Finding joy in the season

I’ve spoken to a number of people who suffer from holiday fatigue, worn out by the demands of our season of giving. What has traditionally been a time of peace, reflection and honoring the shift from longest night to brighter days is now über LED lit. The story of the holy family finding refuge in a stable and the birth of a baby who would be the embodiment of God is heartwarming, evoking rich, nostalgic memories. Growing up in Heidelberg, Germany during  Weihnachten contextualized the celebration of Christmas Eve within the tradition of Advent. The preparation, a month in advance with ceremonial lighting of candles, fasting and stories leading up to the celebration of the birth of Jesus gave Christ Mass substance and historical and spiritual flavor. Gifts were part of the festivities but the mystery of the incarnation thrummed in the background. While I didn’t spend much time thinking about it as a child, the scent of frankincense and flickering candles cast a spell that hymns and priestly incantations wove like a warm blanket to ward off winter’s chill.

Now we are not young, our myths are in tatters but a germ of kindness, of love remains. As Eric Fromm says, the means (consumer production) has become the end. Armand Baker has posted a lecture on Fromm’s The Art of Loving which affirms love in life rather than in possession. The theme of mature love will be explored more fully in another post.

In researching advent traditions I discovered The Advent Conspiracy and made contributions in the name of my family members to people none of us know who need fresh water. Living water, another Christ motif. I am reminded that this is the season of endings and beginnings. Remembering loved ones in holiday’s past can bring love and sorrow together. If we are blessed to have the experience of a loving family, our gratitude can lay the foundation for hope, health and the capacity for innocence throughout our lives. The inner baby remains intact.

Having just watched Ricky Bobby in Taledega Nights praying to the baby Jesus, the solution seems simple. This is the time for us to be quiet, to listen for the return of the light and to keep our inner baby happy. As we celebrate the child who fulfilled a promise of spiritual renewal, so should we take the time and care to love the baby in each of us. Just as fresh water is a gift to quench the thirst of those who need it, loving the baby in every pair of eyes we meet, be they human or animal can generate spiritual warmth in this chilly holiday season. Wishing you all the peace and happiness your baby self can enjoy.

San Antonio Christmas and sauntering down 1826

It’s always nice to be with family for a traditional Christmas dinner. Our hosts, my sister Lucy and brother in-law Bill are beyond gracious. Growing up in a military family with a European mother and living oversees made me a world citizen before I knew I was American. In the last few years I’ve understood how much honor and courage means to me. It takes courage to face the ups and downs, the battle of life. Generally I prefer a more aesthetic approach, but one rises to meet challenges with grit, a quality I learned at home. Missing Aurora, who traveled north to Buffalo for a white (and frigid) Christmas, we were warm but not as bright.

The tables turned to more down home fare at the Salt Lick, as I meandered out to meet my sister Carol, Mike (my other brother in-law) and Dick, in from California and up for ribs. Holy smoke, I believe it has expanded threefold (like my waistline) but the food is still authentic and the people friendly. Except in the parking lot, where the feeding frenzy prompted snapping carnivores to lose some holiday cheer. We got our cheer back at the Duchman Family Winery (formerly Mandola’s) where we sipped some reds and whites, and split North and South. It’s probably clear to most who venture into this blog that I’m “big on Austin” but honestly, where else can you drive out in the country for great barbecue, enjoy the rolling hills and fields, cypress creeks, vineyards, an ass or two and Barsana Dham, a Hindu temple? The evidence speaks for itself. I hope you stay merry through the New Year and into 2011!