On our recovery and faith journey, we often talk about what we learn in our families. Not all of what we learn is helpful or even true. Sometimes it gets us into hot water and we have to “relearn” a skill or principle or even figure out how to make amends for a wrongdoing that we once considered “normal” but learn through our recovery and faith journey that we are misinformed. But that’s only part of the story. No matter how crazy our family of origin, we often find nuggets of gold and lessons of hope. In my family, these treasures are often found in how my parents handled the holiday season. From my mother, I learned that joy comes in strange rituals. My mother loves Christmas, especially the lights she puts in her windows. As children, the four of us were charged with helping make Christmas bright by helping her express joy and spread good cheer. She did this by making sure that our lights in the window all came on simultaneously – or close enough to simultaneous that no hapless driver-by would ever see the Jones house “half lit” – we are a family that goes big or goes home. This small act of perfection was carried out with military precision and sometimes a lot of non-compliance, but ultimately, we kids buckled under and made sure the tradition lived. I try to imagine how my parents manage this feat today with no minions to help and I figure my dad probably uses some complicated technological wonder toy. As silly as this tradition may seem to you, it is today one of my fondest memories – packed with meaning and metaphor. The very idea that my mother was so committed to light and a stranger’s momentary pleasure in seeing a house “fully lit” brings a smile to my heart, and face.
Let me tell you why you are here…You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth…You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill.” (Matthew 5, selected verses, The Message)
I heard a sermon message recently where the pastor spoke about how it takes a village to acquire “full mirror status” – and reflect God’s image in the world. I am one lucky duck to be a small part of this shining light we love called the NACR.
“Full mirror status” isn’t just fun and games. My brothers and I had to hustle our bustles to get those windows lit precisely. One brother, who shall remain nameless but knows who he is, often was sluggish and barely responsive to the task. This caused tension among us. (And may be the root cause of a misguided attempt to smother him with a mattress one time when we kids didn’t have anything better to do.)
And as much as we like to think of the birth of Jesus as a big party with awesome gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, there was a dark side to his birth as well. Herod, when he realized that the scholars had tricked him, flew into a rage. He commanded the murder of every little boy two years old and under who lived in Bethlehem and its surrounding hills. (Matthew 2:16-17 The Message) That’s definitely not a part of the birth of Jesus we talk about often, is it? We love how Joseph was a manly man and got his kid out of Dodge before the shooting starts, but what about all those other small sons?
So, not to be a Debbie Downer, I feel an obligation to remind us that “full mirror status” requires sacrifice and even suffering. We do this as a community and as individuals. It’s complicated and hard to understand. I want to encourage each of us to enter into the full life of community and show up for not just the party favors, but also for the pre-party planning (honestly, sometimes it is the most fun part). This season in whatever community you call home, can you find a way to express generosity of heart? Can you show up even when you feel you are too busy? Someone may need your shoulder. Can you find a way to give back monetarily to an organization that needs your funds to provide “free” services to those in need? Can you find a way to make sure a stranger drives by your “home” and sees the light?
Merry Christmas to one and all, t