To a New Land
Well, here it comes—the Bermuda Triangle of holidays. We are gathered on this vessel together, navigating that course through a time of year that holds a lot for people. For some there are memories of past holidays that are fond, warming, and dear. For others there are memories of those same holidays marked with cooler feelings—feelings of disappointment, or worse. And for many, there isn’t even time to dawdle along memory lane. We’re too busy making these holidays happen for those we love. Cooking, shopping, planning for weeks are then all capped off by staying up until midnight, just when we probably need our rest the most.
Of course, like so, so many experiences I’ve known in the past, even the experience of the Thanksgiving–Christmas–New Year weeks is different here on this island. Somehow the advertising and commercial exploitation of these holidays I’d experience when I lived in New York City, with all of the sheer intensity of holiday promotions being akin to a rock band following you around the streets blaring its message at you, has faded blessedly into more of an experience of hearing slack key guitar you could almost miss if you weren’t listening for it.
And I’m left with wondering why this is. I think some about the relatively new experience on the island of these holidays, compared to their celebrations in other cultures around the world that have been going on for centuries. I wonder at the beautiful richness of the cultures that are here together and also that many of those cultures don’t even recognize some of these holidays. And maybe most painfully, I imagine the many families and genealogies rooted in this land and the way these holidays hold a feeling more of incursion and exploitation than of gratitude, miracles, or new beginnings.
I do not write this message in any way to depress any readers or otherwise to detract from the joy and fulfillment that comes for many with this season. I only want to share that it’s OK not to feel all we are told we should. Like some of the discussions we’ve had around church in the past few weeks, my hope is that at this time of year we can make space in our own lives to feel more than one feeling at a time—joy and pain; gratitude and longing—and honor both or all of those feelings fully.
And maybe even more important than giving ourselves the permission to feel more than one feeling at a time is having the openness to understand the complex history and emotional life associated with these holidays for those around us, for this very land, for the very paths we walk here. For truly this land is the inverse experience of the Bermuda Triangle, where people go and are lost. In this place many discover something in the world, in themselves, in one another, that they could not ever have imagined was there.
Many blessings to all for a season of fond memories, of safe journeys, and always of new discoveries.
In gratitude, in joy, and in hope,
Rev. T. J.