I used to have a friend who was a minister of a rural church. I'd write these annual missives to her, and she would honor them by reading them from the pulpit of her church on Christmas Eve. I suppose part of me also hears these words (as opposed to just reading them), as I knew they would be spoken.
I am a seminary graduate - Lutheran - ELCA who decided to not become ordained. It is a decision that has served me and the church well. But despite what will be my perpetual lover's quarrel with organized religion, I yearn for its comforts at Christmas. I will put up a nativity, a tree, decorations. NO Santa in my house.
And, I will think of this season in the church calendar as my personal journey to Bethlehem, my annual pilgrimage.
For me, the year has always concluded not at Time's Square's dropping of the ball -- but on Christmas Eve, also called Welia or Wiegilia (depending on what part of Poland your family is from). It means "vigil", and that night a very unique, non-meat meal is served. Families gather, candles are lit, hay is placed beneath a sparkling white tablecloth (to remind us of the manger.) Beautiful Polish Christmas carols are played in the background as the family gathers to bless each other and share the special meal.
It is involved -- there are a proscribed number of dishes -- and there must never be 13 people at the table (it would portend a death). The meal ends and the family relaxes until midnight mass, when they go to the Polish Roman Catholic church for the singing of Kolendy, the Polish canon of Christmas carols, and to hear Midnight Mass. But I always find myself having a need to sum up the year before I can approach the small church nativity set to light my annual candle.
So that's what I'll be doing --- summing -- until I get this year's letter into focus. When I do, I'll share it here.