And the sheep were silent…

“The refusal to take sides on great moral issues is itself a decision.
It is a silent acquiescence to evil.
The Tragedy of our time is that those who still believe in honesty lack fire and conviction,
while those who believe in dishonesty are full of passionate conviction.”

Archbishop Fulton Sheen

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(a sheep farm outside of Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Where does one begin…
Where does one look when attempting to sort it all out?
From whence has it come?
What was the root cause?
What was the catalyst?
How did it ever come to this?

Standing in the center of the raging maelstrom
Silent and dumbfounded…
Only a remaining handful are left to sort it out.

As the majority silently chooses to ignore it…

We choose to turn our heads.
We refuse to call truth by its name.
While hoping it all just goes away.

We don’t want to get labeled.
We don’t want to lose our businesses, our jobs, our positions.
We don’t want to be taken to court.
We don’t want to be disliked, unliked or disconnected.
We don’t want to be shamed…

All the while we are being told we’d best accept things or otherwise shut-up.
We are told to get on board or get out.
We are vilified,
We are hated
We are deemed ignorant.
We are considered backwards.
We are called all manner of vile names
We are stalked by the shadows…

That is unless we recant, we back down, we reconsider,
we change our minds, we accept the once unacceptable…
as the bitter taste is no less palatable, yet we swallow for survival.

And it is because of one thing and one thing only…
We carry the name Christian or Jew.
We support the cross, we support Israel and we hold the word of God as just that…
The Truth.

Yet even under that banner there are those who toil
at rewriting and altering ancient words and law in order to
“modernize” them.
“God didn’t mean that, He actually meant this instead….”
As we don’t like thinking about sin and Hell, so let’s
just throw the blanket out covering everyone…as in
it is all indeed good…because we are all about feeling good.

We stand before the manger feeling all warm and fuzzy,
as we look upon that peaceful nurturing scene of Mother and Child…
All the while we throw up our Christmas trees as the media screams at us,
telling us what we must have and actually need under those trees
in order to be forever happy…
never mind what we really need or want….

…simply to love and be loved….
as in forever…

We want our God to be all loving, all caring, all good, all giving
all about us….
He loves everyone no matter what, right?
He tolerates everything right?
He accepts us no matter what right?

Cause if that’s not right, we don’t want Him.

Cause and effect.

Have we forgotten?

For every cause, there is an opposite reaction or effect.
Up, down
push, pull
lift, drop,
climb, fall….

Yet we decide that the law of physics will not apply to us.

We will live as we choose, with a God who we demand will
abide by our choices and our will…or else…
We will simply rewrite Him…

…or deem Him ill suited, outdated, or better yet…
the product of mere myths…

We deem marriage is not just between man and woman.
We decide boys can be girls and girls can be boys.
There is no separation, no division, no balance…
We don’t like results so we kick and scream until we get the results we like.
We don’t like the flag so we burn it.,
We don’t like religion so we ignore it,
We don’t like those over there cause
we are paranoid and think they don’t like us over here….

We are so busy being us and loving us…as in me, myself and I…
that we are failing to see what is happening all around us.

We are so afraid of offending anyone and everyone that we can’t call terrorists what they are.
We can’t admit that radical Islam wants to annihilate us so we instead invite
them to all come live with us.
We bend everything about us…
until we break, all in the name of acceptance and equality.

And yet we still just don’t get it.
We can’t see it.
We don’t want to admit it….
We’d rather just stare at the crib feeling all warm and fuzzy…
as we forget that the road to Bethlehem, and it’s inviting manger, leads directly
to the Via Dolorosa…

Cause and effect.

Birth and death
Life or not…

If we claim to be Christian or Jew.
If we believe in morality as a guiding principle.
If we believe in cause and effect
If we believe that God is God and we are not…

Now is our moment to be silent no more….

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(a sheep being sheared at a sheep farm outside of Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”
Acts 18:9-10

the pace now quickens

Choose my instruction instead of silver,
knowledge rather than choice gold…

Provers 8:10

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
1 Timothy 1:7

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(St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Anxious, hurried and apprehensive they race along with nervous urgency
as the pace to the journey suddenly quickens.
The moment has drawn nigh and there is no more time to tarry.
The waiting and watching is over.
The benign prosaic observation is no longer available for causal inspection–
As the air is now heavy with the seriousness of what is soon to take place.

The collision of two opposing forces is eminent.
They had seen it foretold in the star.
Only a few will truly understand the overwhelming magnitude of what is to transpire…
For gravity is laced within the expectation.
Two cosmic energies will collide with such tremendous force that the powerful reverberations will spiral outward, affecting all generations across the chasm of time…

There will be a time for joy to be had…as well as heartfelt offerings, homage and gifts.
The time for merrymaking will be at hand as the celebration and toasting will commence.
Yet the excited announcement of these glad tidings brings with it both joy and heavy consequence…

There will be a time of thankfulness, reverence and tenderness
as Hopefulness joyously arrives.
All the while as radiant Light fiercely pierces the blackened veil.
Yet there will also be lingering repercussions for each and everyone,
as the Prince of Darkness will no longer rest,
not while the baby slumbers sweetly unaware.

So hurry on we all must go with urgency in each and every step.
We travel far and wide this day in haste to meet a King.
Yet with this yearly marking of such a grand and festive event,
as mankind is blindly busy making merry within the merriment,
young and old are naively unaware that Time is almost spent.

So sing your glad tidings this grand and hopeful December day…
hurry your way to the manger bare laying down your peace and praise,
for unto you is born this day a child, a Savior and a King
Yet mindful we must all remain…
for there is one who chooses curses rather than to sing

For he waits in the shadows knowing his time is drawing nigh…
as he plots and he schemes for a “A voice was heard in Ramah
of painful crying and deep sadness:
Rachel crying for her children.
She refused to be comforted,
because her children are dead.”

Jeremiah 31:15

For within the innocence of our heartfelt joy lies a fight for every soul…
as the pace for Mankind’s salvation has quickened as one is now born to carry our load.

“an angel of the Lord came to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt, because Herod is starting to look for the child so he can kill him. Stay in Egypt until I tell you to return.”
Matthew 2:13

Traditions

“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.”
― Gustav Mahler

“Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.”
― L.M. Montgomery

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(a very old “ornament” / Julie Cook / 2014)

Each year it’s always the same.
As the musty dusty boxes are brought down from the attic, a grand anticipation, filled with the buzzing of electricity, sweeps throughout the house. And despite the fact that I am the only one usually around bringing the boxes down from the dark recesses of the attic, praying I don’t fall down the stairs breaking anything vital to life and mobility, as that is now not merely a remote possibility but a more plausible concern, the anticipation is still just as grand.

The decorating of Christmas, or any holiday for that matter, has never been the great family affair as I suspect it is for other households. No helping hands or delegating of assignments here. The trimming of trees and the placing of festive garlands and boughs of holly was first the responsibility of my mother, and now the task has fallen to me. Of which is just fine and dandy by me as I enjoy the oohs and ahhs of family once they venture homeward feasting their eyes on my handiwork.

Yet I should confess that often there can be heard a bit of fussing and cussing on my part as I labor to “make merry”—all the while mumbling “what is the point of this. . .why do we do this every year. . .I’m getting too old for this. . .yada, yada, yada—the litany of complaints goes on and on. . . that is, until I finally plug everything in and flip every switch, standing back to bask in the glittery, sparkly, twinkly wonderment known as holiday magic.

I suspect a very big part of the reason as to why we, you and I, continue on with traditions such as tree trimming and decorating has a lot to do with a much deeper and more intrinsic reason than merely the marking of a particular day on a calendar.

For me there are three tiny important pieces to the holiday decorating puzzle, otherwise known as ornaments, which must always be the first to be pulled out from their tomb–otherwise known as their storage box. There had once been a few more of these “puzzle” pieces but the ravages of time, heat, cold and humidity have all taken their toll.

Each of these remaining treasured ornaments are handled as if by a curator who might be cradling some ancient manuscript or long past treasure merely minus the white gloves. Delicately unwrapping each sacred piece from the tissue paper, which has tightly protected these heirlooms for the past 11.5 months of the year, lovingly removing and now freeing each one.

The first precious treasure is a fragile tattered yellowing piece of paper which had been “colored” orange by a certain Crayola toting 3 year old sunday schooler from very long ago. It is marked with the printed words “Christmas is Jesus’ Birthday”. This is the first ornament which must don the tree each and every year as it proclaims the very reason as to why there is a tree for decorating in the first place.

The second treasure is a tiny broken plastic manger complete with a little bitty teeny tiny Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus joined by a couple tiny sheep thrown in for good measure. The manger is accented with a small gold shooting star which is now haphazardly reattached with wire. It is the first “gift” I can recall receiving outside of family gifts. A small token of a long ago and far away preschool sunday school Christmas party.

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And lastly there is a small pink clay heart, complete with the prints of tiny fingers and thumbs now frozen for all eternity, topped off with a makeshift copper wire hanger.
My mother, in her inestimable wisdom, wrote my name across the heart along with the year, 1965 in a ball point pen. I was all of either 5 or 6 and we had made the clay ornaments at school as part of our Christmas festivities. It is a simple air dried old school brown piece of clay and therefore very fragile. As to why I would make a heart, painting it pink as a Christmas ornament, is beyond my soul, but the fact that it still survives is testament enough.

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After I had moved away, married and started my own holiday traditions, I asked Mother if I could take those couple of ornaments with me as they were my link to all of my Christmases past. The life line connecting what was, what I was and to the now growing present and future of who I am and who I was to become.

That’s what Christmas is. . .it is a tie that binds.
It is the link to our past–it is our heritage as well as our inheritance—as adopted children, adopted through and by Grace, Christmas joins us, unites us, binds us to and with the birth of our only hope, our future, our salvation. And because we are an often forgetful lot, we need reminding of this, year after year as the joy becomes overwhelmingly new, refreshingly clear and abundantly miraculous.

And so, as I continue placing these dear treasures and precious pieces of my holiday puzzle on our tree after tree, year after year, I continue by adding new links to this puzzle of my life, pieces both past and future. One of my favorites being the dorito chip shaped reindeer made by my once 4 year old son. Each year, as I gingerly place this happy little reindeer on our tree, I feel the presence of a little boy, now grown man, excited, proud and awed to have his little pieces added to our puzzle of life’s continuum.

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(Brenton’s dorito shaped reindeer ornament / Julie Cook / 2014)

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
Ephesians 1:4-10