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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Holiday Blues, Part One

People who have known me for year, either IRL on online, are familiar with my constant search for religious meaning and/or purpose. It seems like a hobby to some, but for me, my spiritual formation and transformation are living things. The day I stop wondering, pondering, considering, and praying will be the day I take my last breath. I don't just enjoy the process; I need it. I thrive on it. Sure, sometimes it makes me look like a know-it-all in conversations and oftentimes I just hide my knowledge by keeping my mouth shut (like most know-it-alls, I haven't yet learned how to politely interject that I know the correct term/answer/date/historical figure, and it loses me friends sometimes). 

The constant conversation with God is the one consistency in my life since childhood. You can tell me it's superstition. You can tell me it's not enough and that I need this other list of things in addition to. But I don't. I just need to know that God and I are speaking and listening.

In 1996, when I finally had the guts to break away from my parents' church and go to my own, I attended a wonderful Episcopal church in Montgomery where I discovered the Eucharist and the church calendar, specifically Advent. At that point, it became my goal to observe and celebrate Advent for a while before focusing on Christmas-related stuff. A few years later, after I'd gone through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults at a Catholic parish here in Birmingham, I made sure the family always observed Advent with candles, prayers, and songs, and I tried to keep the tree up for the Twelve Days of the Christmas season. 

A few years after that, I was exploring Judaism (for several reasons) with Rabbi Jonathan Miller at Temple Emanu-El and, in my reading, discovered Hanukkah. Okay, I knew all about it before that because I always have kind of liked all things Jewish. And though I do get irritated when white Westerners start adopting and co-opting and changing traditions of other cultures, I thought, "this is a holiday most of us can relate to!"  How many times have we been sustained long after resources should have run out? Whether you attribute it to God or another being or to your own fortitude or just sheer luck, I bet it's happened.

So we observe Hanukkah here. In the middle of Advent, occasionally at Christmas, depending on the calendar that year. It's a time for miracles, and to remember of the times that the Lord has kept us going. The Chabad has a great section on Hanukkah.  Saturday night, when I come home from work, we will have Hanukkah "cakes" made from doughnuts, and latkes, and we will light the first candle and say blessings. Maybe we will remember to wear blue and white. 

It will be a good way to stop in the middle of holiday madness (my kids have THREE holiday performances next week, all at night!) and remember that God provides. Since I'm not really sure what Christmas holds for me emotionally this year, I'm grateful for other meaningful holidays that carry less baggage and let me feel closer to God.