Gifts of The Wonderful

“The main trouble is there are too many people who don’t know where they’re going and they want to get there too fast!”

Sylvester (The Bishop’s Wife, 1947)

I’m waiting for The Wonderful. 

It’s coming as sure as there will be white Christmases, holiday decorations, familiar old songs, eggnog, stuffed stockings and presents under the tree.  Many of us have the luxury of fond memories, enticing smells of things cooking and a landscape that twinkles with a thousand lights to remind us.  Some have not been as fortunate. 

But we must remember that there is more to Christmas than the things we might receive and give.  I have come to call it The Wonderful.  It has to do with a marvelous transformation that seems to happen to people this time of the year.  Waiting for The Wonderful creates an atmosphere of childlike joy.  The possibility of a miracle reigns supreme. Something extraordinary is coming as our waiting takes on a joy of its’ own.

Christmas movies always put me ‘in the mood’ for the coming festivities.  Among my favorites are old black and whites from post-World War II. The men and women who had been engaged in devastating struggles of battle were back home and in the process of creating a bold new world.  They rolled up their sleeves, went to work, built houses, attended schools, and dreamed dreams of prosperity. 

By 1947, the simple times and ways of a Norman Rockwell agri-rural America were forever altered.  Along with the many changes came a more bountiful and materialistic focus on Christmas.  Presents were stacked under lighted trees instead of hung on branches.  More became better…and that notion was reflected in the movies. 

Two very different films were presented that year.  One was ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ which portrayed the Macys parade and an abundance of shopping.  The other was ‘The Bishop’s Wife’ which reminded a hurried nation to slow it down and to think about what our Christmas observance was all about.  This picture sums up the essence of The Wonderful.  It ended with a Bishop’s sermon written by an angel.  This is what he said;

“Tonight I want to tell you the story of an empty stocking. Once upon a midnight clear, there was a child’s cry. A blazing star hung over a stable and wise men came with birthday gifts. We haven’t forgotten that night down the centuries; we celebrate it with stars on Christmas trees, the sound of bells and with gifts. But especially with gifts.

You give me a book; I give you a tie. Aunt Martha has always wanted an orange squeezer and Uncle Henry could do with a new pipe. We forget nobody, adult or child. All the stockings are filled…all that is, except one. And we have even forgotten to hang it up.

The stocking for the child born in a manger. It’s his birthday we are celebrating. Don’t ever let us forget that. Let us ask ourselves what he would wish for most… and then let each put in his share. Loving-kindness, warm hearts and the stretched out hand of tolerance. All the shining gifts that make peace on earth.”

Today, amid all the hustle and bustle, I will remember to fill a stocking in my heart with the most important gift of all. I will eagerly welcome The Wonderful.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Advent and the Gift of Waiting

“At this Christmas when Christ comes, will He find a warm heart? Mark the season of Advent by loving and serving the others with God’s own love and concern.”  ~ Mother Teresa

Advent begins next Sunday.  The Hallmark Channel is providing continuous Christmas movies, people are hanging up calendars to mark the days until Christmas, while decorations abound in stores, homes and on lighted streets. Holiday music is playing on the radio.  But Advent is about waiting for Christmas.  This is a different kind of waiting than the annoying kind we experience so frequently like hours sitting in doctors offices, and long lines for at airports.   Advent is about joyful anticipation.

The kind of waiting that we are called to experience during Advent is both focused and alert.  It is being present in the moment and deliberate in our actions.  We are asked to participate during this holy time by being more attentive to the people in our lives, actively listening to our families, taking extra measures to be kind and considerate, and by being unselfish as we touch the lives of strangers.  This is challenging and can only be done if we slow down and take our steps thoughtfully. For hidden in these days of Advent, amid planning, rushing and overdoing, is the gentle spirit of peace.

Being Present to the Present

“If we refuse to think of anything except what we are doing or the person that we are with, we develop the habit of being present to the present moment. In a way, the present moment becomes as sacred as being in church.” ~ Thomas Keating

Looking Glass Falls, Brevard, NC

Living in the moment is a key to emotional and spiritual well-being.  But this kind of mindfulness is not always easy. The dark recesses of our yesterdays with their brokenness, wounds, resentments, and regrets drag us backward.

Fear and worry about tomorrows try to tug us forward, whispering that there is so much to do, so many mountains to climb, and so many perils ahead.  All of these distractions blur the importance of here and now.  We miss the chance to listen deeply.  Our ability to be compassionate escapes and the moment is lost.  We have missed a sacred opportunity.

How often do we succumb to the lure of money, security, fame, power, approval, or control?  How often do we sacrifice today on the altar of tomorrow?  How often do we throw caution to the wind, behaving in ways we know we might regret?  The best fix for this is to welcome the moment right in front of us by being ‘present to the present’.  We can fill ourselves with the possibilities of here and now by being mindful.  Slow down.  Look around.  Be still. Listen.  God will take care of the rest.

Robert Kenneth Jones is an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse.

In a career spanning over four decades, his work helping people recover from childhood abuse and addiction has earned him the respect of his peers.

His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration and meditation.

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Bob Jones’ blog An Elephant for Breakfast