From the Minister
In Jay's column in the current issue of Voices, he discusses the holiday season and ways to celebrate and/or acknowledge them. He also asks each of us to reflect on our choices this holiday season. An archive of these and other columns by the Ministers is maintained and is accessible on the left:
December 16, 2013
In the last issue of Voices my colleague Kathleen Carpenter presented the concept of an “alternative Advent calendar” (click here for Advent Calendar) Heeding her invitation, each morning this month our family is pausing for a few moments after breakfast to remind ourselves of our incredible good fortune with the guidance of this “calendar.”
It offers us a way, literally, to count our blessings, tallying up things like the number of light switches in our home, the number of pairs of shoes in our closets, our subscription to a daily newspaper. Each item on the list asks for an added monetary contribution. At the end of the month we’ll determine our final total and then contribute that amount to a local organization working to make ours a more equitable world.
It is a simple little exercise, one that our seven-year-old finds intriguing (and a great use of her burgeoning addition and multiplication skills.) It is a helpful teaching tool, calling us into ever deeper gratitude. And, importantly, it is another way we’re exercising our capacities to make choices during this season.
Because some of our values are out of sync with those of our prevailing culture in this season, we benefit from regular reminders about the choices we do get, especially at this time of the year. It’s often easier to notice the things over which we get no say, to feel frustrated, even exasperated about those things. It’s sometimes more convenient to ignore our commitments and simply conform to others’ expectations. It’s possible to forget our true values and express irritation, derision even at those who have a different relationship to the prevailing messages in our culture now.
Among the many benefits we as a family get from active, consistent participation in a religious community that largely reflects our values is support in those times when we’re going against some dominant norm. We appreciate having a place where our daughter can learn that the stories of this season can have religious meaning for us as well even if we don’t regard them as central to our spiritual lives. So, we’ll be here as a family for the Solstice service and for a couple of the services on Christmas Eve appreciating the beauty and imagination of these stories.
Then, as we do each Christmas, we’ll head off very early in the morning to prepare breakfast for a group far less fortunate than we are. It’s one of our favorite gifts to ourselves, something we do as the first activity on that day as a reminder of what we’re learning through our engagement with a congregation inspiring each of us to the discovery of ever deeper spiritual meaning.
I invite each of us to reflect on the choices we get in this season. I invite us to consider our values and make our decisions in ways that are consistent with our core commitments. And, I invite you to be a part of the very full array of activities here in the coming couple of weeks as a way of being supported, challenged, and inspired as you continue your own discoveries of deep spiritual meaning.