Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Greetings, 2012

Christmas Greetings, my friends, 

A bit of  history — I’ve been sending these “letters” out since 1979. They started out in the typical holiday format, chronicles of what I’d been up to that year, etc. I did this for a couple of years and by the third one I decided I was tired of spending all that verbiage on my exploits, such as they were. So … the next time out I used the Christmas letter as a way to offer some sort of creative writing for the Season — a poem, story, a song — something that seemed more like a gift than a recap, blah, blah. Now a big piece of the shift in this emphasis is that as a bachelor, I have no one to talk about but me — no spouse, kids, not even a pet. (Which is fine by me.) Since you folks seem to like these Yuletide ramblings of mine and have been gracious enough to say so, I’ll continue.

To recap then, the year in brief — This past year I had my 65th birthday and have been celebrating all year long by traveling, playing music and visiting friends. Some places I’ve been — Columbus, OH; Breckenridge Village in Tyler, TX; Pittsburgh, TX; NYC (Prior to Sandy’s devastation); Atlanta, GA; Charlotte, NC; Wilton, CT; Townsend, MA; Denver, CO; Kansas City, MO. These visits took place in June, October and November, mostly via Amtrak, of course. Every stop was full of warm welcomes, great times with friends and opportunities to make music of all kinds in all sorts of venues. Of course at home I’ve been very busy doing my local music thing — playing and writing. One of the many highlights of the year was being able to do arranging for and performing in the Wilshire Baptist Church program Hanging of the Green on December 2nd. This year the tone was specifically jazz and man, I loved it. We had the very talented contributions of Garrett and Luke Wingfield, Mark McKenzie, Jon Hock, Russ Allor, Lyndsey Jones and of course all the Wilshire folk from the church music program there. It was a great way to start off the Christmas Season. I actually could go on and on with how much fun it’s been to be 65 this year but I’ll stop so I can get to the “meat” of this epistle — leastways I hope it’s got some substance to it.

To quote a portion of  Lee Mendelson’s lyric for the TV special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” — “Christmas time is here, happiness and cheer, fun for all, the children call their favorite time of year”.

And yet I’m betting that not every one of you reading this epistle are feeling that way at all. For some of you this is a difficult time, a stressful time and perhaps a time of sorrow as well. And so I thought this year I’d try and say something to you, for you. You see if Christmas doesn’t have a message for you too then it’s not much of a message is it.

It’s a Small Word, After All …

A baby was born, long ago on a Christmas morn in a manger, etc.

And the aching soul, having borne one too many burdens may well be tempted to say, “That’s nice” or perhaps even more harshly, “ So what?” What indeed?

What does a birth of a Jewish kid some 2000 or more years ago have to say to me now?     

It’s a good question and it deserves a good answer. However, I don’t have one — at least not exactly. I don’t have one custom made for you as you try and make sense of that which makes no sense. I don’t have one that makes the pain go away or fills the empty heart. But what I do have is this … hope.
It’s a small word, easily lost among the clichés of the world and not hard to submerge beneath a sea of cynicism and anger. But let’s think about this word for a moment.

What if hope were not just a word but a person? A person who knew first hand about heartache and loneliness and  being abandoned. A person who’s birth was cause for violence and greed and hatred for some and at the same time, an occasion to bring out the whole angelic choir — (Trumpets included, I’ll betcha) — for others.

It was the kind of birth that was so remarkably unremarkable in its locale as to be ludicrous. If this is God’s idea of how to introduce eternal hope to the world, well … man, what could you have been thinking. This baby boy is it? This is the hope we’ve been waiting for? And I suspect He was smiling as He was saying, “Yes, just wait and see.”

I guess that’s the hardest part of hope sometime, the waiting. But turns out God was right. Jesus did more than “make good”, he “made good” by making miracles and making the lives of people better, people who most folk had given up on. Well, I’d say when hope looks like that then it’s worth putting your faith in or at least investigating.

Well, that’s what people of faith, me included, believe about Jesus. He was/is the embodiment of hope, that God is not “asleep at the switch”, even when it seems He is.

I wish for all of you, who find sadness an unwelcome companion this Christmas, the hope that He brings, that He ushered into this crazy, mixed-up, unfair, unjust world that first Christmas years ago when he was born. It’s a hope as vital and alive as the heart that receives the gift of love and gives the gift of love. And with all my heart I wish that kind of hope for you this Christmas and the whole year through.

Merry Christmas (Anyway),

George Gagliardi
December, 2012

Monday, April 2, 2012

Death at Easter?

Whoa, what’s wrong with this picture?
Death at Easter, indeed.
Aren’t you forgetting something, pal.
Easter is when He arose, not when He died.
Besides who wants to think about something so gloomy.
It’s Spring and, depending on how the weather cooperates,
You’ve got sunshine, beautiful blossoms, birds singing
And heck, you’ve even got the Easter bunny
What’s this nonsense about death at Easter, anyway
Death is so final, so morbid, so … well, real.
You see it occurred to me that you can’t really have a resurrection
Without someone or something dying first
Now those of us who profess to have faith
Or those wish that they did
Or even those who’d like to be able to believe in something or someone
Will buy in on some level that something happened that first Easter
People of faith, such as myself, believe that God simply raised Jesus from the dead
(Simple for God but far from simple for us)
Death is enemy numero uno and, as has been quoted endlessly --
“Nobody gets out of here alive”
But Jesus did – at least that’s how the story goes
And that’s also my story and I’m sticking to it
My story?
Well, yes, in a way.
You see, getting back to this death at Easter thing,
Dreams can die, hopes can die, faith can die
And like all things dead, they get buried
But they don’t have to stay dead
They can be brought back to life
Not by wishful thinking or sheer willpower or clever maneuvering
They can be made alive again by … (or you ready for this?)
The grace of God
The unfailing, unearned, totally free grace of God
The kind of grace that can restore that which is broken
Or heal wounds too deep too imagine
Or shine the light of forgiveness on a dark and troubled soul
Or raise a man from the dead
That’s right.
God’s been in business of resurrection for a long time
And He’s still at it.
Death at Easter – Merely a Prelude
But one we’d do well not too ignore
Because as Abbie Huff, minister and wise woman, declares
“Look to the Broken Places. If it’s resurrection and new life
you’re looking for, the broken places are where we start”
Amen and amen.

Happy Easter
George Gagliardi