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Meditation for December 20, 2015 / Advent 4

When I first came to CCC about 4 ½ years ago, the church gave me a gift – a fir tree. I planted it in our yard. This time of year, it is the one of the few reminders of life. When skies grow dark, and leafy trees stand barren, that fir tree insists that light and life will return. I’m reminded of a story from the Cherokee tradition called Why Some Trees are Ever Green. When the plants and trees were first created, the Great Mystery decided to give a gift to each different species. But first, there was a contest to see which gift would be the most useful to whom. "I want all of you to stay awake and keep watch over the earth for seven nights," the Great Mystery told the plants and trees. The young plants and trees were so excited to be trusted with watching over the earth that they had no trouble staying awake the first night. The second night was not so easy and a few of them fell asleep as dawn approached. On the third night, they tried to whisper to each other in order to stay awake but many fell asleep. On the fourth night, even more slept. By the seventh night, even the beautiful larch had fallen asleep. The only plants still awake were the cedar, the pine, the spruce, the fir, the holly and the laurel. The Great Mystery exclaimed to them, "What wonderful endurance you have!" "You shall have the very special gift of remaining green forever. You will be the guardians of the forest. Even in the dead of winter, your brother and sister creatures will find that life is protected in your branches."

So it is, down to this day. In the dead of this season, when all the other trees lose their leaves, the evergreens stay verdant and awake. While other trees sleep, evergreens give us a sense of life. The evergreens are defiant.

I think Christian should be more like evergreens. Because there is a lot darkness, emptiness, and inhospitality in our lives, and at Christmas time, we have a chance to defy them. We have plenty to resist. Perhaps our health is not good. Maybe the ones you love and care for are failing. Perhaps you are waiting for test results over the holidays. Perhaps our finances are not where they should be. Maybe some of our relationships are difficult and needing repair. Perhaps a job is not secure. Perhaps you panic when the news comes on and you face the fact that fear and hatred seem to claim more authority than compassion and peacebuilding.

This year, I want a defiant Christmas. In the midst of the shadows, I want to be an evergreen, offering a perpetual reminder that life can return to the fallow areas of our world. As much as I want to wait until all light, and fertile, and promising once again, Christmas invites us to celebrate in the midst of the darkness, bleakness, and lack of hospitality in our world. How about you? What might you do to defy fear? What might you do to defy hopelessness? What might you do to defy hatred? What can we do to defy all that tries to tear us down and destroy us when our lives are not completely where we want them to be?

I leave you with a blessing this Christmas -- one that was written in 1513 by Fra Giovanni. “I salute you and there is nothing I can give which you have not, but there is much while I cannot give it, you may take it. No heaven can come to us unless we find it in our hearts today. So take heaven. No joy can come to us, unless it comes to us in this present moment. Take joy. No peace can come to us, unless we find it right now. Take peace.”

As we await the return of the light, I greet you with the prayer that for you, now and forever, your spirit is evergreen.

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