As you can imagine, the lead up to Christmas Eve and Day are a bit busy as a priest who is also a wife and mom. Thankfully, there are a full 12 days of Christmas, so we try to get away for a few days as a family to enjoy one another’s company along with some down time. There are hours of game playing and book reading, interspersed with good meals, lots of sleep and runs on the beach. This year even Howie got to come along with us—and we may never get him to leave this magical place. He continues to be mesmerized by the whole adventure. As I sit on our little cottage’s deck, my attention is drawn to the crashing waves. I never tire of watching and hearing the ocean, following the movement of the tide as it approaches and recedes, sandpipers racing out of its way.
We often choose a beach house relatively near my mom and her husband, so that we have the chance to see them as well hear the ocean and walk on the beach. What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time we had just buried Jim’s mom, Mona, and come down to Florida, only to have to put my mom into at-home 24-hour care, along with hospice. Mom ended up flunking hospice, and although she hasn’t left her bed, she has moments of being downright chatty in between periods of deep quiet. Facetime helps a lot, but there is nothing quite like being in person to hold her hand, give her a hug and witness the clear joy that overcomes her when we come into her room.
There are seasons in our lives when we are busy and full, and there are seasons when we are not. In our 24/7 world, very often the lines are blurred between times of work and times of rest––until they are nearly indistinguishable. Recently I heard a rabbi, together with Rob Bell on a podcast, do a wonderful riff on the Hebrew word for holy, kadosh. Rather than understanding it in a hierarchical way, ‘holier than thou,’ he explored its meaning as raising awareness that not all time is the same and that some distinction between kinds of time is important and valuable. The gift of Sabbath is the intentional building into life the opportunities to step out of the busyness so that we might be refreshed and actually enjoy that for which we work the rest of the week. So, too, building in times of rest and renewal––times that look and feel different from the rest of the day, week or year––actually enables us to be present in the whole of our life more meaningfully.
During the Friday evening prayers known as Shabbat, the rabbi described how participants stand on their tiptoes three times and say kadosh, kadosh, kadosh. Rob Bell responded, ‘…that image is powerful to me…of standing on your tiptoes to see something you can’t see something from where you are. You have this image that I’m mired in the every day, but I’m going to pause on my tiptoes and look to see a heightened view––or see something I haven’t seen––differently. We, too, have words that open and conclude our liturgies. It makes me want to stand on my tiptoes each time.
My family and I are enjoying this holy season, seeing each other, our lives and the world, from our tiptoes. I pray you, too, have an opportunity for rest and renewal in your own lives this Christmas season and always.