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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sacred cookies

Pinwheels, icebox, macaroons, sugar, thumbprint, spritzers, gingerbread, rolled, dropped, meringue, butter, filled … ever Google ‘Christmas cookie recipe’? Oh, the Christmas preparations! Today we bought presents for two boys, age 9 and 12. We pulled their cards from the church Christmas tree last Sunday, and don’t know anything about these boys, but had fun worrying over whether or not we got the ‘right’ gift for each one of them. This past week, we put up our Christmas lights and started planning our annual Christmas card. There is something very special, very rooted, about Christmas traditions.

In my Advent journey, I am reading some wonderful reflections. One in particular, by Brother Holz, a Benedictine, reminded me of my ongoing discipline, seeking to live in the present moment. Saint Benedict’s rule is based on two principles: the first that God is present everywhere, and the second that Christ is present in every single person we meet, most especially in the sick and the vulnerable. Saint Benedict went so far as to say that tools of your trade (whatever these are) should be treated with the same reverence as sacred vessels on the alter. Within a sacramental, contemplative life journey, work is sacred. Brother Holz says,  
“so, if we are trying to maintain a deep and meaningful spirituality of Advent and Christmas—while at the same time living in the hectic round of Christmas shopping and decorating—why not devote some of our Advent reflections to taking a long, loving look at the realities of the holiday season? If Benedict is correct, we should be able to find in them some good spiritual insights into the mysteries of Advent and Christmas.”
The word, ‘season’ is big these days before Christmas: the season of giving, the holiday season, Jesus is the Reason for the Season, Season’s Greetings … Brother Holz reflects on the word ‘season,’ linking it to the Greek word ‘kairos.’ In the Bible, Holz states, kairos is translated as ‘time,’ but is really ‘time with purpose,’ similar to our notion of ‘season’. This makes sense in the Ecclesiastes passage, “a time for every matter under heaven … a time to be born, and a time to die …” He says, “in fact, every moment of our lives is kairos, a sacred ‘season,’ a chapter in the unfolding story of God’s love for the world”
“For a Christian, life is made up of millions of unique moments, each one a kairos, an opportunity that will never come again. Every task we start, every decision we make, whether trivial or great is a special time, a chance to build up the kingdom. Every encounter with another person is a unique kairos, a season of loving. Whether we’re working, cooking supper, or relaxing in front of the television, each moment is a part of the story of God’s loving presence in the world. It is all kairos.”

As I bake cookies, write that Christmas poem, send off greetings, mark papers, listen to stressed nursing students, and remember to feed the girls, I will look upon each twinkling Christmas light, each flashing holiday sign, each candy cane and kettle bell as a reminder of the urgent season upon us—the Advent, the coming of the Christ Child. Will my heart be ready?

This sense of season, of urgency echoed again for me while reading the familiar passage in Luke, from Isaiah:
A voice of one crying out in the desert: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'
There again, the sense of urgency drumming throughout this passage, and now I realize that it is not about waking up the city construction crew. No, it is we who are the way to be made straight, we who are the rough path to be made smooth in preparation for the Lord. Perhaps this razing of the road is done is in our moment by moment work of traditional preparations, in each authentic encounter, as we look into the eyes of others in our hurried busyness, as well as in our discipline of honoring the tools of our trade as sacred vessels.

Blessings on your Advent journey, week two!

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