the nest

the nest

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas time is here...

Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer
Fun for all the children call
Their favorite time of the year

Snowflakes in the air
Carols everywhere
Olden times and ancient rhymes
Of love and dreams to share

Sleigh bells in the air
Beauty everywhere
Yuletide by the fireside
And joyful memories there

Christmas time is here
We'll be drawing near
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year...

This is one of my all time favorite Christmas songs.  I never get tired of it.  The meaning has changed over the years for me though and this year my soul responds more than ever to the melancholy tune of the song.  I'm sure it's been analyzed to death and I know that one of the reasons Charlie Brown and his friends endure is that they are so much more than characters in a cartoon storyline for kids.  

Christmas is changing for us this year in many ways.  It is the first year one of our children will be away from us~ Katy will be with the Luther Swim and Dive team in San Diego.  It is an awesome opportunity for her to really "dive" in to her sport and connect on a deeper level with her teammates.  We are lucky enough to have best friends who will be in Southern California with family so she will spend Christmas Eve and Day with them.

Andrew is in a house this year with people he really enjoys and will just be with us for a few short days.  

Helen and Jeff and I will head to Canada for a few days to see grandparents and cousins, but it will be quick and there will be some empty seats.

I just re-read that line and feel almost ashamed.  My empty seats are temporary.  Another holiday, another family trip or dinner, they will be full again.  What about the seats at the tables of the families in Sandy Hook?  What about the tables of the families of the police officers in Brooklyn?  There are thousands of seats that are empty forever because a vocal minority thinks that their right to own guns designed to kill people is more important than a human life.  

During this season of Advent and Christmas we are all waiting for something.  Those of us who celebrate the birth of Christ wait and watch.  We anticipate the birth of the Christ Child come to bring light back to a dark world.  Those who celebrate a secular Christmas wait and prepare for a time of giving and celebrating ~ they celebrate the light too, just with a different focus.  With the passing of the Winter Solstice, we embrace the reality that our days will get longer and the sunlight will return to us.  We all wait.

As my children grow and go out into the world, I will always wait for them to come home.  Their seats at the table will be there waiting for them.  I will always feel some relief when my table is full.  The families who have empty chairs that will never be filled again?  I hold them in my heart and I promise that I will continue to speak on their behalf.  I will continue to argue on the side of common sense and justice and kindness.  I will stand with those who will remember the faces of ones who will never come home and I will love them.

Waiting for my children to come home is pretty passive though.  I can simply wait and welcome them when they are here.  I can make it a welcoming place to come, but in the end, as they grow, they decide when to come take their place at the table.  I watch and wait.  

Waiting for Christmas and the symbolic celebrations involved can be passive to.  We are actively involved in all the "fluff" around the celebrations, shopping, baking, wrapping, but waiting for the days to grow longer, or waiting to be reminded of the birth of the Christ Child is passive.

Watching and waiting can be good in a way, but sometimes action is better.  We need to be actively loving others and bringing light to the world.  We are the light.  We must be the light.  We are called to be the light. When do we own our power to light up our world with love and kindness?  To hold those who are suffering?  Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless.  

Being a light in a dark world can be hard work, but it's better than watching the darkness spread.  

Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year...

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

And On Earth, Peace





It has been almost a week since I left home to visit my Alma Mater, Luther College, and see the yearly "Christmas at Luther" performance.  This year was the first time I attended since I was a Senior in December 1989.  25 years.  All I could think was "why has it taken me so long?"

Why this year?  My daughter Katy called in September from Luther, where she is a first year student, to tell us she had made the first year women's choir, Aurora.  As soon as I hung up the phone I got on-line and booked my ticket.  I'm pretty sure it was the most impulsive plane ticket I've ever purchased, but the idea of not seeing my daughter experience the magic that is music at Luther College was unacceptable.  I'm so glad I went, for so many reasons.

Seeing Katy walk onto the risers with her choir brought me to tears!  I knew the power of the musical experience to come and the thought that one of my children was going to be a part of such a powerful tradition was overwhelming to me.

Just hearing the choirs and being a participant in the evening (of course there were opportunities for the audience to sing as well!) would have been enough to fill my heart.  The music was exquisite~ the  CFL (Center for Faith and Life) was filled with light and love.  It was enough, but there was so much more.

As a mother who is slowly sending her children out into a world filled with hate and violence, with bitterness and fear, it would be easy to hold them tight, to not let them go.  We are surrounded by ignorance and snap judgments and all we hear about on the news is death and destruction.

The message of the concert recalled the angels' song from the Gospel of Luke:  "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace among people." (Luke 2:14)  The College President, Paula Carlson, noted in her introduction in the program that the theme was chosen to commemorate the Christmas Eve Truce of WWI, held 100 years ago on Christmas Eve.  "...close to 100,000 British and German soldiers on the war's western front in Europe made a temporary peace and celebrated Christmas together."  As they did then, we long for an end to war.  We long for peace and love to reign in our world.

And on Earth, Peace.

The theme of the concert.  Peace.  600 students at a small college in Decorah, Iowa singing songs of peace and love.  600 hundred young, hopeful, beautiful faces lifting their voices, creating some of the most beautiful harmonies together.  Are they all friends?  probably not.  Do they all like each other?  probably not.  But for the time they come together to create music, they are bound together in a powerful, intimate way, speaking a language that is universal.  You see, when we sing together (or play together) we cannot fight.

As the choirs began singing "Silent Night" in German, photographs of those German and British soldiers together on Christmas Eve were projected over the fresh faces of the choirs.  Young men in uniform, the same ages as the young men in their tuxedo's and robes, looked out of the pictures.  I could see my son and his friends in those faces.  The hall filled with the sounds of thousands of voices, the symphony and the organ.  All of us raising our voices together in a prayer for peace.

The music filled my heart, but the students and their passion fed my soul.  These are the ones who can change the world.  In the church we sometimes say we are one generation from extinction.  As a world, we are one generation from extinction.  Lucky for us that children are wise and each generation seems to find a way to pull us out of the depths.  I am hopeful that this generation, these young men and women will find the strength and the wisdom to create a better world than they have inherited.  They have seen the repercussions of greed and unlimited power.  As a quote I saw the other day noted, I hope that rather than accepting what they cannot change, they find the strength to change what they cannot accept.

I know that Luther College is a special place, but I also know that there are many "Luther Colleges" in the world.  I find great hope in the idea that the children we have raised just might be strong enough to re-create a world where we can all live together in peace.  It's a tall order, but if the 600 students performing last weekend in the CFL are any indication, there may be hope for us all yet.

The words of the hymn "O Day of Peace" will be my prayer for Advent.  May we all pray for peace in our world during these troubled times.

"O day of peace that dimly shines through all our hopes and prayers and dreams,
guide us to justice, truth, and love, delivered from our selfish schemes.
May swords of hate fall from our hands, our hearts from envy find release,
tip by God's grace our warring world shall see Christ's promised reign of peace.

Then shall the wolf dwell with the lamb, nor shall the fierce devour the small;
as beasts and cattle calmly graze, a little child shall lead them all.
Then enemies shall learn to love, all creatures find their true accord;
the hope of peace shall be fulfilled, for all the earth shall know the Lord."

Soli deo Gloria