The Advent Writings, Day 12: Meditare

Meditare: meditate, think about; reflect on
I think meditation has gotten a bum rap. Of course, I’m a child of the 70’s, where transcendental meditation became a “thing.” So all of a sudden something that we’re told to do with scripture became Eastern mysticism, and we had to avoid it like the plague.
By “we,” of course, I’m referring to the semi-conservative but still great and excellent way I was raised in the faith. So I guess I’m saying “me” instead of “we.” Hee hee hee. Whee.
So instead of meditating on scripture, we were “thinking on” scripture, “focusing on” scripture, “keeping your mind on” scripture, “spending time with,” “dwelling on,” “pondering,” “contemplating,” “considering,” etc.
That’s an awful lot of baggage that could be simply replaced with “meditate.” So I shall. And frankly, when I think of meditation, I don’t get an image of someone in the lotus position, fingers in the “okey dokey” position on their knees, blissed-out expression on their face, and the melodious sound of “ooohhhmmm…” coming from their lips.
If that image does come to mind, it’s usually to the sound of joints cracking and “oooooowwwwwwcccccchhhhhhh!!!!” coming from their lips. “Bwwaaahhh haaahhh haaaahhh” is the sound coming from my lips. Strange looks from those nearby are usually the results.
What then, I asks myself, are we talking about when we say meditate? And myself responds, “Well, dufus…” Then a fight breaks out ’cause I know that myself shouldn’t call I dufus, and we’ve discussed this time and again, but apparently someone in this conflicted being hasn’t gotten the memo and insists on continuing this naughty behavior.
And this is certainly not the season to be on the naughty list.
Meditate, in my unlearned and non-scholarly opinion, is something like watering a tomato plant. It’s not just splashing a few drops of liquid on the parched soil, then going on your merry way, expecting to see a thriving and flourishing plant when next we check in, but rather giving the plant what it needs. Meditating is like giving the plant sufficient water, not just a few drops, and having that essential nourishment soak in, going all through the soil to reach the roots, to be taken in and spread throughout the plant.
When we meditate on something, we’re allowing time for it to sink in, to reach the roots and spread through us.
This can apply to a big and difficult decision – we can’t just take a look at it, kick into decision mode, and have at it. We have to take some time, whatever time we have, to let it roll around in our heads, look at it from different angles, and make the connections that allow us to finally make a good decision.
Meditation (or something like it) can be how we think of friends and family, letting their places in our lives replay in our minds, enriching our heart’s response to them, making us better able to extend love, grace and patience not only to them, but to others as well.
I guess we’re talking about deep and mindful consideration here. Let’s take this over to Advent, shall we?
It’s so easy to keep the Christmas story on the shallow level. After all, the decorations, the parties and events, the music, the lights and candles and tons of goodies – they all rush in and seem to fill all the empty spaces. Their sheer momentum sweeps us along, making enough noise to silence our questions, providing enough sights to keep us from truly seeing, and making us think that all the dark spaces are truly and wonderfully lit. We hear the stories, we keep the traditions, we follow along with what we’ve done before. It’s familiar, comfortable, warm and fuzzy, and totally alright, even wonderful in and of itself.
But it’s not meditation. It’s not reaching a deeper level, getting to the roots and penetrating our beings.
“Dude, lighten UP! It’s CHRISTMAS, man! Can’t you just relax and have some holly jolly yourself? Does your fruitcakephobia have to bring out your grinch in philosopher’s clothing? Can’t you keep your pondering a little more upbeat?”
For Christmas, the answer is yes. I’m just as capable of having wild, merry, excited, warm and fuzzy Yule as anyone else. Actually, sans 200 or so pounds, I’m more capable this year than any other of getting my jingle on. The former fat man will bring it on Christmas day. (Not sure what “it” is, but I’ve still got a few days to figure that out…)
But we’re not talking about Christmas – we’re talking about Advent. And that’s where I take a sharp left turn internally. For many, many years, I went through the motions with none of the substance. So much so that when my mom died, I really wasn’t sure what Christmas looked like anymore. Much of the joy went away for me.
(This is not to say that it became a train wreck – lovely times were had, my family is still there, some things changed, but much {very much} remains. I am blessed, I am thankful, I am touched by love and grace.)
I was wandering through the season blind and deaf. The few drops of water never reached the roots. And I never took in enough to grow and be nourished. I lived, but I didn’t thrive. I moved, but I wandered. I saw and heard but I didn’t feel. Last year, with all the physical and mental changes happening so quickly, Advent was madness.
Which brings us to this year. These writings. And the reason I seem to have gone from holly jolly to bah, humbug!… I’m trying, imperfectly, to mindfully appreciate Advent, to walk slowly through it and see the details with my new eyes, to hear the songs and story as if for the first time.
(If you think I’m way serious in this happy holiday season, you ain’t seen nothing yet – Lent is coming…)
For me, I see the need to meditate on Advent, to allow these days of focusing on our King, His arrival, and His presence to permeate my whole being. The outward trappings – lights, decorations, parties, even some of the traditions – they seem to be moving to the background, while the message – prepare a way for the Lord! – is coming to the foreground. As I take it in, slowly, mindfully, I’m becoming aware of His presence in my life, and how He is preparing me for this new year. I know there are changes coming, challenges and blessings, questions and (hopefully) some answers, joy and sadness, and now is the time to get grounded and planted, so that everything to come will be with my hand in His.
It’s not that I’m taking things too seriously, becoming a grinch, or turning my back on Christmas joy. I’m simply taking a longer path to get there. When we get to the big day, which is coming up all too quickly, I’ll have arrived with the others, ready to celebrate with a full and happy heart. Until then, I remain aware, mindful, slowly considering what this all means, now and in the days to come.
I meditate on the timeless story of redemption and the wonder of it all. Holly jolly? Perhaps not. Deeply joyful? Definitely.
Meditare: meditate, think about; reflect on
“but Mary quietly treasured these things in her heart and thought about them often.”
Luke 2:19 (NLT)

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