Friday, December 21, 2007
An old-fashioned winter returns to Carlisle
Do you remember Carlisle in December of 2006? As Stuart Johnstone of Great Brook Ski Touring Center remembers it, the ground had not yet frozen. This year he reports never having seen such deep snow on the ground in December. In fact, last Saturday was a great day for cross-country skiing at Great Brook Farm.
Last weekend in Carlisle was reminiscent of December weekends of the past, when we would cross-country ski with our children in the Estabrook Woods. With roads and driveways plowed out, thanks to Carlisle's DPW and the individuals who plow out our private driveways, Saturday was a day to be out and about Christmas shopping, skiing, or snowshoeing in the woods.
Come Sunday, it was another matter, thanks to a snow and ice storm that began early Sunday morning. Roads and driveways were eventually plowed, but traveling any distance on icy roads was questionable. Many out-of-town concerts and plays had to be canceled, while some of the town Christmas pageants went ahead, with children having to take on several roles for those unable to make it to the church that morning.
Then there were those of us lucky to have been invited to Christmas parties here in town. Others, dressed in warm pajamas throughout the day, were just as happy to have a day off to stay at home wrapping presents and writing Christmas cards. And after the storm, from my dining room window I watched a bluebird eating our suet to sustain herself in the frozen landscape.
Looking to the weeks ahead, if the weather cooperates, there should be more skiing at Great Brook Farm, with added nighttime skiing by lantern on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Some new snow to cover the ice crust would be helpful, but if not, the skating rink in the Kimball Farm parking lot on Bedford Road has been set up and is ready to be used by children during the holiday break.
Yes, if the weather cooperates, there will be a lot to do out-of-doors during the holidays, just like in the real winters of the past that I thought we would never see again.
The reason for Christmas
I find within my mind and heart this Christmas season a desire to be lovingly provocative minus a Scrooge-like or cantankerous spirit.
Emotion aside, I would like to state the obvious: Christmas is becoming an attractively wrapped box emptied of Christian truth. That Christmas has been secularized can scarcely be refuted. That this has happened might be a cause for celebration among those who see belief in Jesus Christ in the same category as belief in Santa Claus. We have almost reached the point where the very idea of Christmas having to do with a virgin conceiving and giving birth to the Savior, Immanuel (God with us), sounds like an unwelcome intrusion. It must be the work of religious fanatics who try to force their symbols and songs on us to go along with the real symbols and songs of the season. I suggest this is not unlike our having a birthday and discovering we weren't invited, saying we think we should be and it sounding inappropriate and strange.
But we do want the season without the Reason. We must be clear, however, that without the Reason we only have "jingle bells" and "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" and not Handel's Messiah. We only have partying and not worship. We only have holiday merriment that comes from a spirit measured in "proof" rather than the spirit of joy. We only have massive merchandising and hedonism to celebrate.
Did you know the Puritans who settled and peopled New England in the 17th century decided not to celebrate Christmas because they wanted to avoid the kind of merriment that left Christ out? They sincerely believed that such celebrations might actually dishonor and displease God. There are wonderful things about the season to enjoy. The delight of sights, sounds, smells and tastes is real. To see bright little eyes open wide to drink in the splendor of a lighted tree or enjoy the gift of being with family and friends is real and enjoyable. The season gives to each of us gifts to prize and enjoy, but to have wonder-full, joy-full, awe-full, hope-full worship requires the Almighty God, something beyond man.
I guess the real question for us is whether the loss of the sacred, the loss of worshiping the God who promised to send the Savior, and the joy because He did, is a "loss" at all or diminishes us in our lives.
The miracle of Christmas is that people still find the Reason for the season, change their tune and sing "Joy to the world, the Lord is come". . . "O come let us adore Him," "King of Kings and Lord of Lords," "Hallelujah" in place of "fa la la la la la la la la."
There is more to this holiday season than meets the eye. This world is not all there is. There is good news, and I am thankful to be able to share that with my town this Christmas season.
© 2007 The