All I want for Christmas: A Lava lamp

Posted: Sunday, December 13, 2009

I really want a lava lamp for Christmas. I wanted one when they first came back out, but there was no way I was going to shell out $30 for a lava lamp. Now they are cheaper, and I can justify $15 for a bit of nostalgia.

Lava lamps are a re-living of the past for me. I spent a lot of time at my grandma's as a kid, and toys were pretty sparse. We had fields to run in, cards to play and a lava lamp to watch.

My brother and I would watch the lava lamp like kids watch Barney now. We would make up stories about a battle between earth and aliens. We would bet on the size of the next glob. And sometimes we would put forward theories about the magic behind the blobs.

Those childhood days with my grandma were not always perfect, but I remember them fondly as a great experience of being loved.

I want a lava lamp now not just because they are cool. I really want a lava lamp because it will bring back the smell of fried chicken, cheating my grandma at rummy and the warmth of sitting by her watching Hee Haw (the only thing that could draw my attention away from the lava lamp).

The presence of a lava lamp in my home will make me smile, remembering her love. It will give me opportunities to tell stories of my childhood to my children. It's like having a reminder of how good and lovely life can be.

The Christmas season brings a great desire to experience a time of feeling loved and comforted. For some people it is a remembering of times past where they felt safe and loved.

There are traditions around this season that are so important to people as a way of holding on to those precious memories. For many people, this season brings the hope of change from past patterns. The Christmas season has been and continues to be a nightmare for many children. Drinking, abuse and the sense of loss are greatly accentuated at this time.

I urge you this season to find the space and time to reclaim good memories of safe places and to be honest about the patterns and pain in your life that need to be changed. I don't fool myself into thinking a lava lamp will do this for me.

As a person of faith, the community gathered around Jesus does what a lava lamp never can. This community gives me a memory of thousands of years where people have experienced love and comfort from God.

We tell so many stories of how people have been fed, healed and forgiven through the presence of God and support of the community. This community also holds up a mirror for me so I do not give into sentimentality about how great things used to be. This community is grounded in speaking the truth to each other about destructive patterns, habits and brokenness that keep us from living fully in the present.

We don't have lava lamps in the church, but it is an idea. We have other concrete ways of helping people remember and relive the experience of being loved, forgiven and made whole. Water is big in the church. We keep some around and every now and then get everyone wet so we can remember what all God has promised and done through water.

Bread and wine are also big with us. We live out how God continues to feed, forgive and love all people not just symbolically but concretely.

There are lots of other things around the church that may not bring back the comfort of fried chicken, rummy and Hee Haw, but definitely bring the comfort and strength of being loved, being forgiven and being made whole.

• Tari Stage-Harvey is pastor at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church.

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