Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Advent - The Waiting

Taken Dec. 2012 in Sandpoint Idaho by Gary Lirrette
Still recovering from Friday flu... and opted to take a Monday to recover and rest.  The still of the day settles into my body, mind, soul.  I always worry about calling in sick to work... it is an angst ridden decision for me even when I am most certainly ill... but a dream just before waking this morning convinced me that it would be a mistake to try to be effective with kids today, so I made the early morning call, and went back to sleep for 4 more hours.

I have a morning routine that I have kept for years.... something about routine grounds me.  I do break it every once in a while, but for the most part... it remains the same as it was in Idaho for the 16 years I resided there.  I wake, make coffee and a small breakfast then sit quietly reading morning devotions and saying my prayers for the day.  If I am late rising, or sick... or some other interruption occurs... it throws my day off... spinning often into directions I would rather avoid.

As I began my readings today, I realized that the day would be best spent quietly preparing for the Christmas season.  Advent is 2 Sundays gone, and the day we arbitrarily choose to celebrate the coming to our mean world, the King of Heaven and Earth... is fast approaching.  I am not ready.

I mistakenly decided, back in August when I was packing for my move to Istanbul, that it would be better to leave all reminders of Christmas' past behind.  I miss these simple things terribly now.  Surprised by the depth of my yearning for some of the sweet ornaments made by my children, cards from old and dear friends that I store to read again and again, a tree fresh from the woods, my favorite Christmas cd's,  lights and candles and the smell of Christmas cookies baking in the oven.  Thinking of these brings on a flood of emotion, and I DO miss them.  So I started streaming Christmas music from you tube yesterday, and I wrapped the packages for my mother and sister that I have been shopping for since I arrived here.  I must have stood and stared at this pile of gifts for several minutes.  Something about it was comforting.

I know enough about psychology and the brain to understand that over the years I've encoded and stored similar images about 55 times and that they directly stimulate the pleasure center of my brain because of their association with happy experiences.  But there are some things quite outside of the brain... hope and faith and love... these aren't so clinical and though I've questioned at times the validity of my beliefs.. they continue to stand rock solid and UN-changeable in my heart and mind.  I read an interesting side story, or maybe it was just a comment under a you tube rendition of "Oh Come, O Come Emmanuel", that said the writer's mother told her that she had wept while listening to the song at even the young age of 2.  How is that possible when there are no memories yet stored?  False memory?  I don't think so.  There is something in the words and the perfection of notes in that particular hymn that stirs the heart.  It is my favorite Christmas hymn because it so perfectly expresses the desire for the beloved to return to us, to rescue and comfort and disperse the gloom of night...
                                               Oh come again       Emmanuel.........yes. I too weep.

I don't understand how it all works... the religion thing.  I don't know why so many different kinds of faiths exist on this earth, and why we hurt and kill each other because of it.  I don't know.   It all seems so tragic.
I do know that this season, Christmas, means more to me than pine trees and cookies and gifts.  It means more than family gatherings and white elephant staff parties, it even means more to me than religion... it is the anticipation of something impossible, something pure and clean.  Divine and human goodness embodied in a baby who will grow to change the world....Kindness and Love that does not disappoint but challenges and encourages and walks with me daily.  Oh what manner of sacrifice did the creator bestow!? 

And yet, I am living in a country that is 98% Muslim.  I love the bittersweet call to prayer.  I love the fact that grown men still prostrate themselves before their maker.  I love the fact that humility and modesty are still much desired character traits in this faith.  I don't love the growing sense of foreboding,  that anything outside of this format must capitulate or be extinguished. Very very few of my current neighbors know this Jesus of whom angels sing and before whom wise men kneel.  Instead they know only of an orgy of consumption, a distinct lack of kindness & understanding, and a history of behavior, much of which was markedly Un-Christlike.

So it's hard being here at Christmastime in some ways... no Christmas cards, no carols, no manger scenes.  But it's easier in others.  No orgy of commercial X-mas blanketing my every waking moment.  It must become... in the purest sense... the REAL thing this year.  It either resides in my heart, or not.  The trappings, decorations, scents, lights, glitter and shimmer....stripped away.
It is still the same mean world... but I am anticipating....something MUCH greater.

Season's Greetings.


  1. Merry Christmas to you, Connie! I know it's hard to be away from loved ones and family at Christmas time. Someday you will remember it as a special gift, which indeed it is, to be the lonely light burning in the dark forest.

  2. Kevin... what an encouraging comment. It started my day off perfectly. Thank you. Blessings to you and yours.