December 25, 2016
December 25th was designated the day for celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ by Pope Julius I in the mid-300s. Since Christmas is a birthday, I thought I’d share with you a beautiful birthday story I read recently in Krista Tippett’s book, Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living.
The book summarizes the lessons Tippett learned from the wise men and women she has interviewed over the years for her program On Being. It is perhaps fitting that the birthday story related here has Jewish roots. It was told by Rachel Naomi Remen, a physician, who was given the story on her fourth birthday by her rabbi grandfather. I am copying it here:
The Birthday of the World
“In the beginning there was only holy darkness, the Ein Sof, the source of life. In the course of history, at a moment in time, this world, the world of a thousand thousand things, emerged from the heart of the holy darkness as a great ray of light. And then, perhaps because this is a Jewish story, there was an accident, and the vessels containing the light of the world, the wholeness of the world, broke. The wholeness of the world, the light of the world, was scattered into a thousand thousand fragments of light. And they fell into all events and all people, where they remain deeply hidden until this very day.
Now, according to my grandfather, the whole human race is a response to this accident. We are here because we are born with the capacity to find the hidden light in all events and all people, to lift it up and make it visible once again and thereby to restore the innate wholeness of the world. It’s a very important story for our times. This task is called tikkum olan in Hebrew. It’s the restoration of the world.
And this is, of course, a collective task. It involves all people who have ever been born, all people presently alive, all people yet to be born. We are all healers of the world. That story opens a sense of possibility. It’s not about healing the world by making a huge difference. It’s about healing the world the touches you, that’s around you.”
So here’s the wise lesson: Be the light you want to see in the world. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, but do even one thing.
December 24, 2016
December 25, 2015
December 25, 2013
“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”
— Calvin Coolidge
Just a few holiday touches at my house. Merry Christmas!
December 25, 2012
“Bless all the dear children
In Thy tender care . . .”
— from Away in a Manger
“A thrill of hope; the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”
— Placide Cappeau, from O Holy Night
December 20, 2012
“And this is what we mean by friends. Even when they are absent, they are with us . . . even when they are weak, they are strong; and even when they are dead, they are alive.”
“Listen to me: everything you think you know, every relationship you’ve ever taken for granted, every plan or possibility you’ve ever hatched, every conceit or endeavor you’ve ever concocted, can be stripped from you in an instant. Sooner or later, it will happen. So prepare yourself. Be ready not to be ready. Be ready to be brought to your knees and beaten to dust. Because no stable foundation, no act of will, no force of cautious habit will save you from this fact: nothing is indestructible.”
— Jonathan Evison, from The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving
Today’s post is in memory of Alden, my daughter’s best friend, who died one year ago. Sometimes it is difficult to find the strength to stay open to the joys of the season. I am privileged to witness my daughter’s courage in this regard. My heartfelt best wishes to everyone who is suffering the absence of beloved friends and family this holiday season.
” . . . simply living demands all the courage that we have.”
— Adam Gopnik, from Winter: Five Windows on the Season
December 19, 2012
“Gray skies and December lights are my idea of secret joy, and if there were a heaven, I would expect it to have a lowering violet-gray sky . . . and white lights on all the trees and the first flakes just falling, and it would always be December 19 — the best day of the year, school out, stores open late, Christmas a week away.”
— Adam Gopnik, Winter: Five Windows on the Season
I couldn’t resist using this quote, just perfect for December 19th. In Winter: Five Windows on the Season, Gopnik explores the ways winter is a time of human warmth rather than the more ancient view of winter as a sign of our withdrawal from grace. I especially liked the essay called “Romantic Winter,” a sentiment that could only arise after the invention of central heating! “Winter’s persona changes with our perception of safety from it . . . The romance of winter is possible only when we have a warm, secure indoors to retreat to, and winter becomes a season to look at as much as one to live through.”
It’s true. After a drizzly evening in downtown Seattle enjoying the festive lights, I was happy to return home to my warm, quilted bed!