The other day I was taking a morning walk through our neighborhood; the air winter crisp, the sky icy azure. High above me, a raucous, insistent trumpeting swirled. Looking up I saw geese gathering, circling around and around, over one hundred geese, their numbers swelling as I tallied. I stood, my head tilted skyward, and watched the geese form three V’s, turn southward, and disappear beyond the horizon of trees. A gardener raking leaves nearby raised his arm to the sky. We pointed upward and nodded. Our smiles spread through my body like warm sunshine.
Every year we gather with church friends at an annual Christmas party. The event follows a predictable routine. We search for a parking spot along our hostess’ long circular driveway, enter her wide foyer, and inhale the festive fragrances of December — chocolate, cinnamon, vanilla. Guests fill their plates with finger food and chat in the warmth of generous surroundings sparkling with candlelight, poinsettias, and laughter. We listen to a holiday story, share favorite memories, and sing Christmas carols augmented with lighthearted favorites like Jingle Bells, I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, and I’ll Be Home for Christmas. A pleasant glow accompanies us home.
Today our supper group, The Clean Plate Club, met for our yearly Christmas brunch, this time in our home. In preparation, Herb and I finished gift wrapping, plumbing repairs, and casserole baking. Our guests are dug-in friends, familiar with almost fifty years of celebrations and griefs. Someone will start a story about a favorite Christmas gift, which for this group is often about an orange in a stocking, one rare Christmas orange still evoking a luscious aroma and extravagant flavor. We doubt any mesh bag of oranges from today’s Kroger grocery could match its allure.
At Thanksgiving a granddaughter asked, “Oma, do you have Hanukkah in Kentucky? We have it in Colorado but it might be different in Kentucky. Maybe you don’t have it.” She needed to know since she was coming to visit during the seven days of Hanukkah. How was she to choose between Thanksgiving in Kentucky and Hanukkah in Colorado? She needed the customs and comfort of both events.
If our memories should fade, our desire for them would not. Even when we least expect it, we find ourselves surprised by reminders of the order of life, its repetitions and natural patterns: geese gathering, leaf raking, gift wrapping, cookie baking, seasonal singing, candle lighting. We bask in the glow of the familiar, its rhythm, and harmony. We don’t require intensity; we need balance and providence, that which is given and that which we create.
We pray for freedom from the temptations of discouragement and its devilish companion fear, which follow us daily, echoing from FOX and CNN, inhabiting workplaces and highways, even invading ordinary conversations. Let us more deliberately step away from distractions and into essential patterns, colored by wonder, faith, charity, and godly love.