Today is my birthday. Yay! From time to time I like to put the word “birthday” in my reader and go say “Happy Birthday” to people celebrating (or not celebrating) birthdays on that particular day. It is not unusual for me to find people who are sad, angry or fearful about the day. Some go so far as to say their life is over. What is sad is that these are often people in their twenties and thirties.
Then I remember the years I hated my birthday. For me twenty-nine was worse than thirty, because it came with the realization that meeting the goals I had set for thirty just wasn’t going to happen. As my life went along I also started piling up other bad events and experiences close to or on my birthday.
At twenty-nine I thought my life was over. As I progressed through my thirties I wished it was. It took a real life “near death experience” to turn me around. Not just surviving but fully recovering convinced me that there was still work for me to do.
Every day I thank God for the miracle of life. Every day I try to live my life to the fullest. Yes, even in my sixties I still celebrate my birthday and I don’t plan to stop.
So Happy Birthday to all the birthday boys and girls out there. Remember God danced the day you were born!
Have you ever wondered about the difference between an equinox and a solstice?
According to the National Weather Service an equinox is one of the “two times of the year when the Earth’s axis is tilted neither toward nor away from the sun, resulting in a “nearly” equal amount of daylight and darkness at all latitudes.” The Equinoxes occur in the Spring (Vernal) and Autumn (Autumnal).
A solstice occurs “at the moment the earth’s tilt toward from the sun is at a maximum. Therefore, on the day of the summer solstice, the sun appears at its highest elevation with a noontime position that changes very little for several days before and after the summer solstice… The winter solstice marks the shortest day and longest night of the year. ”
So on this day, December 21, 2017 we are experiencing the shortest day and longest night of the year. Is it any wonder so many cultures and religious traditions celebrate light during this season?
Winter Solstice is observed as a Pagan Holiday with ritual and celebration involving light, including bonfires. We know that our own celebration of Christmas includes traditions and practices “borrowed” from other cultures and religions. So on this shortest day and longest night of the year it seems fitting to at least take a few moments to stop and reflect on the light that shines in the darkness no matter what your religious or spiritual beliefs. Light a candle, or a bonfire or set out luminaria along your driveway, hang lights on you house, put a great big smile on your face and let that light shine!
One thing I like to do at the holidays is give a small (very small) token gift to people at random. One year I hung handmade angel ornaments anonymously on neighbor’s door knobs. Other years I have given candy canes or tea bags from a display on our door (we spent a lot of years in apartments). One year I grabbed a handful of holiday stick pins from our Christmas box (when Bob worked for a toy, novelty and gift company) as we were leaving for church and pinned them on people who were very special to me. And of course I have given away too many plates of holiday goodies to count.
What I remember most about all the things I have given at the holidays is the reaction of the people receiving them. Most have reacted like instead of a mere token I gave them gold. People like to be remembered and appreciated, especially in a way that does not make them feel obligated in any way.
So what is my Random Act of Christmas this year?
Reindeer antlers of course! The ladies at my holiday party all received antlers at the door and I’ve been handing out the leftovers on my daily walk. Remember I live in a senior community. I’ve never seem so many people over fifty smile and giggle in my life.
So I hope you will think about Random Acts of Christmas. This isn’t about spending a lot of money. Remember the thought really does count.
Our word angel comes from the Greek ἄγγελος. It means messenger. I will always think of this with a smile remembering a fellow seminary student in Greek class who happened to be named Angel beaming and exchanging laughter with the professor about the appropriateness of his name.
I do believe in God’s holy angels who are sent to be messengers of God’s love, care and sometimes judgement. I have had personal encounters with angels.
But I do also believe that we are also called to be messengers of Gods light, love and care to each other. This is not reserved for pastors or those studying to become pastors. We all do this by the way we live and care for others.
Especially during this season be sure you reflect God’s love and light and spread it around. I love angel crafts and have included a few links below if you want to share God’s love and light by giving handmade angels. If you are interested in Greek I have a reference for that too.
Hanukkah begins at sundown tonight. Do you know the story behind this light holiday? If you don’t, you need to read it. The story of Hanukkah is full of adventure and drama surrounding events leading up to a great miracle. It is a story of liberation, freedom, reclaiming what was lost and hope.
Take time during the holiday to create a tangible reminder of the blessings in your life. A gratitude tree may be made using a tree branch you bring inside. Try to use a branch that that has fallen on it’s own. Write things you are grateful for on leaves cut from paper, create a hanger using yarn or string and hang from the branch. Or tie ribbons to a tree or branch.
You could also turn your Christmas tree into a gratitude tree. Or save a tree and tie your blessings to a live tree in your yard. You can add blessing as you think of them and see how they add up or create a special blessing ceremony with readings, songs, prayers, poems or other things you find meaningful.
Of course this is a good activity to use with children. But don’t we all need to stop and remember how blessed we truly are?
When you read todays topic you may have thought, REALLY? Do we need to be reminded of this during the holidays?
Well apparently we do. It seems that each year during November and December we start hearing about things like brawls at the mall with people fighting over particular items that may be in short supply. Or angry battles over nativity scenes being displayed on government property with both side being sure they are “right.” Then we have the annual brouhaha over what type of holiday greeting is proper to extend to people.
As I watch this unfolding year after year, I can’t help but wonder what all this has to do with what we say we are celebrating. If you are a Christian, does your holiday behavior reflect the life and teachings of the Master Teacher, the Price of Peace whose birth you say you are celebrating? If you celebrate a “secular” Christmas and say your celebrations are all about family, does your behavior reflect this? Do you want to pass down traditions that bring you closer as a family or that teach greed and selfishness? No matter what you celebrate during this time stop and ask if you behavior is reflecting what you say you are celebrating.
Okay so what can we do to make the holiday season a little kinder and gentler?
Remember this is a stressful time for many people. Retail workers in particular are working long hours and serving larger crowds. Tempers can be short and people can be easily provoked. Be patient with others and do not do anything to intentionally provoke another person during this time.
When someone gives you a holiday greeting accept it in the spirit in which it is intended. They are greeting you from their traditions and customs and may not even know that you believe or celebrate differently.
Focus on light, love and peace rather than who is right and who is wrong.
Buy an extra gift, pair of mittens, winter hat, etc. for charity.
Watch what you post on social media. Focus on the positive. Be the voice of love and light instead of discord and anger.
If you practice random acts of kindness, continue throughout the holiday season. If you don’t this is a good time to begin. These don’t have to be big and flashy. Something as simple as opening the door for someone with their arms full will be appreciated.
Each day think of one thing for which you are grateful. Speak it out loud. Come back to this throughout the day.
Finally take time to listen. I mean really listen to someone else. Give them your full attention. Look them in the eyes and listen. Don’t look at your cell phone or other distractions. Let the other person know you are present and you really hear them. Give the gift of listening — this could be the best gift someone receives this year.
Life is not always about who is right and who is wrong. Our life on this planet is a school. We are here to learn how to get along with each other. If we are ever going to learn this we need to start practicing. Isn’t this the perfect time to start?
Oh and one last thing… SMILE! But be careful. It’s contagious you know. 🙂