On Saturday we drove home from my brother’s house in Maine where we had celebrated Thanksgiving with our family, or at least the part of it that could make it this year.
It was a calm and friendly few days. We ate some turkey and tucked into various lovely pies. There were numerous board games that lasted into the wee hours, and, yes (I won’t deny it) we watched a football game or two.
It had snowed enough during Wednesday’s storm that we were able to do some good snowshoeing on Friday at a local forest preserve. All in all, it was a good Thanksgiving.
I was especially aware that this year we had much to be thankful for. Somehow “the simple fact of being together made the time holy.” (From my Daily Devotional for Thanksgiving, to read it all go here.)
I often find the season from Thanksgiving to the New Year to be a wistful and bittersweet time. When I was a young minister I became aware what a sad time it was for many of my older congregants, who remembered happier, healthier times, when they and their families were young.
I understand that better now, as my own children are grown, and many of the original participants in my early holiday memories are gone.
The church is often wiser than we are in how it marks the time. A good example of this is the season of Advent, which captures the mood of the darkening days with its texts of waiting and hoping and its hymns in minor keys.
The expectation that the holidays will be better and brighter than our ordinary time can be a burden that weighs us down. I think some of the excessive consumerism we see this time of year is our attempt to keep the long dark days at bay. But there are some things money can’t buy, even at full price, such as health and wholeness, faith, hope and love.
On the way home the day was sunny with a high blue sky, and the traffic on the Maine Turnpike wasn’t nearly as heavy as on the way up in the storm.
As we crossed the river into New Hampshire, there was a freshly cut Christmas tree in the middle of the left-hand lane that had fallen off the roof of someone’s car. It made me suddenly sad, December sad. It must be time for Advent, I thought, and the next day it was.
Good, I thought, I need a little Advent.
(Photo by R. L. Floyd. “Black Brook Preserve, Windham Maine Land Trust.”)
When I was at Andover-Newton an Australian student was appalled at all the seasonal imagery of light and darkness surrounding Advent and Christmas. He pointed out that Christ is Lord of the southern hemisphere. He added that kids really love it: schools get out for vacation, people go to the beach, and kids get presents.
That’s a great comment. Christ is Lord of the southern hemisphere! It reminds us of our context, or to paraphrase Tip O’Neil, “all theology is local.” Thanks.