Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Advent ramble

Advent, for Christians, is a time of waiting, of experiencing the mystery of the promise of the Messiah. Never mind that the whole Christmas thing was an invention of the first century Church trying to steal thunder from the goddess religions and their winter festivals.

I have always really enjoyed Advent--that time leading you to the holiday gathering and giving of gifts. I have enjoyed it even more in these last few years, as my siblings and I have all agreed that gift giving is about our kids, not ourselves, and we no longer exchange any gifts among the adults. We keep trying to convince our parents that this is wise, but they insist on giving us all something. They don't need to. They gave us a good start in life, the values of education and compassion. What more could parents really give to children than those things?

Although I call myself a "small c" christian, I have always been drawn to things Jewish. The fundamental underpinning of the Judaism seems to be a celebration of the holy of the everyday. Hanukkah starts this weekend, and I am glad to say that outside Ben's preschool, there's a little holiday banner with a mennorah with little driedels along the border. They're learning about Hanukkah, they will learn about Christmas, and they will learn about Kwanzaa. It's a great place.

Anyway, Christianity, at its root, has such a deep foundation in Judaism. That idea of the holy of the everyday is so pervasive when you strip Christianity down to its core. Jesus described heaven as simply being in the presence of god. To be in the presence of god as if god were the air you breathe, the food you eat.

So Advent, with all the hustle and business, the parties, the shopping, the pressure, should really be 40 days of thinking about the presence of the coming god. That god so magnificently born in a stable amid the lowing cattle and the fresh hay and the manure to very poor, wandering, homeless and bewildered parents. The wonder of finding the king of the Jews in a little wailing babe, the illegitimate offspring of a very young, unmarried mom and her older soon-to-be husband. God is a little kid, the lowest possible class in Jewish society, the illegitimate son of a carpenter, and he outsmarts all the rabbis and pharisees even before his bar mitsvah. It's a great story.

But when I think about the season and how frenetic it is and think about what the story really might mean to all of humankind, I feel like a fish gasping for air.


The fish in my hands
tries to breathe
in the way that fish do:
air from water.
But the fish
I hold
is in the air.
Eyes wide,
mouth gasps,
gills, useless,
gape wide.
I cast the fish
into the water,
he pauses,
to curse me
and thank me,
then disappears into
deep green life.
Dependent on water,
eyes always open,
I wish I could
feel god
as the fish feels water:
swim in the presence
of god.
Instead, my eyes close.
I try to breathe again
your scent,
god's displeasure.
Could I cast my sins
into the pond
after the fish,
be given a chance
to make things right,
to breath god,
as the fish
breathes water ?


The Curmudgeon said...

A lovely image.

Ben & Bennie said...

I'm still thinking the lady needs a publisher. Seriously. CB, with your permission I'm gonna copy a few of these poems and do a little illustrating. Me and my mom are talking to a few new publishers about Telly's second book and I'd love to pitch another idea!

If you're interested e-mail me.