Chastened by the Light of Christmas

How better to celebrate the life of my mother-in-law than to pair a Christmas service with a remembrance service for her at the same time. It came as a delightful discovery that Mary’s cemetery provides the families with loved ones buried there an annual Christmas/Remembrance ceremony. So with great anticipation I looked forward to this unique opportunity to pair the joy of this holiday with the grief of my loss, expecting to both help me heal and bless her with a radiant remembrance. Little could I anticipate the illumination that came for me.

Seems I have much to learn and unlearn about putting myself in a context celebrating the overwhelming glory of the birth of God’s Son, choosing against all other options for the day, to allow myself to sit awash in song and meaning for such an infinite affirmation of life and death, and yet to drop right off in the next second to grief, loss and emptiness that eclipsed that Glory. The heart of my lesson appears to be unlearning the contraction of my fullest being around my sense of being an atomistic, discrete and separate self in order to grow big enough to embrace the ravishment of both the Glory of the Christmas event and the ravaging grief that comes with the loss of a beloved.

It’s a cliché we rattle off regularly that we only use 20% of our brain at best, which means we aren’t even looking at the glass half empty!!! That unused 80% functions then as a loss of great capacity, which is what we seem to identify with most, and shows up with our nagging insecurities and learned helplessness. I have to suspect this is part of why it’s easier to plunge into the depths of loss and despair than open to the joyousness available in any moment where we stop ignoring the miracle that we’re here at all and awaken into the taken-for-granted miracle of all we see and know arising in fullest contradiction to using only that meager 20%. I confess I have that experience often where the beauty-beyond-belief of this very world opens to me, like maybe when I’m simply driving around town running the mundane errands, but yet and still, in spite of that gleaning of beauty, my mood will shift and I’ll start dwelling on negative things instead. That sets me to juxtapose a loss experience or even a minor worry and turn the opportunity for exquisite ecstasy into the torments of loss.

Now, actually, I think the intensities of both glorious experiences and the despair of loss, that traces back to the fear of death’s emptiness, are two sides of the same coin. Instead of toggling between these two extremes, or preferring one and trying to stop the other, better to become the coin that holds both. In order to do that, we have to make the ironic move and enable ourselves to honestly and actually step into and experience the Glory as readily as we do grief and loss. Let’s remember, if God is infinite and we feel separate from God, who moved? Meaning, it’s ourselves who split Being into life and death and then lament that splitting as if it happens to us, and thus, making ourselves victims to our own ignoring of That which holds them in Unity.

I say, use this season of Light, Christmas time, where we intentionally decorate our homes, raise and light trees during the season where the nights are longer and the days shorter to remember the Glory of that Light our seasonal behaviors enact. Let’s feel into Christmas carols and truly listen to the words as we sing them so they can open us to the redemptive Glory that holds ourselves and all our lost loved and living ones alike in a Love that outshines our identification with very petty selves and the selfishness that consumes them. It takes a concerted renewed intention, and I’m only reporting what I know to be true, not claiming any more encroachment into that 80% than anyone else. Oh, well, maybe being able to see this and write about it gives me a 1% advantage.

What I can say from direct experience is that, when I truly open to this Light, my eyes well up, my heart goes into my throat, and from this fullness I can see the networks of love linking each and everyone in my family that creates the net of support we live and provide for each other, as best we can, through-out the year. At Christmas time, those beautiful nets of lights we spread on our bushes and line the roofs of our homes well reflect That Network—That One that illuminates us and our world every second of every day.

But whoa! That’s a child’s dream, right? Christmas every day of the year?! Yet, when we practice remembrance of the miracle of being here at all, it helps open us to the willingness to make another choice about how we wish to be. That choice, in turn, enables us to open beyond that mere 20% and choose to drop the obscurations of petty moods and strife, availing us to experience how we actually live and love one another every moment. Whew! Can and/or will you really let yourself feel that power? I am.

Merry Christmas!

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