December brings annual letters with words and pictures from correspondents far and wide, showing deep warm connection with spouses and children and family and friends, shared achievements, and celebrations. Even when the year brings difficult circumstances (and that absolutely does happen), these annual letters select and offer up the best of events to uplift and cheer.
There is a genuine and wonderful art of holiday living. It’s the gift that many people have, of aligning with loved ones in special places with shared activities, greetings, gifts, and rituals to create a space of happiness and good memories to pass from generation to generation. It looks nice. It’s only right and good to share a worthy update in turn. But what?
Well, here is the annual holiday photo: the flourishing rescue geranium from the urn outside our building management office; plus a gift from a dear neighbor, a Nativity scene that stands on display in the window all year long. And for an annual letter? Reading everybody’s news and looking over the family photos, I searched all month for words that are equally joyful and worth reading.
Father Seraphim Aldea at Mull Monastery posted a talk last year with the title “Don’t deny your doubts and your struggles.” His counsel is to be open and honest about the deepest of them, whether it’s loneliness or anything else, and then to walk the next steps between that reality and the faith that whatever happens “God is love, He has created the world out of love in order to save the world through love.”
Tonight the kitchen Bible fell open to Acts 20:24, to what looks like Paul’s own update message: “…neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God.”
The old year is over for us all. The next step awaits.