From My Roaring Fireplace!
By Marilyn Fain
I know that many of my friends are “done” with Christmas…my own mother couldn’t get that dead tree undecorated and onto the neutral ground in front of our house soon enough! But NOT this Christmas gal! Those of you who know me well know that my tree and front porch lights will likely not come down until the middle of January. I so dislike letting go…of the sweetness and light that is the BEST of the Christmas Season for me. It seems that is when I observe more overt kindness in myself, in families (including mine), and in the world in general. Somehow I wish that spirit would/could prevail everyday of the year in human interactions. But imperfect creatures that we are, we evolve too quickly back into self-absorption, even self-centeredness…forgetting how good it felt when we were absorbed with ways to make others happy.
This after Christmas cocoon is especially sweet because most of the pressures we put on ourselves in order to “pull off” the perfect holiday celebration are completed, successfully or not. So sitting back to bask in the glow of tree lights, the gleam of glass balls and contemplate the new memories made without that stress seems perfectly appropriate for this time to me. Honestly, this year I am surprised to feel the same reticence to let go that I have felt after other Christmases. This Christmas has been for me and mine particularly difficult, in some cases incredibly sad…involving letting go of dearly loved ones and being unable to ease the suffering of some others. But…well…there it is. What Christmas truly IS facilitates the hope – THE HOPE – that springs eternal in this breast. And I aim year after year to get to the core of it…to celebrate JESUS’ Birthday in a way pleasing, honoring to Him. In fact, that is why He came, that is why His Father sent Him: to give folks like me…and you…HOPE that there is a day coming when we will be able to live Christmas in all of its richness and texture and LOVE more fully than ever we imagined as we struggle and strain to celebrate with our awkward attempts and mis-emphasized efforts here and now…for then we will celebrate with Him in His Presence.
And so today, the day after Christmas, I sit before this roaring fire (too cold out on that porch swing), enjoying the reflection of my Christmas tree’s little, white lights in the living and dining room windows, observing a winter world still tinged with leftover autumn color, continuing to Rejoice…
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given: and the government will be on His shoulders, and He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end…establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” Isaiah 9:6-7
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander of the peoples. Surely you will summon nations that you know not, and nations that do not know you will hasten to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor. Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near, Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him, and to our God, for He will freely pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth, and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty (void), but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the pinetree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed.” Isaiah 55:1-13
Powerful words that renew my spirit and guide me into a new year…resting into, curling up in this reassuring truth that – despite the conditions in our world – what He has said will be accomplished – “…so is my word that goes out of my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Declares the Lord – Yes!) Such comfort on this addled, bewildered, counterfeit, disloyal, fractious – and beautiful in so many ways – human habitation we refer to as planet earth. A favorite, old quote by G.K. Chesterton helps me express how I pray to live a new year:
“You say grace before meals.
But I say grace before the play and the opera,
And grace before the concert and pantomime,
And grace before I open a book,
And grace before sketching or painting,
Swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing;
And grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”
A favorite and effective beginning exercise for guiding children to express themselves in poetry and prose is patterning, using meaningful writings of others as patterns to inspire their own expressive ability. Often after using this technique for awhile, children gain confidence enough to begin to create their own writings from scratch. It is a good tool for anyone, including me today, as I rephrase Mr. Chesterton’s ideas with my own:
“You say grace before you eat…
But I say grace before the sermon and the show,
And grace before the concert and the game,
And grace before I begin to teach the lesson,
And grace before sculpting the flower bed or designing the scrapbook page,
Baking, sweeping, scrubbing, folding, conversing, singing, walking, reading,
And as I observe the world going by and think the thoughts that Scripture inspires;
And grace before I begin to write.”
My daily living – my very life - as prayer. Thank You, Lord, for Christmas Seasons where we come to know you more and more, for forgiveness, for fresh beginnings, for a world of wonder, for your Hope, for Grace. In the name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.