This is the final entry in our “Beyond December” themed blogs.
By December 19, everyone had arrived. This was the first time in three years (basically, since Covid) that our family would all be together for Christmas. When it all shook out, we had two adult children, one partner, two grandchildren and two dogs stay with us for over a week. The final count was five adults, two kids, four dogs and one cat. My husband John and I were thrilled!
The festivities of Christmas began immediately with cookie decorating, building a gingerbread house and making s’mores in our family room fireplace. The fun continued with tobogganing at the Strongsville Metroparks toboggan chute. However, right after the last heart-stopping run down the chute, the weather began changing from cold to bitter to frozen tundra.
As a lifelong Clevelander, I handle anything winter has to throw at me with admirable stoicism. However, my son’s family lives in Orlando, and I saw they were confused. How could it be this cold? I told the children they could tell their friends back in Florida that they had experienced a real Cleveland Christmas with snow. They ignored me. At one point, someone said, “Gee, it’s kinda cold in here.”
After further investigation, we unfortunately found that the furnace wasn’t working. After an initial “oh my goodness,” (or maybe slightly stronger words) John found the outside furnace duct was blocked with snow. After the snow was removed, we thankfully heard and felt the furnace pumping out heat again. Our relief was short-lived, though. Soon after the furnace issue was resolved, a pipe in the bathroom sink froze. We did what we could to thaw the frozen pipe, until it finally resolved two days later without bursting. Hallelujah!
But even with subzero temperatures, frozen pipes and heart-stopping furnace issues, Christmas came. It came just the same, as it did for the Whos down in Whoville. The Christmas Eve service was attended, presents were opened on Christmas morning, and Christmas dinner was eaten.
By December 28, everyone had packed up and gone back to their own lives in Nashville and Orlando. John and I both felt a mixture of relief that the mayhem was over and sadness that our goodbye hugs would have to last for a while. By the New Year, our lights, ornaments, trees and garlands were taken down and stowed until next year. And there was silence.
Walking in the woods with my dogs, I am often alone on the trail and am muffled in silence. There are no leaves on the trees to rustle in the wind, and even the birds don’t have much to say. Paradoxically, in the silence, my hearing becomes more acute. I hear the crunch of every footstep on the scattering of last Autumn’s leaves and hear the birds flutter past. I hear every breath I take.
When Sacred Moments Come
With this heightened sense of sound, I feel my heart opening up and allowing me to clearly hear God’s voice. Breathing in the cold January air, I recite chapter 1 of the Gospel of John over and over. It becomes a walking meditation, and I am enveloped in God’s Mystery and Mercy. Without any distractions, God’s voice is unmistakable, and the Holy Spirit moves freely in and around me. It is truly a sacred moment.
We tend to think of sacred moments happening only in times of quiet and solitude. But sacred moments happen all the time, even in the midst of noisy Christmas bustle. This past Christmas, sacred moments abounded as we sat around the table laughing & playing Uno, as we shared stories around the dinner table, or as we flew down the toboggan chute. There were sacred moments even as we anxiously tried to puzzle out our furnace and pipe issues. God is always in our midst. He is blessing us whether our lives are filled with 5 adults, 2 children, 4 dogs and 1 cat, or our lives are quiet and solitary. Indeed, God is with us in the sound and the silence.
For Reflection (either individually or with a group)
Read the blog. Read it a second time, maybe reading it aloud or asking someone else to read it aloud so you can hear it with different intonation and emphases. Then spend some time with the questions with music, crayons, sand, or anything that helps you reflect more deeply. Take these questions for a walk in the woods or in your neighborhood, for a swim or a run or for a hot soak in the tub. Invite the questions to join you for tea or coffee.
- Do you prefer sound or silence? Why?
- Can you “hear” anything more acutely in silence?
- When and how do you best connect with the voice of The Divine?
- How well do you identify sacred moments when there is sound all around?
Download a pdf including the Reflection Questions to share and discuss with friends, family, or members of your faith community small group.