Tag Archives: Christmas

Pilgrimage

tartanmountainb

“Tartan Mountain” Acrylic on Canvas, Deborah Stephan

Over the past couple of months, the subject of ‘pilgrimage’ has been on my mind.  I have started to do research on the subject for an art show I will offer in April.  I have been thinking about my own life as I read about the Camino, about the Celtic monks founding Iona, and about the men and women who travelled out of the cities to have a quiet life before God: the Desert Mother and father.  I consider Abraham’s pilgrimage and that of Moses.  I also consider the journeys of Hagar, Diana, Deborah and Anna.  I ask, what would it have been like to be Lydia with her journey into business in that day, what was her path, and of Junia, almost unmentioned as a female apostle, about Priscilla and her husband’s growth toward leadership?

I begin to notice the many pilgrimages of my own life.  Some are as dramatic and life changing for the people I love as the escape from my first marriage.  I traversed prairies and mountains.  (Perhaps this is where the “Tartan Mountains” painting came from.  It also reminds me of my son snowboarding.)  Others are lesser journeys of faith: a retreat, a conference, a walk on the seawall.  Actually, my whole life could be considered a pilgrimage with various companions along the way.

Today, as I consider Mary and Joseph’s journey as I read about the Camino with its hostels for pilgrims, I think about theirs as a deeper walk of faith as there was no room for them at the inn.

I recently discovered a new podcast which has become one of my spiritual disciplines as I look to the journey of another year of faith

Merry Christmas Everyone!  Enjoy the day.  The Light has come and I want to pass it on by recommending a new podcast:

#22 The Scandalous Christmas

Pilgrimage podcast

 

A Christmas Offering

Pop-UpEmptyStabelAmbleside

“Pop-Up Empty Stable, Ambleside” Photo DS

Dear followers:

May the Father offer you grace

May Jesus offer you his hand

May the Spirit offer comfort and

Guidance to you as

You begin the New Year.

 

Below is a poem by Mary Oliver

Blessings, Deborah.

 

Christmas Poem

Says a country legend told every year:
Go to the barn on Christmas Eve and see
what the creatures do as that long night tips over.
Down on their knees they will go, the fire
of an old memory whistling through their minds!

[So] I went. Wrapped to my eyes against the cold
I creaked back the barn door and peered in.
From town the church bells spilled their midnight music,
and the beasts listened –
yet they lay in their stalls like stone.

Oh the heretics!
Not to remember Bethlehem,
or the star as bright as a sun,
or the child born on a bed of straw!
To know only of the dissolving Now!

Still they drowsed on –
citizens of the pure, the physical world,
they loomed in the dark: powerful
of body, peaceful of mind,
innocent of history.

Brothers! I whispered. It is Christmas!
And you are no heretics, but a miracle,
immaculate still as when you thundered forth
on the morning of creation!
As for Bethlehem, that blazing star

still sailed the dark, but only looked for me.
Caught in its light, listening again to its story,
I curled against some sleepy beast, who nuzzled
my hair as though I were a child, and warmed me
the best it could all night.

Mary Oliver

 

A Christmas Gift

 

Christmas Ferris Wheel

“Christmas Ferris Wheel” Phone Photo DS

What is Christmas really all about, I was thinking this morning. I usually make some time for at least one unusual way of celebrating to make the occasion different each year. It came to me that Christmas, really, is about freedom. A baby was born. A unique baby was born a couple of millennia ago, lived a quiet life for 30 years, a public teacher/prophet/priestly life for 3 years, was murdered and three days later walked out of his cave grave. The world changed.

The baby, the Freedom Fighter, became the Way to real freedom. This is the gift we have been given if we avail ourselves of his offer to follow him in life.   He gave himself for us. We give ourselves to him. It is reciprocal gift, a covenant. Even when our gift fails, his remains a constant. This is what we celebrate. This is who we love.

I celebrated my Christmas freedom by riding the Ferris wheel that came to town. How will you enjoy this one wild and precious life? (Mary Oliver)

An Advent Calendar to open each morning:

http://imagejournal.org/advent/

Nativity

Christmas Window

“Christmas Window” Phone Photo DS

The rooms overlooked the city. The rooms with their coloured walls took my attention. As did the happy greetings from the others that morning.

So cup and cookie in hand we chatted about this and that of which we saw and felt. My seat was in the second row of the circle of friends. As I took in the surrounding beauty, I noticed a salt and pepper size nativity scene at my feet. It stood on the iron floor pedestal of the nearby lamp.

The location for the holy scene was so unusual but in keeping with the holy event. Was this not the same low-key of the Bethlehem appearance of the holy three?

Unseen by others my attention was drawn again and again toward the Christ child so low. It was a reminder to invite God’s real time presence into the meeting. If only I had realized it at the time.

 

Christmas Birthday Roses

Christmas Birthday Roses

“Yellow Roses” DS 2015

Mother’s birthday was on Christmas Day. She would have just turned 90 this year – about the same age as the queen. She has been gone a decade now but I will see her again one day. I felt impressed to buy some yellow roses in her honour this year to have at Christmas.

She too was a painter and a poet – a pioneer of sorts. Her favourite flowers were always yellow roses (yet in her old age she changed them to pink). Her own painting of yellow roses and blue delphiniums can be seen in the foyer of the spa at the historic Algonquin Hotel in St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, N.B. where she worked as a young woman after the war. The painting was donated to the hotel in her honour as one of New Brunswick’s own daughters.

Mother was one who loved God. She loved life, and children, and painting – probably in that order. In one’s ancestral tree there are particular people who shine. Their love blesses all who come after them. Mother is one of those whose children and grandchildren rise up and call her blessed (Book of Proverbs).

“Honor your father and mother” is the first commandment that has a promise attached to it, namely, “so you will live well and have a long life.” (Book of Ephesians)

This poem of Ann Weems reminds me of my childhood:

Giving

I gave my mother Evening in Paris

Sixty-five cents at the five-and-dime,

a Christmas Special.

Everybody knew – in the second grade –

that ladies longed for perfume.

I wanted to give her something special …

no Christmas chocolates she’d share with others,

no crayoned creation to hang in the kitchen,

no photo of me with a snuggle-tooth grin,

but a gift that no one else would use,

a present just for my mother.

I wrapped it in tissue

adorned with red reindeer

and wrote “I LOVE YOU!”

and signed it in cursive.

I thought it was the grandest gift anybody could give.

She thought so, too.

 

Painters and Poets

Snowflake Collage

“Snowflake Collage” DS

Christmas 2015

In my online reading, quite unexpectedly, I happened upon a contemporary thought-provoking painting of Christ’s birth: “The Nativity” by Brian Kershisnik. It became obvious from looking that so much of what is happening when we think again of the story is unseen. Another great artist said:

“My aim is always to get hold of the magic of reality and to transfer this reality into painting — to make the invisible visible through reality. It may sound paradoxical, but it is, in fact, reality which forms the mystery of our existence.” Max Beckmann

We rely on the eyes of faith or what has been called the prompting of the Spirit – a feeling perhaps or a knowing that something is true without all the facts. I think again of how my Christmas celebration seems so far from what I would like it to be each year. My habit of direct prayer, however, is always answered. I address the risen Christ, the One who was born, lived, died, rose and now lives again interceding for us at the right hand of the Father (Book of Romans).

As I go about my preparations for the holidays, I pray to this alive Jesus for something wonderful to happen again this year. I pray that He would give me the best gift on His birthday – a paradox this – as the birthday person usually receives all of the gifts. But turning expectations upside down is nothing new for Jesus. I do rejoice in this. It gives me hope for change for those who struggle – and miracles can happen – especially at Christmas. The Creator of the universe came to be with us – Emmanuel. The gladness is real and spreading. It does not depend on me or my attitude.

“Nativity” painting by Brian Kershisnik

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rKpxYjnPAM

 

This Year will be Different

by Ann Weems (1934-    )

Who among us does not have dream

that this year will be different?

Who among us does not intend to go

peacefully, leisurely, carefully to word Bethlehem,

for who among us likes to cope with the

commercialism of Christmas

which lures us to tinsel not only the tree

but also our hearts?

Who among us intends to get caught up in a tearing around

And wearing down?

Who among us does not long for:

gifts that give love?

shopping in serenity?

cards and presents sent off early?

long evenings by the fireside with those we love?

(the trimming devoid of any arguing about who’s going to hang

what where,

the aroma of cinnamon and nutmeg mingling with the pine

scent of the tree,

and carols gently playing over our idyllic scene)

and the children! The children cheerfully talking about

giving instead of getting?

Who among us does not yearn for

Time for our hearts to ponder the Word of God?

Moments of kneeling and bursts of song?

The peace of quiet calm for our spirit’s journey?

 

This year we intend to follow the Star

instead of the crowd.

But, of course, we always do

intend the best.

(And sometimes best intentions tend to get the best of us!)

This year, when we find ourselves off the path again

(and we invariably will!),

let’s not add yet another stress to our Advent days,

that of “trying to do Christmas correctly”!

Instead let’s approach the birth of our Lord

with joyful abandon!

 

And this year

let’s do what Mary did and rejoice in God,

let’s do what Joseph did and listen to our dreams,

let’s do what the Wise Men did and praise and glorify God

for all we’ve seen and heard!

As for the Advent frantic pace, we don’t have time for that.

We’ll be too busy singing!

This year will be different!