Friday, November 26, 2010

The Star

Visions dance in my head of pagan celebrations and home spaces crowded with excess.  I shake it to clear the whirling tornado of holiday tunes, family conflicts, tree-lit little faces, fattening cookies, anticipation, resignation, busyness, busyness, and oh so much busyness.

Oh, I do love Christmas.  But I’m just tired this year.  I’m not ready to deal with the choices.  What’s the origin of this particular tradition?  What if we tie that legend to it?  What biblical mandate is there for focusing on Christ’s birth?  Should we get gifts?  Make them?  For whom?  Is it all about the materialism?  Should I just ignore Christmas altogether?

Then the melody of Steve Green’s rendition of Philippians 4:8 drifts through my mind.

I think how Advent originally was a time of fasting and prayer; a preparation for Christ’s soon-coming return.  That’s it, I think.  Forty days of simplicity; of doing away with excess and focusing on the eternal.

I will declutter the house; my thoughts; my life – using Philippians 4:8 as my guide.

It doesn’t go perfectly.  I cut away computer time, to realize it’s quickly filled with “simple” menu-planning and lists and service acts that overwhelm my 40-day schedule.  I come up with standards for getting rid of books, and they keep changing.  I declutter the pantry, only to have food items reappear back on my kitchen counter while I try to find a new spot for them:  “How can you throw away food?!”  Visions of unmet product review obligations dance through my head.  I enjoy giggles with my daughter in the morning and then am late to work.  Philippians 4:8 isn’t all so very simple, it seems.

Then my three-year-old opens up my Bible.  “I’m reading it upside down so you can see the pictures,” she tells me.  “Today I will read about Strawberry Shortcake.”

“I don’t think Strawberry Shortcake is in the Bible, baby,” I tell her.  “How about the story about Baby Jesus?”

“All right.  Mary rode on the small donkey with Joseph by her side.  He knocked on the door to Bethlehem, and the innkeeper said there was no room, but to stay in the stable with the animals.  And she had a baby, and an angel told her not to be afraid, and to call the baby ‘Jesus.’  Then…  Then what happened, Mommy?”

“There were shepherds in the field,” I prompt her.

“And the angel of the Lord came down – his name was Gabriel – that’s my cousin’s name – and he said ‘Fear not!’  And all the angels sang.  They sang ‘Glory to God!’  And the shepherds went to worship the baby Jesus.  Then…” she pauses.

“Tell about the wisemen,”  I prompt again.

“You read that part, Mommy,” she says.

So I tell about the camels, and the gold, and the frankincense, and the myrrh.  And the star.  Following the star.  Focusing on the star.

And I think:  It really is that simple.  All else falls by the wayside, all by itself. 

Single-minded focus on the star.

Guide us to Thy perfect light.