Christianity

Smile! It’s Gaudete Sunday!

Willis Patterson, John McCollum, Richard Cross...
Willis Patterson, John McCollum, Richard Cross with Kurt Yaghjian as Amahl and Martha King his mother in the 1963 production (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Icy conditions kept me home from church today, the Third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete Sunday. How is this possible, you ask? Well, we do not park our vehicles in the garage (the explanation for this will have to wait for another blog entry), therefore the rain that fell all day yesterday, which turned to sleet and then snow when the temperature dropped overnight, produced a thick  layer of ice on the car and froze the car doors shut. It also turned our driveway into a frozen, lumpy, slippery obstacle course. The time I allowed myself to free  the ice-imprsoned  car was not enough to get the job done and arrive at church on time – not by a long shot. Very. Frustrating. Especially since this is one of my favorite Sundays of the year. Even as a kid I loved the third Sunday in Advent.  One reason was because it has a cool name; who can dislike  the  word ‘gaudete’? It is pronounced gow (as in cow)-  day tay.  Even saying it brings on a smile, which is very appropriate because the translation of the word gaudete is: “be joyful” or “rejoice”.

The second reason to love Gaudete Sunday was that it is the Sunday to light the pink candle on the Advent wreath. In our house we had a traditional advent wreath on our kitchen table. The wreath had four candles; three white and one pink. It was something to look forward to, this lighting of the pink candle. Finally – color and light together! Here was sparkling beauty meant to give relief to your eyes and heart during the long, dark winter days, while also presenting the promise of the coming spring.

The final reason to love Gaudete Sunday as a kid was that this was proof that we were actually getting close to Christmas. Somehow the  calendar  lacked the ability to measure time in an encouraging manner. Waiting day by slowly-dragging-day for the 25th of December to arrive was torture, where as counting by weeks using the Advent wreath was quite satisfying; “Three weeks down, and one to go until Christmas,” is what Gaudete Sunday made clear to me.

But what to do today, at home alone on Gaudete Sunday? After a few minutes of thought,  I lit three candles on the advent wreath, and found the CD of the one-act opera by Gian Carlo Menotti, called  Amahl and Night Visitors. This hour-long opera tells the story of a poor widow and her crippled son who welcome  three royal visitors who are on their way to visit the new-born King.  The CD is of the 1951 Christmas Eve production by the NBC Television Theater. You can see the entire 1951 performance, including an introduction to the opera by the composer, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hzx-s46vjpY

In the past, the story and the music of Amahl and the Night Visitors had been be able to break through the icy condition of my heart, and warm it up to receive the good news of Christ’s birth with thanksgiving and joy, and today was no different. Happily, the beautiful little opera changed the frustration and difficulties of everyday life into a time of worshipping the Lord.  And I guess that  is the real meaning of Gaudete Sunday, isn’t it?

“You turned my mourning into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.”Psalm 30:11

Am I smarter now?, Christianity, Family Life, Good times

Silent Night?

Christmas Night
Image via Wikipedia

A happy occurence! A friend and I  managed to meet for coffee and conversation the other day even though Christmas is less than two weeks away! As we sipped our warm, fragrant beverages, we acknowledged this minor miracle, and admitted to the difficulty of making Plans for holiday company, meals, decorating,gift giving and church attendance, and then seeing Plan A morph into Plan B, or Plan C. We chatted about the challenge of staying in-tune with the heart of the season, the birth of Christ. As we talked, I expressed my longing for quiet times, and peaceful, un-rushed days. My friend expressed similar sentiments, but we both knew that those moments weren’t going to occur any time soon.

I enjoyed the visit with my friend, and as I drove home I began to think about our conversation. Why, I wondered, did I think Christmas should be an un-hurried occasion? Have I been trying to make Franz Gruber’s song, Silent Night, the definition of the entire Christmas season?

I began to recall what I knew about  the first Christmas, and to my amazement I realized that the newly married couple, Joseph and Mary, had experienced a series of events that rivaled any demanding, modern-day family schedule. Think about it with me: It seems that nothing was done in peace and quiet that first Christmas ~

Joseph and Mary had a trip to Bethlehem forced on them for tax/political reasons, and they had to scramble to make the journey. Mary was almost 9 months pregnant when they left home; she had to be very uncomfortable on that donkey. The young couple didn’t make reservations for a room in Bethlehem, and you know what happened because of that.  Apparently midwives in those days didn’t make ‘stable calls’, so Joseph and Mary had to handle things by themselves. The location for the delivery of Jesus didn’t meet any birthing center criteria that I have ever heard about – yikes – stressful! Mary was so rushed in her packing for the trip that she forgot to take clothes for the new baby. Angels made a considerable amount of noise not too far from the newborn baby, and Mary and Joseph had to deal with meeting strangers and entertaining company within hours of Jesus’s birth.  Nothing relaxing, peaceful or quiet about that situation, was there? So why do I think I should have it any better?

I love the Christmas carol Silent Night, but from now on I will be more realistic about trying to achieve the sublime state of peace represented in its lyrics. I will try to meet the expectations of the holiday season with more equanimity, and look forward  to achieving the “all is calm, all is bright” mindset  AFTER the excitement fades away on Christmas day. At least, that’s the Plan.