Thursday, December 4, 2008

At Least It's Something...

Hey Everyone!

Sorry! It's not that I'm not doing any writing this year, but more so that I find myself doing SO MUCH writing that when I come home, I'm just too exhausted to write anymore--hence the lack of blog posts. So, I've decided to post the newsletter article that I wrote for the ALC Messenger this month.

As part of my internship I am in charge of the Senior High Youth program at ALC, and I've been using David Anderson & Paul Hill's book, "Frogs Without Legs Can't Hear: Nurturing Disciples in Home and Congregation" (Thank you!!!). If you've never read it, it's a great resource for all entry points. It's easy to read, to the point, not that long, and has lots of short illustrations to help get the point across. In it it talks about the 'Four Keys of Faith Formation' as being: 'Caring Conversation, Devotions, Service, and Rituals & Traditions'. And so, after introducing the book and the idea of Faith Formation, I have been spending by Intern's Page Newsletter articles talking about the different 'church frog legs' that these four keys represent and encouraging the stretching and strengthening of those legs. Last month I talked about Caring Conversations, and this month--since it IS the month of Advent and Christmas--I couldn't help but write about Rituals and Traditions.

It's not my normal blog material, but it gives you a peek into my world!

Apologies and Thanks to my family for the fact that I've written about all of us...

Dear Friends: Happy New Year!!!

As of last Sunday we of the Christian world have entered into a new year—a new church year that is. And with that new church year we have begun a season of waiting, of preparation, a season of hope and renewal.

We have begun the season of Advent.

It is a season that much of the rest of the world forgets in its eagerness to get to Christmas. Often times we end up skipping the quiet preparation and jumping headlong into the celebration. Or, other times we find ourselves so caught up in the seemingly endless preparations to make THIS Christmas bigger and better than any before that by the time Christmas arrives we are too exhausted to enjoy it.

It is also a season full of ritual and tradition. Just take a look around at the lights, the decorations, the trees, the santas—and if you’re lucky, you may even see a baby Jesus here and there. All around us the stores remind us of the tradition of gift-giving, and I have been told that our sanctuary will be packed on Christmas Eve for the traditional candlelit service. And in my family there is one Advent ritual that will always stand head and shoulders above all others:

The Christmas Tree

This is my favorite night of the year—A night that far outstrips Christmas Eve for me. And while there may not be a traditional ‘day’ on which this occurs, this night is deeply steeped in tradition for me.

First and most important is ritual of my family gathering together. The Christmas Tree may only be decorated when all are present and accounted for. Because we all have our roles to play: Dad is in charge of making sure the tree stands straight and tall. My brother Josh and I struggle to detangle last year’s strings of lights. Mum brings out the eggnog and retells our family history as she unwraps funky ornaments from crinkled paper towel.

Our ornaments are neither beautiful nor fancy. There is neither color-theme nor coordination. But they are beloved. There are the ornaments from my parent’s first Christmas and the “Baby’s First Christmas” of both my brother and I. There are the crumbling play-dough ornaments made so long ago by little hands in Sunday School. There are the ornaments containing childhood photos—me in my pink-and-purple-checkered shirt, my brother with his ‘Friday Night Smile’. And there are lots of violin and music-note ornaments.

And in the background always plays the same CD—a Christmas recording by the Boston Pops Orchestra. I still remember the first Christmas when my brother’s wife, Megan, joined us in the tradition of the decorating of the Christmas Tree. Megan, a professional singer, laughed that we were the only family she knew who listened to a wholly orchestral CD of Christmas songs. But tradition IS tradition.

And after the squinting and the unwrapping and the hanging and the story-telling the most magical things happens. We all curl up on the couch—eggnog in hand—and sit in silence before the peaceful glow of the tree. And for that one moment, all stress departs, all fights are forgiven, all distances are bridged, and we are simply a family.

In that moment we are whole.

And though I will not be home to decorate the Christmas Tree this year, whenever I catch a whiff of evergreen, or taste eggnog, whenever I hear a piece from that CD, or see a tinfoil and pipe-cleaner bell, I am transported to that moment and that feeling of peace and hope and joy…

We all have our own rituals and traditions of the season—we all have our ‘Christmas Tree Night’. Maybe we don’t always think of them in these terms, but they are there. And so this Advent Season I invite you to uncover—maybe even dust off—the rituals and traditions that truly make up the season for you and to share them with one another. What makes them special? What memories do they hold? What feelings do they evoke? How is God present in them? How does the Christ child enter into your Christmas traditions?

And you never know. You may find that Advent and Christmas lie less in the expensive gifts and hectic preparations. You may find that Advent and Christmas dwell within presence of loved ones and the silence of a moment…

May the peace of Christ dwell within you and shine forth from you this Advent Season.
Intern Elly

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