Happy holidays! 'Tis officially the season, for those of us who identify in one way or another, often cautiously, as Christian --- the first Sunday in Advent, the start of a new church year.
But Hanukkah will be observed Dec. 6-14 this year and then there's the Winter Solstice, too, older than both, on Dec. 22. Feel free to wish friends, family and perfect strangers a "Merry Christmas" somewhere in the neighborhood of Dec. 24, if you like; until then, "a blessed Advent" will do. But "Happy holidays" works at any time.
It's the "shalom" of it all that's important, not the precise wording.
The Advent candles are in place and we'll light the first this morning, then three more on Sundays that follow as the season advances and --- finally --- the Christ candle on Dec. 24. Incarnation!
The liturgical color for Advent traditionally has been purple, symbolizing repentance, in part because Advent once was looked upon as a "little Lent," a season of introspection and repentance in addition to hopeful waiting.
There's something to be said for that. We all have a lot to think about as this troublesome year ends with the lighting of candles against winter's darkness. And more than a few regrets, too.
There's nothing in the least complicated about the way, the truth and the way of life prescribed by that Palestinian Jew Christians acknowledge literally or symbolically as the Incarnation.
"Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." (Matthew 22:35-40)
Why in the world do we have so much trouble with that?
Here's an appropriate Advent hymn, recorded during the late September interfaith prayer service led by Pope Francis in the great hall of of the 9/11 Memorial Museum, on bedrock at the base of where the twin towers once stood.