“What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” Helen Keller
Christmas: a shining star – a break from the tedious schedules we find ourselves in.
But Christmas is more than a nice diversion – a blurb on the radar screen of our hectic lives.
For a moment in time we escaped the drudgery, the pressures, anxiety, and uncertainties.
For a moment in time we humbly knelt before the Christ Child whose birthday we celebrate.
For a moment in time we laid down our heavy burdens of doubt and fear and unanswered questions.
And now Christmas is over for another year: the torn wrappings stuffed in bags ready for the garbage pickup; bows packed away to use again next year. Families have returned home, and we collapse in an easy chair, take a deep sigh of relief and try to relax.
We are left with an afterglow of loving moments, age old songs that brought joy to our spirits and rituals that filled our hearts with special remembrances.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
We have heard the story so many times in Christmas cards, articles and sermons. It is a familiar and treasured tradition – a tradition that today is being challenged on many fronts.
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11 -King James Version (KJV)
Who is this God
Who is this God who sent His Son as a vulnerable baby to a self-serving world of treachery and deceit? A God who loves us more than we can imagine. A God who knocks gently at our hearts and waits for us to invite Him in.
This last weekend, the Skagit Valley Chorale gave two sold-out performances at McIntyre Hall in Mt. Vernon, WA.
This year’s program was a departure from our more traditional selection. Joining with our 100+ singing group was a Big Band Jazz orchestra. Together with a talented announcer, commercials and special spots, we replicated a 1940’s radio show.
Audience and performers alike loved it.
It is our tradition at the end of our Christmas concerts that the members of the chorale go down into the aisles of the audience to sing our closing number, “Peace, Peace”. It is a moving experience for both singers and people in the audience.
This year, a friend of mine who came for the first time to one of our concerts told me afterwards that when we sang “Peace Peace” in the aisles surrounding them on all sides, it was like having an “invisible blanket of peace wrapped around them.”
“For God so loved the world….”
Love: It seems we use it so casually – superficially – sometimes even flippantly. We often demean it or reduce it to levels of lustful desire.
God: we exploit Him for our own purposes –throw Him in the trash can when we are no longer interested – group Him together with all the superficial little gods we create to make us feel good.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son to die for us.”
In this simple statement God and love come together in a comprehensive understanding. We are told exactly what kind of love God is offering us: one that is solemn and significant enough that it will die for us. People are being killed today in the name of some god. But would a god of hate die for us? I don’t think so.
Love – we have diminished it – tarnished its value, while desperately needing it. We need to receive it – we need to give it. We cannot live without it.
I love leftovers. I love Thanksgiving dinners: turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and all the other special foods and recipes brought out for our traditional dinners.
But I enjoy the leftovers almost as much: warmed in the microwave, I continue to savor that turkey, stuffing and warm gravy.
However, there is more than just the food leftovers that I want to take home with me. I want to take the camaraderie, the moments of laughter when the past wasn’t remembered and the moment was simply enjoyed.
As we stopped and listened to each other for a moment longer than usual, took time to thank and appreciate all the work and effort of our host and hostess it left a glow of togetherness, friendship and closeness.
Thanksgiving – A time to get together as families and celebrate – giving thanks for what we have been given throughout the year.
While the tradition is deep-rooted in our culture, with long distances between family members and time constraints, it is becoming more difficult to find the time to get together.
Add to that fractured families, where unkind and hurtful things in the past keep us defensive; even when we do get together it is difficult to let go, relax and be thankful for one another.
We want peace in the world but we don’t necessarily want to seek it in our own homes.
We all want to be happy. And we want our marriages to not only last, but grow better over time. While some relationships will fail for a variety of reasons, being willing to identify and work on the problems we face is the first major step to a meaningful relationship.
The first years of a marriage tend to be the most vulnerable and statistics reveal that reality. When we are passionately in love, we believe it will last forever.
However, work schedules, babies, chores and home maintenance soon become the focus and we can quickly get mired in daily problems. Add in personal careers and the stresses increase and the relationship begins to suffer.
It is easier than ever to get a divorce and people often hold the mistaken belief that if they get out of their current relationship, the next one would be the one that will make them happy. However, again, the statistics reveal a different picture.
Consider the following divorce stats in America:
I’ve tried the communication model, but it seems no matter what I do, we still end up arguing. Our conversations keep breaking down.
When I bring up a point of disagreement or conflict, it is interpreted as a criticism and is countered with a negative jab at me. I am reminded of when I did this and that and pretty soon we don’t even remember what the current problem is because we are too busy trying to resolve past issues that are not relevant today.
Why isn’t all this communication stuff working?
Like any skill we develop, communication is an aptitude that needs to be practiced over time to gain competence.
But like any habit we put in place, it is easy to get discouraged and we go back to old ways of doing things.
How do we stay on topic?
“But you said. . . .”
“No, I didn’t. . . .”
“Yes, I heard you say. . . . .”
“Well, that’s not what I meant!”
Have you ever had such a conversation with your children or your spouse? You were sure you said what you believed would be easily understood. And yet, that is not what the other person heard.
When we talk to one another, communication is traveling both ways. Messages we send and the messages we hear are colored and often distorted by the filters we have. What sounded clear to us was not heard the same way by another..
Because messages are being loaded on each side of the interaction, by both the speaker and the listener, communication can become unclear and misleading.
Communication is about sharing our thoughts and feelings. It involves some kind of interchange or conversation. We send and receive messages as we talk about our wants and needs.
Many times, however, our conversations with loved ones end up in misunderstandings and ongoing fights or disagreements.
Why can’t she or he listen? Why do we end up struggling to be heard and understood? It’s as though the words we speak aren’t registering or are constantly being misinterpreted.
In today’s world there are so many ways to communicate. Yet, it seems, our every day discussions with loved ones often break down and our exchanges create misunderstanding and division.
Ineffective communication creates on-going irritation and stress. We begin to see the other in less than loving ways. When communication breaks down between those we love, our relationships begin to unravel.
We need people. We need to share ideas and perspectives – our joys and laughter – our pain and sorrows. We need effective communication to solve problems, share different points of view, meet today’s challenges, hear a different narrative and seek understanding.