Gratitude flows from the recognition that who we are and what we have are gifts to be received and shared.” — Henri J.M. Nouwen
Do you hear what I hear? Carols of Christmas ringing into the New Year…
A song, a song, high above the tree, with a voice as big as the sea. Go tell it on the mountain….over the hills and everywhere.
A new song resonates carol-like with me during this Twelve Days of Christmas, while gliding into the New Year toward the celebration of Epiphany:
Do you hear the people sing, singing the song of angry men. It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again. When the beating of your heart echoes the beating of the drums, there is a life about to start when tomorrow comes.
The days from Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, and the twelve days of Christmas are a naturally reflective time. Always the spirit of solstice is to usher in the light, making our own spirits brighter with ever longer daylight.
And, always this time casts its magic for me, as I imagine wonderful possibilities, in anticipation of the New Year. It’s a time of transformation. With each calendar day comes renewed hope for peace to break out across the planet. On Christmas Day we pray for peace for people everywhere…to see the star, to dance joyfully with the winter aurora, to find goodness and light in their dreams.
Christmas Day 2012 held its own magic. It was the first time my siblings and spouses had no other familial obligations. While we had a large family gathering planned the weekend after, on Christmas Day we discovered we were free – all but one brother who was flying in that day. We’d meet when he arrived.
The much anticipated movie, Les Misérables,was opening in theaters Christmas Day. We decided it would be fun to spend the afternoon together while waiting, experiencing some sibling togetherness and this amazing film.
Director Tom Hooper [The King’s Speech] set out to create a big screen version of the beloved musical Les Misérables, which told Victor Hugo’s tragic 19th Century French tale of redemption of prisoner Jean Valjean. .
The entire movie is sung, and sung as performed, with no adlibbing. We knew that; some of us liked and some didn’t so much. I loved it. I loved the telling of this epic story – on screen—with the emotional power of authentic song. The drumbeat of the of the music reverberated in my heart long after leaving the theater; and it’s echoing still.
I’m sure many will view the film through their particular religious or political lens. But here’s my perspective.
With all the cultural upheavals in 2012, and with the drama of the Mayan calendar shifting — much like a Y2K scenario (already 12 years ago?) – I kept thinking about the positive impact this film could have, coming out now.
While on the edge of a transformational time in civilization, perhaps, we’ve also find ourselves discussing the precarious precipice of a fiscal cliff. Would we survive being on the brink on New Year’s Eve? Would decision be made, simply creating another cliff, and another? To my mind, we’re on the brink of disasters or solutions in many areas.
Marianne Williamson, author of A Return to Love, shared this sentiment in a Facebook posting:
In the United States today, we act as though we have many different problems….health care, the economy, terrorism, drug addiction, education and so forth. But in reality, they’re all expressions of a common underlying problem; a disconnect from our hearts, a loss of a natural connection to the universe. A nation is more than just separate groups of constituencies strung together for geographical or political benefit; a nation is a unified matrix of humanity, a panoply of different ethnicities bonded together by fealty to principles of liberty, justice and brotherhood. In a way, America is deciding right now whether we really want to BE a nation. We’ve sold our national soul, and it’s time to take it back.
Les Misérables, and Lincoln, as well, are pertinent films to our times, much like the favorite Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. Countless media folks wonder: Are we going to be Bedford Falls or Potterville.
In my lifetime, I can’t recall encountering so much polarity in politics, or religion, or just about anything else. How ironic. Perhaps the Apocalypse is us.
For me, George Bailey and Jean Valjean discovered — through their trials — the one thing that saved their souls — the transformative power of love, the transformative power of gratitude.
Who can forget George Bailey running through the streets of Bedford Falls in the snow, shouting out his new found thankfulness for the wonder of family, friends and community? Appreciation can soften the Mr. Potter mindset in all of us.
“The practice of gratitude,” writes author Angeles Arrien in her book Living in Gratitude, “bestows many benefits. Anger, arrogance, jealousy melt in its embrace. Fear and defensiveness dissolve. Gratitude diminishes barriers to love and evokes happiness, keeping alive what has meaning for us.”
You can feel this theme rippling through the lyrics of Les Misérables. It’s wonderful to be reminded in such an epic format – the movies.
We each face our own Apocalypse, I believe, until we awaken to discover this power within us. We come to the point where we realize that we can go over our personal cliff – and survive. It is an Epiphany, to be sure, that each of us arrives at in our own way, our own time. We discover that, like Jean Valjean, we can seek and find — the light in the twilight of a winter moon, the sun of invincible summer coming once again to shine in our hearts.
There is a life about to start when tomorrow comes. When we create the blueprint for our new year, our resolutions, we can give thanks for the seasons of memories we’ve lived and for possibilities yet to come. We can aspire to allow gratitude to wrap our hearts in joy each day, in a new way, all year.
We can, if we so desire, allow the spirit of Christmas to sparkle naturally. As Danish theologian Sören Kirkegaard wrote: What wine is so sparkling, so fragrant, so intoxicating, as possibility?
When we gaze into the looking glass, or the wine glass, what possibilities will we see at the New Year, and beyond?
There may be snow advisories outside, but inside our hearth, heart and home we can be at peace. We can share that peace. We can be our own aurora dancing, authentically being who we are meant to be.
Then we will hear the song; and it will be ours. We can tell it on the mountain, echoing high above the trees. With gratitude flowing in our hearts, we can sing the music of the people as each new tomorrow comes.
Les Misérables, the musical, the movie
New York Times: The Wretched Lift Their Voices
Christmas Carol: Do You Hear What I Hear?
America: The National Catholic Review — Rev. Charles Klamut’s blog : “That Man is Me” — about his life changing experience with a fictional French bishop
The Deacon’s Bench: Deacon Greg Kandra’s blog discusses a feminist view about the women of Les Miserables and in another blog Deacon Kandra focus on 6 things that struck him about the movie.