Feelings of the season

December 9, 2009


This past Saturday Abbie and the girls and I headed down to the Civic Garden Center to pick up our Christmas tree.  Fortunately the ropes we had brought along and strategy we had schemed for tying the tree to the roof of our Honda Civic were unnecessary as we found a nice 4 ½ footer that fit well enough in the trunk – still peeking out from under the open trunk lid, but secure for the ride home.  One of the bonuses of living in a bigger house than past years is having space for a Christmas tree.  Having the kids each a year older also gives us a little more optimism that a tree can survive several weeks of being vulnerable to curious hands. 

We spent several hours clearing a space, setting up the tree, putting on the lights and the ornaments.  The girls enjoyed picking out each ornament and pointing out where they wanted it hung.  From how things have gone so far, the lights are the biggest hit of the tree.  Every evening the girls have wanted to turn off all the other lights in the house with the tree lights on, and sing and dance (mostly jump up and down) in front of the Christmas tree.  Jingle Bells, Rudolph, Baby Jesus, and songs that have nothing to do with Christmas have all been invoked at high volume in this new evening ritual.  It’s pretty wild, and fun.

On Sunday afternoon I went over to the church to get something and noticed a man with a walking cane coming slowly down the alley.  When I came out he was near the sidewalk, leaning on a fence for some rest, and I asked him how he was doing.  His answer matched the way he looked.  Not good.  He had been waiting around for one of his adult children to pick him up and take him back to his house on the other side of Oakley.  They hadn’t shown.  Again.  He looked me in the eyes and said, “I hate this time of year.”  As I drove him the short distance back to his house he talked about his recent divorce and his kids who only came around when they wanted money.  He talked about wanting to get right with God and how he was tired of feeling mad at church.  And he mentioned several times how hard this time of year is for him.         

Advent is the season of expectation, and one thing we have learned to expect is that this is a season of heightened experience, where feelings positive and negative are accentuated.  The warmth of strong family bonds glows brighter.  The pain of estranged relationship stings harsher.  The space in one’s heart that was previously occupied by a loved one who has passed on feels wider and more vacuous.    We sing “Joy to the World,” and mean it, but recognize it is also a time when people experience more loneliness, depression, and suicide.  The fact that our President has just ordered that thousands of more troops prepare for a military escalation in Afghanistan casts a shadow over those of us who believe there are viable alternatives of development, diplomacy, and democracy building that will better aid the people of that nation.  It also means that more US families will be apart from loved ones overseas soon. 

The words of Zechariah from the text last Sunday speak of “the tender mercy of our God” that will “break upon us from on high.”  That’s a prayer I’m considering this week and hoping to treat all with this kind of tender mercy through this season of heightened feeling.



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