On Christmas day, Nora and I rode in the back seat of our car to church, watching for trees. She said the leaves were all gone away and I agreed. I said they would come back in the Spring and be here for her birthday. This is an often repeated story recently as she widens her 2-year-old world to pay attention to things that go away. I thought of this the last few days in our early morning fog. Most mornings, I can see beyond our fence and across the lake to a house that is being built there. I see duck families and herons on the water. But the fog here obscures all but the most pronounced and closest objects. So it is with these days approaching year’s end. I know what recent days have looked like, but the new year coming holds no clear vision for me. I am called to trust, to practice discernment, to watch for markers that remind me I have been and will be guided.
“Spiritual discernment asks us to pay attention…on many levels: to sensus fidelium ( the collective ene of the faithful), to read widely and deeply the best ancient and contemporary thinking, to pray, to attend to the prick of conscience, to watch, to wait, to listen.”
~from “Passing Angels: The Arts of Spiritual Discernment” by Wendy M. Wright in Weavings, November 1995
For about 40 years I have taped these words inside a cabinet door or in another place, always close to the spot I make my coffee so that I see it every morning. I recently removed it to take with me to a new kitchen. Mornings will still mean an early cup of coffee and a new day for this resolution. It reads:
All this day I will realize that I am a child of God. His love is round about me, underneath are the everlasting arms. I will be honest and true in everything I say and do. I believe that all things work together for good for those who love God. I will try to replace all bitterness, hatred, resentment, over-anxiety, and fear with the spirit of understanding, tolerance, love, patience, and trust. Behind all that comes, God’s love and wisdom will be present to strengthen and sustain.
_ Copied, author unknown. I clipped the words from a newsletter published by Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, around 1977. Bruce Willcox was pastor of Willshire, a church we previously attended when we lived in Dallas. Our youngest son, Ben was born in 1973 so his baby dedication was held there.
There is so much about Christmas days that involves children. In A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens wrote “it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself.”
In the singing and ringing, the laughing, standing-on-tiptoe, eyes sparkling joy of children, we experience fresh joy ourselves. Each year when our boys were young, our family began and continued traditions that were then and still are important to all of us. I love seeing many of those being carried into their own homes today. This is little Nora’s first Christmas. She delights in the sights and smells and sounds, and trusts her parents, her grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins as we hold her and share this beauty. She does not expect it all, but she experiences it, learning and laughing. Trusting because she feels our love and care.
When I read the gospel message that we are to become like little children, I think of that quality of childlike trust. I want to experience all of Christmas like Nora – laughing, learning, trusting.