Christmastime comes to us bearing real gifts for heart and soul; however, this season is often complicated, too. We bring to it our experiences and expectations, both of which can cloud the simple, radiant beauty of Advent and Christmastide.
As themes for this issue, there were a dozen we could have chosen and all would have been fitting. But when I prayed and asked the Lord for what this issue ought to be about, His reply startled me in its clarity and single-focus. Kindling Community.
For all the ills and pitfalls of the Christmas season, a focus on kindling community mends them all. Loneliness, sorrow, overspending trying to fill empty hearts, over-exertion trying to live up to expectations, out of control schedules… With our focus simply on kindling community the deepest needs of our hearts will be met, longings will be surprisingly answered, and peace will define our days. Everything else will come into its good and proper alignment.
Kindle is a beautiful word. It means to start a fire, to bring to flame, to light. It also means to nurture, to give birth.
To kindle community requires willingness and intentionality. It requires saying “no” to somethings in order to say “yes” to what matters most. Relationships. To kindle is closely parallel to cultivate. It is to selectively bring into existence and provide the necessary conditions for something to thrive, to flourish. It is an act of incarnation. It is also an act of defiance. To bring light is to defy the darkness.
This issue of Cultivating explores kindling community in a lavish way and is designed to explore this central topic in the context of how we experience and celebrate Christmas. You are truly fêted to a Christmas feast from The Cultivating Project writers: essays, poetry, recipes, interviews, new book recommendations. The beautiful Cultivating Christmas Spotify Playlist and introductions to recommended listening and viewing are rich with opportunities for new enjoyment. In this issue we are happy to offer our new Resources page full of people, tools, places, to help you in fulfilling your callings. We have added Guest Galleries in the SEE page and introduce artwork of painter Kristopher Orr, and one of our newest Cultivating Project team members photographer, Julie Jablonski! I am proud to introduce you poet Susan Mulder, who has also joined Cultivating. And for the first time we are offering a way for you to become involved and help support this beautiful work.
Explore, read, look, try recipes, listen to new music, pray, go to events, find opportunities to serve, practice what others have modeled, rest, discover resources. Enjoy. This feast is for you and it is offered in love.
In these sweet days of Christmastime, I pray that you will purposely make time to rest, be still, find ways to refresh yourself in good ordinary ways, and listen for the sound of angels singing still. I pray also that you will intentionally plan and act to kindle your own community.
When I was in Africa several years ago, I woke up from a remarkable dream with these words lingering in my thoughts. They affected me so that I wrote them down. Later, I made an image with them that hangs in our dining room to this day.
“Communities are like gardens. Like all gardens, they must be tended. Family is our first community.”
This Christmas season, friends, let us commit to kindling community, tending to our families, and making merry! May the Joy that lives in Christmas always be yours!
The image of the dancing bears is one of my own. Many years ago, friend Carolyn Curtis, gave these candleholders to me and they have remained among my favourite gifts. They dance on our sideboard all year long but seem especially merry at Christmas. They always remind me of dancing bears in Narnia!
Lancia E. Smith is an author, photographer, teacher, and business owner. A grateful lover of the Triune God, Lancia is the Founder & Executive Director of Cultivating & The Cultivating Project. She has served in executive management, church leadership, and numerous boards over 30 years. She & her husband Peter have parented 7 children, and have a flock of grandchildren. Lancia loves design, beautiful typography, gardens, being read aloud to by Peter, & every book she ever read by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and George MacDonald.