Wednesday, December 16, 2009

ADVENT COUNTDOWN 10

If I had to paint a picture
of a man I think I'd wait
Till he'd fought his selfish battles
and had put aside his hate.
I'd not catch him at his labors
when his thoughts are all of pelf,
On the long days and the dreary
when he's striving for himself.
I'd not take him when he's sneering,
when he's scornful or depressed,
But I'd look for him at Christmas
when he's shining at his best.
Man is ever in a struggle
and he's oft misunderstood;
There are days the worst that's in him
is the master of the good,
But at Christmas kindness rules him
and he puts himself aside
And his petty hates are vanquished
and his heart is opened wide.
Oh, I don't know how to say it,
but somehow it seems to me
That at Christmas man is almost
what God sent him here to be.
—Edgar A. Guest, "At Christmas."
———————
[The word "Advent" comes from the Latin adventus, which means "coming." In the Christian church Advent is that period of expectant waiting leading up to the Nativity of Jesus. Some prefer to think of it as a "Countdown to Christmas." If you've ever had an Advent calendar, you know that each day prior to Christmas has it own window, usually hidden behind a little flap or door, behind which is a scene or verse from the Scriptures. I thought it would be fun to take that idea and post a daily photo with a bit of text below—a stanza or two from a Christmaspoem or a few lines of prose from a favorite Christmas story. The photos aren't intended to be tied with the text. Some are just ones I meant to run with a post this past year, but for whatever reason, didn't. To set these posts apart from my regular—or irregular!—ones, I've given them a different typeface and look.]

24 comments:

The Lucy and Dick Show said...

Beautiful poem and sentiments!

Wanda said...

Very moving photo and poem, I loved it...the correlation of the best and worst in man with the scene of a beautiful sky and those "turkey vultures" was brilliant! Everything can come together to make beauty in this world.

schererart said...

A lovely post in every way.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Lucy and Dick…

I'm glad you liked both—and glad you stopped by the riverbank. You're welcome any time.

BTW, loved your post on the candles…

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Wanda…

Beauty is not only in the eye of the beholder, but in the choice of how we choose to see. So often, I think, we simply fail to see the joy and blessings before us because of the attitude we bring to our vision.

I do believe there is something in our hearts that respond to this season, that we find ourselves—perhaps for the only time during the year—living for others at least a little. What joy we miss not keeping the Christmas attitude all year long!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Schererart…

Thank you. And thank you for commenting. Please know you're always welcome here on the riverbank…

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Scribe: Your selection of poem beautifully compliments your photograph. Both moving.

Sometimes the worst does conquer the best in us. It is comforting to know the good is not vanquished,but is still there, and if we but open our heart - the goodness can emerge.

P.S. I appreciate your offer re the certainty of an afterlife, but have resisted taking you up on it. I do not want to impose on your time right now - maybe after the holidays.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Yes, Scribe, for most of us Christmas is a time of goodwill, although they do say that the divorce rate goes up at Christmas and that families often fallout - but lets look on the happy side and wish each other lots of goodwill at Christmas.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bonnie…

This bit of verse speaks to me because I can see myself within its lines. There are days when my darkened heart overpowers any hint of goodness and light—often unconsciously, but occasionally, I'm ashamed to say, with full intention aforethought. I do exactly what I shouldn't, what I know is wrong…and what I really don't even want to do.

And yet I know—because I can feel it there being repressed—that if I'll only surrender my will to my pleading heart, "goodness can emerge." I do believe mankind is imbued with a spiritual nature, an innate capacity separate from the physical and intellectual. I believe in wonder and joy and love.

One thing I know—which this poem touches upon—is that come Christmas time, folks seem to open their hearts to one another more consciously than at any other time of the year. The season is not about expensive presents or fancy decorations—it is about sharing and caring, about thinking and feeling beyond ourselves; it is about belief in what gives meaning and purpose to our life. It is about who we are.

Write whenever you wish; we'll make it a conversation between friends.

Jenn Jilks said...

I used to buy Advent Calendars for the kids. Up until last year. I loved them. Lovely series of posts, good to read as I take a break from shovelling... 6cm last night on top of our 60 cm in My Muskoka making the total about 26"! But everyone is helping everyone else out. People have been so good to each other, and not because of the season.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

I can easily understand why the Christmas season pressurizes relationships and can push them to or past the brink of change. We've made it all so materialistic—so much about "stuff" and "image" and not about one another. We are seldom more than a step or two away from being—and certainly acting like—spoiled children.

How is it we can all have so much and know so little?

We're quick to bemoan our fate—but the truth is, life almost always presents us with choices. I choose to find joy and celebration in this season. Just as I can right this moment look out my deskside window…the river is still discolored but falling; the temperature is 15˚F and rising; and my white ducks have already had their breakfast. I'm not even coughing quite so much. I think that makes it a wonderful day already!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jenn…

I'm glad you're enjoying the posts. I never grew up knowing anything about Advent calendars—but I liked them from the first time I saw one. I liked the daily ritual of lifting the little flap and finding the illustration underneath. I liked the countdown business. I liked how it helped add focus and anticipation to the coming event.

These posts were the only way I could figure to recreate something of that on my blog.

I really liked this: "People have been so good to each other, and not because of the season." I think that's a lovely and wonderful thing to say about your friends and neighbors.

Don't overdo the shoveling…

Gail said...

HI GRIZZ-

This beautiful image I believe is my favorite so far. I love cloudy darker days and I can feel the cold with my eyes. I want to sit by a window in that house and sip hot tea with Brandy while a nice fire glows.
ANd the words about man ( or woman) on their best at Christmas, 'tis true, yet so too is any other random day. :-) And by the wa, I love the word "tis", and we only use it at Christmas-time., I think it should be heard all year. "Tis" just my thought it 'tis'. :-)

Love to you
Gail
peace.....

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

No fireside brandy for the next few hours, I must brave the precincts of commerce beyond my riverbank shire for food and gifts.

In my household, "'tis" gets bandied about quite frequently…but you're right, now 'tis the season for its most frequent usage by the Celtically slighted.

'Tis an all around shame, that…

Hildred and Charles said...

The picture is beautifully composed and edited Griz, and the poem so very insightful. In addition I enjoy reading the comments to your wonderful Advent efforts, and your replies. Great conversations.

When our children were small we had an Advent calendar of course, and in addition a small log containing an Advent candle which was lit at dinner each Advent Sunday. At the end of the meal the children (and the parents) drew secret names, and without making the name known it behooved each child and parent to do something nice each day of the following week for the one whose name they had drawn. Secretly and without any hope of recognition...

It helped to foster the spirit of a loving and selfless Christmas, and our grown up children still talk of this practice when they reminisce.

This way of recognizing the meaning of Advent came from a much loved Rector and his wife and greatly influenced our Christmas preparations.

TheChicGeek said...

Beautiful photograph, Scribe. I wish that "mankind" could maintain the loving and giving spirit of Christmas all year. I do try to live my life with a "heart opened wide" and share that kindness with all I come in contact with. Not always an easy task, but a worthy one.
I am thankful to have a living and loving God through Christ to remind me of the importance of that task and bring me back on track when that goodness evades me.

I do have my difficult days when I am anything but good...I can be very naughty...lol :) Teasing...sort of :)

Thank you for these lovely words and a reminder of goodness. I will have a better day today for it :)
Smiles and Hugs flying to you, Scribe :)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Hildred and Charles…

I've never heard of such an idea or practice, but that Advent log and the drawing of names—and what they entailed over the following week—sounds like a wonderful and absolutely lovely family tradition. I can see why it has so stuck in the memory of your children even today…

I do hope everyone enjoys these posts. While I like answering folks back, I try desperately in my replies to any comments to never come off sounding pretentious, like I'm trying to pose as some magniloquent self-styled sage. I've messed up plenty in my life…and still do. I'm an exceedingly poor example of practically everything, often not smart enough to take my own advice. There's no good reason why I should have been blessed so much—and still am, even more, every day. What I want to do most with this blog is share all of that I can, in any way possible.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Kelly (CG)…

Well, having just returned from a few hours amid the urban jungle, with its attendant roads (jammed), parking lots (crowded), and stores (frothing with grim capitalists and cart-wielding kamikaze grannies who've obviously been watching too much NASCAR), I must say my own love for fellow man has been sorely tested.

Some folks out there could benefit from a good dose of swine flu and about ten days on the horizontal, feeling like a hippo is practicing the Macarena on their spine while wondering if that thing they just coughed up might have been a portion of a lung.

Yes…I'm rather out of sorts and thinking the EPA ought to test the cup of human kindness for poison.

I apparently need to read my earlier reply to you…

Bernie said...

Grizz, what a marvellous photo, how you managed the beautiful moon with the vulture to me is just amazing......actually your chosen poem today brought a tear to my eye as it touches all of us in a personal way I'm sure, it did me rather deeply......:-) hugs

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bernie…

I believe you're mistaking a clumping of clouds for the moon…but that is a buzzard (turkey vulture) in the pre-storm sky (actually two birds are in the shot, though one is difficult to see.) As is often the case with my photography, it owes as much to luck as skill.

I'm glad something in today's verse touched your heart…

TheChicGeek said...

Grannies watching too much NASCAR...you've set me to giggles again :)
Deep breaths now....LOL

Home sweet home :)

Enjoy your evening, Scribe :)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Kelly (CG)…

That's be cart-wielding kamikaze grannies!

Nighty nite…

LDH said...

Hello! Stopping by for the first time and had to smile... I just posted an Edgar Guest poem as well. I have a few posts that include him.

Looking forward to perusing some of your older posts. Looks like an awesome blog you have here.

Kindly, ldh

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

LDH…

I'm certainly pleased you found you way to the riverbank…and hope you'll return often. You're always welcome.

I'm also amazed someone else ran an Edgar Guest poem—he's pretty much forgotten nowadays; too folksy and homespun, and with not quite the ear for language of, say, James Whitcomb Riley. But I like some of his stuff, and he does often get right to the heart of things.

Again, I'm glad you enjoyed your first visit.