‘Tis the season. This month holds many special holy days for a variety of faith traditions: In addition to Christmas (Christian) and Hannukah (Jewish), Muslims celebrate Ashura, Buddhists celebrate Bodhi Day, the pan-African community celebrates Kwanzaa, Zoroastrians celebrate the anniversary of the death of Zoroaster, and many groups celebrate solstice – the longest night and the return of longer days.
Of course, this year our celebrations are tempered by the pandemic. Closed borders mean I will not be able to spend the holiday with my family this year, and I know many others share this particular sadness with me. So I’m packing up gifts, preparing to ship them to my family south of the border. I’m also packing a few “gifts” for myself as I load boxes with 11 years of accumulated stuff in order to join my partner in Kelowna. The last frantic packing will mean several surprises when the unpacking commences.
We are not alone in packing goodies and gifts to be opened on another day. All around us the natural world is packing, too. Plants and trees are packing starches away deep in their roots. At just the right time in the spring, they will unpack these gifts, turning the starches into the carbohydrates needed to reinvigorate themselves in the spring. Squirrels, marmots and other four-legged ones are packing away nuts and food to get them through a period of deep winter hibernation.
This kind of packing requires some discernment. What do we need to pack away to insure new life next spring? What do we need to pack away to insure new life in the next generation? And the generation after that? What special gift might we consider packing to give to those who will come after us?
We’ve packed lots of boxes with things we know we’ll need in our new home. We’ve also packed several boxes for local thrift stores, too. And hauled a bunch of stuff up to ReStore. And filled our recycling bin – and the neighbours’ – several times over. And, of course, there has been a trip to the dump. Ouch. That one hurt.
We’ve had some fun, too. We’ve packed up some of our goods for sale and then chosen to gift those goods to the buyer. We love the idea of a gifting economy, one that isn’t concerned with making the maximum dollar profit off goods, and suggests instead that when we no longer need something we pass it on to someone who does. The delight that has come as people respond with surprise and joy has been more valuable to us than the few dollars we might have made from the sale.
Right now the natural world is packing up what it needs to continue living through this winter and into next spring, when we will be gifted as spring unfurls in a splash of colours and amazing fragrances. One morning soon we will awaken to the excited chatter of birds returning. The bees will follow and soon our world will be green and filled with new life. All of this takes planning and, of course, careful packing.
‘Tis the season. The season of letting go of what is no longer life-giving. Just like the trees release their leaves to make room for what is to come next year. ‘Tis the season of packing the life-giving elements to be drawn upon when the spring of new life arrives.
‘Tis the season of celebrating faith. Whatever faith you embrace, whatever faith feeds your soul, ‘tis the season to celebrate the cycle of life and death and life again, knowing that the darkness of December’s short days is at work to create all that is necessary for new life to emerge in the new year. May it be so.
Rev LeAnn Blackert works with Michele Walker and Lesly Comrie in ministry with Wild Church in Kamloops, Sorrento and the Okanagan (wildchurchbc.org). LeAnn and her two four-legged children are still unpacking those “gifts” in their new home in Kelowna. She will continue to help facilitate Wild Church gatherings in Kamloops and Sorrento, as well as in the Okanagan area. She looks forward to winter solstice and the turn back to lengthening light in our days.