Joy to the World!

Each week of Advent and through the Twelve Days of Christmas, which end on Epiphany, I’ll again share my ponderings on the beautiful alchemy of lyric and melody in some Christmas carols. I promise at least one posting a week, and I hope to hear your carol thoughts as well.

This time of year, the word, joy, meets us everywhere: mailed to us in cards, strung along the street in lights, and, of course, sung to us in carols. There’s “Hark, the Herald Angel Sings” (joyful all ye nations rise), “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” (oh, tidings of comfort and joy), “O Come O Come Emmanuel” (rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel). And, of course, “Joy to the World” (not the Three Dog Night version, though that one’s joy packed as well)

C. S. Lewis described Joy as “an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.” Though joy is both a delight an ache, “anyone who has experienced it will want it again.” Lewis concludes, “I doubt that anyone who has tasted it would ever…exchange it for all the pleasures in the world.”

If you’ve ever peered through a keyhole or a crack in a fence, you know something of joy. You can see just enough to long for a fuller vision, maybe even to walk into the space you see. At the same time, you’ve a limited perception of what’s out there. But it looks mighty promising; if you could just get there…

During the holidays, we have available—alongside the frustrating grocery lines, the crazy traffic, the scary bank balances, and the lights that won’t light on one side—ample opportunities for JOY. It might be that holiday song that wrenches our hearts, lights that transform us into children, a cherished family tradition (ours is driving around to view lights while belting out holiday tunes), or surprise snow IN AUSTIN, TEXAS! Even mundane tasks can, unexpectedly, overwhelm us with joy. In the midst of folding laundry, we glimpse the now and the not yet.

Joy, in the present, promises much more in our future. Joy is a delight that aches. It’s a wonder and a mystery. And I wish for you this holiday a season of joy.  In the words of the carol: Joy to the world—that includes you and me!

Advertisements

Jesus Is Come

Prepare

Jesus is come.

I saw her even before the season began

In the folksy yellow blossoms of a tulip gift.

 

Jesus is come.

I opened Skype one morning and there she was—

Struggling with grad school overload, hanging in.

 

Jesus is come.

He grinned at me, needing front teeth for Christmas:

The rest tarred and tangled. But how he grinned!

 

Jesus sang “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” with gusto if not with pitch,

And moments later swayed and gentled to “Silent Night.”

 

His child’s expectancy belied the violence that landed him in shelter;

Her shy teen smiled reached me behind locked gates.

 

Jesus sparked from yards seen from outer space

And pulled me close to feel His heart when the nightmares came.

 

I buttered her toast as she headed off to the work of need;

She paints magic to recoup.

 

Like me, Jesus has to eat, find shelter, balance work and refreshment.

 

I expect Jesus’ coming,

I open eyes wide,

strain ears for the sound of a distant motor,

sniff for change in the air.

 

I wait.

I am met.

 

But…no.

I’m not ready.

My house is a wreck.

I’m way too tired.

My relationships—muddled.

 

But Jesus is come

On the insistent dawn of this Christmas morn.

 

And I sit in mismatched jammies

Eyes wide, ears straining,

aching to touch the deep magic.

 

Jesus is come.

 

Here I am…

 

Tinsel & Term Limits

6-nity

I’m a few weeks into this 6-nity business (living into my 6th decade with humor and dignity). And I have to say it’s no big deal. Recently a friend grew apoplectic over the prospect of turning 58. “Ain’t no big thing,” I told her. And meant it. Like a reverse Advent, the anticipation is far worse than the reality.

I wonder what all the fuss is about. Actually, I’m pretty sure I know: we’re a death denying society. That’s why we spread make-up and hair gel on death, then bundle it into expensive packages which allow us to delude ourselves into forgetting that what no longer breathes decomposes.

Older people remind us that our lives have term limits that are not of our choice.

Why else would we reduce older persons to a set of embarrassing, age-related symptoms, treat them as pets, or tuck them quietly away (out of sight…)? Such practices insult persons who have earned the gravitas of years. And it harms those who perpetrate such practices. Such souls are rendered shallow; nothing deep can take root there.

Personally, I refuse delivery of such practices. Instead, I seek to live every day God gives me: to do what I can to make the world a better place. I will work, I will laugh, I will hope, I will love. To celebrate every second my heart beats and my brain fires.

***

The other day I met a septuagenarian. He’d wrapped his walking cane in tinsel and twinkling holiday lights.

“I love your cane,” I said.

“Tis the season,” he smiled.

 You are my role model for the next decade, I decided.

Holiday Justice

Small Justices

“It’s not fair!” wails the child.

“Life’s not fair,” counters the adult—a response that, while accurate, I find wholly unsatisfying. At my core I know life should be fair. Children know it, too. And saying “life’s not fair”—that’s just restating the problem.

This holiday season, and in the coming year, I hope to act for justice. Why the holidays? On reflection, I realized that Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa each respond to an injustice. Celebrants choose meet injustice with creativity, community, and hope: to be what they hope the world will become. How might we live out that kind of hope inside the holiday hectics? Some possibilities include:

  1. Taking Our Turn: We choose not to muscle our way into traffic, whether it be on the road or in the store;
  2. We Respect Ourselves: Enough to treat others with respect, even when we are disrespected. That may mean holding our tongue or it may mean holding someone accountable;
  3. Paying a Fair Price: We support fair trade businesses and give servers generous trips;
  4. Practicing Equality: That server? As important as any CEO, film star, sports hero, or president. Everyone has a story. Everybody matters;
  5. Giving Mercy: Parenting taught me that, while a practice of justice in the home is vital to raising children of character, sometimes mercy is needed. My children needed mercy from me and I from them. Mercy taught us we were more than our failings. I am not condoning a practice of mercy that allows a system of violence to continue unimpeded. I am speaking of acting in love: sometimes that’s being just, other times it’s being merciful.

This holiday season, we can seek to practice the justice we hope for all persons.

How do you respond to injustice? What are your hopes this holiday season for a fair and loving world?

Joy to the World

Joy to the World

Advent Piece 24

Each day of Advent, in honor of Word becoming flesh, I’ll seek, with art-making tools, to flesh out a word of the season. No conclusions here, though. These interactive “art samples” are more about raising questions than providing answers. Double click to see the image larger.

Today’s piece is the cover and inside of my handmade Christmas cards, which which their recipients joy in the coming year. May it be a joyous year for you as well!

 

 

Bethlehem

Bethlehem

Advent Piece 17

Each day of Advent, in honor of Word becoming flesh, I’ll seek, with art-making tools, to flesh out a word of the season. No conclusions here, though. These interactive “art samples” are more about raising questions than providing answers.

1 Samuel 16:4, 13 notes Bethlehem as the site of King David’s anointing, Micah 5:2 prophesies it as the birthplace of Israel’s great ruler, and Luke 2:4, 11 names Bethlehem as the place of Jesus’ birth.

Bethlehem means “house of bread.” Bread, in a beautiful diversity of forms, sustains life in cultures around the world. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.”  What does that mean for you and for me as we take and eat this holiday season?

Hosting a Party an Introvert Can Enjoy

He arrives late—a survival skill he’s developed over the years. “Good to see you,” welcomes his host. “Introduce yourself around.”

Gazing across the partying crowd, he feels that familiar squeeze to the gut. Maybe he can just back himself out the door…

But he wades in, introducing himself to one disinterested partier after another. After several aborted attempts at party banter, he retreats to a corner, pulls out his cell phone and presses the “Angry Birds” app. Painfully aware of the laughing crowd enjoying themselves without him, he takes out a few green pigs and checks the time. Still too early to leave.

He makes an extended bathroom visit. After an hour and one minute, he murmurs thanks to his host and escapes, convinced that he is the most uninteresting man in the world.

With the holiday party season upon us, I thought I’d speak a word for us introverted invitees. I’m convinced most people throw parties because they value their guests and want them to enjoy themselves in community.  And with some planning, a host’s introverted friends can enjoy the party instead of feeling they’re doing time. A host might:

1. Invite us to help. Whether it’s refilling drinks or snacks, handing out name tags, or supervising a party project (like getting signatures on a huge birthday card), a task provides us a reason to meet new people.  Plus, letting us help takes pressure off you and enables us to feel valued at your party. Win win!

2. Provide solitary activities. Unlike extroverts, who charge their soul batteries through interpersonal interactions, we introverts require solitude for restoration. Provide us a recharge zone: a gallery of photos at a birthday party or anniversary; a journal to write in at a shower; or, at your holiday party, a creative outlet, such as ornament making or cookie baking.

3. Supply interactive options. Introverts step outside our comfort zone when we enter your party. Meet us halfway by providing something in addition to food, drink, and party banter. A televised sporting event or film to view lets us participate without constantly making conversation. The same applies to karaoke or group games. We make supportive audience members and, with the right encouragement, might even step up on stage and belt out “Freebird.”

4. Be a host. Introduce us to a potential friend by helping us connect. “X, this is my good friend, Y. Y does computer graphics and I’ve never seen her without a book. With your shared love of reading and things technological, I thought you might like to tell her about your new blog.” Then stick around until the conversation takes on life. We will arise and call you blessed.

When planning an inclusive party, it just comes down to standing in your friend’s shoes. Your introverted friend really does want to party—and he really is quite interesting.  A party that values your friend as the person s/he is: now there’s something to celebrate.