As I write this article it is the twelfth day of Christmas, and while most of the Christmas lights and glitter and decorations have been stored away for another year, these days between Christmas and Epiphany (Jan. 6) are wonderful, beautiful, sacred days for me. These days are my favorite days of the year, when Christmas has ended for the secular world, but for me the days are just right for reflection, for pondering.
In Luke 2:19 are the words that give me permission to spend these days pondering: But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. (NRSV). The verse follows the description of how the shepherds came to the manger to see the Holy family and told them of the appearance of the angels and of their great news: You will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger. (Luke 2:12). After the shepherds went away Mary had much to think about.
I have always found that word "pondered" intriguing. Besides the message of the angels that the shepherd told her what else did Mary ponder? What else did she think about in those days? What else did she not want to forget? What words or visits or joy did she want to carry with her always?
This year was the first Christmas without my Mom, who passed away last May, and while, with two exceptions, I haven't actually spent Christmas Day with my Mom in all the years that I have lived in West Virginia and been in ministry, most years the sacred days between Christmas and New Years have included time with my parents and then my Mom after my father died in 2001.
She never minded that her children weren't with her on the actual day of Christmas, but I knew that she longed for, appreciated, and pondered those days we spent with her all year round. I missed that this year and I found myself, instead, pondering all the memories of Christmases past-from childhood on. So these last few days of pondering have provided me treasures to think about-memories to laugh over once again, and memories of small gestures that have been tucked away and forgotten until these last few days.
It has amazed me that some of these memories have ever stuck with me because they would seem so insignificant to anyone else. For instance, one year, in the early 1970's, my beloved Aunt Helen gave my mother a collection of different teas for Christmas. There were twelve boxes of teas that held 4 teabags each.
During those "pondering days" and throughout that winter my mother and I would have teatime each day and try out a different kind of tea. Since my mom was one of the original recyclers, one teabag could produce two cups of tea. The tea lasted throughout the winter and provided a simple time each day to spend time with my mom. I remember that tea as one of the best gifts that my family ever received and often reminded my aunt that it was a perfect gift. I have pondered that gift a great deal these sacred days as our daughter Grace has introduced our son Andrew to cups of tea.
I remember the Christmases that I got exactly what I wanted, but you know, as I ponder these memories it was the Christmases where simple gifts were shared that have stuck with me the most and have really come back to me over and over again. I think that is one reason that Luke 2:19 is such a powerful verse for me. I think that is one reason that Luke placed those words in his story of Jesus' birth. It is the simple gifts, the simple gestures in our lives, that often mean the most to us and to others.
As I have thought about "pondering" and the powerful impact it has had on me this Christmas, I became aware that what I want my New Year's resolution to be is to be more aware of those moments in my life and to pass on my gratefulness as much as I can. I know that sometimes those moments will make themselves known to me later, after the moment, but I want to be aware of as many as I can this year and I want to offer those moments to others as well, knowing also that I might not be aware that something I do or say will be one of those moments for others. I guess I am saying that I want to make each day meaningful for others or myself in some fashion.
Yesterday, as I sat in my office thinking about this article and pondering the twelve days of Christmas, I was live streaming WDAV non-commercial classical radio from the campus of Davidson College in Davidson, N.C. I listen to this station when I particularly miss North Carolina because it was a station that my parents listened to often and it was my Dad in particular who instilled in me a love for good classical music. I began listening to this station again last winter after my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer and we knew that she would be leaving us this past year, but I will confess that I continue to listen to it because it sounds so familiar to me.
The WDAV morning host is Mike McKay, who when I was a teenager was the local TV weather man and later became anchor of the 6 o'clock news. Every night for years I heard Mike's voice telling me about the weather the next day. He was the one who let me know about snow closings in those rare occasions when snow closed school. Later, it was Mike that kept our family up to date on all the North Carolina news. For years after I left and would visit my parents, Mike would still be keeping my parents up to date on the happenings in the area. About five years ago he made the move to radio.
Yesterday, as I was listening to WDAV, I became aware that Mike McKay and especially the music of WDAV was one of those small gestures that has been a gift to me this year as I have grieved my mother's passing, as we have endured two disasters that have had such an impact on the neighbors we serve at the Parish House, and as we have carried on in what was a difficult year for everyone.
WDAV and Mike McKay have no idea that they have given me such an important gift, a gift that has given me something to ponder. So, I sent a brief email to them yesterday thanking them.
I know that they will never realize their impact and that is OK with me. It was important for me to stop and realize how God gives us so many blessings in our lives and the reality is that the little ones that others might see as insignificant are the ones that sometimes carry the most weight for someone.
God will give us all the opportunities this year to offer small gestures to others that will add to their storehouse of treasures to ponder. God will give us people this year that will do the same for us, building our storehouses of treasures to ponder. Let us be grateful for these opportunities and allow God to use us to bring hope and encouragement and peace to someone else this year.
I treasure each of you.
To God be the Glory!
On the parish calendar
Joint planning session for all committees will be Tuesday at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church.
Burlington youth visit will be Feb. 2.
Ash Wednesday service is set for Feb. 13.
Appreciation Dinner will be April 16.