Gully Washers and Effervescence

Thanksgiving is now technically behind us, and that means we start looking at Christmas, right?


I could write something snarky about how we’ve all lost our way with the commercialization of Christmas, but who am I kidding? I love it all. I love the secular, the sacred, the lights, the handbells, the cheesy Christmas movies, the old standby Christmas songs, and even all the preparations surrounding the Christmas season. In our community, we have a few rituals around how we celebrate Christmas and I love them as much as I love the ones my family practices. I love Christmas. Mostly, I love the expecting, waiting and hoping that Christmas seems to awaken in me. As an adult, I am more focused on creating the experience of Christmas than hoping someone will make my Christmas merry and bright. I believe in Christmas. After reading Brene’ Brown’s book “Braving the Wilderness,” I have no guilt or shame about my love for the season. I no longer understand my passion as the generational expression awakened in me by my Christmas-loving, Santa-celebrating, and over-the-top light-loving mom. In fact, I am turning into a Christmas holiday celebrating zealot.

In chapter six, “Hold hands. With strangers,” Brene’ Brown describes in detail a key point that emerged from her research to help us cultivate and grow our belief in the inextricable human connection. This matters because this capacity for connection is so vital to our well-being, and the wellbeing of our communities. It is what Christmas does for us as a collective, in my opinion. Brown was shocked by the results, which were this: Show up for collective moments of joy and pain so we can actually bear witness to inextricable human connection. (p.120)

She entertained, illustrated and connected with her reader by providing examples of how she had experienced this showing up, which pretty much explains why I was unwilling to stand in the hallways at Scott Stadium during a recent downpour and legitimate gully washer at a recent UVA football game. At gametime, the seats were mostly empty but the entire stadium was filled with water! In raincoats, boots, ponchos and head gear, we were soaked within seconds of taking our seats. Pete suggested we go stand in the covered concession area. Maybe buy UVA apparel to change into that would at least give us dryer clothes? For like 15 seconds? I was having none of it. I cheered with the others in the stands, sang the good old song, and said to our neighbor a few seats down, “This is crazy, right?” What we were experiencing was collective effervescence. Brene’ says (p.130) that a French sociologist coined this term to describe a type of magic he witnessed during religious ceremonies. He says it is an experience of connection, communal emotion, and a “sensation of sacredness” that is what happens when we are willing to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. And this feeds our soul.

Pete and I have been going to UVA games together for 44 years. UVA fans understand that the “effervescence” has been a lot of PAIN with an occasional side of joy. Our football team has lost a lot of games in 44 years. But our night in the rain was magical. To sit and stand and cheer and have water gather in nooks and crannies of our body was awesome. Our team lost that night, but we won another memory to cherish that was bigger than either of us individually or even the two of us as a couple. We need more of this in our lives folks, we just do. Christmas can be that if we are willing to be more intentional, aware and thoughtful in our Christmas expectations, waiting and hoping.