Friendship: Organized compassion

Many people choose a word for the year. For the past few years my word has been chosen for me on the first Sunday of the year at our church. For the past nine months our “church” has not been a building; it has been an online community. The friendships with people from that community have kept me strong, led me to think, and made me laugh through the pandemic.

I guess it’s only fitting then that the word that community gifted to me for 2021 is FRIENDSHIP.

Friendship is a foundation. With a solid base of friendships, a person can hold steady through stormy times.

Friendship involves a mix of generations, of old and young sharing time.

Friendships reveal truths and provide opportunities for growth. Real friends tell us when we’re messing up. They let us know if we have grown stagnant and need to take on a new challenge.

Friendships make the world a better place. Friends volunteer together, raise funds, and help others.

Friendships promote lifelong learning. In book clubs, writing circles, courses, and one travels together, friends learn something new every day.

Friendships are fun. With friends we sing, dance, tell stories and laugh.

Friendships are comfort. They are organized compassion.

With FRIENDSHIP as my word, 2021 should be a spirit-filled year.

Cut out letters on a sign: We love, We Laugh, We Cry, We Live.

Burning to see the moon

Barn's burnt down
now
I can see the moon.
—Mizuta Masahide

The year 2020 was a scorcher, wasn’t it? A heck of a lot of “barns” burned down.

So hard. So sad.

But . . . what can you see now, that you couldn’t see before?

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” 

—Maya Angelou

Love anyway

In our house, we count down to Christmas by lighting candles on the Advent wreath—one every Sunday before Christmas.

The fourth candle is the LOVE candle.

No matter what you believe, the Christmas story, and the stories of man whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, are about LOVE.

An unmarried woman gets pregnant? Love her anyway. A child is born out of wedlock? Love him anyway. A man is disenfranchised from society? Eat with him and love him anyway. A woman has a communicable disease? Walk with her and love her anyway. Someone wants to learn or play or work even though it’s a holy day? Teach them, laugh with them or help them and love them anyway.

This holiday season—no matter what or how you celebrate—love anyway.

Widely, madly, indiscriminately.

13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

— 1 Corinthians 13:13

This year, the best way we can show love is by keeping ourselves, our families and friends safe.

Sometimes we show the greatest love by staying away. With faith, and hope, we will abide, even when apart.


Joy, because the first Christmas gifts were not reciprocal

Nativity scene

It did not happen like this:

Joseph: Mary, the wise men are on their way, and they’re all carrying something.

Mary: Carrying something? What could that be?

Joseph: I’m not sure, but one of them has something shiny. I think it’s gold.

Mary: Gold! Oh, no! But I didn’t get anything for them. Do we have something under the manger we can wrap up quickly?

You know the scenario: Someone you don’t usually exchange gifts with appears before you with a brightly wrapped Christmas gift. She beams with joy, because she has found the perfect thing. She saw it, thought of you and knew that you had to have it.

Do you receive the gift with unqualified gratitude? Or do you think, “Oh, no! I don’t have anything for her”?

We don’t know what exactly happened that first Christmas, but I like to I imagine that, if gifts were brought to the new baby, Mary and Joseph received everything with grace and gratitude. To do otherwise would have deprived the wise visitors of the joy of giving.

This Christmas, when someone beams with joy as they present you that perfect something bought out of love, receive it with unqualified joy and gratitude.

The joy of giving doesn’t depend on the joy of receiving.

Advent Wreath with candles for Hope, Peace and Joy lit.

The peace of lowered expectations

We are in a different kind of December. We can’t fill up our calendars with festive parties every weekend.

It’s strange, but you have to admit, you’re feeling more rested, and you have more time to do everything you want to do.

Maybe you won’t be making the drive to a family Christmas gathering. Maybe it will be the first time you miss it.

It’s sad, but you have to admit, it will save you a lot of stress. Christmas will be more peaceful.

The cookie exchange, the group of friends that gets together every year, the Santa pub crawl will all have to wait.

Those are tough sacrifices, but you have to admit, it will be nice to not have to bake so much, and it will be easier to stick to a healthful diet.

We are forced to let go of events, rituals, traditions. Some of them we happily set free; others we will miss terribly.

No matter what, there is breathing room in those lowered expectations.

Peace.

Advent wreath with Hope and Peace candles lit

Hope and faith: Something missing, something coming

On the four Sundays leading up to Christmas we light Advent candles—one candle per week, each with a different word associated with it: Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.

Usually the first Sunday of Advent falls on the same date as an important Canadian sporting event: the Grey Cup. [The championship game for the Canadian Football League.] Usually we host a gathering of neighbourhood friends for a Grey Cup party involving unhealthy food and beer. A kind of Canadian Superbowl party. At some point in the evening, we still the TV, quiet the conversation, and take time to be peaceful, to appreciate each other’s friendship, and to light the candle of Hope. 

This year the Canadian Football League did not play at all due to COVID. There was no Grey Cup. There was no gathering of friends.

We lit the candle of Hope, but something was missing.

But that’s when we feel hope, isn’t it? When we feel that something is missing. That’s when we yearn.

This year, there is a whole lot of yearning going on. So . . . many . . . things . . . we are missing.

In these times I try to remember that the sunshine side of hope is faith. That’s when we relax in the knowledge that all shall be well.

When we hope, our bodies are taut, we lean forward with fists clenched. In faith, we relax, drop our shoulders, breathe . . .

We hope because something is missing. We have faith because someday, somehow, something’s coming. Get ready.

Advent wreath with one candle of Hope lit.
The Candle of Hope