For each one of us, there is a desert to travel. A star
to discover. And a being within ourselves to bring to life...
Tonight is my favorite night of the year. In this quiet moment,
Simple Abundance is not a philosophy but reality perfected.
My heart is full of gratitude; striving for simplicity in our holiday
obligations has preserved my sanity; order has kept all moving parts
moving; a sense of harmony has emerged because I finally stopped
long enough to balance work and family at least for the holidays;
beauty surrounds me in the festive decorations throughout the house,
now illuminated and intensified with the glow of candles and a cozy
fire; and joy, the child of laughter and contentment has arrived, the
guest of honor at our family feast.
After dinner, after we have each opened just one gift and other
members of the household are snug in their beds, it's time for my own
private Christmas ritual: the preparation of a Nativity tray, an English
medieval custom that never fails to bring the true meaning of this special night
into sharp focus.
Legend has it that on the night of the Nativity, whosoever ventures
out into great snows bearing a succulent bone for a lost and lamenting
hound, a wisp of hay for a shivering horse, a warm cloak for a stranded
wayfarer, a garland of bright berries for one who has worn chains, a dish
of crumbs for all huddled birds who thought their song was dead, and
sweetmeats for little children who peer from lonely windows--
whosoever prepares this simple abundance tray, "shall be proffered
and returned gifts of such astonishment as will rival the hues of the
peacock and harmonies of heaven."
So I quietly take down from the top of the cupboard a huge willow tray,
line it with a cloth, and place on it a juicy bone from our standing rib roast
dinner; a bowl of cat food; hay from the bale I used for Autumn decorations;
a warm coat someone has outgrown or grown tired of; a string of cranberries;
a dish of fresh bread crumbs and sunflower seeds; a plate of sugarplums.
Quietly, I sneak out of the door and bring it down to the top of the stone wall in
front of our house near the street. Sometimes there is snow, sometimes there
is not, but it is always cold. I look up to find a bright star; is it the star? It is
my eyes. I'm freezing. Now it is impossible on this holy night not to think of
the homeless as I settle the tray into a drift or dirt. Two thousand years ago
another family depended on a stranger's charity. They didn't find any until
an ordinary, harried, exhausted woman stopped long enough to feel her
heart tug. Mine now tugs with guilt; that a basket and presents were dropped
off earlier this afternoon salves the sting a bit, but I'm disappointed and
saddened that I didn't ,don't do more. I will next year, I promise. Sometimes I
keep those well - intentioned promise, sometime real life distracts me from
Real Life. I don't do enough, and both spirit and I know it.
I started preparing the Nativity tray because an almost palpable mysticism
seemed to surround the legend. I was also very interested in the promise
of astonishing gifts to rival the harmonies of heaven. Every year when I go
on Christmas morning to collect the tray, many of the offerings are gone.
One year, even the coat. For all I know, I'm the squirrels' Santa Clause.
But it does give me happy pause, wondering whose Christmas dreams
came true. And the astonishing gifts to rival heaven? Everywhere I look.
But the best one is that now I can truly see them....
(from Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach)
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