by Judy Cayot
December 1: Love the Guest
As Advent begins, we are invited to set the table – to prepare for the Guest, Love. When guests are expected, I generally want to make sure the house is clean. And part of that means clearing the dining table of papers that have accumulated over the past week(s) or months!
As I sort through the papers, I ask myself these questions: Are they still needed? Do they represent unfinished (or never started) tasks? Do they evoke good or hard memories? Why are they still on my table? And, the big question: What can I toss?
I could ask these same questions of things that clutter my mind or my heart: Are those thoughts still needed/useful? What are the unfinished “tasks” weighing on my heart? Does holding on to an idea, belief, or memory give me joy or pain? Why are they still present with me, and…What can I toss or release to make room for something better?
With the mind and heart, there is one more question for those things that may deserve to be “tossed or released” and that is - How?
One of my ways of dealing with the “How” question especially for tough issues of mind or heart, is to walk a labyrinth. It may not give me an obvious answer, but it usually calms my spirit. Which, in turn, may make me better able to handle the “how”. Occasionally, a thought or feeling comes to me during or after the walk that does, in fact, give me an answer of sorts. It is not an analytical process, but one that involves body, mind, and spirit.
In truth, preparing one’s home for a guest will most often involve body, mind, and spirit. Joyfully so if the guest is one we look forward to having in our home.
As you walk, I invite you to consider how you might set your table – real or metaphorical – to greet Love in whatever form(s) it comes to you this Advent season.
December 8: Love the Rose
I have a Cécile Brünner rose bush in my back yard – a gift from my
partner, Mary, given early in our 23-year relationship. She knew it
was a favorite of mine from childhood. The baby roses remind me
of my mom and her love of flowers. Also, there is a Malvina
Reynolds song that I used to sing with kids at the YMCA and
which Mary and I sang at a friend’s wedding party. The lyrics
begin, “If you love me, if you love, love, love me, plant a rose for
me…” The song goes on to talk about the sun and rain,
relationships coming and going, and the constancy of the rose –
blooming through it all.
This particular bush is an amazingly persistent and hardy plant. It
has grown, over the years, till the trunk resembles that of a tree.
It has been so prolific, I once cut two branches at least 6 feet long
each, to decorate the chancel area for a Youth Sunday. No matter
how severely it is pruned, the plant keeps producing fresh
branches and a blanket of tiny flowers.
In this season of Advent – the waiting with expectation season – I
think of those roses. I remember my mom, Mary, and the youth I
have served and give thanks. Sad though all of that is in my past.
As I circle the labyrinth, I am reminded of life’s seasons. There is
turning, there is coming and going of people and places, there is
loss. There is the rose.
As you walk through this season – on the labyrinth or not – I
invite you to savor the memories, greet the grief or loss, and
remember the rose is on its way. Christ, the symbol of God’s love
in our lives, is born yet again. Blessings on the path.
December 15: Love the Star
“Stars keep the watch, though night is dim.”
In a recent conversation, a friend said, “I don’t like the dark.” Not
an uncommon thought. Some of us have seasonal depression just
because of less daylight. For others, the time of festivities is
difficult because of losses, grief, changes in circumstance or
health. It is a time that is loaded – and not always with gifts.
Perhaps it isn’t accidental that Advent comes in the darkest days.
As I approach the shortest day of the year, I am trying to
appreciate the gifts that darkness can bring. For my birthday in
November, my daughter and I spent a couple days in Yosemite.
As we drove through the valley after dark one night we pulled
over to the side of the road and marveled at the lights on the face
of El Capitan. Five, six, seven lamp lights flickered at different
heights on that monolithic slab of granite. Climbers were bunking
down for the night and we watched as they moved ever so
carefully. I imagined they were cooking dinner, though how I’m
not sure; or getting a sleeping bag ready for a cold night’s sleep.
Somehow, to me, those lights were beacons of daring, of hope.
As we drove home the next night, I had to pull over at a vista…not
to see the valley that was steeped in darkness, but to look up to
the Milky Way and a vast dark sky full of stars. Heather pointed
out many constellations though some were hard to see because
there were so many stars! It was a moment of transcendence.
The beauty of the skies only visible in the darkest of nights.
In this season of Advent, of expectation, may you find ways to
honor the gifts of darkness…to remember the stars (real or
metaphorical) that guide us through the long nights of our lives.
December 22: Love the Lord
“Angels announce with shouts of mirth…Set every peak and valley
Walking a labyrinth can be a solitary, solemn experience. One
that is good for reflection, meditation, exploring faith or a
question in one’s life. It can also (maybe at the same time) be a
joyous event. As I read the final verse of People Look East, I was
struck by these two words: mirth and humming.
What if our Advent time this year was full of mirth and humming?
What if, as you walk the labyrinth, as you walk through this year’s
preparations for Christmas, you make room for that mirth in your
heart? Maybe a tune will come to you and you will find yourself
It is true that this season can be hard for lots of folks, for lots of
reasons. Yet the Advent message is to wait with expectation.
Something good is coming. Not the twinkling lights, or the festive
meals and parties, not even the presents, though all those things
are nice if you have them. But something deeper, broader, is
afoot. The good news of a child born. Love the Lord is on the way.
The message of that child’s birth and life to me is - we are loved.
And we are asked to carry that love to others. To everyone we
meet, in fact. How preposterous, how radical is that?
To prepare for the good news of “love with us,” I encourage you
to consider walking the labyrinth with joy, with mirth, and with
humming in your heart.
If we believe that Love the Lord is on the way, might we not