Beauty Beyond Bones: Christmas Negativity or Nativity

Caralyn at Beauty Beyond Bones talks about bringing the nativity home this Christmas. While government decree forced Mary and Joseph to travel to Bethlehem to be registered at a time that was not very convenient, you may forced to not travel by government decree or not to meet with friends and family. Even if not forced, you may have decided for the safety of your family to simply limit interactions with people whom you feel may be a health risk, leading to a lonelier holiday season. Caralyn reminds us that the first Christmas was a small gathering of parents and child, but that didn’t make it sad or lonely. It was a joy for the world.

Christmas Negativity or Nativity

Is it just me, or is it not quite as “Christmassy” as it typically is, this time of year?

I mean — it just feels like, the lights aren’t as twinkly, the Christmas music — if it’s even playing — seems a little flat, the ice skating rinks in New York City are empty — as are the stores (and restaurants), and it’s as though we’re all collectively holding our breath to see if — like Thanksgiving — Christmas is even going to “happen” this year.

And, to be honest, I’ve really let the “up-in-the-air-ness” of it all get to me. Here it is, it’s December 10 and I have purchased exactly two Christmas presents. And, the window of “delivery eligibility” for online orders is rapidly diminishing, so unless I want to risk it all to physically go into a store for a stinkin stocking stuffer, then I better get my act together, or else get on board with the idea of giving out homemade back rub coupons this year.

I don’t think I’m alone in this, though. COVID has really given this holiday season the “1-2-punch.” And we’re all just hanging on by a thread…much like the virtual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

I mean — I saw at Hudson Yards they were offering a “virtual visit with Santa.” Now, if that’s not just the saddest thing I’ve ever seen, I don’t know what is.

And I’ve really been trying to get in the spirit. If you follow me on Instagram, (which I would really appreciate if you did, I’m @beauty.beyond.bones)…I’ve been trying to post a bunch of Christmassy stories, complete with folksy/indie Christmas music and a romantic filter that would make even Nicholas Sparks proud. So, I’m trying. It even flurried yesterday…and even though it hit when I was out on my run (in shorts), I tried to welcome it with the joyful wonder of that “first snow,” despite the near hypothermia that occurred as a result.

So, suffice it to say, despite my best efforts, my recent outlook has been a wee bit Grinchy.

But this morning, as I was looking out the window at the blustery 31 degree morning, I had a bit of a Christmas epiphany, you could say.

I started thinking about the manger. I remembered how Mary and Joseph kept being turned away from inn after inn, and as a last resort, they made due with a stable, literally surrounded by farm animals: cattle, ox, sheep, donkeys.

Image: S. Dewey

Sounds kinda like a 2020 experience, am I right?

But that very first Christmas, all they had were each other, and the Christ child.

And that’s when it hit me.

That is our exact situation, right here in 2020, too.

This Christmas, we are being brought back to the manger. Not just in our mind, or on the creche on the mantle. No, we’re actually physically being brought back to that quiet, solemn night, alone with just family and Christ.

This year, all the materialistic, clamoring noise that usually surrounds Christmas has been stripped away. Those distractions that compete for our attention, and divert our focus away from the true miracle of Christmas have all but dissolved, leaving us with no excuse, but to pull up a bail of hay and park ourselves next to Baby Jesus in the manger.

I was reminded, this morning, that instead of feeling melancholy or wistful for the normal “holiday rush,” with the Christmas parties, and battling for parking spots at the mall, cookie baking, and going one million miles per second, it seems, I should cherish the fact that this Christmas, I can really return to the Why.

Return to the “Reason for the Season” — which, believe me, I cringed just as hard typing that, as you did reading it.

But it’s true. It’s an eye-roll-inducing cliche for a reason: it’s true.

Christmas isn’t about the decorations. It isn’t about having 100 gifts under the tree, with the perfect gift wrap, and the Christmas cards with the color-coordinated matching family outfits, or the kids’ school chorus concerts…those are all nice and beautiful traditions. But when it comes right down to it, it’s about Jesus, coming to earth as a child, in the most humble of circumstances, all because He loves you and me enough to be born to die.

And what a truly unique and glorious opportunity we’ve been given — in the pandemic holiday season of 2020 — that we can spend this Christmas differently than we ever have – and probably ever will – ever again: in our own little families, with Jesus.

We’ll have to have virtual church, and therefore, have to purposefully and intentionally make time for Jesus, and invite Him into our homes, and we’ll spend Christmas in an intimate, incredibly special – and hopefully meaningful – time.

I honestly, think it’s really beautiful.

That first Christmas, all there was was Jesus, and the love between a very small, and very holy family.

This Christmas, the old is new again. And here we are today, in that same, manger-shaped boat.

May we all embrace our seemingly desolate present, as the opportunity for our own living nativity, as we navigate these uncertain next couple of weeks, before we welcome Baby Jesus at Christmas, with just our own little family, too.

CS Lewis Doodle: Hope

In this doodle C.S. Lewis talks about the Christian virtue called ‘Hope’, the continual looking forward to the eternal world (notes below).
During one of the blackest years of WWII, C.S. Lewis wrote a BBC radio talk on ‘Hope & Faith as Virtues’. He originally wrote the radio address for 15 mins, but afterwards the BBC changed the formula & only allowed him 10 mins on “For the [Armed] Forces” radio station. So this talk had the section on ‘Hope’ cut from the broadcast, & it became simply a talk on ‘Faith’. This missing section ended up being printed in the book version of the talks called ‘Christian Behaviour’ (1943) & later became Chapter 10 of Book 3, in the book called ‘Mere Christianity’. This section on ‘Hope’ you are about to hear, was never broadcast by the BBC.
(0:03) This view of the Golden Valley is reputed to be the most beautiful viewpoint in all Britain. It was made famous by the movie ‘Shadowlands’, as Lewis’ childhood picture he thought was a view of heaven (whether or not the picture really existed in his childhood, I do not know). The painting used in the movie is from Symonds Yat Rock & provides a fabulous viewpoint of the River Wye, Herefordshire. Lewis thought our best earthly pleasures are meant to arouse our desire for another world, & our earthly pleasures are only painted copies, or echoes, or mirages of the real joy of Heaven.
(0:47) Alfred the Great, the English King, codified three prior Saxon codes – those of Æthelberht of Kent (c. 602 A.D.), Ine of Wessex (c. 694 A.D.) & Offa of Mercia (c. 786 A.D.) – to which he prefixed the ‘Ten Commandments’ of Moses & also incorporated rules of life from the Mosaic Code & the Christian code of ethics. Alfred the Great is also famous for defeating the Vikings, who had invaded England, & for being magnanimous in his great victory.
(1:53) Lewis on civilisation: “You can’t get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first. From which it would follow that the question, “What things are first?”, is of concern not only to philosophers but to everyone. It is impossible, in this context, not to inquire what our own civilisation has been putting first for the last thirty years. & the answer is plain. It has been putting itself first. To preserve civilisation has been the great aim; the collapse of civilisation, the great bugbear [obsessive fear]. Peace, a high standard of life, hygiene, transport, science & amusement – all these, which are what we usually mean by civilisation, have been our ends. It will be replied that our concern for civilisation is very natural & very necessary at a time when civilisation is so imperilled [by Nazi invasion]. But how if the shoe is on the other foot – how if civilisation has been imperilled precisely by the fact that we have all made civilisation our summum bonum (highest good)? Perhaps it can’t be preserved in that way. Perhaps civilisation will never be safe until we care for something else more than we care for it.”
“The hypothesis has certain facts to support it. As far as peace (which is one ingredient in our idea of civilisation) is concerned, I think many would now agree that a foreign policy dominated by desire for peace is one of the many roads that lead to war [written in 1942 about Chamberlain’s British policy of ‘peace at all costs’). & was civilisation ever seriously endangered until civilisation became the exclusive aim of human activity? There is much rash idealisation of past ages about, & I do not wish to encourage more of it. Our ancestors were cruel, lecherous, greedy & stupid, like ourselves. But while they cared for other things more than for civilisation – & they cared at different times for all sorts of things, for the will of God, for glory, for personal honour, for doctrinal purity, for justice – was civilisation often in serious danger of disappearing?”
“At least the suggestion is worth a thought. To be sure, if it were true that civilisation will never be safe till it is put second, that immediately raises the question, second to what? What is the first thing? The only reply I can offer here is that if we do not know, then the first, & only truly practical thing, is to set about finding out…” (‘First & Second Things’, June 1942).
(7:16) “…I still maintain that what enraptures & transports is always good. In the mirages, this good thing is not where we suppose it to be, namely, in the book or picture. But it may be good in itself – just as an oasis is a good thing though it exists a hundred miles away & not, as the desert traveller sees it, in the next valley…” (Tastes in Literature). The original broadcast had the following words italicised (shown in CAPS). “You want other things MORE”; “There are all sorts of things in this world that OFFER to give it to you”; “But SOMETHING has evaded us”; “probably earthly pleasures were never MEANT to satisfy it.” See ‘The Problem of Pain’ (Chp.10) & ‘The Weight of Glory’ for more.

Organic Prepper: How to Survive Uncertainty About the Future

From Daisy Luther at The Organic Prepper, What Will the Future Bring? Here’s How to Survive the Uncertainty

…Three months ago, we all had dreams, goals for the future, or at least some idea of what the upcoming year would hold for us.

I’ll bet none of us even considered on New Year’s Eve that we’d spend the first half (at least) of the year dealing with a deadly pandemic. Heck, I sat on a balcony in a little seaside village in Montenegro, toasting the new decade with a friend and some Jack Daniels, watching fireworks over the Adriatic Sea, and planning what European destination I’d be heading to next.

It probably never crossed anyone’s mind that there’d be some crazy new virus that nobody had ever heard of which would leave us under the equivalent of house arrest for months. Few of us imagined that suddenly, over the course of just a few weeks, more than ten million Americans would suddenly become unemployed.

Dreams have been shattered.

Goals have been put aside.

Lives have been lost.

Everything has changed.

And nobody knows what the future will hold.

A lot of the things we do know are horrible.

How utterly terrifying to know that we’re all likely to lose somebody we love to this virus or to a medical condition that would have been survivable if the local hospital hadn’t been overflowing with COVID patients.

We know there’s nary a roll of toilet paper to be found in a huge swath of the United States. We know that our supply chain, if not broken, is at the least, badly bruised. We know that if a person we love goes into the hospital with COVID-19, there’s a frighteningly large chance they may never come out again unless it’s in a body bag. We know that medical professionals in New York City don’t even have personal protective equipment to keep themselves healthy while they try to keep people alive. We know that yesterday in the state of New York, 23 people died every hour of the day from the coronavirus that has destroyed the world as we know it.

We nearly all know people who have been laid off. Maybe it’s someone in your family. Maybe it’s you. And if you haven’t yet lost your job, are you waiting for that hammer to drop? We all know of businesses that aren’t going to make it through months of this shutdown.

We know people who couldn’t pay their rent this month. We know people who pulled it together this month but won’t be able to pay May’s rent if this lockdown should continue. We know it’s so bad that the government has said landlords can’t evict tenants in many states – which means the landlords may not be able to pay their mortgages.

We may not know much right now, but we know that the economy is a f*cking disaster.

And we have no idea when this current purgatory will end…

We’d all like to think that one day this will suddenly be over. The kids will return to school. We’ll go back to our offices and our commutes. We won’t be struggling over money anymore. Life will return to the pre-COVID days.

But is this the healthiest way to look at the situation?

Spending all your time looking forward to the day when this is over is an exercise in frustration because nobody knows when that will be. And more than that, nobody knows what “normal” is going to look like when all the lockdowns are over. A lot of things will never be the same.

You can help yourself by learning to adapt now to changed circumstances. This will help you learn to live with the new normal, whatever that turns out to be. Major events are bound to cause major and long-lasting changes. This has happened throughout history.

In reality, the things we’re experiencing right now, while not necessarily easy, aren’t so bad. Things will probably get worse before they get better, but eventually, some form of “better” will come.

Your ability to adapt is indicative of your ability to survive. So let’s get through this lockdown and keep our mindsets positive.  Let’s get through the part that comes next.

Then, eventually, we’ll come out on the other side, ready to tackle the new normal, whatever that ends up being like…(continues)

Click here to read the entire article at The Organic Prepper.