Winter retreat deepens...

After arriving at our daughter's farm yesterday - and after Di left for work back in town - I pulled together my worship notes for this coming Sunday.  It is the first Sabbath since Christmas - many families will be away given school vacations - and I expect participation to be "light." That said, it is also one of the most fun days of the year because those who make it up and out to church really want to be there. In some ways it feels like a "snow storm Sunday."

My worship notes begin:

I don’t know if any of your pastors have ever shared this with you before but for those of us who WORK in the church – pastors, musicians, sextons and secretaries –our time for watching and waiting and slowing down as advocated in Advent happens AFTER Christmas Eve.  That’s not a complaint or even a problem, it is just a fact.  For the four weeks BEFORE Christmas Eve, in addition to encouraging you to practice contemplation, we are writing liturgies, decorating Sanctuaries, visiting the home-bound, practicing music and preparing publicity announcements. 

And while there is SOME Advent contemplation taking place in those weeks before the Feast of the Incarnation – CHRISTMAS – at least for me, the quiet anticipation of the season doesn't really happen until all the worship celebrations are over. That’s why most pastors take an extended time away from their congregations after Christmas: it is our time to pause and return thanks, connect with family and rejoice in the good news that has been born for us in the Christ Child. In fact, most pastors are away from their regular posts on both the first Sunday after Christmas as well as Easter, right?

This year, I had the chance to head up to our daughter Michal’s farm in Plainfield:  we shared Christmas dinner there with her sister and our new grandson and then returned for a few quiet days of post-Christmas Advent contemplation.  About the only thing I HAD to do was make sure the goats were fed and inside each night and that the chicken coop was opened and closed with the sun.  A totally beautiful and silent retreat…

Yesterday was so wonderfully quiet - and cold - with soft snow flurries arriving throughout the early evening.  After feeding the goats (Audrey and Ingrid) and getting the chickens settled for the night, I sat in front of the wood burning stove and just let the fullness of Advent/Christmas sink in.  For me, the Advent/Christmas season was full of activity, but it also felt like an integrated whole in both prayer and worship. That isn't always the case. Sometimes, Sunday seems totally divorced from everything else that is taking place in my life.  But this year our call to become Advent contemplatives seemed to take root.

Of course it is all too obvious that having a new grandson has made me all too aware of time - how precious it is - how quickly it is passing. So to be able to celebrate his first Christmas with both my daughters and their loved ones was a profound gift to me.  It was a privilege to be able to introduce Louis to the congregation on Christmas Eve, too and then share a time of feasting and gift-giving in the warm love of those dearest to my heart.  We always laugh so hard whenever we get together both because we know one another so well AND because my daughters' partners are so bright and quick witted.  Most of the time, I can't keep up with them so I sit back and just soak it all in with gratitude.

In a few minutes we're going to take the dogs for a hike in the woods. Our puppy, Lucie, LOVES to run in the wild and Michal's little English shepherd, Sage, is quite the scamp, too.  It is cold and sunny today and being out in the woods by the stream is always a little bit of heaven for me. Later, Di will finish up a quilt for some friends at church I will do some more writing before bringing the animals in for the night. There is a deep and healing rhythm to being in this place that is just what I needed for this winter retreat.  

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