Dear Members and Friends,
Wonderfully secured by a mighty power, we await with confidence whatever may come. God is with us – in the evening, in the morning, and entirely certain on each new day.
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 20th century
Dianne and I attended a Christmas concert by Seraphic Fire, the wonderful Miami-based professional choral group, this past week. In addition to all the very old, classical and Renaissance songs they shared they included a more secular piece, a holiday classic: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. It is one of my favorites that fills me with nostalgia. As I listened to the words I was struck by the strong note of nostalgia that I had never before noticed in the lyrics.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
Next year all our troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the yule-tide gay
Next year all our troubles will be miles away
Once again as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Will be near to us once more
Some day soon we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.
I was struck by the note of longing, of wistfulness, in this song. It prompted me to think about other holiday favorites, like, I’m dreaming of a White Christmas, just like the one’s I used to know… or I’ll Be Home for Christmas… Many of the most beloved Christmas songs have a note of longing in them. In many ways, they truly reflect the mood of the Season of Advent, more than the celebration of Christmas.
Now, I know that all of the songs I just mentioned were written in the 1940’s and part of the reason for the longing in them was reflective of the family separations due to World War II. But that doesn’t explain the fact that they continue to be holiday favorites.
But Advent, and by extension for many of us, Christmas, is a season filled with longing and wistfulness. Much of the hectic schedule we buy into during this time of the year arises from our desire to reclaim that “perfect” Christmas. We are all looking for that love which we either remember having experienced in warm ways in the past at Christmas, or we missed and we keep hoping it will be found this year at Christmas.
So, we immerse ourselves in our family traditions, rarely pausing to ask if they are helpful, or if they still are meaningful, or if they ever really brought us that love. We say “yes” to them and hurry off into the crowds of Advent/pre-Christmas. It is not that traditions are bad, in and of themselves, but engaging in behavior or practices just because it is “what we always do at Christmas” without occasionally reflecting on it can often lead only to disappointment instead of that love that we seek to fill our hearts.
To help on your Advent journey towards a more peaceful, meaningful holiday season, here is a mini-meditation you might use.
As you encounter the holiday parties to consider, errands you “need” to do, and gifts to buy, bring some conscious awareness to each activity instead of your automatic “Yes.” Hold the invite in your hand, close your eyes and imagine being there. Does the idea of attending make your heart sing? Do these errands make you feel lighter or is it pulling you down? Does buying that gift fill you with joy or resentment? As you take a bit of that pumpkin pie slow down. Savor each decision you make. Own it and feel its impact on the totality of your being.
And remember, that love for which you seek, it has already been given, 2,000 years ago in the birth of an infant in a stable in Bethlehem. On that night love for all the world, for each and every creature, including you, entered the world. That love is there for you this Christmas as it is every day of the year. Open your heart to it and it will enter in.
See you in church.
R. Steven Hudder
Pastor, Christ Congregational United Church of Christ
Palmetto Bay, Florida