodwill toward all. It is a time to put aside politics and confrontation. It is a time to contemplate the communality of humanity. It is a religious holiday, commemorating the birth of a man who preached love and generosity. In receiving, we should be mindful of those who give and seek to be among them."
And from poet Susan Cooper:
The Shortest Day
So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
... And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us - Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, fest, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
And from Rev. Emily C. Heath, On Keeping Christ in Christmas. "I believe the greatest attack on Christmas has come from within. It has come from those of us who claim our greatest hope comes from the fact that God became a person of goodness, kindness, justice, and love. And who then act nothing like that person did.
And so here is my suggestion to Christians about how to keep Christ in Christmas: this season, worry less about the holiday policies of non-religious institutions, and worry more about whether we are actually listening to, and then doing, what Christ told us to do. In short, keep Christ in Christmas by acting like Christians."
"I've always found the Beatitudes a good place to start. When Jesus called his followers up to a hill and preached to them, he told them who the "blessed" were; the ones whom God has looked with favor upon and will grant joy. The ones Christ calls blessed are often the same ones we as a culture are the quickest to condemn or criticize. We blame them for their own situation, and we refuse to help them. We somehow forget that when God became incarnate and preached a sermon about who was most blessed by God, these are the ones who were named: the poor, the hungry, the oppressed, the peacemakers, the merciful, the mourners, the pure in heart, the gentle. If Christmas is about the incarnation of God, and this is what God incarnate saw fit to tell us, then this is the ultimate Christmas message."
And what are my thoughts as we come upon Christmas day? Of course the season is busy with customers and shopping, the not so sacred part of the season. I'm rather tired, but it is balanced out by mercenary thrill. It is satisfying to have worked so hard all year long and have our efforts rewarded. I am so thankful for all the people who are making an effort to buy local this year; I feel that is one of our greatest individual powers to change the world.
But is it not just the money. In all honestly, I'm one of those annoying people who is usually finished with her present-shopping early, who likes listening to Christmas music and reading form letters, who is generally pretty happy right about now. This is a season that I have always approached with joy, and I am aware of my fortune in doing so. Those that I love are still with me and I am not required to spend time with or buy presents for those who I don't particularly care for. Our mom instilled in us early on the giving aspect of the season, which has always added the greatest sense of anticipation for me (I mean, can you just imagine how excited I am for my adorable niece to open the Cinderella dress that I sewed for her?!).
But I am also a (granted, liberal) Christian, so the season has its share of tradition and ritual, which I find satisfying, in idea if not in practice (we'll see if I can muster up the energy to be pleasant to people in church on Christmas Eve). Now, I'll admit that my Christianity is rather loosely based - I often don't attend fully to the details, for me it's mostly something about being loving & kind & generous & doing so to others (and the least of these) as you'd have done to you.
This year in particular though I've been thinking about that baby Jesus more than I usually do. Actually, I've been thinking about that idea that "Jesus saves." Now, my interpretation of my liberal Christian background doesn't particularly include this idea, and I really don't mean to be frivolous, but all I can think is, "then what?" I mean, you are saved/forgiven, you get into heaven, but what does it mean for this moment? For me I think it means that you are freed from the weight of your sin, but then obligated to do something with that freedom, not to be consumed by your guilt/debt/sin, but to go out into the world and act upon the kindness & generosity that was given to you, and to act in the world with similar kindness & generosity.
And, I know, not everyone believes in Jesus, but I'm really talking about something broader - something that is love not hate, acceptance not judgment, you get the idea. I've been thinking about certain people in my life, but I think it relates to many of the people who are somehow not so thrilled with the season. People who are weighted down with their fear, their guilt, their pain. To the people who approach this season with dread or hatred because not everyone observes the season the way they want them to, because they have to spend more money on people they don't like, or because they are missing someone they loved dearly who is not with them and have to pretend to be cheerful when they feel anything but. It relates to the ways that we all are inactive, delaying/avoiding/procrastinating, because of fear, because of the way we judge ourselves lacking, and the ways we think other people judge us. It relates to the ways that we judge other people and keep them from fulfilling their potential. It seems like so much energy is spent on the fear and judging that we never get around to the actual doing or making or speaking, the actual living.
But what if everything is forgiven? What if there is no judging? What if we are saved from our fear? What if our actions, grounded in good & love & truth, are Right and we don't have to waste any more energy worrying about being judged? What would you do if you were not weighted down with anxiety or fear or preoccupied with judging/being judged? I know, it is easier said than done. But my holiday wish is that we might all take a lesson from a little baby - to act, not out of fear or hatred or judgment, but to listen for the truth & love that everyone speaks, and act accordingly. To be as generous in our giving as we are in what we have received (from our God, from our family, from our Universe, from our government, from our world).
"One time on Hollywood Boulevard I saw a young girl with a baby. It was a crisp winter morning & her hair shone dark purple in the sun. She was panhandling outside the Holiday Inn & the door clerk came out & told her to be on her way & I wondered if anyone would recognize the Christ child if they happened to meet. I remember thinking it's not like there are any published pictures & purple seemed like a good color for a Madonna so I gave her a dollar just in case." Brian Andreas Story People