Preparing for a long journey is kind of involved. We’ve gone a number of cruises before but the longest (other than on our own fully equipped boat) was 18 days. This one will be 80 days and we will experience all kinds of weather – from 20 degrees to 95+ with humidity. We are packing more stuff than we’ve ever brought before. In fact, because of all of our travels we’ve become pretty expert at traveling light. Well, not so, this trip! Yesterday, we sent two overstuffed suitcases with FedEx to Ft. Lauderdale. Fancy clothes for gala nights, different shoes for casual or dress, trekking poles for the hikes we will go on, and so on. When we leave here we will be bringing an additional bag to check as well as carry-ons. Supplies and medications for 80 days take room. Wow!
Of course, getting ready for Christmas has kind of the same feel. We start out slow, in an Advent-like pace, the outside lights go up, the wreaths arrive, gifts are ordered and then wrapped and eventually put in boxes to be mailed. And then there are the Christmas cards, and the tree, and inside decorating, gifts to be wrapped and put under the tree, baking, special meals to be planned and shopped for. Stockings to be filled. And suddenly preparation time is very short and very full. The hoped for contemplative space of inner preparation has been filled up!
One of my favorite Christmas hymns is “Joy to the World”. One of the lines is: “Let every heart prepare him room. And heaven and nature sing.” Throughout this season of preparation for holiday gatherings, connecting with family and friends, is an invitation to connect with our true self that is found in the heart that is ready to receive love. That heart is one that is open and empty, not full of itself or the abundance of things, concerns or worries. That heart is the place described by the mystics as the home of the Divine in each and every one of us. That heart is able to see the world differently – from a place of wholeness, a place where the material and divine are intermingled, where “heaven and nature” sing. It is experienced only in the depth of silence and emptiness.
Darkness brings silence
The hush reveals awe or fear
Only one yields life
Some folks arrive at Christmas Eve with a feeling of sadness and emptiness. That partly happens because we put so much on this season and expect so much from it, especially if we have fond memories of family celebrations that no longer happen. It also happens because those we have loved most dearly are no longer physically present with us. Others arrive at Christmas so full that they are unable to unpack the only gift that really matters in this life – the gift of love. Whether we arrive full or empty, the invitation to all is the same: Let every heart be open to receive Divine Love from within and without, in order to grow in the Being of Life and share it with all whom you encounter. For Christians, we have 12 days to unpack that great mystery that we call the incarnation. Twelve days to ponder and reflect as festivities wind down. It is a season that is rich with possibility of the new in each every one of us.
I will be thinking about all of that as we unpack that luggage that we are bringing along, knowing that real unpacking will be going on in the mysteries of Divine Love in all of us!
Joy to the World!