Often when we think of what piques wonder in us this time of year, the focus is on the mysteries of life, from the birth of a baby to the sheer beauty of our Earth that eludes our full comprehension, moments of awe in our lives. There is a childlike quality about our human response to this time of year. With less sunlight each day, our collective reaction is to fill the world with colored lights, music, gifts, and gratitude for the wonder of it all.
As I have gotten older, I find myself resisting being swept up in the wonder of the holiday season, easier to bah humbug at the habits of consumerism and shake my head at the religious myths that swirl in the air of December. Yet, witnessing the delight of a child this time of year is enticement enough to join in the joy and delight of the child still inside each of us.
I remember that one of our Unitarian Universalist sources is wonder and its power to renew the spirit and create openness to create and uphold life. So, I do choose to let myself embrace the holiday season when I can, singing carols loudly, hanging lights and finding renewal with my companions.
Sometimes, there is a journey before one can get to wonder, much like the practice it takes to get to be good at anything. What fills me with profound sentiment and wonder most days is something less shiny than the holiday lights and tinsel, it is steadfastness.
The regular care we offer one another, the commitment of giving our time and resources to the greater good, the will to keep going, trying, and believing in and making a better world is wonder filled. Every sunrise is not glorious, but each day it rises there is a chance for a spectacular surprise. Octavia Butler says, “First, forget inspiration. Habits are more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not.”
Trusting in steadfastness is an element of what makes church and religious education work. We go to be with others who share our values, we connect, and we repeat. It is not always what we need or wanted, it might be awkward filled reflection, but the effort of being there together shapes us into community.
Last month, a group of us visited a Jewish congregation as part of our religious education program. Shabbat service was new for most of our group. We followed along best we could, sitting and standing with our kippots bobby-pinned to our heads, trying to follow along with the Hebrew Torah readings. What we learned that day was experienced not taught. We learned in that in that congregation, when guests enter, they are generously welcomed, multiply times publicly, as Rabbi Joel made our entrance his priority. We saw how the sharing of readings from ancestors brought people together, how a yearning to question and willingness to learn made for good community building across faith traditions.
This holiday season, let us also recognize the miracle of steadfastness, showing up, again and again, the wonder of being in an authentic relationship with one another.
Rev. Kimberlee Tomczak Carlson
Minister of Religious Education