Friday, December 08, 2006
Villagers all, this
Let your doors
swing open wide,
may follow, and
Yet draw us in
by your fire to bide;
Joy shall be yours
in the morning.
We are trying to make most of our Christmas gifts this year. In the past, we have given a mix of homemade and thriftily bought gifts, and in someways that is what we are doing again, with the balance tipped slightly more toward the "homemade" side. We are seeking to simplify our life and stretch our financial resources, and we see this (carving out time to make instead of buy) as a step toward choosing a parred-down lifestyle. It is also an opportunity to walk more slowly and to allow time to imagine and create. I have realized that it takes more time and planning to make homemade gifts; it's not just a matter of scurrying to the store and slapping money on a counter. It is a struggle to balance my time between projects and focused interaction with my children. I try to include my Pre-schooler in what I am doing, which is why I ended up with sparkly glue and purple stamped snowflakes on my dining room table yesterday. Yes, clean-up takes a little longer when she is involved...
I finally made an Advent wreath this year. We have mostly focused on Sunday readings with a few special prayers sprinkled in. It has been significant for our daughter to have the consistency of lighting each purple candle as we draw nearer to lighting the pink and white ones. The cycle of Liturgical tradition has always been a great solace to me. My faith has felt uplifted and carried along with the rhythm of the church calendar. When I don't have my own words or expressions, I can rest in what spiritual men and women I admire have prayed and written, and I can settle into the truth until it seeps more completely into my internal landscape. And this year, the candle lightings and Advent readings have been an element of this "seeping" for me.
This past Sunday, the third in Advent, I went to an open house at The Mark Centre, an urban retreat centre that invites individuals or groups to come aside from the busyness of life to enjoy solitude in a beautiful setting. The couple who envisioned and created it have become a blessing in my life and it was a joy for me to see them again and celebrate Advent at their table.
With the help of a passionate group of leaders, musicians and artists, they transformed the 4-story chalet into various "stations" with each room crafted into a palette for creative spiritual experience. For example, each room has a symbolic name: extravagance, abundance, and solitude, to name a few. We were encouraged to walk slowly and in silence through each room.
Extravagance had a gorgeous nativity set up, small white candles flickering, richly-coloured artwork on the walls and a woman sitting in a chair reading the Christmas story aloud.
Abundance was warmly lit with different-sized candles. A sheepskin-covered kneeling pillow rested in front of a small table that held a framed poem and portion of scripture .
Each room created a different atmosphere in which to reflect on aspects of God's character, enfleshed in the Christ of the Nativity. After I walked through each room, I ended at the Rooftop Chapel and listened to Cathy Hardy and Karin Dart play songs from their Taize CD called "Rest".
I was comforted by the care with which homemade Chai, Christmas cookies, hazelnut cake and spiced cider were given with ease and sincerity. It was exactly what I needed to open my awareness of Advent as I cling to the wonder of the Christchild. I am grateful for the gift of that night.