Reflecting on Mary….

The weather turned cold this morning, just in time for Christmas. We’re finishing our final preparations and double checking everything is ready for tomorrow. So I was drawn to this photo of a shadow cast by a manger scene taken by my friend Mary. It’s so easy to lose sight of the real meaning of Christmas. Sometimes we get so turned around, we are facing the shadows instead of the light. We get caught up in all the busy-ness of the season, making sure we have a gift for everyone who has given us one. We rush out to get something if we receive an unexpected present, rather than gratefully accepting what we have been given. Perhaps this Christmas is less than we hoped for, due to financial concerns or ill health. Yet whatever we are facing pales in comparison to the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. I spent the end of my pregnancy on bed rest, while Mary spent hers riding a donkey. When the time came, we took a short drive to the sparkling clean, well equipped hospital. Mary wasn’t sure where she would have her baby. After so many had turned them away, I am sure even a stable seemed a welcome prospect. It seems they found shelter just in time. Take time today to consider the real meaning of Christmas, when the Holy of Holies deigned to humble himself and took on human form. Consider following the path of Mary, responding to Christ’s call by saying, “I am the Lord’s servant, may your word be fulfilled”. And remember, even 2000 years later, it’s never too late to turn toward the manger. Photo by Mary Staley

Reflecting on Shadows….

The sun is a welcome sight after the cold and wet days this weekend. I enjoyed a nice walk with a visiting friend, happy to be outdoors in the cold, crisp air. So I was drawn to this photo of an unsuspecting subject taken by my friend Mary in Put-in-Bay, Ohio. I love the warm colors and sharply outlined shadows. If you look closely, you can see the brim of a hat. On the table, there are plenty of drinks waiting for friends who haven’t yet arrived or are out of the picture. Today is All Saint’s Day, the day we remember those who have passed from this life to the next. In some cultures, the Christian tradition of All Saint’s has been combined with the ancient remembrances of the dead in a celebration called Dios de los Muertos, or Days of the Dead. There is a carnival atmosphere, as communities celebrate for three days, eating ghoulish sweets, resembling skulls and bones. It’s as if Halloween and All Saint’s run together, making fun of our own mortality while accepting the reality of death by grieving loved ones. There are three days each year when all laugh and cry together. Perhaps we need a holiday like that, rather than grieving haphazardly, on our own. Like this shadow, our memories swirl around us. The strangest things can bring fresh grief, like an old sweepstakes entry or a sugar packet tucked in a shirt pocket. We look around for the source of the shadow, then realize that only the shadow remains. Yet the more we resist grief, the more it persists. We can’t get around it; we simply must get through it. Take time today to remember a loved one that has passed on, or to comfort another lost in grief. Give thanks for those who passed before you, shaped your life, and made you who you are today. Let laughter and tears blend together, like the celebration of Dios de los Muertos. And remember you can’t feel the joy without accepting the pain. We are promised abundant life, not a bowl of cherries. Photo by Mary Staley

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