Why wait until the holidays to prepare?
Judy Roitman, guiding teacher of the Kansas Zen Center and a member of the Lawrence Jewish Community Center:
Ah yes, the holidays. Time for family and friends, social gatherings, warmth, kindness, stress, anxiety and depression.
But which holidays? Hanukkah is a minor holiday, magnified as a defense against the juggernaut known as Christmas. Ramadan and Diwali are long past. Buddha’s Enlightenment Day is coming up, but outside of Asian communities (lots of lanterns and ceremonies) you wouldn’t know it. “Upcoming” isn’t the point (except for Christmas). The point is: holidays with a strong social component. Those are the ones you have to prepare for: cooking, baking, shopping, invitations, the tree and decorations, or the menorah and candles … Those are the ones we look forward to and the ones that drive us nuts.
A long time ago I read a list of the big stressors of life. Death in the family, check. Losing a job, check. But also, surprisingly, getting a promotion, check. Getting a raise, check. Holidays, check. Wait a minute … holidays? Well sure, if we gear ourselves up once or twice a year for extraordinary behavior.
But what if we didn’t wait for Thanksgiving to give thanks, Yom Kippur to repent, Passover to remember what it was like to be a slave in Egypt, Christmas to give to charity? What if we lived our life every day with the same kind of appreciation and care? What if we prepared for everything with the same attention and thoughtfulness? What would happen then?
Meanwhile, a suggestion: if you are financially OK in these hard times, after you’ve given to your usual charities, consider the San Francisco Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll’s Untied Way. Take out enough $20 bills so you’ll feel it, and give them to folks down on their luck, without judging what they’ll use it for. A little human to human unmediated help. Why not?
— Send e-mail to Judy Roitman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Acknowledge God’s blessings year-round
The Rev. Gary Teske, pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, 1245 N.H.:
How do I prepare for the upcoming religious holidays? To be perfectly candid, I get really, really busy. If you are looking for someone who has found a way to de-commercialize, de-clutter and totally spiritualize this season, you have come to the wrong place. There is just a lot going on during this season, and I find that if I don’t get busy and take care of things, I regret it. This is especially true for me, a pastor, who has special worship services and activities to prepare for.
That being said, there is a difference to my busy-ness during this season of the year. First of all, I like to take the weeks before Christmas and make them a sort of pilgrimage. I like to do this by taking the season between Thanksgiving and Christmas called “Advent” very seriously. Advent comes from the Latin “Adventus” and simply means “coming” or “arrival.” For centuries, Christians around the world have taken this time to prepare themselves to hear again that great story called the “Christmas Story” in a way that speaks to them with renewed meaning and power.
I find that a key part of my preparation for Christmas is spending time with poetry and stories. I enjoy the Christmas specials, modern stories about the holidays. But I also have to go back and read again the poetry of the prophets like Isaiah, Micah and Malachi, poetry that yearns for one who brings justice, deliverance and steadfast love. And then there are those great stories. The story of John the Baptist, and some wise and foolish young women with their lamps. I prepare by being busy, busy with Christmas cards and parties, but also busy with worship and prayer, poetry and stories that prepare my heart and life to welcome and appreciate this one whose birth we celebrate at Christmas.
— Send e-mail to Gary Teske at email@example.com.