Rev. Ellen's Reflections, December 2017

I hope that everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving weekend. Our Thanksgiving was busy, as our schedule is driven now more by our sons and where they need to be. Our eldest, Sam, was home briefly from college, and tried to visit with as many relatives and friends as he could before he headed back early on Saturday. Henry is in his high school's marching band where, it turns out, Thanksgiving is one of their busiest weekends. We watched him play for the half-time show on Thanksgiving Day before driving out to Stockbridge for a visit with Josh's parents. Sunday, we drove into Quincy to watch him in the Christmas Parade. I never imagined that I would ever be doing either of these things during Thanksgiving.

When I was pregnant with Sam, my mom told me that the hardest part of parenting is the letting go. As I watch my boys grow into young men, I think about that more and more, and how this letting go, as hard as it is sometimes, is also infused with gratitude. I am well aware that this may the last Thanksgiving for a while where Sam will be able to join us, given the career in the Army that lies before him when he graduates this June. While this makes me a little sad, I am also so glad to be with him and Henry, and to just watch them grow into the young men they are becoming. I am grateful not only to be their mom, but to all the people who have been part of their lives-Josh, my partner in parenting; my parents; my in-laws; our extended families, all their teachers and mentors; and of course, this congregation, which has been such an integral part of their lives, offering them a place to explore their values and their faith. As I must let them go to live more and more into their own lives, I find that any sadness or sense of loss I may have is graced by this experience of gratitude.

Letting go-and the experiences of sadness, grief and loss that accompany this process, is a constant. It is not just in parenting, but in so many things in our world, where change seems to come so quickly. At our congregational retreat, one issue that came up was how to deal with the reality that the increasing busyness and stress of people's schedules made it harder and harder for us to "do church" in the ways we used to because we just don't have the volunteer time and energy. In making the decision to change the way we do the Holiday Fair-to piggy-back on the town's tree lighting ceremony on Sunday December 3rd with the selling of donuts and greens instead of the full-blown event we had been doing-is a concrete example of how we are facing this truth. This decision certainly comes with loss. We are having to let go of some fun traditions and community building that came with doing a full-blown Holiday Fair. I think it is important that we honor that we are letting go of something precious here. By naming what is precious, we are also naming what we are grateful for in these traditions. Perhaps this can illuminate how we can give these precious things expression in new ways as our traditions take new forms. Who knows what will emerge?

Walter Brueggemann, one of my favorite biblical scholars, said: "We think in terms of systems and continuities and predictability and schemes and plans. The Bible is to some great extent focused on God's capacity to break those schemes open and to violate those formulae. When they are positive disruptions, the Bible calls them miracles. We tend not to use that word when they are negative, but what it means is that the reality of our life and the reality of God are not contained in most of our explanatory schemes. And whether one wants to explain that in terms of God or not, it is nonetheless the truth of our life that our lives are arenas for all kinds of disruptions, because it doesn't work out the way we planned." The stories of this season, whether from the Solstice, Hanukkah or Christmas, are about trusting in a time of unknowing and darkness, in a Spirit of Mystery, in the possibility of these positive disruptions and what might emerge that we do not expect. Hope is born out of our letting go and meeting with gratitude more than fear the unexpected possibilities that find an invitation to emerge.

In faith,
Rev. Ellen

Contact Info

First Parish Church
2 Westford St
Chelmsford MA 01824

978-256-5133