Today we are doing something a little different. Instead of our traditional message, we will have a series of short reflections, followed by several moments of waiting silence. We at Noblesville Friends hope you had a love and light-filled Christmas and are looking forward to a New Year full of possibilities and potential.
Today we are likely feeling the quiet hush after the noisy busyness of a big holiday. It makes me think of the lull in the motion of a wave after it spreads across a beach…now it draws back out to the ocean, revealing the sand beneath, taking some tiny shells with it. We are in that revealing part. We’ve had the big wave of excitement and gathering and giving, and now we rest, and breathe, and enjoy. That’s one reason why I invited everyone to stay home in their jammies this morning. This is a savoring day. The baby is born. The angels have visited and shared the astounding news of goodwill and great joy to all people. All that happened yesterday. Today, as the sun comes up on the small town of Bethlehem, two no doubt bleary-eyes new parents look with great love at the perfect peace of their sleeping infant. The world is new and everything is possible. So it is for us. The world is new today and everything is possible because God is here. The world will no doubt pull us back into our busy and well-planned lives once again. The activity will return and the pace will pick up. But today is something special, sacred, quiet. For now, we savor. For now, we rest. For now, we feel grateful.
There’s such a sweet and quiet feeling that comes after all the Christmas festivities are over, the kids and grandkids and friends have gone home, the dishwasher is doing its thing, the house is more or less picked up, and the dogs are snoring happily at our feet. It’s a feeling of fullness of heart, a kind of tired gratitude that comes. At the end of the day, it is so clear that although the gifts were great and the food was delicious, what mattered most were the precious moments we spent together happily chatting about nothing and everything, playing a game or listening to the children laugh. Right in our very own homes, we experienced the arrival of Christly love, the warm gathering up of souls that belong together, who share a bond and a story that unites. Some years everything goes well and other years almost nothing does—but no matter. The grace is there. The bond remains. The love is never absent, even in the midst of squabbles and temporary disagreements. Christmas always comes. Not because of us and what we do, but as a gift to us, for unto us is born this holy child, who teaches us every year and every day, how to love one another better as we love God.
those who have learned
to love one another
have made their way
to the lasting world
and will not leave,
Whether our families are large or small, introverted or extroverted, Christmas always brings a rush of memory, the blush of hope, a sense of newness and oldness at the same time. There is comfort in that, as we do our own celebrating in our own ways. A dinner here, a gathering there, putting up special decorations to remember those we love and miss, maybe enjoying all the family coming together at once or visiting in small gatherings through the season. We add our own style, our own flavor, our own favorite things as we share the best we’ve got with those we love best in the world. We enjoy our traditions and occasionally start new ones, too. This year I tried making homemade caramels for the first time—and they turned out! They were fun to make and oh-so-sweet and everybody loved them. So they’ll will become part of my new baking tradition each year, adding to my holiday a new star of sweetness and heart and memory as I remember with love the wonderful 103-year-old patient who gave me her sister’s recipe. Old and new, all together, God’s love experienced in this precise and sparkling moment of time. It’s the greatest gift we ever receive, and the only one that lasts eternally.
Christmas has something for everyone. Whatever our personalities, our preferences, our traditions and our comfort zones, we can find something in the celebration of Christmas that feeds our souls. Of course there is the story of the Christ child and the hope and wonder and promise brings up in us. And there are festivities and events in the outer world we can go and do if we’re an active sort; there are lights to look at and music to listen to and ideas to ponder if we’re a quiet sort. We can bake and share and participate in the gladness of the season in whatever way—and to whatever degree–fits us best. So many, many families—in nations all around the globe—celebrated Christmas in their own ways yesterday. What a precious thing it is to know that no matter how diverse our settings and traditions and personalities, how wide on a scale from belief to unbelief we might be, on that day it doesn’t matter. Christmas is a worldwide holiday of light and love, goodness and joy, a coming together in hope and celebration of all that is good. God invited us to that party—and continues to invite us, every moment of every day. On Christmas, we all go to that party together, whether we realize or not. We take the best we have and share all that we’ve got. It is a worldwide blossoming of love and care on a single day. God is truly with us, the host of it all, enjoying His day, kissing us under the mistletoe when we least expect it.
In this quiet time now between the holidays of Christmas and New Year’s, we get a chance to think about what’s coming, what we’d like to help bring into our lives and our world, in the New Year. We feel thanks for all that has gone before and look forward to what is to be. We trust God’s leading and light and hold with hope to the belief that God has something good in store for us all. We do our best to keep our hearts and minds open to God’s leading and possibility. I think of the writings of Florence Scovel Shinn here. In the early 1920s she wrote the book The Game of Life and How to Play it, which introduced itself to me in my 30s when it fell off a library shelf and landed at my feet. At first I thought it was some kind of book about salesmanship and was going to put it back on the shelf, but then I opened it and saw practical, down-to-earth ideas about how to live life according to Christ’s teachings and stay open to the abundant blessings God brings us each day. Florence Scovell Shinn wrote that she believed there was a “perfect square of life” that we can achieve as we live our ordinary days, and that the secret was to invite God into each aspect of it. She suggested God wants to be invited into our health, our wealth, all that we love, and the ways we use our gifts in the world, which she called our “perfect self-expression.” She said “divine ideas don’t conflict” and taught that as we listen to and trust God more and more, we naturally begin to live the lives God has planned for us. And that in turn brings us peace and shines more of God’s love and goodness into the world around us. As we each reflect and feel grateful in this peaceful hush of the after-Christmas time, we can let our hearts ponder and dream and rest in the unlimited potential of God’s love. Our world is preparing to be new again. Who knows what will be possible, for us and for our world, in 2022? God does. And if we will continue to listen to and wait on God, trusting God’s goodness and care, we will know it and feel it too. And we’ll shine right into the New Year, as we do our best to continue the party God started, carrying God’s light into each living moment of every day.
The Work of Christmas, by Howard Thurman
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.