Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Spirituality of Advent, Christmas Day

So, it is 1 AM Christmas morning.  All the presents are under the tree.  99% of the dishes from Christmas Eve dinner have either been washed by hand or are in the dishwasher which is running as I write.  Dinner was a hit with all members of my family and with Kelsey.  We had Kelsey over the for afternoon during which she and Christopher walked the dog before we took the dog to the kennel and they got a great picture, she prepped for the music for mass with Christopher, she played Life with Daniel, and she then played flute at mass before enjoying dinner and gift exchange with us.

After dinner (quicker on Christmas Eve this year than most in the past) I took Joshua to an Anglican church where he was part of the choir that sang at a 10 PM mass including some carols before and the mass ended at around 11:30.  Since I had to drive home, I have not been able to shut down my mind.

So, since I have an interesting set of take away messages from the Catholic and Anglican services I attended yesterday, I figured I would just write.  Then get more sleep tomorrow.

In any case, the one common theme in both masses (particularly the homilies in each)--connection.

So, first let me talk about what I heard from Father Ray Chase at St Pius X at the 6 PM mass.  Father Ray first commented in his homily on how we still have all the trappings and activities that are associated with Christmas but we don't use the term Christmas so much. It is just "holiday this and that" rather than "Christmas this and that".  This, as he put it, suggests a lack of connection to anything with real meaning behind it, in other words, no connection to the "reason for the season".  

So, he suggested that he called the parable of the string after pulling a string from his wallet.  In his interpretation, Jesus is like a string.  He connects people--or ties them together.  He had more to say than the short synopsis I will give but he basically drew a line from overcoming a lack of connection to understanding to an outpouring of love to the world being a better place.  To me this relates to being a part of something bigger.  That is what leads to connection.  And when that happens, we connect with spirituality.  And when that happens, we can move behind many types of hard feelings as we are all on a path to being joined together.  He even commented that feeling connected and loved was a pretty basic human need and emotion.  Nothing at all religious about that.  A simple statement of a human need to feel fulfillment.  Without it, life is not the same.  With it, we can overcome many things.  

Father Ray also commented on how disconnected some of us are from ourselves.  In other words not feeling good about ourselves.  And he noted that feeling connected to Christ can help us to feel better about ourselves.  Thus, the importance of connection to God and connection to each other through our faith community.

Thinking back over the past month, I thought about connections to family, parish, music, and running.  Family these days starts with Sherry, includes our sons (of course), and includes Kelsey in many ways.  Particularly when we are lucky enough to have her come with us to a church experience.

Then, after the mass at our parish and dinner, I took Joshua to sing at an Anglican church. Just two days ago I was not completely pleased with having to go to Lessons and Carols a second time in a weekend.  But it turned out to be an incredible experience to see it a second time.  So, today, someone had to be responsible for taking Kelsey home and someone had to take Joshua.  While we originally thought of Sherry taking Joshua I ended up doing that.  

I especially enjoyed hearing him sing a solo verse of Once in Royal David's City that he had not sung at the Lessons and Carols celebration.  That was a real treat to hear my son sing that.  

Then, the service itself was very similar (but not identical) to the Catholic mass including a Gloria arranged by David Haas.  

Then, we got to the message after the gospel reading.  The Reverend David Drake made a really interesting point.  He mentioned that for the shepherds in the field who were told by the angels of the birth of a savior that the angels would have been a real surprise but the idea of having an unblemished child wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger would actually not have been a foreign concept to them.  That was interesting.  His logic was that these were shepherds who would have been caring for the sheep who would be used as the Passover sacrifice.  These had to be unblemished lambs.  How do shepherds keep lambs unblemished when they are born?  By wrapping them in swaddling cloths and putting them in a manger.  Thus, this was a sign of what type of savior had been sent.

The Reverend was pointing out that God had found a way to communicate with the shepherds in a way that they would understand.   (Being in a business school now I thought of it as a study in marketing...)

The key was connection.

So, there are things about being connected to people and God connecting to people in ways they understand that provide good lessons for me.

In running (where all this blogging began), it means figuring out what matters to my fellow runners, being part of the running community, and then building relationships with my fellow runners from there.  It can be something as little as just deciding on a given Tuesday to run at the speed of others on the track just to help them or just carrying on a conversation for the better part of a 2 hour run.

For family--the most important source of connections--it means knowing what matters to my family and building on things that matter to both me and my family members to help us all move forward.

For teaching religious education, it is engaging in connection with parents of the children in my class  in a way that I have started to this year but never did before.  

But the key throughout is connection.  Connection to others.  Connection to God.  Connection to the other parts of the Holy Trinity.  And a realization that without the connections life is so much less.  And a realization of all that the connections can bring.  Connections to something bigger.  Something perfect.  Something that makes life more fulfilling and opens the doors to a spiritual life that are not open when one does not seek and take part in connections.  

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