This week between Christmas and New Year’s Day can feel like a weird liminal space. We finished the Advent season of wondering and waiting, but maybe now we wonder and wait for the new year. A new year can mean a new start. For those of us in schools, it means a new semester. And here we are again, in another now-and-not-yet.
Today is my fourth wedding anniversary. For us, this season became even more sacred. My wedding, and everything it embodied, is forever tied to Christmas and the liminal space before the New Year. We got married surrounded by lots of candle light, Christmas trees, and family.
I got a lot of light out of this year’s Christmas. And as we held our candles and sang Silent Night on Saturday evening, the line “all is calm, all is bright,” stuck out to me. I find that a lot of things this time of year are bright -- even though it gets dark so early. But what is calm? I love my family, but I would not exactly describe them as calm. I loved my wedding, but that was not a calm event. And I imagine the birthday of the Christ child, lying in a manger, could not have been very calm. In the new year, I’d like to find a lot more calm.
Maybe you will spend some time this week leaning into the liminal space, reflecting on Christmas, waiting and wondering about the new year. I wonder where you are finding light and calm. I pray that both come easily for us in 2023.
As we move toward Easter this year, I am pondering the brokenness of the Holy Week story in contrast to the mysterious joy of the Easter story. I catch myself assuming that joy is equated with perfection. Everything just right, fixed, just the way things should be. I don’t think that kind of perfection is synonymous with joy. Joy is about wholeness, not perfection or being fixed just right. Joy can come in the midst of brokenness. It doesn’t erase the pain of brokenness, but it stands alongside, offering a glimmer of hope and healing, of the light of love.
Many, many poets, theologians, storytellers and philosophers have written through the ages about brokenness and light. There are cracks in everything and that is how the light, sometimes God’s light, sometimes healing, sometimes strength gets into life and into our souls. In A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway wrote, “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places." 13th century Sufi poet, Rumi, wrote,
“Let a teacher wave away the flies and put a plaster on the wound.
Don’t turn your head. Keep looking at the bandaged place.
That’s where the light enters you.
And don’t believe for a moment that you’re healing yourself.”
Leonard Cohen’s 1992 song “Anthem” sings out, “Forget your perfect offering./There is a crack, a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in.”
In the stories of Holy Week, we see the One, Jesus of Nazareth, who came to model God’s peace, justice, love, forgiveness and true power, broken by the world. We bring our own brokenness to the hearing and experiencing of his story and there we meet the Holy. God, the Holy ONE, does not leave Jesus broken by the world. God brings a different ending to the story of death. And each year we need to hear God’s broken stories and God’s triumphant healing during this tumultuous week. If we listen closely, eventually, one of these years we will hear the Holy during Holy Week as the poet, Mary Oliver did her poem, “Everything That Was Broken” (from Felicity, Penguin Random House, ©2015)
Everything that was broken has
forgotten its brokenness. I live
now in a sky-house, through every
window the sun. Also your presence.
Our touching, our stories. Earthly
and holy both. How can this be, but
it is. Every day has something in
it whose name is forever.
With you on the journey,