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December 2021

Dreams of Christmas December, 2021 I was thinking this week about my dog Holly. She’s a Portuguese water dog, about 70 pounds of fluffy clumsy lovable goofball. Her favorite things are snuggling, anywhere, anytime; laying at my feet when I am in my office, chasing balls, and eating. If you are in the kitchen, I can guarantee that she will be there too – waiting for anything you might have dropped or a random bit of meat or rice that you send her way. That’s what she was doing one afternoon a few years ago when I was making a pitcher of tea. Ya’ll know I love my iced tea! Anyway, I was making a pot of tea and then planning to head out for a meeting – you know, back in the day when we all sat together for meetings in the same room … So, I poured the boiling water onto the tea bags in the glass pitcher that I had used for at least 5 years. I stepped away and in the next minute, I heard glass shatter and my sweet dog screaming in pain. The pitcher had exploded sending boiling hot water onto the dog. I ran to help her, but she was running faster than I was able to. She ran right to the kennel where she slept every night. Her safe place. The place where she had always been protected and secure… Of course, even there her skin was still reacting to the effects of the hot water – I dragged her out and the two of us went straight into the shower – on cold. What a shock it was to both of our systems, that cold water on a winter’s day. But it stopped the pain and let poor Holly begin to heal. I held her and eventually we settled down. Besides having a little bit thinner hair in that spot and really liking a scratch or two there, Holly had no long-term effects and I made it to the meeting a little late… It’s a sad sort of story, to be sure, but I have been thinking about that incident in reference to this holiday season. For so many of us, Christmas brings back a longing for home, a safe place where we are all welcome and nothing can hurt us. The place where we all belong. Even if folks have moved around, there is a need to be with family, in the bosom of those we love and those who love us. But things are just different now. People don’t live in the same place that they grew up and these past few years, the pandemic and political unrest and loss have been a shock to the system. So much has happened in all of our lives that Christmas can feel like a cold shower on a winter’s day… It has to be done, but it sure is uncomfortable. There has been so much change, but the Christmas story is just as it always has been, and yet, somehow, I have been hearing it with a new awareness. Even here the familiar seems a little unexpected… There is the census and Caesar Augustus and the need to travel. The young engaged couple, the pregnant teen… There is a baby in a manger as he has always been. Strange stars and shepherds and angels are all where they always have been. Joseph and Mary and Jesus… the little family gathered together for their first Christmas. But I find myself relating to a different part of the story than I ever have before. I notice that within the words of that familiar story, I can find myself there. A family spending their holiday far from where they grew up. I imagine that young Mary might have longed for the warmth and safety of her own bed on that cold desert night. You know, I bet that Mary did not have a birth plan and if she did, it probably didn’t include being 90 miles from home after riding on a donkey all day. This is not what it was supposed to look like at all! And yet the savior of the world was born into this uncertainty, this turmoil, these unexpected, unanticipated, even dangerous, and unprecedented times… We, my dear friends, have been walking in darkness for a long time this past few years and yet, if we are paying attention, we can see that there is light. There is the warm glow, of candles and Christmas decorations, but also now the computer screen, I-pad or phones. We can’t touch when we gather and we need to mask, but the joy of this season continues. There is a light in this darkness and even though we yearn for each other, we yearn to return to “normal” whatever normal is or ever was. Even so, another Christmas has come to us. Each morning, a new day rises, as it did for David and Isaiah and as it did over a small house in Bethlehem so many years ago. For some of us, remembering the Christmases of old, this is a cold shower of a Christmas – a dark and lonesome Christmas and yet, the light of the baby that came into the world for us still shines. We still rejoice with the angels. In spite of everything, Christmas still comes. A child is born unto us is born this day - a savior – and authority shall be upon his shoulders - and he shall be called wonderful counselor, almighty God the everlasting father, the prince of peace.” (Isaiah 9:6). The hopes and fears of 2021 are met in Jesus this Christmas. God in the flesh is born. And that, today, is light in the darkness for us all. Merry Christmas to you all with love, ~Rev Brae

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