hidden treasures

hidden, discarded and utterly tucked away in the christmas shelves of target, there it was. the perfect tree topper. we had compromised and put my star on top of the tree and the russian spy’s garland (it’s still not up, but will be after the tree trimming party tomorrow). and as we gazed upon the tree–shoes hanging off of it (to weight the branches so the drop more fully), mixed sets of lights, we noticed it. well, more precisely, the russian spy noticed it. the star tree topper had a pentagram hidden in it. i know, i know…it’s a symbol that has many meanings, the divine feminine, among them. but, well…it’s like seeing the arrow hidden in the FedEx logo…once you see it you can’t NOT see it. so it was feeling like the pentagram tree topper, which, frankly, just isn’t me.

so amid the errands we ran yesterday, we found ourselves in target. and there it was. it’s a lighted tree topper, which i’ve never had before. kinda tacky, i know, but the tree is tacky, in a very good way. and most of all, it’s a bethlehem star. i looked all over bethlehem for a bethlehem star tree topper, with no sucess. i did find a candle holder, but i’ve wanted one since then. at the grotto of the nativity a spot marks the place where jesus was born and when you enter you go and touch it. surrounding it is the star like pattern.

so while the tree topper doesn’t look exactly like that, it reminds me more of this pattern. moreover, it reminds me of bethlehem. and that, as you know by now, makes me very happy.

instead of writing a sermon…

There’s a commercial that runs this time of year. I’ve noticed it for at least three years now. In it, a beautiful, blue-eyed, blonde haired woman in her mid to late 20s sits on a train, moving through the snow covered territory, which reminds me of the Hudson Valley in New York state. As the train pulls into the station, her eyes light up and her brilliant white teeth break beam through her perfectly polished lips as her face erupts in a grand smile. As the train comes to a stop, cherub like children run along side the train, the cause, no doubt, of her smile, waving to her and running, until, the scene culminates with them running into her arms as Christmas music plays in the background and we are reminded of the power that teeth whitening strips can have on our holiday.

The commercial used to make me cry. It evokes, in me, such longing, and such a reminder of those things unfulfilled in my life. The woman, as presented in this 30 second film, seems to have everything: the family, the idyllic back drop for the season, the teeth. I can remember when I first moved to Chicago from New York, from knowing a whole community of people to knowing almost no one, I would watch this commercial and wonder who I had failed so miserably—failed to create this life that was being projected as what I was supposed to want, what I was supposed to have. Of course, it wasn’t just that commercial. There were and are others as well—reminders of what I don’t have—the big house, the perfectly decorated living room, the 2.5 children, the family that never fights—all the things I see, all the ways I come up short.

And now? Now life is different…people I love are all around me. Chicago feels, if not like home, at least like a good resting place. And yet I see that commercial and while I don’t cry, I find myself still feeling like I’ve come up short, like I’ve not done what is supposed to be done.

The challenge of living in Advent–the challenge of living the Christian faith–is living with both a foot in both worlds–the world of media, of life, of this world and the world that is that of the Christian life–the world that is and yet is not yet, looking for the coming, looking for the things, the places where the veil grows thin and the world is transformed without the power of Crest white strips.

A Song on the End of the World

On the day the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it
should always be.

On the day the world ends
Women walk through the fields under
their umbrellas,
A drunkard grows sleepy at the end of the lawn,
Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
A voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.

And those who expected lightning and thunder
Are disappointed,
And those who expected signs of archangels’
Do not believe it is happening now,
As long as the sun and the moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.

Only a white-haired old man, who would be
a prophet
Yet is not a prophet, for he’s much too busy,
Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
There will be no other end of the world,
There will be no other end of the world.

–Warsaw, 1944
Czeslaw Milosz, translated by Anthony Milosz