On April 1, 2011 I outlived my mother. In August of this year, I will outlive my dad. I don’t take being alive for granted for many reasons because remembering my mortality sets me free.
It occurs to me that most of our holidays and holy days are about freedom. The lives of Nicholas of Myra (St. Nick), Patrick of Ireland (St. Pat), and Valentine of Rome include tales of freedom. Nicholas paid the dowries of three poor girls to save them from prostitution. Patrick escaped slavery in Ireland only to return as an adult to share the message of Jesus. Valentine secretly married Christian couples although it was forbidden as married men were less likely to volunteer to be soldiers.
Our uniquely U.S. holidays – Martin Luther King Day, President’s Day, Patriot’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Veterans Day – are all about remembering those who helped set us free or keep us free or dreamed that we might one day be free.
Labor Day marks the freedoms that labor unions created. (Thank you for weekends.) One could make the case that Halloween sets us free to try out new identities.
A sign that a holiday is not a real holiday? When that “holiday” is about enslavement (i.e. Columbus Day) or burden (every Hallmark you-must-buy-a-card-for-this occasion.) This means that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are iffy.
Thanksgiving – in a perfect world – brings freedom from want to mind. And then there’s Christmas. The real Christmas. Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free. Cultural Christmas, on the other hand, often enslaves us.
The beauty of a New Year is that it marks a new beginning when we are free to hope and dream and imagine what the future holds, and we trust that the future holds something wonderful.
In 2016, I will outlive my dad. It’s also possible that my ministry will change. A new president will be elected. Maybe you will get a new job or a fall in love or get healthy or become a new parent. It’s all so wonderful to ponder. It feels good to be alive.
Perhaps the best resolution of all is that we spend this year setting ourselves or someone else free.
Image is Chagall’s America Windows (1977) in the Art Institute of Chicago which “celebrates the country as a place of cultural and religious freedom.”