it’s all about the shepherds

This is the time of year when I surprise myself with my emotional responses to the Christmas story.

We are not churchy people. We don’t go to church regularly, although we do have a family religious guy and a church where we feel more at home than any other, about 50 minutes away. We don’t pray before meals (well, except for big ones like Thanksgiving and Christmas and Easter) but I have prayed with the big boys plenty in the aftermath of Ward’s accident. I don’t pray with them every night anymore, although I do give them a hug and tell them, “God bless you” before I leave the room. (I do it for friends who spend the night, too.) We have them read the Children’s Bible before Christmas and Easter so they know what the days are about.

I believe in prayer, but think that prayer boils down to being in sync with God’s will. Let my will and God’s will be the same. Let me accept that and trust in it. Give me the strength or awareness or humility or whatever I need in order to be this way about events and people in my life.

I am deeply spiritual. I ask for help daily, I’ve begged for peace often, and I’ve gotten it.

But, the church thing. Sigh. I don’t do well with the whole preaching thing. I don’t want an interpreter of God’s will. I’ll ask Him/Her/Us myself, thanks. And I sure don’t want anyone telling me or my kids that if we don’t do XYZ bad things will happen, because they say so, because they know God better. And I think it’s honestly kind of silly to pick apart words in the Bible to try to find out how God feels about things. I mean, just ask if you’re not sure, you know?

And… I know there might be a church I’d enjoy. Unitarian, maybe? But that would involve a good bit of driving, and I’m just not up for it on a Sunday morning.

Someday I want to have a Sunday morning gathering, where whoever wants to can show up and share what is meaningful to them, in a brief and non-preachy way. Like, we’d all just listen for a minute or so, and atheists or agnostics or whomever would be entirely welcome, because we all have things that are meaningful in our lives. And then hold hands and have a moment of silence, and then devote a good hour or two to a group charity project. I’ve dreamed of this extensively, to be honest. I’d call it Meaningful Mornings and even if it were just me doing it, I would love it.

Maybe someday, when the bun is older.

(Remind me in a year or two or three, if you like.)

I digress.

It’s the time of year when I read the Christmas story and weep. The last few years, it’s been a tidal wave of emotion when I read about the shepherds just doing their jobs and being visited by the angels. Not the nativity scene per se, but the scene of the regular guys being given the promise of great joy by the multitude of the heavenly host. Great tidings! Great tidings! It made me weepy during Bethlehem Marketplace this year, as it did last year, and it made me weep when I saw this:

Great tidings! Great tidings!

It’s the time of year when I question my take-it-or-leave-it approach to church. I want my boys to feel the touch of the Divine that I sometimes do. I want them to know that there is more out there, that there’s a reason for all this, that we’re all connected. That God is real.

I fret that the faith I have grew from all those times my parents took my brother and me to church. They never talked about God or faith, and we didn’t pray at meals, either. Honestly, I think they may have been relieved when I put my foot down as a young teenager and flat out refused to go to church any more. Like, I left the sanctuary and was there waiting for them outside after the service. Pretty much put the kibosh on the whole get-all-dressed-up-and-go-to-church-every-Sunday-morning thing.

But. But. Being witnessed to regularly by other people who believe in God is a powerful thing. Do I have my early churchy years to thank for my current faith? Or is it more of a life experience thing, or an innate thing, that brought me to where I am?

Am I doing them a disservice by not taking them to church every Sunday? Do I need to get over my distaste with certain aspects of it in favor of their happiness?

And I hear, amidst this fretting, a firm, patient voice:

What do you want?

I want them to have faith, like I do.

Then live it.

***edited to add: This has been bugging me, although I know it will probably mean nothing to anyone but myself. But this blog is as personal journal as well as a public blog, so I feel the need to clarify the internal dialogue above. After hearing the question, “What do you want?” I didn’t so much get a response (“Then live it”) as I got a quiet acknowledgement that yes, that *is* what I want, and that I should just live my life how I’m going to live it, because I’m the mama they’ve got, and it’ll all be okay. More of a compassionate awareness of my desire than any call to action, if you follow.

A subtle difference, sure, but I wanted to make that correction.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kloppenmum
    Dec 23, 2010 @ 00:34:02

    Church is in the trees and by the beach. It’s your lap when a child climbs up onto it and wants to snuggle. Find it your own way…I say.

  2. kloppenmum
    Dec 23, 2010 @ 00:34:50

    I love the shepherds, too.

    Dec 23, 2010 @ 01:31:22

    Ever since we adopted, the Christmas story has become ever more resonant for me. I now cry when the story is told on our annual (and only) church visit. The season of miracles is even more miraculous when you are the recipient of the gift of a miracle (or Rainbow…). Merry Christmas!

  4. Mama Jamz
    Dec 23, 2010 @ 19:39:21

    That’s nice, kloppenmum. I like the idea of the sanctity of a parent’s lap.

    CAMAMA, you are so right. What bigger gift is there than being allowed to parent a child? And the hugeness of Christmas is indeed so full of miracles.

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