A few evenings ago we braved Christmas tree decorating with our little nest of 5 squirrels, aged 7 years to 8 months. It went surprisingly well. There were no major squabbles, decorations broken, or Christmas tree climbings. The baby squirrel did try to bat at the tree, and sucked on a star, but happily it was wooden.
The best part, besides the baby squirrel’s look of amazement when we turned the lights on the tree, was our two year old’s triumphant “I did it!” after she hung up each decoration. The lowest branches got very decorated! Every time she hung one she leaped into her pleased daddy’s arms and gave him a big hug.
While we decorated we listened to the Classic Christmas playlist on my Songza app (which I totally recommend). Songza has soundtracks for every mood and occasion. It’s like custom radio with no commercials: a digital DJ. Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer is the most popular song in my house, but the kids like some of the traditional carols as well.
As we draw closer to this special time of the year, I’ve been reflecting a little on this holiness we sing about in carols. What does it mean?
When we think of the first Christmas night, the virgin birth, the choirs of angels filling the night sky with song, the birth of a savior, we perhaps think of beauty, light, transcendence, miracle. Wonderful things, but perhaps very ‘other’ than ourselves, very removed from our lives today.
From my limited experience with Hebrew, I believe holy, ‘kadosh,’ does indeed mean ‘set apart’. Is holiness something just for ancient biblical tales then, or is it something that involves me today?
It’s good to remember that this very extraordinary event of the first Christmas took place in very ordinary circumstances. In a stable or cave, surrounded by warm farm animals, munching hay while their breath rose in steamy clouds in the chill night air.
The first visitors were the humble shepherds, not the wise kings, so throughout the Christmas story, the theme of littleness prevails. Glory swaddled in humility, power curled up delicately as an infant in his mother’s arms.
Again, how does this image of holiness relate to me, today? Am I to try to imitate these ancient people in an exterior way, to try to conform to a particular image of goodness?
The more I mediate on the idea of holiness, the more I see that it is precisely in being wholly oneself, that one can reach holiness.
That to try to conform in non-essential exterior things in attempt to appear a certain way, is quite the opposite of holiness, for it is a betrayal of your own wholeness, a marring of the divine image which God made you. You are a unique, unrepeatable creation. Who you are is good; after all, you were His idea! You are loved exactly as you are.
Sometimes along the paths of life we pick up lots of emotional junk; it sticks to us and hides the beautiful image inside. I think the process of holiness is one of removing all this non-essential garbage: fear, pride, resentment, blame, etc to uncover the original creation that is truly you. This is a big process, one of a lifetime, and can feel overwhelming. Ask your Creator to help reveal his masterpiece. A little more each day.
So this Christmas, a season of gratitude, dig deep to find what is unique and beautiful in you, and give thanks for it. Without comparing yourself to others, because it is the sum of all the crazy, amazing people in the world that makes it such a wonderful place. Each with their own gifts to contribute, their own lessons to teach and to learn.
Here is a quote from humorist Erma Bombeck, who was a housewife, mother of three, and prolific writer of newspaper columns and books, including the awesomely titled “The Grass is Always Greener over the Septic Tank.”
When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would have not a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’
I encourage you to embrace your passion, nurture your creativity and believe your dreams can come true. Try something you always wanted to but were too afraid. Make the world a better place as only you, with your specific mission in life, can. This way you’ll be more holy, wholly, you. And that, in my opinion, is exactly what God had in mind.
And now, lest I’m all talk and no action, I’m off to the dishes, part of my particular mission to care for my family.