Monday, December 24, 2012

My Christmas Eve Day

The sun is still below the horizon as I come to work on Christmas Eve day. A tree shines in the dark dining room as our patients on this unit get ready for breakfast. In spite of festive decorations there is no disguising the fact that this is a hospital.

A lady clutches a teddy bear given to her by a volunteer earlier in the month and asks me where she is and what she is supposed to do. I take her by the hand and we walk to breakfast.

Later in the morning another lady asks me for a cup of tea. This is a special day so I pour her tea in a nice mug rather than a styrofoam cup. A well worn seasonal sweater envelops her thin arms and I ask her about Christmases past. "Christmas makes me so sad," she says. "My daughter died on Christmas Day." I steer the conversation to a less distressing topic and she tells me about her childhood in England. There are people who care about her and she looks forward to visitors later in the day.

I arrange for the delivery of a new walker for another patient who will be leaving soon for a nursing home. She tries out her new wheels, a gift in part from our provincial health care plan. A child somewhere will get a bicycle or toy car tonight. Is is just as exciting to get a wheeled walker for Christmas?

Last week another lady came to my 4th floor office door with a card and gift. Five years and another employer ago I had treated her husband in the final months of his life. I used to sit in their kitchen and have a cup of King Cole tea, a favourite of Canadians from the East Coast. This lady is now in a wheelchair herself, yet she found out where I was and made the effort to bring me two boxes of tea after all these years. We chatted about her husband and how things have changed in her life. She told me she was going to walk again, and I gave her a hug and wished her a Merry Christmas. A lady who has suffered much gave me the best Christmas memory this year.

After work I went for a walk along a nearby creek and watched the birds puffed up in the cold as they chirped in the bushes. I am grateful for the abundance of life and the joy of sharing with others in need.

 I want to wish a special Merry Christmas to those who have suffered loss
 and to those who work these holidays to protect and serve those in need.

To friends and family, those far and near, I wish you a blessed Christmas Day.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Advent's Mourning Light

Christkind at Christkindl Market, Kitchener ON -December 2012

A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted,
because they are no more." 
Matt. 2:18

Charlotte, 6; Daniel, 7; Rachel Davino, 29; Olivia, 6; Josephine, 7; 
Ana, 6; Dylan, 6; Dawn Hocksprung, 47; Madeleine, 6; Catherine, 6; 
Chase, 7; Jesse, 6; James, 6; Grace, 7; Anne Marie Murphy, 52; 
Emilie Parker, 6; Jack, 6; Noah, 6; Caroline, 6; Jessica, 6; 
Avielle, 6; Lauren Russeau, 30; Mary Sherlach, 56; 
Victoria Soto, 27; Benjamin, 6; Allison, 6. 

Still the earth in darkness lies.
Up from death’s dark vale arise
Voices of a world in grief...

The third Advent candle shines as many tears are shed after the violent mass murder at a Connecticut school this week. Anyone who is a parent, teacher, student, or caring citizen of the world is saddened by the senseless slaughter of innocent children and their caregivers. Our pastor spoke last week about the evil and violent rule of Herod the Great and reminded us that preoccupation with power, possessions, prestige and paranoia is still the way of many in the world. This same evil would cause us to live in fear and raise our children in a culture of fear. History repeats itself over and over again. It is easy to ignore suffering in the world until evil is close to home. Our feeble efforts to protect ourselves from the overwhelming darkness are futile.

And we wait for the Light,  for our Saviour and Redeemer.

Jesus taught the crowds on the hillside.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 
Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, 
and it gives light to all in the house. 
In the same way, let your light shine before others, 
so that they may see your good works and 
give glory to your Father who is in heaven. 
(Matthew 5)

We stand boldly and brighten the darkness with the light he has given. His Spirit burns within as we 

watch, wait, 
serve, suffer, 
love, give, 
rejoice, mourn 
never lose hope.

Light of light, we humbly pray,
Shine upon Thy world today;
Break the gloom of our dark night,
Fill our souls with love and light,
Send Thy blessed Word again,
“Peace on earth, good will to men.”
Douglas L. Rights
Flame Tree in bloom, Mexico

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Darkness to Light

The Centennial Flame on Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada

The Christmas tree is up and the Nacimiento adorns the back of the piano. I play the songs in the carol book and listen to seasonal tunes as I drive here and there in my car. Gifts are bought and baking is done. I watch Christmas movies as I pedal the stationary bicycle. I am not a “Christmas is my favourite time of year” person, yet the “Christmas spirit”, whatever that is, completely eludes me this year as I go through the usual motions and routines. I am happy and content, yet indifferent to the season.

Perhaps the commercialization and politicalization of Christmas has brought me to the edge. People bicker over holiday trees, seasons greetings, and whether the whole country celebrates December in a uniform Christian way. After all, the roots of our holiday celebration are pagan. I truly think Jesus would decline an invitation to most of our seasonal events. “Jesus is the reason for the season” just does not ring true in my ears. 

We visited our daughter in Ottawa this week and enjoyed the city very much. On Thursday we attended the Christmas Lights Across Canada celebration on Parliament Hill. Standing in the cold darkness we waited for the promised hundreds of thousands of  lights to be turned on in the downtown area. Carols were sung, greetings from across the country broadcast and then the countdown to the light began. I wasn’t expecting fireworks and the sudden brightness startled me and others in the crowd. 

The night was still dark and cold but the lights shone on the hill. Advent is not a time of celebration, but a time of waiting and yearning for the promised light. We contemplate the darkness in our world and in our lives and wait for the Saviour who illuminates the path to eternal peace and joy.

Veiled in Darkness Judah Lay

Veiled in darkness Judah lay,
Waiting for the promised day,
While across the shadowy night
Streamed a flood of glorious light,
Heav’nly voices chanting then,
“Peace on earth, good will to men.”

Still the earth in darkness lies.
Up from death’s dark vale arise
Voices of a world in grief,
Prayers of men who seek relief:
Now our darkness pierce again,
“Peace on earth, good will to men.”

Light of light, we humbly pray,
Shine upon Thy world today;
Break the gloom of our dark night,
Fill our souls with love and light,
Send Thy blessed Word again,
“Peace on earth, good will to men.”

Douglas L. Rights