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A New Cultural Norm

Dear friends,

Those of you who are friends with me on facebook may have seen the tribute I posted this week for my friend David who died. Some of you may have met him when he visited us in November, or sat with him at the Faith Trio Harvest Dinner. I got news of his death last week from his parents. And so, I’m having one of those Blue Christmases you hear about, this year, and a rather blue Advent too. To top it off I’ve had a cold, so I’m suffering both body and soul. The holidays can be so hard. In these days, when the dominant cultural narrative tells us “be happy and cozy!” and whispers comforting tales of ciders and friends and gifts and hygge, anyone whose experiences deviate from those lifestyle-magazine “norms” finds themselves with an extra layer of misery brought on by the act of comparison. Those of us who are grieving at Christmas may find ourselves like a kid with our nose pressed to a toy store window, watching joy on the other side.

Well I believe, and will say again, louder this time for the people in the back, that those cultural norms have got to go. Those magazine-perfect images of cheer are empty stories. For the sake of all who are poor, lost, forgotten, or far from home – which is to say, quite theologically speaking, for Christ’s sake – we need to have a story about this end-of-year time that includes poverty, loneliness, seasonal affective disorder, hardship, and danger. Luckily enough we do have most of these things in the actual Christmas story itself – the vulnerable couple, far from home, finding room in a stable, fleeing from a violent and unpredictable tyrant.

Can we build a new cultural norm? Slowly, of course, but can we contribute something to the magazine pages of our common life narratives? I’d like a new narrative that says Christmas is a time to open your doors and let your neighbors in, not just for a fun party but also to help one another out. My friend David died by suicide, and although I sadly was unable to help him enough to make a difference, there are others suffering as he did, and for many of them, just a little bit of human kindness could make difference. Can we make this a time of year for vulnerability and mutual assistance? Sending cards to one another not as a marker of how well-put-together our lives are, but as lifelines stretched out to assure one another across the miles that we’re there and we care?

Join me tonight for a Christmas meditation on the blue side of things. At Taize tonight we will remember the light shining in the darkness, and take a long loving look at the reality of that darkness – that beautiful and fearful depth of darkness we live in. We can’t see the true light shining in the darkness unless we’re willing to turn off the cheap lights for more than a moment or two. Come and sit with us, or if you can’t be there in body, take a moment in your own place and time. The Christ Child comes to us when the need is deep and great.

Every Blessing,
Talitha