Every year I ask myself how we can divest. How can we use this time of year to let go of things that don’t matter so we can focus on the things that do?
It is, after all, a season for understanding and grace, a season to extend ourselves on behalf of others.
In December, during the Christmas season, we hear many a story of hope birthed in times of danger. My own people in Jewish communities tell stories about courage in the face of oppression. We celebrate a miracle that kept light shining when all seemed pitilessly dark.
Winter is a time for telling stories, and for listening.
It is a vulnerable time of year. In the past weeks, we have felt the chill against our bones, felt the gloom of day-long rain.
Winter has settled in, and there will be much, much more of the cold. We will wake to mornings when that damp, gray pall will creep across the sky. The sun will be dim, a shadowy white globe, barely discernible behind the cloudy, low horizon.
To allay our fears, we invoke light and cheer. Candles are set in windows, and colored lights are strewn across greenery outside.
We seek light and cozy warmth. We seek companionship and acceptance. We need healing for old and recent hurts.
But we are rushing around too much to notice what we need.
We are doing too much decorating, too much partying, too much eating, too much shopping.
We do too much that does not heal. Why is that? Better: Why should that be so?
Why do we not divest ourselves of things we do not need? Why are we so scared to see that we are living in a broken world?
As were those who lived in the time of the stories we tell. They knew oppression and fear. They knew exhaustion and homelessness. They saw sacred places destroyed and their homelands attacked.
The peoples who lived then learned what it was to be displaced, to be left unprotected, to be used and abused, caught in the midst of war.
This year, my own congregation at Temple Or Olam is planning a Hanukkah party that will be shared with our hosts at Piedmont Unitarian Universalist Church in University City.
We’ll do some Israeli dancing together, sing songs, hear stories, sit down to dinner, and enjoy a comedy hour/talent show.
We all need the fun and dance, of course, and sharing the experience with our new church home is something we look forward to.
But I want to take some time at that party, I think, to ask us to think deeply about our stories.
The Christmas and the Hanukkah stories call us to action, to engagement, to do the work of healing that we need and that the world around us longs for.
The divide between rich and poor in America grows, and it is already shocking enough. Why is that?
Better: Why should that be so?
Homeless people are everywhere in America. Why is that? Better: Why should that be so?
Children are going hungry in our country. Why is that? Better: Why should that be so?
How can we use this time of year to let go of things that don’t matter so we can focus on the things that do?