“Slouching towards Christmas”–Wasn’t that what Joan Didion’s collection of essays, Slouching Towards Bethlehem was all about–preparation for that moment when the world really is new? Actually, I can’t remember. Though I loved the book, it’s been years since I read it. The Joan Didion book I do remember is The Year of Magical Thinking. That is a book that should be on every pastor’s bookshelf. But I digress.
I slouch towards Christmas in fits and starts. First the house–the native American creche we bought at the Jemez pueblo years ago, a round mirror on the dining room table on which we put glass trees and star shaped candle holders (I love the sparkle and its reflection for so many different reasons). Bows on the wall sconces(both bows and sconces have moved with us through five different houses); Santa on the mantle; last a ribbon wreath on our front gate.
We always get our Christmas tree on the Feast of Guadalupe. I want it up for a good while; then I want it down on Epiphany. (You can read the account of this year’s tree in my sermon “In the Bowl of a Question Mark” posted below.) This year we moved the Black Angel who usually presides over the dining room from a perch high on an old high secretary desk to the top of the tree. I think it’s fitting she reign over our tree as we remember Nelson Mandela, the great reconciler of our age and time. (Besides, her presence on our tree helps to redeem my tree-shopping experience this year.)
But its Howard Thurman who guides me each year through Advent to Christmas and beyond. I start my day with silence and his words rising from the well-thumbed pages of The Mood of Christmas and Other Celebrations.
Let me share some of those words with you now. A teaser really–titles of poems, lines of verse.
“I Will Light Candles This Year”–Candles of joy,despite all sadness/Candles of hope where despair keeps watch/….Candles that will burn all the year long.
“Christmas is the Season of the Heart”–The time of forgiveness for injuries past/The Sacrament of sharing without balancing the deed/The moment of remembrance of graces forgotten/The poem of joy making light the spirit/The sense of renewal restoring the soul/The day of thanksgiving for the goodness of God/CHRISTMAS IS THE SEASON OF THE HEART
“Christmas Returns”–Christmas returns as it always does, with its assurance that life is good….
And this poem of Thurman’s that I sent out to the bi-lingual, bi-cultural congregation I serve: