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.