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It is the day after Christmas. How are you feeling? Overwhelmed? Underwhelmed? Maybe you have that nagging feeling that — once again — the holidays have left you…incomplete somehow. What is that hole in our hearts, anyway — a longing for holidays past? Regret that Christmas didn’t “measure up” to our expectations? A sense that somehow we didn’t really get what we wanted?

Maybe what we’re missing can’t be bought from a store. And maybe that feeling you’re feeling is something helpful — a hint that this world isn’t meant to meet all of our needs. That longing you feel? Maybe it’s just a reminder that somewhere up ahead, something better awaits.

When your pockets are as empty
as the sack of your heart,
when you ache for a place
you’ve never been
and cannot find,
you will remember
what you did not get.

It was a stable, warm with hay
and the breath of cows,
a haven heavy with a sense of rest:
a knowing that all is well,
finally, at last and forever.
Do not fret, for this will come.
Keep walking toward the light.
Never let go of the longing,
for it will guide you,
sure as any compass.

Photo by Carlin Leslie

In my day, sonny, Santa was so stealthy, you didn’t hear him at all, even when he trundled his jelly belly into a slim chimney! He kept a low-profile, living a quiet life at the North Pole.

Nowadays, Santa has diversified. Not only is he larger than life, but he’s louder than all get-out. You see him in the mall, sitting there, plain as day, undermining his own mystique. You see him on the back of a firetruck as it blares and beeps its way through town. He’s even got an Instagram account!

Santa has become such a public figure that NORAD tracks him, and the postal service collects letters for him (addressed to 123 Elf Road, North Pole 88888.) He’s even got a Santa Hotline for kids to reach him at any time of the day.

I’m starting to think Santa is really spreading himself too thin, but I guess he’s got a mortgage to pay off, too. He’s even got a second home in Canada: Santa Claus, North Pole, H0H 0H0, Canada.

Maybe he’s got stand-ins, like movie actors do. It could be that some of the bearded fellows at Santa University are his proxies, spreading mirth and merriment when the big guy himself is otherwise engaged. 

Now, I know that Santa isn’t the true star of Christmas, but no matter what religion you belong to, this season is about joy and goodwill. It’s a holiday about hope, and the best part of it is that people are in a good mood and are (for the most part) getting into the spirit and treating each other with kindness. If only we could carry that feeling throughout the whole year!

Good tidings could toll, sing out in song,
fire or luminescence, light of any kind
to pierce the dark, a pillar of cloud
exiting Egypt; angels summoning shepherds.
Why send a star? Light already ancient,
a false ringing from a long-dead phone?
(Or does it live? By what name do we call it?)
Could only a star call the wise, with time and
thought to spare for gifts: gold for a king,
resin for the altar, spice for the embalmer,
already waiting to bless the linens
He would shrug off like a memory?
Have we any hope but to go the old way:
step by step across the desert,
to the limits of our imaginations,
and seek and seek the single light that shines
in an otherwise brutish sky?
A message sent light-years ago:
something both living and dead.
A cross is coming, do you see the shadow
pass over the baby’s face?

Yesterday, pastor included a children’s message as part of the service.  During this time, he sits on the stairs leading to the alter and the children gather there as well.  Yesterday they all talked about what they are thankful for – one little girl loved her nail polish.  One little boy?  Your guess is as good as mine. He’s a two-year-old mystery even when he very sincerely tries to describe something to me.

The problem is that I have to avoid trying to fill in what I think he has said.  I honestly don’t remember what I thought he had said the day he handed me a slightly mushed, dead cricket.

This is the world we live in.  My Christmas reality involves a tree and lots of lights.  So many lights!

Does that make it the only Christmas reality?  No.

Christmas isn’t a happy time for everyone.   Some are dealing with the loss of a loved one.  Others simply don’t have the finances to celebrate Christmas the way we are told it should be celebrated – gifts, fancy foods, and so many lights.  Others avoid the lights because they long for a simpler experience.

How do you know which it is?  You have to ask.  Then you need to listen.  Listen with your ears.  Listen with your heart.  Listen to what they tell you and for the still small voice of God.  After all, we live in a world of many realities.  Some people will need and want your help.  Others will long for your understanding.  After all, we live in a world of many realities.

–SueBE

 

“It is criminal that children are being kept in cages.”  Pop.

“No one should go hungry in such a wealthy country.”  Pop.  Pop.

“Young people need more opportunities.”  Pop. Pop. Pop.

Words are mere bubbles.  What an image!  So often we post about things that are wrong – injustice, hunger, impatience.  But posts and comments are nothing more than words.

Only deeds can make a difference.

That can be intimidating.  How can I solve these big problems.  But I had a little reminder yesterday that people working together can make a huge difference.

We attended a Christmas concert Sunday at a local shrine.  Paint swatches on one wall made it clear.  Upkeep in a 200 year old church is a constant concern.  And it takes money.

If the caretaker had asked any one person to pay for the paint required for yards and yards of fencing, that person surely would have taken a step back.  Who knows how much all of that paint would cost?  I certainly don’t.  But she simply asked for anyone who was able to put a few dollars in the collection basket.

I don’t know how many of us there were but the pews were close to full.  The basket that came down our pew was full and I’m sure the other two were equally well fed.

When a group of concerned and caring Christians work together we can accomplish worthy things.  Our deeds are like drops of gold.

–SueBE

I smiled when I read Lori’s beautiful poem.  “Hyacinth of the soul.”  What a powerful phrase!

Whether it is because you are mourning someone or simply because the gray skies weigh you down, this is a tough time of year for so many of us.  With so little daylight and cold winds keeping us inside, it can be easy for depression to take hold. What is fine one year may simply be too much another.

And it certainly doesn’t help that there are so many expectations on us.  Saturday, I am working the preschool breakfast with Santa at our church.  I will be painting faces.  I always laugh that we call if face painting.  Sure, ninety percent of the time, I am painting a snowflake on someone’s cheek.  Or their entire face to look like a reindeer.

But every now and again Mom drags up a wiggly four-year-old who looks me in the eye.  “Don’t touch my face.”

Me: Okay, do you want a snowman on your hand?

Little Wiggles:  I like snowmen.

Me:  Do you want one on your hand?

Little Wiggles gives me an elaborate shrug.

Me:  If you don’t like it, we’ll wipe it right off.

That is generally when I make my sale.  Kid, you have the power here.  Give it a shot and if you don’t like it, you give the word and off it comes.

These are always my favorite kids.  The ones who know that they are not face paint kind of people.  Hand paint?  Maybe.  But face paint?  Nope.

Christmas is about so much more than trees and lights and cards.  It is about the Light.  It is about Grace.  It is about the ultimate Gift from God. You don’t have to buy into all the rest if it doesn’t feel right in your soul.

–SueBE

There is so much good here,
both on and around the table.
Look. Whatever we have today
is bounty because we may not have
it tomorrow. Let us bless one another.
The number of clasped hands matters not;
it is the electricity of love they carry
each to other, love that leaps chasms,
love that lights a path to a doorway
where everyone you know is gathered
and all are glad to see you, even if
this place never appears on this earth.
A blessing on you, on all of you.
Great grows the heart that
knows gratitude for what
is seen; greater, grander
when we envision what could be.

A Texas Walmart banned a woman who ate half of a cake as she shopped, then demanded half off the price of the cake. Stories like this one make me think that the moral compass of the nation is out of whack, but is it really?

Maybe it’s just a matter of shifting your gaze to find positive things going on in the world.

DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA/ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER VIA GETTY IMAGES

Like the community that rallied behind California bakery owner, John Chhan, buying out all of his baked goods quickly every single day. Customers lined up as early as 4:30 AM, buying donuts in bulk to clear out the inventory. Why? Once all the donuts were sold out, he could close the shop and be with his wife, who was recovering from a brain aneurysm.“We are so thankful,” Chhan said.

Image via MCACC and Callie Mac/Facebook

Or the volunteers coming together to comfort shelter dogs during Fourth of July fireworks. Operation “Calm the Canines” is underway, and every dog in the shelter will have his or her own personal paw-holder when the noisy celebrations begin. It’s a twist on the therapy dog idea: a therapy person. A thera-person, if you will!

Callie Mac of the Maricopa County Animal Care & Control (MCACC), the organizer of this event said, “Huge thank you to everyone who showed up to help our shelter dogs! It takes a village! ❤”

There’s plenty of positive energy still left in the world. It just takes a shift in focus and a little bit of hope.

As we celebrate our country tomorrow, let us not forget our commitment to justice. If, indeed, we are a Christian country, where is God in the hierarchy of what we do, how we treat others, how we present ourselves to the world? I suspect that in our eagerness for self-importance, we have put God at the “less than” side of things.

Stuck at the mean, sharp point of the equation,
God is not diminished. We seek skyrockets; God
makes stars. We long for parades, boots on the ground,
a tank or two to feel less tiny. Meanwhile, time marches on,
grander than all the spectacles we muster. And at the far shore,
God watches, waits. Freedom is a thought too big, it must be
reduced, like loyalty, like love. God sits in the open bracket,
alone. We are held in her hand, blessed by bounty, blinking,
blinded by what we think we’ve made. One nation under God:
below, beneath. Not above. Until we know this, we do not figure,
despite our calculations.

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Have a Mary Little Christmas

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