As we scramble toward the coming holidays and the hectic end of the year, let's hope we all find the time to relax, enjoy family and friends and to reflect on the meaning behind the bright lights and candles, as Katie does in this month's newsletter. We wish you the happiest of holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a safe and healthy 2017.
Here's to chasing - and finding - miracles with all of you.
Joan, Katie and Meb
When I was growing up, we opened our presents on Christmas Eve, but not before my father pulled out the Bible - which had gathered dust for the previous twelve months - to read Luke, 2:1-20. "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus..." This decree required Joseph and Mary to travel, and hence, for Mary to give birth in a manger when there was no room at the inn. In this way, each and every year, my father reminded us of the story of the first Christmas, and that its meaning was beyond our brightly lit tree and the gifts I couldn't wait to open underneath it. I loved the Thanksgiving feast we recreated the next day for Christmas dinner and relished the carols I knew by heart, sung round the family piano as my mother played.
There may not have been peace on earth, but in a raucous, imperfect family of seven, there always seemed to be peace and goodwill in our home for those holidays. Our traditions created a certain magic for me, a Christmas spirit that ignited a lifetime pursuit of the feelings evoked in an atmosphere of giving and joy and shared with the people I loved. Squabbling and worries were set aside and we managed to become our best selves - at least until December 26th. I still measure each of us by our highest common denominator, the joyful givers we became at Christmas time.
My experience isn't unique if literature, film and history are any indication. O. Henry's short story, The Gift of The Magi, is about the young, destitute couple who each sell their one prized possession to buy the other a gift, not realizing the sacrifice the other is about to make. He sells his gold pocket watch in order to buy her combs for her hair and she sells her hair in order to buy him a chain for his pocket watch. Or, who doesn't love the story of George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life? In embodying his own best self throughout the year, he changed the stars for countless others. And then, there's the story during World War I when some English and German soldiers laid down their guns on Christmas, 1914 to sing carols and allow for the gathering of their dead. We have the capacity to rise to a spirit of generosity that is especially manifested at this time of year.
Our family Christmases, as I'd known them, came to an end when my father died nearly thirty-three years ago. The house that accommodated us all had to be sold and my siblings began to scatter out of state. In time, I was able to look back and appreciate what we had and realize why Christmas is so important to me. Those festive, spiritual and connected days became the bar I set for a lifetime. I can still hear my father's strong voice as he quotes the angel in Luke's gospel, "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy,which shall be to all the people," a message of hope that Someone has come to show us the way. (Katie)
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