Tuesday, December 20

Advent 2011

As I have written in the past, I tend to go overboard with Christmas decorating.  More often than not my souvenirs from trips are ornaments for the trees, another nutcracker, an additional manger scene, etc.  There is a story about each and every decoration, whether or not anyone else wants to hear it.  I realized four holiday seasons ago that it was time to add yet another tree and decided to move some of the holiday decor to the screened porch with a tree of the colors I associated with the word "serenity" - a word that had just recently begun to take on new meaning.

Last December, among the scurry of the season, I had to pause due to my mother's cancer diagnosis.  Decorating and shopping took a place on the back shelf and for the first time it just didn't matter whether everything was perfect for Christmas Eve or not.  As I traveled back home less than a week before Melissa and Drew were to arrive, my thoughts were in a hospital room in Albany, Georgia, rather than with the unopened boxes scattered around the house.

The long miles provided me with time to think, to meditate, to pray, and I kept recalling Christmas Eve services of the past.  I couldn't help but wonder if we would even be sitting in First Baptist Church of Savannah for the upcoming service.  Arriving at home I was blessed with the tender understanding provided me by several close friends who told me to remain constant in my faith and that the answers would fall into place - in God's time, not mine.  They told me to do what I needed to do and not to let myself become so absorbed in apprehension that I completely eliminated the joy of the holy season.  They also told me to choose only one thing I really wanted to accomplish rather than the long list from which I normally operated.

Late on the Tuesday prior to Christmas I suddenly had the urge to decorate my serenity tree on the porch where I sit each morning with my coffee and meditate.  As I began placing the ornaments on the tree I let the anguish inside my spirit release; there were tears and heavy sighs as I reached into the boxes.  But even in the overwhelming sadness I was feeling there became a very clear sense of peace.  I felt for the first time that regardless of what the future held, Christmas was coming and shouldn't I make this one the happiest possible?  Somehow I began to sing in my head the anthems the choir would sing on Christmas Eve which I had not wanted to think about at all in the previous days.  And as I decorated I used The Serenity Prayer as my mantra.  Then the phone rang - my brother's voice said, "She's going to be able to go home for Christmas!"  With those words I knew within my soul that it was no mere coincidence that I was standing in that space doing what I was doing when I heard the news that became my best gift of Christmas 2010!

Stories do not always have happy endings and most of you know that it would be only a couple of months later that my phone would ring yet again with words I never wanted to hear.  The call came the morning after I returned home from Cuba in February - a trip that my mother insisted I make.  "You're going - do not change your plans.  I'll be here when you get back."  Miraculously she was!  This year my serenity tree will be my first decorating task because somehow it simply feels right!  Life changes and we never know when or how but God's love brought down at Christmas endures forever.  Indeed his Word was made flesh and dwells among us.  Thanks be to God!

- Janis Lewis


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