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Today marks the Winter Solstice. The day when the earth’s orbit around the sun causes a shift in light across the earth. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the Winter Solstice is also known as the Longest Night … Continue reading
If you are a book nerd like me and love advent, have I got a resource for you!
The Advent Sourcebook by Thomas J. O’Gorman.
It is filled with quotes from across the centuries, hymns, Scripture, and poems. It is roughly broken up by weeks and includes resources for all the major (and minor) saint days.
It was a big influence and resource for me when I wrote my own advent devotional, Lighten the Darkness.
We read out of it every year and there is so much to choose from that it never gets old.
Best of all, there is a sourcebook for Christmastide as well so the fun keeps going. (And Lent for that matter if you love the church year as a whole as we do).
Every year my children and I read from this picture book, My Very First Christmas: Stories for the Very Young. It has delightful little stories retelling not only the Bible narratives, but also sharing Christmas legends from around the world.
One of our favorite stories from this book is that of Baboushka. The kids originally loved it because of the thick Russian accent I would adopt whenever I said her name. It made them giggle every time. I love it because I cannot get through it without crying. It speaks truth to my heart.
So as an early Christmas present, I will paraphrase for you the story of Baboushka as told by Lois Rock.
Baboushka was an old Russian lady. She lived alone in a cottage by the edge of town. Even at her age, every day she worked hard cooking, cleaning, and going about her daily chores.
One day as Baboushka was finishing dinner, she heard a knock at her cottage door. When she answered she discovered three men dressed in the finest clothes. Being a good hostess, she invited them in from the cold. However as she noticed the puddles their snowy boots were making on her floors, she couldn’t help but grumble to herself. She had just cleaned them and now look at the mess!
After Baboushka served a dinner of soup and bread, the three rich men prepared to go. They informed her they were looking for a new baby, a baby that was to be king. “Come with us Baboushka,” they asked. “Join us as we travel to offer our gifts to this new baby king.”
Baboushka thanked them for the offer, but politely declined. There was still so much to do. The house was a mess and her list of chores was never ending.
As Baboushka slept that night, she was awakened from her rest by the sound of angels singing. She looked out her window and saw a star dancing in the sky. Realizing these must be signs of the baby king, she decided to rush after her three visitors and join them. She too would offer the newborn king a gift to welcome it into the world.
But as Baboushka walked around with her basket of toys for the baby, she was not sure where to find him. Just to be safe, she began leaving toys at any house where she heard the sound of children. Even if this was not the house of the king, surely he would like her offerings.
Even today people say Baboushka is still wandering about, looking for the king and leaving gifts for all the children she finds on her way.
This story nails me every time because of how often am I like Baboushka, too worried about how messy the house is getting or what is left on my December to-do list to enjoy the miracles that are happening around me every day.
December can be a busy time and therefore stressful. But what a shame to miss the joy of the coming of the king because I am too worried about the mess on my floor (while ignoring the mess in my heart).
Baboushka reminds me to let some of my to-dos go so that I can get swept up in the magic and miracle of it all. I can relish the joy of my own laughing children as well as the joy of the child who came to be king.
In the end, I still read the story of Baboushka even though my children are no longer “very young” because I still need it. I still waste precious moments being cranky and consumed by unimportant details while angels sing all around me. I push through the rituals and routines of Christmas to check them off my list instead of letting their joy and meaning resound in my heart.
So, take some advice from me and Baboushka this season. Let some of the little stuff go. Put down the broom and go on an adventure looking for the king. Pass out toys to children you meet along the way. And always, always keep searching for that baby king come down. You just never know where you might find him.
Do you have a favorite Christmas legend you read every year? Care to Share?
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Admittedly, I am a day late and a dollar short on Thomas Merton’s Saint Day, but he is such an influence on my spiritual path that I thought this was a case of “Better late than never.”
On December 10th we remember Thomas Merton, one of the great Christian mystics of the 20th century. I first came across him in college when my husband, then boyfriend picked up a pocket sized copy of Thoughts on Solitude at a used bookstore. So began our journey into the deep well of writing that this restless contemplative gifted our world.
In his quest for solitude and meaning, Merton left behind a life of intellectual and material success to join a Trappist monastery in Kentucky. Ironically, as Merton drew deeper and deeper into silence at Gethsemani monastery, his heart became more and more connected in love and compassion with the world.
One of his quintessential quotes illustrates this move,
“As I was standing on the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district . . . I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world . . . .”
Then realizing his deep connection with all of humanity through grace he exclaims,
“There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”
In memory of the beloved Thomas Merton, I share another of his Advent poems with you now:
Flocks feed by darkness with a noise of whispers,
In the dry grass of pastures,
And lull the solemn night with their weak bells.
The little towns upon the rocky hills
Look down as meek as children:
Because they have seen come this holy time.
God’s glory, now, is kindled gentler than low candlelight
Under the rafters of a barn:
Eternal Peace is sleeping in the hay,
And Wisdom’s born in secret in a straw-roofed stable.
And O! Make holy music in the stars, you happy angels.
You shepherds, gather on the hill.
Look up, you timid flocks, where the three kings
Are coming through the wintry trees;
While we unnumbered children of the wicked centuries
Come after with our penances and prayers,
And lay them down in the sweet-smelling hay
Beside the wise men’s golden jars.