THE MUSIC COMING FROM THE HOUSE

On Christmas Eve, the king invited the prime minister to join him for their usual walk together. He enjoyed seeing the decorations in the streets, but since he didn’t want his subjects to spend too much money on these just to please him, the two men always disguised themselves as traders from some far distant land.

They walked through the centre of the city, admiring the lights, the Christmas trees, the candles burning on the steps of the houses, the stalls selling gifts, and the men, women and children hurrying off to celebrate a family Christmas around a table laden with food.

On the way back, they passed through a poorer area, where the atmosphere was quite different. There were no lights, no candles, no delicious smells of food about to be served. There was hardly a soul in the street, and, as he did every year, the king remarked to the prime minister that he really must pay more attention to the poor in his kingdom. The prime minister nodded, knowing that the matter would soon be forgotten again, buried beneath the day-to-day bureaucracy of budgets to be approved and discussions with foreign dignitaries.

Suddenly, they heard music coming from one of the poorest houses. The hut was so ramshackle and the rotten wooden timbers so full of cracks, that they were able to peer through and see what was happening inside. And what they saw was utterly absurd: an old man in a wheelchair apparently crying, a shaven-headed young woman dancing, and a young man with sad eyes shaking a tambourine and singing a folk song.

‘I’m going to find out what they’re up to,’ said the king.

He knocked. The music stopped, and the young man came to the door.

‘We are merchants in search of a place to sleep. We heard the music, saw that you were still awake, and wondered if we could spend the night here.’

‘You can find shelter in a hotel in the city. We, alas, cannot help you. Despite the music, this house is full of sadness and suffering.’

‘And may we know why?’

‘It’s all because of me.’ It was the old man in the wheelchair who spoke. ‘I’ve spent my life teaching my son calligraphy, so that he could one day get a job as a palace scribe. But the years have passed and no post has ever come up. And then, last night, I had a stupid dream: an angel appeared to me and asked me to buy a silver goblet because, the angel said, the king would be coming to visit me. He would drink from the goblet and give my son a job.

‘The angel was so persuasive that I decided to do as he said. Since we have no money, my daughter-in-law went to the market this morning to sell her hair so that we could buy that goblet over there. The two of them are doing their best to get me in the Christmas spirit by singing and dancing, but it’s no use.’

The king saw the silver goblet, asked to be given a little water to quench his thirst and, before leaving, said to the family:

‘Do you know, we were talking to the prime minister only today, and he told us that an opening for a palace scribe would be announced next week.’

The old man nodded, not really believing what he was hearing, and bade farewell to the strangers. The following morning, however, a royal proclamation was read out in all the city streets; a new scribe was needed at court. On the appointed day, the audience room at the palace was packed with people eager to compete for that much-sought-after post. The prime minister entered and asked everyone there to prepare their paper and pens:

‘Here is the subject of the composition: Why is an old man weeping, a shaven-headed woman dancing, and a sad young man singing?’

A murmur of disbelief went round the room. No one knew how to tell such a story, apart, that is, from the shabbily dressed young man sitting in one corner, who smiled broadly and began to write.

Source | Paolo Coelho, Christmas Stories
Sant Jordi Asociados (December 5, 2014)

CONSIDER THIS

Many things come to pass when we least expect them and in ways we have never imagined!

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JUST SHINE

When my daughter was small she got the dubious part of the Bethlehem star in a Christmas play. After her first rehearsal she burst through the door with her costume, a five-pointed star lined in shiny gold tinsel designed to drape over her like a sandwich board.

“What exactly will you be doing in the play?” I asked her.

“I just stand there and shine,” she told me.

Source | Sue Monk Kidd, When The Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life’s Sacred Questions
(HarperOne 2006) page 61 

 CONSIDER THIS

  • The little girl gets it.  At some point, from Star of Bethlehem to adulthood, we obstruct that light.
  • What is stopping you from just standing there and shine? I started my own list of possible obstructors : fear, perfectionism, prejudice, comparisons, lack of healthy self-esteem, distractions, worry, anxiety …

THE CHRISTMAS SCALE

My mama told me something when I was growing up that has for ever change my life. She played the piano at our little church at third and pine street for thirty seven years. She tried to teach me to play the piano, but I wasn’t very good. She would teach me the names of the notes, what a major key is, what a minor key is.  She tried to teach me musical theory but I was just bored.

Then one day she told me that the best news in the world is found by playing a simple scale on the piano. I had no idea what she meant. So she told me, “Play an eight note scale.” So I did. (Playing notes going up the scale C D E F G A B C sounds like “do re me fa sol la si do”)

I said, “How is that good news?”

She said I played it incorrectly and that I needed to play it the other way. So I did. (Playing notes going down the scale “do si la sol fa mi re do.”)

Again, I said, “How is that good news?”

She said that I played it the right way, but I needed to add the pauses.

“The pauses?”

“The pauses. Add them on the first, second, fourth, sixth, seventh and last note.”

Now I was frustrated and said, “How can eight notes with random pauses be the best news in the world?” Then I got up, walked away and went outside.  Frankly I didn’t care what she was talking about.  I didn’t like playing the piano anyway.

Well, years later my mama got sick and passed away.  As I was thinking about her I remembered what she told me about the piano.

Not only that, I still remembered the notes she told me to pause on : the first, second, fourth, sixth, seventh and last note. So I sat down at her piano and played the scale with the pauses. (With pauses plays the song “Joy to the World, the Lord is come.”)

And that’s when I realized the good news she was talking about.

Source | Transcript of The Christmas Scale by IgniterMedia.com

CONSIDER THIS

The message hasn’t changed. That joy is still there waiting to be experienced each time we awake from our slumber and play the right notes with the right pauses, living our ordinary lives in extraordinary ways, that is, with gentility and grace, presence and wakefulness.

DON’T GET TOO ATTACHED

Little Alice was captivated with the stories of Jesus, especially the eventual death of Jesus on the cross.  And she was overjoyed when she was chosen to be an angel in the school nativity play.  She learned her lines to perfection.

However, little Alice was known to add her own logic to every situation.  So the nativity play was well under way and when it was Alice’s turn to say her lines to Mary, she said: “Don’ t worry, Mary, you will have a lovely baby and you will call him Jesus.”  Then she added, “But I wouldn’t get too attached to him because he’ll be gone by Easter.”

Source | Unknown

PONDER AND CONSIDER

As one year ends and another one starts, let’s ponder all the joyful and sorrowful mysteries of our own lives.  And in doing so prayerfully and playfully …  pondering … reflecting … reviewing and perhaps even reframing our lived realities, let’s not get too attached to any of the past chapter of our ever unfolding, unique, sacred biography.  All past chapters are only stepping stones that gently move us forward with courage and wisdom, hope and wild imagination into the new year.

 

THE PARABLE OF THE BIRDS

Once upon a time there was a man who looked upon Christmas as a lot of humbug. He wasn’t a Scrooge. He was a kind and decent person, generous to his family, upright in all his dealings with other men. But he didn’t believe all that stuff about Incarnation which churches proclaim at Christmas. And he was too honest to pretend that he did. “I am truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, who was a faithful churchgoer. “But I simply cannot understand this claim that God becomes man. It doesn’t make any sense to me.”

On Christmas Eve his wife and children went to church for the midnight service. He declined to accompany them. “I’d feel like a hypocrite,” he explained. “I’d rather stay at home. But I’ll wait up for you.”

Shortly after his family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window and watched the flurries getting heavier and heavier. “If we must have Christmas,” he thought, “it’s nice to have a white one.” He went back to his chair by the fireside and began to read his newspaper. A few minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound. It was quickly followed by another, then another.

He thought that someone must be throwing snowballs at his livingroom window. When he went to the front door to investigate, he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the storm. They had been caught in the storm and in a desperate search for shelter had tried to fly through his window. “I can’t let these poor creatures lie there and freeze,” he thought. “But how can I help them?” Then he remembered the barn where the children’s pony was stabled. It would provide a warm shelter.

He put on his coat and galoshes and tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the door wide and turned on a light. But the birds didn’t come in. “Food will lure them in,” he thought. So he hurried back to the house for bread crumbs, which he sprinkled on the snow to make a trail into the barn. To his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs and continued to flop around helplessly in the snow. He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around and waving his arms. They scattered in every direction – except into the warm lighted barn.

“They find me a strange and terrifying creature,” he said to himself, “and I can’t seem to think of any way to let them know they can trust me. If only I could be a bird myself for a few minutes, perhaps I could lead them to safety. . . .”

Just at that moment the church bells began to ring. He stood silent for a while, listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. Then he sank to his knees in the snow. “Now I do understand,” he whispered. “Now I see why You had to do it.” 

Source | Louis Cassels,  The Parable of the Birds as told in Greg Johnson, The 25 Days of Christmas,  pages 30-31

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • They shall name him Emmanuel, which means, “God is with us.” | Matthew 1:23
  • And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. | Luke 2:7
  • For while gentle silence enveloped all things, and night in its swift course was now half gone, your all-powerful word leaped from heaven …  into the midst of the land … | Wisdom 18:14-15
  • And the Word became flesh and lived among us. |  John 1:14
  • Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me. | Matthew 25:40

SOCKS AND SHOES

A little boy about 10 years old was standing before a shoe store on the roadway, barefooted, peering through the window, and shivering with cold. A lady approached the boy and said, “My little fellow, why are you looking so earnestly in that window?”

“I was asking God to give me a pair of shoes,” was the boy’s reply.

The lady took him by the hand and went into the store and asked the clerk to get half a dozen pairs of socks for the boy. She then asked if he could give her a basin of water and a towel. He quickly brought them to her. She took the little fellow to the back part of the store and, removing her gloves, knelt down, washed his little feet, and dried them with a towel.

By this time the clerk had returned with the socks. Placing a pair upon the boy’s feet, she purchased him a pair of shoes. She tied up the remaining pairs of socks and gave them to him. She patted him on the head and said, “No doubt, my little fellow, you feel more comfortable now?”

As she turned to go, the astonished lad caught her by the hand, and looking up in her face, with tears his eyes, answered the question with these words: “Are you God’s Wife?”

Source | Unknown

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me. | Matthew 25:40 NRSV
  • Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me. | Matthew 25:40 the message

 

ARE YOU GOD?

With Christmas coming  grandma was out shopping for gifts for her grandchildren.  While she was at the toy store going through her list she noticed a small homeless girl outside wistfully looking into the store.  Grandma’s heart went out to this little girl.  She invited her into the store and asked her to pick out a gift for herself.  As they walked out of the store, the little girl held Grandma’s hand and looked into her kind eyes and asked “Are you God?” 

Grandma, somewhat embarrassed and somewhat touched said, “No, my dear, I am not God.” 

“Then who are you?”  continued the little girl.  Grandma thought for a moment and said, “I am a child of God.”  The little girl, fully satisfied and smiling, said, “I knew there was a connection!”

Source | Paul Coutinho, How Big is Your God?, page 1

PONDER AND CONSIDER

When people come into your life do they see a divine connection?