Holiday Transformations
 December-25         For some it is the stuff of jokes.  For others it serves as a painful sign of the coopting of Christianity by the culture around it.  Obviously we have very little clue as to the actual date of Christ’s birth.  And we also know the story we tell each year at this time is an amalgam of four Gospel accounts – all four from persons who were not eye-witnesses themselves – with a smattering of traditions and myths that have wound their way into our hearts through pageants, carols, and children’s storybooks.  In any case, while completely made up out of thin air, the December 25th date of Christmas has some positive qualities to it.
         I find great wisdom in placing the holy-day that recalls the birth of our savior in the middle of the winter months where, at least for the northern hemisphere of our planet, the days are shortest and the cold seems deepest.  (I’ll leave it to our sisters and brothers south of the equator to come up with a good theology for why Christmas should fall during the warmest and longest days!)
         For me, as a person heavily influenced by Seasonal Affective Disorder, it is only immediately after the winter solstice that I can even begin to hope for the days when the enlivening sun shines longer and the hibernating nights are shorter.  Up until December 21 I cannot allow myself even the hint of optimism that spring and it’s bursting forth of new life will come.candlebyAllenVHarris
         But the frigid solstice comes and goes, and my heart begins to thaw.  Not a quick warming, as it has been in the deep-freeze for too long, and the days of snow and ice and cloudy skies are still long for this north coast region.  But I do allow myself the glimmer of possibility that someday, somehow I will be sweating while biking the paths of the Towpath Trail or jogging shirtless around Edgewater Park.
         And the ancients, by placing the stories of the birth of Jesus and the renewal of life that comes through faith in Christ at this turning point of the seasons, give us the most exquisite and subtle advocate for transformation, rebirth, revitalization, and new life.  And by placing it in an annual calendar of ritual and celebration, we get this chance again and again, year after year.  And as if that weren’t enough, in just a few short months, at about the turn of the next season, we will get yet another chance to be reminded about the ever-present, always-available probability for resurrection.
         Let us look at our lives and the many ways the cold breezes of life have chilled our soul… Let us understand how the cloudy skies of poor health, job insecurities, unthinkable natural disasters, relationship struggles cloud our vision and diminish our confidences.  But let us also watch… and wait… and expect that moment in the seasons of our earth and the seasons of our faith when the days begin their march back to warmth and light and hope.
         My prayer is that this Advent and Christmas, in ways too subtle for words and too deep for sighs, that you will experience the sure and steady shift from hopelessness to assurance that new life in Christ is not just possible, but probable – for you, for me, for our loved ones, for the world.
May it be so.  Amen.
Pastor Allen