Archive for Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Bits and Pieces

Advent brings anticipation; gives pause to reflect

December 24, 2003

The fourth and final Sunday of Advent was Dec. 21, and Christmas is Thursday. I love Advent and Lent, the seasons that precede Christmas and Easter. These days of Advent are full of waiting and anticipation for the children (and even some of the big kids) knowing that the long awaited day we think about all year is about to arrive.
I especially love the symbol of the Advent wreath. The wreath marks the four Sundays of Advent, and consists of a circle (usually trimmed with greenery) that unites four candles -- three purple and one pink. Each Sunday another candle is lit that represents not only the coming of Christ but also peace, love, joy and hope. There are a variety of Advent wreaths ranging from the elegant to the homemade.
My favorites are the ones often found on messy, kitchen tables cluttered with crumbs and homework that call the family to remember the sacredness of the season as each candle is lit. It reminds me that Christ enters the messiness of life and shares our table and centers us in the chaos of everyday living. The wreath is a reminder of the gift of this constancy that comes with the gift of faith.
My grandson Grant had a similar reminder in the paper bell he made at school with a trailer of paper circles hanging from it. Each day he was to tear off another circle counting down to Christmas Day. I was thinking how much alike these symbols were -- but one centered on the birth of Christ and the other on the day of celebration filled with fun, food and presents.
I don't intend for this to become a judgment on the sacred versus the secular. After all, in my column last Christmas I was the one to tell everyone to lighten up, hang the lights on their houses and in their yards and welcome the day with every colorful and cheesy decoration they could find in their basements and attics. Nothing -- except perhaps the seasonal version of the cut-outs of the old couple mooning the world at large, which I saw in one yard -- being too gaudy or too tasteless to welcome the season.
The symbol of the Advent wreath reminds us that God enters into our world and remains with us through the year; whereas, the bell with the paper streamers counts down the days until Christmas and the coming of Santa, who only makes a short visit once a year. On Dec. 26, when the packages have all been opened, our lives are back to normal, and we again count the days for his return. Both are good, but I would choose the one that lasts all year. How about you?
In keeping with the theme of waiting and anticipation, the scripture story Sunday was about Elizabeth and Mary both waiting for the arrival of their first born, which translated to all those who are now awaiting the birth of a child. This reminded me of my mother who during this season was anticipating my birth. I arrived on Christmas evening having the good manners of at least letting her enjoy Christmas dinner. Most people offer their condolences for my Christmas birthday, but I have always thought it was a special gift. When I was small, family and friends routinely forgot it was my birthday and hastily shoved dollar bills into my fist, which I happily toted home at the end of the day.
As a young woman I returned the favor by anticipating the birth of my daughter during the Christmas season. She obliged by arriving on Dec. 20, the only one of my children to arrive on time, thus allowing me to spend Christmas Day at home with the rest of the family. As she was growing up, she was always a little irked that the Christmas program at school was invariably the same day as her birthday thus eliminating parties -- preferably sleepovers. This was probably a good thing, because at the one sleepover we did manage one of her friends almost set the house on fire with a candle left burning in the attic.
Through the years, I have had many Christmas memories, but none more memorable than those I have experienced here in Eudora. These past weeks have been full of Christmas celebrations in our small community. Music programs at school and at church, a Christmas lighting contest, and caroling at the old Catholic, church which was the finishing place for the Christmas tour of homes which benefited the food pantry housed at St. Paul United Church of Christ and sponsored by the ministerial alliance. The tour raised about $800 that will be given to community members in the form of vouchers.
This was the second year for the home tour, which included a wide range of homes dispersed throughout Eudora. Sue Fulcher and her daughters Kim and Kerry conducted tours of the historical Pilla House; Bill and Mary Lou Hamlin displayed a vast collection of Christmas decorations, both new and antique, gathered through the years; Loretta Gantenbein (recovering from neck surgery) allowed everyone into her home again this year to view her remarkable collection of nun dolls and figures.
Kurt and Ashley Olson, Kirsten Olson and Ryan and Amy King showed remarkable creativity in turning new homes into glittering holiday showcases; Bob and Marilyn Lindeen decorated the interior of their home with Hallmark collectibles, but their outdoor display was the real show stopper; and Don and Mardella Dearing took us through the woods to their charming home filled with years of collecting. Mardella is also an accomplished painter and wood carver,a and her work was also on display. A special thanks is owed to all of these homeowners for opening their homes so others less fortunate can share in the celebration of Christmas.
Finally, may the joy and anticipation of Christmas remain with us through each day of the coming year. In the famous words of Tiny Tim that still ring through the ages, "God bless us everyone."

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