Matthew 5:13-16 (NIV)
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."
The Second Week of Advent
I was raised Catholic, for at least eight years of my life anyway. From first to eighth grade the Advent season was a season of love in our school as we prepared for the birthday of our Lord and Savior. The season was more about the love of God than the love of gifts so that was our focus. In the morning before classes began, all of the children were called to the central hallway where we were tightly gathered. One child lit a candle and we all sang in unison, 'O come O come Emmanuel'. We would do this every day before classes began for the next four weeks.
This was the season that our Christmas plays were put together and as a whole school we were in unison with one another, no grade was doing anything much different, we were all focused on the season in some way. Our classrooms and curriculum consisted of the Jesus Story, the memorizing of Luke, exchanging of Christmas cards, Christmas tree decoration, and all the adornment that we saw on the outside of school, during the next four weeks the holyday was magnified in the halls and classrooms of my Catholic school, St. Mary’s.
Every year since I converted from Roman Catholicism, Advent always held a special time of reflection, of coming closer to God through the lighting of candles, meditation, singing and rejoicing and, spreading love and listening, yes listening, to Him for the way I should go. My Lenten season is similar but that season is the season of renewal, advent is the season of reflection. Reflection of where you’ve been and where you’re going. A peace and contentment with the love of Christ.
Last week my reflection consisted of Google Earth. Yeah, I know that’s odd but I went back home and looked at the home where I grew up. The house on William street meant more to me than just the home I grew up in, the house right next door is where my cousins once lived and the house that I would eventually give birth to my first living son.
Sitting there looking at the house I grew up in on my screen, opened a floodgate of memories. The tall slender rowhome with its now brick facade but the same marble steps we used to scrub with comet to get them clean and white, were still there. The long narrow windows were present and I looked, with tears in my eyes as the kid in me remembered so many good Christmas’ decorating those windows. Memories of putting up the Christmas tree right in front of those windows, and the stairs, the winding stairs my sister and I would sit at the top of and secretly watch my mother place gifts under the tree. I’m certain our giggles gave us away. What good memories but oh the memories.
I know I’ve written about my life and it not being the greatest childhood, (I know, I know, no one had a great childhood but mine was exceptionally bad) except for the Christmas season memories, they were always the best! My grade school was right around the corner from my house so as I visited my ‘old home’ I had to visit my old school, too. I think last week was for me, let’s walk down memory lane.
As I visited my old school the memories of the Christmas plays came flooding in along with the snowflakes I’d cut out or the Christmas construction-paper-cutout trees we decorated and placed around the halls, or the manger I built as a classroom assignment.
I remembered the Christmas play where I was in the back row of the stage standing on a milk crate in a line of students also balancing on a milk crate. Well wouldn’t you know, it would take little Joni to lose her balance and wipe out the entire row of kids as we all came crashing to the floor in giggles. The next year Sister Karl Ann made sure she placed me safely seated in the front row, with a small bongo in my hand as I played the Little Drummer Boy as we all sang.
It seemed I only allowed the good memories in as Memory Lane had changed over the years. I’ve worked so hard the past two years on letting the bad memories go into the Forgiven Pool where they could drown that they no longer held sway in my mind when Memory Lane opened up.
This is the week I prepared to face another Christmas, one in my new life seemingly a million miles away from my old life in Baltimore. Nowhere in my past did chickens and roosters come to my front door or turkeys would eat my birdseed. The only cluttered streets I see out here are when I drive two hours into Omaha where they have what they call ‘City Life’. It’s kind of funny, if only they knew what REAL city life was like. A rock formation in the far western reaches of the state constitutes a ‘mountain’ to them, and sand in front of a lake is what they deem ‘a beach’. To them, a city is where there are tall buildings and a nightlife. A nightlife that is kept at bay in the country living. They have bars out here but nothing like a real CITY has for sure.
Baltimore City's Inner Harbor
my playground as a child
Growing up in Baltimore City I lived right in the crook of the Chesapeake Bay, you know, that was a small portion of the Atlantic Ocean where there were numerous ‘beaches’ all a part of the shoreline of the ocean. Home of Fort McHenry where our national anthem was written by Francis Scott Key. The mountains in the tiny Maryland state escorted you right into Pennsylvania where even bigger and better mountains lined the landscape.
A canon at Fort McHenry facing the FSK bridge
cows on a farm off of a Nebraska dirt road
a barn, Anywhere, Ne.
In the wood framed houses of Nebraska and acres of farm, within each smokestack stood a child looking at a Christmas tree knowing what it meant to appreciate the joys of the Advent season and the welcome of love received when opening the door on Christmas Day. Yes, the road from there to here was filled with rubble but to me with every rock along the way, I saw within, a million mountains ready to climb and a summit to reach.
May the joy of the season walk you down memory lane and you remember all the love that God has poured out to you. His gift to you was His Son, His love for you immeasurable, His Light? Well, each one of us is His Light, it depends on how you see it. God Bless you all!
Luke 2:10-14 “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.