waiting to decorate in the spirit of prayer....

Tonight we finally decorated our house for the Advent/Christmas holidays.  I put up our traditional outdoor white lights after worship on Advent I.  Later that same day, I pulled out our satchel of Advent/Christmas music - mostly Celtic, medieval and a little George Winston - and we got our Advent wreath set into place. But life has been too demanding to do much else this year: whether it has been sharing time with loved ones in pain, going to the hospital, praying in agony over our friends in Istanbul, Aleppo and Cairo or simply getting our hearts and minds about living into a few years of focused resistance in the US, neither of us has had the energy or desire to do a whole lot more.

We got our tree on Advent III after worship and got the white lights up, too. But there it has remained in all its semi-naked glory for nearly a week. It has felt holy to just let it be for a spell.  This is, after all, a season of longing and quiet anticipation so it was a visual reminder of our Advent prayers.  Three experiences this week, however, pushed me closer towards the decorations we finally did tonight with joy (and a little melancholy.)

+ The first took place on Tuesday at choir practice.  New choir folk kept showing up and wanting to sing:  young tweens, young adults and a few more experienced!  Every 15 minutes it seemed as if some new friend was joining our ranks. After about 50 minutes of serious work on "O Holy Night" for this Sunday, Advent IV, our director stood up and said, "Before we run this one last time I want to tell you what it means to me. You know that I am Portuguese. But I am also Syrian... and as we sing this hymn it says so much to me about what is going on right now even as we practice. So, let's do it one more time as a prayer." At which point, about half the choir burst out in tears. As one colleague said, "Oh, great, now you expect us to SING?!?!" But we did - and wept some more too - and put our whole heart and soul into the music.

+ The second took place during a recent staff conversation.  We have been wrestling with the reality of new staffing in the New Year along with reduced budgets and all the rest. To say that it has been a nine months of anxiety and anger would be an understatement. But, thanks be to God, our lay leaders are faithful and creative.  And we spent the better part of two hours giving thanks to the Lord for their hard work and willingness to seek God's vision for our congregation.

+ And then, last night, I had the chance to hang with a younger colleague in the area and share a few pints of excellent winter lager.  We haven't had the chance to see one another in far too long so this was a small gift of love and encouragement for me as I move into partial retirement in February 2017. I can't quite find the words to say how important it was to share stories with my buddy - to say nothing of respect and affection.  It just confirmed so much in my heart is in sync with the Spirit of these times.

So, we made time tonight to get our tree dressed and add some other lights and decorations to our little Berkshire house.  One of the things we both cherish as we hang ornaments on the tree is remembering the stories behind each symbol:  the shamrock and thistle from our trip to London, the Inuit orb from Quebec City, the curling stone from the Eastern Townships of Canada alongside homemade treasures from our children and grandson. Each memory and each ornament evokes another prayer of gratitude, so tonight our hearts are more open for the birth of Jesus in our midst. 


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