Thursday, 24 December 2015

Christmas Eve

"Christmas Eve" by Tracy Pullman

Christmas eve is a time for candlelight.
It is a time when one desires nothing more than family and soft music.
Who can say what passes through our hearts on Christmas eve?
Strange thoughts, indefinable emotions and sudden tears.
All this and more, unbidden, come without reason.

And we burn our candles for this is Christmas eve.
Christmas eve is not a time to be merry but quietly glad.
It is the proper time to wish upon a star.
It is a time to watch children with excited happy eyes troop off to bed to
await the miracle of dawn.
It is a time of wonder, of thankfulness that life is still being created anew
out of darkness.
It is a time of quiet awakening to beauty that still lives on through the
strife of a war torn world.

And we burn our candles for this is Christmas eve.
Christmas eve is a time of heartbreak,
When those who are not at their own fireside are most missed.
Christmas eve is a time of blessing when all the heartbroken world gives
thanks for the quiet beauty of rest,
When one is closest to ones companions and is not then enemy of any

And we burn our candles for this is Christmas eve.
Christmas eve is a time of memory,
When one remembers past happiness and love
And often sighs for the good that might have been.
Peace on earth and now comes the memory of the story of the first
Christmas, so old and yet so new.
We lose ourselves in legend and dream of storybook people; Tiny Tim
and the other Wise Man live again in the memory of human hearts.

And we burn our candles for this is Christmas eve.

Christmas is the season of the heart. It is a time to focus on the ties of the heart, the loves of the heart, the dreams of the heart; it is a time to focus on the hearts yearnings and longings; it is a time when we are called to concentrate on the heart, on what it wants, what it needs and what it compels us to be. The heart of Christmas is the heart itself, burst to overflowing, lit up bringing light and warmth into this season of darkness and cold. It brings hope in what can be very cynical times, as it always has. Christmas is the dream of the heart, wishing to come alive. This is why Christmas is both the religious and emotional centre of the year for most folk. Christmas is the time of the heart, which calls us to our truest nature, to be all that we can be.

This is why it is the holiest of holy days and nights. This is why I believe it is for everyone regardless of background and or faith, or lack of it. Christmas connects to something universal, something eternal in all of us which allows us to connect to our true selves, to one another, to all life and to that loving and eternal spirit that runs through all life.

“Oh I wish it could be Christmas every day”. Well it can be if we make it Christmas every day. It begins by lighting that lamp, that fire in our hearts and in our hearths.

I have included in this blog material that has inspired me and the worship I have created this Advent and Christmas season. I trust it will speak to your spirit and fill your heart with the soul of the season.

Merry Christmas one and all...

“Christmas is for Love” (Author unknown)

Christmas is for love. It is for joy, for giving and sharing, for laughter, for reuniting with family and friends, for tinsel and brightly covered packages. But, mostly Christmas is for love. I had not believed this until a small elfin like pupil with wide innocent eyes and soft rosy cheeks gave me a wondrous gift one Christmas.

Matthew was a 10 year old orphan who lived with his aunt, a bitter, middle aged woman greatly annoyed with the burden of caring for her dead sister's son. She never failed to remind young Matthew, if it hadn't been for her generosity, he would be a vagrant, homeless waif. Still, with all the scolding and chilliness at home, he was a sweet and gentle child.

I had not noticed Matthew particularly until he began staying after class each day [at the risk of arousing his aunt's anger so I learned later] to help me straighten up the room. We did this quietly and comfortably, not speaking much, but enjoying the solitude of that hour of the day. When we did talk, Matthew spoke mostly of his mother. Though he was quite young when she died, he remembered a kind, gentle, loving woman who always spent time with him.

As Christmas drew near however, Matthew failed to stay after school each day. I looked forward to his coming, and when the days passed and he continued to scamper hurriedly from the room after class, I stopped him one afternoon and asked him why he no longer helped me in the room. I told him how I had missed him, and his large brown eyes lit up eagerly as he replied, 'Did you really miss me?'

I explained how he had been my best helper, 'I was making you a surprise,' he whispered confidentially. 'It's for Christmas.' With that, he became embarrassed and dashed from the room. He didn't stay after school any more after that.

Finally came the last school day before Christmas. Matthew crept slowly into the room late that afternoon with his hands concealing something behind his back. 'I have your present,' he said timidly when I looked up. 'I hope you like it.' He held out his hands, and there lying in his small palms was a tiny wooden box.

'It's beautiful, Matthew. Is there something in it?' I asked opening the top to look inside. 'Oh you can't see what's in it,' he replied, 'and you can't touch it, or taste it or feel it, but mother always said it makes you feel good all the time, warm on cold nights and safe when you're all alone.'

I gazed into the empty box. 'What is it, Matthew' I asked gently, 'that will make me feel so good?'

'It's love,' he whispered softly, 'and mother always said it's best when you give it away.' He turned and quietly left the room.

So now I keep a small box crudely made of scraps of wood on the piano in my living room and only smile when inquiring friends raise quizzical eyebrows when I explain to them there is love in it.

Yes, Christmas is for gaiety, mirth, song, and for good and wondrous gifts. But mostly, Christmas is for love.

“All I want for Christmas” by David S. Blanchard taken from “A Temporary State of Grace”

This is a time of year when we ask – and are asked – what do you want? Shall it be another tie, a new pair of gloves, a book? We ask and we answer. We shop, we wrap, we ship. And the season usually comes and goes without us ever really answering the question: What do you want?

Some of the things we want we might be afraid to ask for because we can’t be sure what we would do if we got them. Many things we want we don’t know enough to ask for. Most things we can’t ask for because we know no one can give them to us.

Most people ask the question without any interest in really knowing, yet it can be a question for each of us to hold on to for a time in mind and heart. What do we want? Not what would we like, but what do we want to give us a deeper connection with life and to help us give expression to our love? Not a long list of things, but a sense of clarity that illuminates what it is we are doing and why. Not outward signs of generosity, but an internal sense of caring that guides us to give in any season. Not just the reflex of always giving, but also the courage to truly answer some of those who ask us, “What do you want?”

Dare to answer. Think of the things you want, and the things others close to you would want. Imagine the ways they might be given and received.

What do you want?

"This is the season" by Jacob Trapp

This is the season when the child in the heart of all of us awakens and the
embers of long forgotten dreams are blown into flame.
The ramp of the Legions is stilled; the Caesars lie in dust, but the light
from that humble stable shines warm and bright.
Something old and almost lost amid the clutter of the years is calling from
the skies and across the fields of snow.
The night winds are stilled and in the darkened heavens the stars foretell
of lengthening days and the birth of spring after the winter’s cold.
This is the sign that the light of hope, which shines in the dimness of our
broken dreams, will never fade or die.
O stretch your hands and with the simple trust of the child, grasp another’s
hand and walk the way together.
Though the darkness press in upon us and the promise of Christmas
comes like the echo of music upon the wind, let our hearts remember
that loveliness, that light.

“Sing” by George K Beach

This is a good season for singing. I may not sing very well but everybody knows the Christmas carols and I can just sing and get away with it. Nobody notices unless I refuse altogether. So singing comes easy, now.

This is also a good season for telling stories. The stories I like are both life-like and a little fantastic – believable, unbelievable, and somehow both at once. They let me imagine something other than hard facts that just say what is.

The idea of angels singing and animals talking for a holy babe born in a barn and laid in a manger allows me to love a little while in a world where everything is different. And get away with it.

A most amazing recognition that is: that I can get away with it. Life allows me; it lets me go again and again: for we are set at liberty.

This is a good season for believing that “something happened” and everything is different now. I don’t have to be bigger, better, or beautifuler than anybody. I can love somebody and get away with it.

And what is “it”? It is only that which I want in my heart of hearts – like loving, like being changed, like singing and having a story to tell. And once I have let myself go, there is something I can do no longer: pretend I am not allowed to be myself, in the community of giving and receiving. Such a life of freedom and love is itself the first and greatest gift.

“Little Kight” by Charles A Gains

As I look at this lighted candle, I think of all the people I have read about
who lit up the world with their love. I think of Jesus and Buddha, St Francis
and Schweitzer, Clara Barton and Martin Luther King. And I know in
my heart that I can light up the world with my love too.
As I look at this glowing candle, I think of all the people I have known in
my life who lit up my world with their love; parents who gave me birth,
teachers who taught me in schools; people who walked with me for a
while. And I know in my heart that that I can light up the world with my
love too.

As I look at this bright candle, I think of all the people I know now who
light up my world with their love; my partner and my children; my colleagues
and my friends; people who are with me now, others who are
absent, but with us just the same. And I know in my heart that I can light
up the world with my love too.

Loved ones, friends, strangers I pass this light to you. Take it and let it
brighten up the darkness. Let its glow sparkle around your eyes and
lighten your face And know that by sharing our love, even in little ways,
we touch others with our light and our world becomes brighter
It all began many years ago when one light lit up the midnight sky. It has
been passed on to us by saints and prophets, parents, teachers and poets,
and all the friends and lovers of humankind.
Take it, pass it on - tonight, tomorrow and whenever you see a shadow or
a dark place your love can lighten. No one is ever too old. No one is ever
too young. Each of us can touch someone by our love and inspire them
with our light.

A Closing Prayer

Christmas Eve, December 24, 2007
On this night of nights,
We have more for which to be grateful than we will ever know:
More cause to bless and cherish
And bend our knee in wonder,
More call to lift our hearts on wings of praise.

For we, too, on this very night,
Illuminated by a story and a star,
Can witness a miracle:
A birth — heralding our birth,
Pregnant with promise and oh so surpassingly strange;
A life — no less magical than ours;
A death — to charge our days with purpose,
Helping us to live in such a way
That our lives, too, will prove worth dying for.

To enter the realm of enchantment,
We must first shed our self-protective cover,
Not, as we too often and so sadly do,
Take this precious life for granted,
But unwrap the present and receive the gift,
Mysterious and charged with saving grace.

So let us, on this night of nights, set aside our shopping list of grievances,
Resist the nattering of our grubby little egos,
And crack our parched lives open like a seed.

Let us pray.

Let us awaken from the soul-crushing allures
Of sophisticated resignation and cynical chic,
To savor instead the world of abundance and possibility
That awaits just beyond the self-imposed limits of our imagination.

Let us awaken to the saving gift of forgiveness,
Where we can, in a single breath, free ourselves and free another.

Let us awaken to the possibility of love,
Body, mind, and spirit,
All-saving and all-redeeming love.

Let us awaken to the blessing of acceptance,
Expressed in a simple, saving mantra:
Want what we have; do what we can; be who we are.

Rather than let wishful thinking or regret
Displace the gratitude for all that is ours, here and now,
To savor and to save.

Let us want what we have —
Praying for health, if we are blessed with health,
For friendship, if we are blessed with friends,
For family, if we are blessed with family,
For work, if we are blessed with tasks that await our doing,
And if our lives are dark, may we remember to want nothing more than the loving
Affection of those whose hearts are broken by
our pain.

Let us do what we can —
Not dream impossible dreams or climb every mountain,
But dream one possible dream and climb one splendid mountain,
That our life may be blessed with attainable meaning.

And let us be who we are —
Embrace our God-given nature and talents.
Answer the call that is ours, not another's,
Thereby enhancing our little world and the greater world we share.

That is my Christmas prayer,
Call it thoughtful wishing.
All we have to do is put our heart in it.
And there's one more bonus.
Unlike wishful thinking, thoughtful wishes always come true.

Amen. I love you. And may God bless us all.

An Excerpt from "Love & Death: My Journey through the Valley of the Shadow" by Forrest Church

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