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'Tis season for re-awakening of senses


Community conversations


December 18, 2013 | 10:32 AM

Millions of mysteries arise in our world every day. I recently watched the History Channel and was reminded of Einstein's theory of relativity. We all know the formula: E=mc2. We can recite the formula, but we may not understand the energy- mass- space-time system that it describes. The more we discover, the more complicated the scientific and spiritual worlds seem to be. No wonder we all feel like we live in a complex and interrelated cosmos. Life is indeed a bundle of mysteries.

All this inquiry has been a help to me as I contemplate what I am doing with my hours here on this planet. When Don and I set our wedding date for the day after Thanksgiving, we thought we had also planned for the most enchanting honeymoon. We would stay right here in Indiana and take in all the holiday celebrations. It seemed so charming and restful! We dreamed of the blissful time to come as we worked hard to free up our calendar for the seasonal celebrations.

But it seems that something strange in time and space happened since our plans were laid. End-of-the-year records need to be filled out and filed. Mail must be answered, thank-you responses are in order, house repairs are needed and off-and-on snowstorms and cold temperatures threaten the area. Our list of things to do before Christmas keeps getting longer, as yours probably does, too.

As a child, it seemed forever between Thanksgiving and Christmas. My sister and I used to beg my mother right after the Thanksgiving turkey was eaten to dig out the manger scene that was stored in the attic. She would respond to our nagging with mumblings that "it is too long before Christmas to get it out." This year, when we returned from Thanksgiving at the farm, my neighborhood in Indianapolis was ablaze with beautiful Christmas lights. My desk was piled with invitations to holiday events along with requests for donations to worthy causes. It can't just be the businessman's notion that starting the Christmas season early makes for more dollars spent and a stronger economy. There must be something in that E=mc2 equation that factors in aging, consumerism, an over-organized society, high-technology opportunities and our greed for more, more, more of everything good.

Amid all the hustle of this early December week came the news of the death of Nelson Mandela. He lived in times of great turmoil in South Africa and was a political prisoner for 27 years on the hot and barren Robben Island. I visited that island a few years ago and faced the same blinding sun that shone down on Mandela and his fellow prisoners as they worked in the stone quarries. When you squint into the sun and stare toward the land, you can make out the outline of the community that was denied to people who were black. White supremacists had controlled their lives since the early colonial days and apartheid became the official policy in 1948. One has to wonder how they endured those days that led up to their own family's holy celebrations.

Time and time again during the past weeks we have heard of the miracle of one man, Nelson Mandela. With his steady dedication to peace between all men, he held the country together through the apartheid persecution and then afterward when vengeance and violence could had been expected. How did he see himself in relation to time, space and the force that drives all elements in the universe? How did he lift himself out of the horrors of the moment to see the larger and eternal story of life? And, for me, an even greater question is how was he able to convey his beliefs and determination to others? How do we humans reach out beyond ourselves to morph into a greater energy and power than our present form?

Don't tell me, at this Christmastime, that there is no God. There are mysteries right here among us, even amid the sometimes garish trimmings we have added to the holy occasion. Neither human weakness nor error can hide the Holy Spirit that lies in the universe and, in a rare and grand moment, resides among us. That is the story of Jesus at Christmas.

Perhaps these mysterious wonders exist all the time, but our eyes, ears and mind are buffered behind the busyness we have created for ourselves. We can't easily witness the workings of Einstein's theory or comprehend the miracles of forgiveness, reconciliation and love displayed by Mandela. Nor can we comprehend God assuming the form of a man named Jesus, who was both prophet and redeemer. We do not understand how God resides among us today, but we all sense that there are unexpected connections between the things that we experience. Sometimes, when we are able to grasp these mysteries, the hidden potential in life and death can be revealed. 'Tis the season to re-awaken our senses to the magic and the miracles around us.

Happy holidays and a merry Christmas!

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