By MARY KAYE FALCONY
CONNECTING FAITH AND LIFE
As of late, I have found myself longing for the presence of my loved ones with whom I once shared space and time with on this earth. I think the coming celebrations of this season make the longing all that more intense. Remembering is now the gift received this time of year, and its wrapping is all the love that was shared over the years.
Although this may seem rather melancholy or even sad, it truly is not. Instead, it helps me to be more intentional about this season and how I engage in its celebration. It allows me, you might say, to “take off my shoes of distraction” and truly pay attention!
I will be the first to admit that fully engaging in all the preparations associated with the liturgical seasons of Advent and Christmas brings me great joy. Being immersed in all the sights, sounds and observances is like welcoming a cherished friend who only visits once a year. I have found over the years that what I do in the way of preparation has become more deliberate, more thought-filled and much more reflective. There is a richness that flows from familiarity and intentionality: Listening to the same scripture; singing favorite carols; adorning the interior and exterior of our home with symbols that are deeply rooted in the fabric of our faith; and laboring in the kitchen over recipes that have existed for generations providing nourishment for our bodies and delight for our senses. All this transports me to a time that was but, in reality, still is.
These endeavors are not done out of obligation or nostalgia but, instead, are done because they embody an essence of those loved ones I long for. In a very real way these practices make them present – their care, compassion, tenderness, zest for life and the beauty that was them. These tangibles allow me to usher this season in with enthusiasm. These “things” allow me to cherish my past while being present in the now and stepping into the future with hope-filled anticipation of what is yet to come.
As I ponder those who have journeyed with me and bring this holy season to life, infusing it with meaning, I cannot neglect to acknowledge the influence of my spiritual ancestors who are just as real to me as those I have known in this earthly realm.
At a very young age, I was introduced to the lives of those individuals who held the pivotal roles that ushered in the Nativity event. On the pages of the Bible, I read of John the Baptist, Mary, Joseph and Elizabeth. In my youth, my understanding of each figure was very preliminary. I knew how each fit into the Christmas story, but the significance of their responses to the invitation offered to reside within the story and the implications that would follow because of their response alluded me.
It wasn’t until I grew much older that I began to grasp the importance of what was being asked of each and how their willingness to be open to God’s plan for their life would serve as a model for my own. The lessons learned of courage, trust, humility and openness have impacted my faith and continue to do so. Just as the lives of Mary, Joseph, John and Elizabeth were always pointing to the crib – to Christ – I know my life must do the same.
I pray that, as we journey through this holy season, we will be blessed with the gift of remembering – and that love embraces us. May the presence of our ancestors in faith be made real for us, guiding us as we make our way to the crib – to the Christ.