Remembering Coventry’s Carol

Lisa Brunetti, an artist and friend who blogs from her home in Ecuador, stopped by The Task at Hand recently to share some Christmas memories. While visiting friends who live next to the Catholic church in her town, she noticed many people on their way to Christmas Eve Mass who were carrying the Christ-child from their families’ nativity scenes. The babies were placed on the altar and then, at midnight, each was carried back home and returned to its manger. Her friends’ manger, in front of their shop, was surrounded by chairs. Through the course of the evening, people took turns stopping by, sitting and singing songs until the Baby Jesus was safely home.

It’s a lovely tradition, echoed here in the United States by families and congregations who leave the manger empty until Christmas Day.  Still, it’s worth considering that different contexts can help to transform one culture’s sincere expression of faith into something quite different.  In the United States, we’re clearly tempted toward sentimentality. With Baby Jesus tucked away in his manger, we sigh over the loveliness of his mother, admire the steadfastness of his father, give a nod to his humble surroundings and go our way. What comes next isn’t our concern. Continue reading

An End to Cutting and Choosing

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I never believed the old family story that my first word was “Why?”  Still, there’s no doubt I was an early questioner, indiscriminate in my curiosity. “Where do clouds go when they aren’t here?” “Is it dark inside an egg? Are the baby birds afraid?” “Why don’t you like  Mrs. Wilster?”  “Did God make his nose funny like that?” “Why can’t I have cake for breakfast?”

I was full of questions – about the world, about adults and even about the cloud of secrets I sensed floating across my sunny young life.  Given my willingness to question everything in sight, it seems strange I never asked about my lack of sisters and brothers. Even though my friends had them, siblings still reminded me of woolly wormswalking sticks and puff balls. Some of them were creepy and mysterious. Others appeared to be harmless but capable of annoying mischief. When little kids need help from someone bigger, taller or stronger siblings can be useful, but in the end my friends and I were happiest when they decided to leave us alone. Continue reading