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December 09, 2009


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I clicked over and re-read your birth story with Stella just now. Lovely. I need to start getting myself in the mood to have a baby pretty soon. It helped.

This is lovely. Thank you for sharing.

Can I enjoy those songs that make you grimace if I think of them as "winter songs" instead of Christmas songs? Can I enjoy hot chocolate and carols and cozy evenings with my family if they're associated with winter instead of Christmas? Those things bring me a lot of joy, but apparently it's inferior joy?

I understand and agree with what you're saying about birth and Christmas, but I don't make the connection to exclude food and warmth and toastiness. Are we to exclude any traditions that are comfortable in favor of only discomfort?

Maybe I don't get this because I'm not Catholic?

Oh, Linda, please do enjoy them. I didn't mean to look down my nose at anybody's joy, or to be snarky about things that are pleasant and cozy. (Bread and water, all of you! No eggnog for any readers of this blog! Put down that chocolate RIGHT NOW.)

The Catholic take on Advent is pretty different from what I grew up with as a Protestant, so maybe that's part of it. Maybe part of it is also that I'm battling the winter blues and end-of-semester stress, holding on by my fingernails until Christmas when the term is over and the days are longer. It's helpful for me to think that this crazy season can be fruitful if I allow it to be, but when I hear Silver Bells it is like music from another planet. (A planet where all the exams are multiple choice and I can just feed them into the Scantron machine. I am TIRED of grading essays.)

Our interpretations are always colored by our own experiences - often whatever we are experiencing RIGHT NOW - and I think that's where we differ. I think one of the most wonderful things about Scripture is that it speaks so clearly to me when I am desperate and overwhelmed and depressed, yet the exact same story or passage appeals in a totally different way when I am joyful or content.

You can experience Christmas from where you are and I can experience it from where I am and God is given the glory. It's all good.

"...that kind of joy doesn't come cheap." Well said.

I enjoyed this post. I too begin to feel death toward the time to deliver. Thank God for Holy Mother Church & the scaraments.

Loved this post. I didn't find it to be snarky or gloomy at all! I think it is very authentic and makes me appreciate all that Mary went through to give birth to God, and we all know that she went through much, much more than what you have described here.

Riding on a donkey, how many miles, uncomfortable to say the least, birth in a manger, heart pierced with a sword prophecy, escaping with a baby to a far off country-all of it unimaginable, difficult, and very, very beautiful. She did it for us. She did it out of love. What would we do without that great example Mary left us when our own struggles seem too much to bear?

God bless you this Advent as your prepare to birth the Lord in your heart once more.

Oh, Jamie-this is just beautiful...
Exactly what I needed today -
Thank you....

Well said.

Have you ever read Madeleine L'Engle's "The Irrational Season"? From what I read here, I think you would enjoy it. It's a series of meditations on the church year, beginning and ending with Advent. She resists the urge to cozy things up too much, and prefers a little wildness left in our theology:

This is the irrational season
when Love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason,
there'd have been no room for the child.

She also writes about the very difficult birth of one of her children, and about what it meant to her to be "meek" - to have everything boil down to getting through one breath, and the next. To have all her prayer boil down to "Please, God." And how, as she began to recover, "my soul magnified the Lord."

Thank you again for sharing this.

Also...this is one reason I'm so looking forward to our church's Lessons and Carols next week. Our music will be a little of everything, from classical organ to folk guitar. I'm singing a lullaby with a good friend at the piano. And if the program is anything like what we've done in the past, another good friend will sing "Breath of Heaven" -- and I went to pieces the first time I heard her do it:

"Help me be strong...
Help me be...
Help me.
Breath of heaven, hold me together."

To truly understand the joy of Christmas, I think I need to spend some days going through Mary's fear and wonder, Joseph's confusion and trust -- both of them with their lives turned upside down. Later, I need to let my world be overturned still further, with the Magi. (I'm like this about Triduum too: I sometimes chuckle and remind myself that if I'm in a terrible unsettled mood on Good Friday, I might actually be doing something RIGHT.)

(Madeleine L'Engle talks about this with regard to Easter: there's no resurrection without Good Friday.)

Thanks again -

I am totally with you about the exams. I had twenty-three to grade myself (and got no break between term papers and exams--ick!).

My parish has a holy hour with vespers and compline nine nights in a row before Christmas--I'm one of the singers for vespers, so I'm obliged to go every night. It's wonderful, even though it's difficult to get all the music ready and it started before I was done with school things and my house is a terrible mess and not at all ready for guests next week.

I spend all day grading or cleaning or grocery shopping or doing laundry, and then at night I'm forced to sit still for an hour, to chant chants about longing for Christ's coming, and then just to sit, in silence, faced with the very real reason why I spent all day doing things I don't like to do. My first two and a half weeks of Advent were awful and spiritually unproductive, but now that we're into the novena, I feel like I might actually be ready for Christmas when it comes.

Wow - such good thoughts. I can never really pinpoint why this season can bother me so much. I think you've highlighted some very good reasons -- we can't forget about the work before the joy. The joy that is *worth* the pain. Good post.

"This baby needs you to be uncomfortable."

Powerful stuff. Great post.

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