Tag Archives: Christmas

Feast of Epiphany

Christmas if officially over. Yesterday was the twelfth day of Christmas which means today is Epiphany. We celebrate the visitation of the magi or wise men from the East. I have several nativity sets and not all of them have the magi, but many do. Traditionally they wouldn’t appear in the nativity until today, but I always put them in early because I am afraid I would forget other wise.

Often, Epiphany, January 6, does not actually fall on Sunday. We celebrate Epiphany the first Sunday in January regardless of when the actual day falls in the week. It is a joy to actually be able to celebrate on the actual day. The story of Jesus’ birth from Matthew is quite different from Luke. Instead of angels we have a star and instead of shepherds we have travelers, outsiders, foreigners from the East seeking the Christ Child.

Matthew allows us a peek into a more violent world than Luke’s. Herod and his vengeful leadership is an intregal part of the story. After today, the stars come down, the nativity put up for another and all the trees and garlands and lights are turned off. I am always a little bit sad when that happens. I will miss the lights particularly. I also know that we are called to be the light and to share that light with others. Epiphany is the sharing of that light with everyone.

In worship, we reclaimed an old tradition to announce the high holy days of the Christian year in worship. Seeking Christ means to be intentional about committing to worship and each other as Christians. You can find the whole worship service here.

As Christmas ends and Epiphany begins, I am reminded of Howard Thurman’s poem, When the Song of Angels is Stilled:

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.

May it be so in all of our lives.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Year of Gratitude, December: Week 3

DECEMBER

Just a few days from Christmas we continue with week 3 of our Year of Gratitude. Week one I invited us to write thank you notes to those who talents had blessed us and to share our talents with others. Week two we were thankful for the gift of time.

It was a real joy for me to write some thank you notes to people who had given the gift of time. Honoring their commitment and savoring the gift was a blessing to me. Giving of my time was another way to celebrate the joy and love and yes peace of the season. Giving time not out of obligation, but out of a sense of love and faith was joyous!

This week the challenge is to write a thank you note focusing on treasure. The first definition of treasure from Merriam-Webster focuses on money and wealth. It is the second definition that speaks of something or someone of great value. That can be, but isn’t necessarily based on monetary value.

Jesus once said, “that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) Perhaps it begs the question, but what do you treasure? What do I treasure? What do I find most precious in my life? What do you find most precious in your life? What do we treasure above all else?

This week the challenge is to write a thank you note that honors what we treasure most. That thank you note might honor a relationship we might have, it might be to an organization that we are so grateful to be able to assist through our time and our donations. Honor what you treasure most with a thank note and through the gift of you: your time, your presence or a donation.

May what we treasure help us focus our faith this week as we celebrate the birth of Emmanuel, God-with-us.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized, year of gratitude

Year of Gratitude: December, Week 2

DECEMBER                                                                                                                                          We are now less than two weeks from Christmas day. For many of us, the crush of things to do, places to go and parties and events to attend seem relentless. Where does one find the time to give thanks? Like Straight No Chaser’s song, The  Christmas Can- Can, it can feel like a mad dash to get to the end of the season. Other than a quick thank you through a text or e-mail or phone sending a thank you note may feel like one more thing to do in an already ridiculously full calendar.

Yes, indeed, I am going to challenge you to write a thank you note this week. Our focus, will be on the gift of time. This one thing, seems to be the hardest to grasp with our culture overwhelming us with things to do. And there are so many wonderful places to go, performances to attend, special worship services and events in which to participate. Time is precious and a gift in and of itself.

So this weeks challenge is to write one thank note to someone who has given  you the gift of time. Maybe they went to coffee or lunch with you, or called you or stopped by and their presence and time spent with you was a special gift. I believe I often overlook the simpliest things because I get too busy, too focused; a simple hug, a “how are you, really?” and the time it takes is a gift beyone measure.

Write one thank note, at least for time shared and given. Then sometime this week offer a gift of time to someone else. Some one you love,  someone who you haven’t talked to for a while, or perhaps, just bring a cup of coffee to their desk and see how they are doing. This week, we give thanks for the gift of time.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized, year of gratitude

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas

I am always amazed at how quickly the the twelve days of Christmas fly by. I am not unaware that many people don’t care. Or that the twelve days are used as a countdown to December 25 with sales and promotions all trying to get people to buy more for that first day of Christmas.

In the stores, on the radio and television stations and internet sites, not many care about Christmas after the 25th of December. Oh, there are sales galore, but Valentine’s hearts and flowers are already seen and the next push for sales. Christmas becomes not so much a season as an exercise in surviving too many parties, too many crowds, too much food and drink and often too much money spent on things that do not matter and are easily broken and forgotten

As a pastor, the time leading up to December 25 is filled with year end meetings, extra worship planning, a few more services and events for the church. There are more parties and open houses than I could ever hope to attend and this year, in the midst of Advent, Andrew and I had the joy of celebrating the marriage of one of our children in California. The Advent season itself was shorter, just three weeks, with the fourth Sunday of Advent also being Christmas eve.

All of that is a way of explaining why the twelve days of Christmas are precious to me. I try to savor them, each day. In years past, FAR past, the twelve days were filled with the parties and visits and meals and general “gaiety” we now celebrate prior to December 25. Advent at that time was a period for fasting and penitence and reflection on the incarnation, of God’s gift in Christ. The twelfth day of Christmas is the transition into Epiphany on January 6 (the visitation of the magi, the wise men and a season of celebrating that God is manifest to humanity, ALL of humanity.)

IMG_1700

For those who love trivia, many Orthodox churches celebrate Christmas day on January 7 because aligns with the old Julian calendar and in a dozen or so countries that is a day off and a holiday. I won’t go into detail as it has to do with the switch in calendars from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar.

So the Feast of the Epiphany in the Western is tomorrow on January 6. Epiphany, as a holiday is to celebrate the manifestation of the Christ to the Gentiles (or to all people and all nations). As a word, it means a revelation or an insight. In the midst of the twelve days what has been revealed to me? What insight have gained from the celebration of Christmas?

A friend of mine posted this picture on Facebook to honor the visitation of the Magi. It is from the Catacombs in Rome, specifically of Priscilla.

magi-priscilla

This was probably done in the 2nd century. From the earliest days, this event, of magi, wise ones, star gazers from the east was an important event to remember. Christianity has in its beginnings an understanding that Emmanuel, God-with-us is not an exclusive event or for just a few. Christ came for all, that all might experience the love and grace of God.

So on this twelfth day of Christmas, I am seeking insight and wisdom on how God’s love can be made real and true in my life and spirit. I am looking for God’s presence in the word and like Mary, I am pondering all of these things in my heart. Merry Christmas and may Epiphany bring us all new insight and a revelation of God in our midst.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

A day of ordinary in the New Year

I write this on the 9th day of Christmas and and the second day of 2017. The last of the company left mid-afternoon yesterday. I miss them, the ones that left mid-week and the ones just yesterday. There never seems to be enough time to do everything and say everything. The moments are so fleeting and yet so appreciated. 

I, as usual, took few pictures. I mean to, I really do, but in the midst of playing and walking and laughing and just being together, I forget. I did some important ones, four generations with Andrew’s mom who is 96 and one never knows when there will be another chance to have family around her for a picture. I took a few pictures of food, as is my habit, maybe because it doesn’t move quickly. 

The house is incredibly quiet. I miss the laughter, the conversation and even the shouts when small fights would break out in the midst of playing children. I don’t mind the quiet actually, it helps me re-image in my minds eye the last week-drinking coffee, eating meals, playing games, Pokémon walk, a trip to the zoo, our boxing day open house filled with friends old and new, watching movies, opening gifts and toasting to a new year.

So on this second day of the new year, I am doing ordinary things. Washing bedding from 8 beds and I am not half done. Washing towels, from lots of showers and baths, folding laundry, putting away dishes and tidying up. If truth be told I am not much of a housekeeper, I would much rather do other things. Today, it feels right to just slowly put the house back in order. None of the decorations are coming down yet as it is only the ninth day of Christmas and I refuse to rush the end of the season. I am, however, not putting the Christmas pillows back on the beds as they will soon need to be packed up.

On this ordinary day, doing ordinary everyday things (as noted in this Carried Newcomer song), I am pondering what this year will mean. I look back at last year and am so astounded and perplexed and amazed at what the year brought. I moved into a new church appointment, I was shocked by the bitterness and hatred that unfolded in the political process and I was blessed by so many things. Truly 2016 was a year of ups and downs, but really in many ways pretty ordinary. Every year of my life has been filled with joy and sorrow, love and laughter, tears and grief, times of anxiety and times of hope. 

I guess as the days of Christmas wind down I must admit that each year I long that somehow this Christmas will truly change the world and move it from darkness to light, from oppression to justice, from hate to love, from bigotry to equality. I know that it is probably naive and silly, but I long for a time when there are more stories of hope and love and justice and peace than there are of hatred and violence and terrorist attacks and war. In the midst of ordinary moments these longings are pondered in the midst of folding laundry, making beds and cleaning up the debris. 

William Auden in his poem For the Time Being, speaks to some of that longing. A pdf copy of part of the poem is found at this website http://www.cynthiadavisauthor.com/Auden,%20Oratorio.pdf. A couple of the lines state, “Once again, as in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed to do more than entertain it as an agreeable Possibility…to those who have seen the Child, however dimly, however incredulously, the Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all…Remembering the stable where once in our lives Everything became a You and nothing became an It.”

I re-read this poem each year, praying that the Time Being will change, and someday everyone will be a YOU and no one will be an IT. When the world returns to ordinary, I can choose to remember, I can choose to do more than entertain the Possibility that the world can be different, I can choose to be part of an ordinary everyday way of living that will change the world, just as God chose to change the world through a tiny infant, born to pretty ordinary everyday people.

So, in the words of the poet, “In the meantime There are bills to be paid, machines to keep in repair, Irregular verbs to learn, the Time Being to redeem
From insignificance.” Laundry to washed, folded and put away, beds to made, dishes to wash and a few dinners and meals to cook for Andrew before my vacation is over. A few days left to celebrate the birth of Emmanuel, God-with-us, before the season of Epiphany and “ordinary time” return to the church calendar.

I will use my ordinary, everyday life to give witness to God’s love and grace in this time and space and place. I only have ordinary everyday minutes in which to love, to serve, to hope and offer hope and to live out my faith in the God who graces our lives in the ordinary, the birth of a child, an ordinary family and out of those things, come hope, faith and a vision of a new day and age of peace, justice and righteousness. So…in the time beings I re-affirm the words of Howard Thurman on this ordinary 2nd day of 2017 and 9th day of Christmas:

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Christmas Merry or Not

“Have yourself a merry little Christmas,” the song goes. Every artist including Kermit the Frog sings this Christmas standard. The song itself, is reflective, a bit melancholy and challenging. Regardless, the song states, “have yourself a merry little Christmas, now.”

Now those who know me, know I tend to go overboard at Christmas. My house has 23 decorated Christmas trees, yes that number is correct. I don’t count the little miniature trees that are not decorated, although my husband would include them in counting the trees. I have lighted Christmas garland everywhere and outside lights that my twin sister states are “Griswold-like.”

I love Christmas cookie and candy making. I watch a plethora of Christmas movies and have more Christmas CD’s than I want to admit. Yes, I still play CD’s, in fact I have the old time @Firestone and @Goodyear Christmas LP’s which also get played. I don’t begin these activities before Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is its own holiday and deserves respect and honor.

The day AFTER Thanksgiving, the decorations begin and the plans are made. This year, for the first time in many years my children are home and the grandboys are here. Such a blessing in so many ways. There has been laughter and a bit of yelling over a game or two, some cooking and baking and eating and watching movies. My heart is happy.

Having said that, there are still those moments, when I acknowledge the ones that are not here. My facebook feed has an option to look back “on this day” and the last few days have been filled with memories, many of which go back long enough to include my mother.

Now my mom loved Christmas, but not in an over the top way. She hated baking, particularly cookies. She preferred recipes that were easy and didn’t take a whole lot of time. She was into convenience. She liked family around, but often preferred to observe rather than to participate. She did LOVE Christmas music though. The house would be filled LOUDLY with old Christmas albums playing non stop during the holidays.

For some reason, the past few days keep reminding me of her. The last Christmas we spent together this pictures was taken.

521497_10151375973559274_819721833_n

It’s one of my favorite pictures of my mom and my sister and I. Yesterday I pulled out a cookbook she gave me. This particular cookbook was one of those “church” cookbooks, from her congregation.

12375995_10153924137494274_279261997742852396_n

Not new, obviously but included the “pumpkin bar” recipe she made every holiday and “puppy chow” which grandboys love. I made the pumpkin bar recipe this evening and of course it reminded me of her.

I am not a person who wallows in sadness or grief. I am finding myself, noting the moments, and being grateful for both the joy and the sadness. I do not want to be one of those persons who gives up holidays because someone has died during that time period. As a pastor with so many funerals after 33 years, I would never ever celebrate a holiday again. I want to grieve and to celebrate.

Life goes on, and that is as it should be. When I prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, that birth took place in the midst of tragedies, in the midst of fear and grief and also in the midst of joy and celebrations. Each loss changes things, but grief ought not to have the final word. Love and laughter are life giving.

I ran across this amazing piece of music. It acknowledges the grief and the uneasiness of those who have lost loved ones. “Different Kind of Christmas” by Mark Schultz will speak to those with most recent losses but also those who are recreating holiday experiences.

In my life, it seems every year is a “different” kind of Christmas. Not necessarily bad, but always different. The world, the community, the family changes and each year for me I am challenged to embrace the beauty of Christmas, God made real in “Emmanuel” God-with-us.

So, on this day before Christmas Eve, I wish you a Merry Christmas. May your holiday be filled with love, with laughter, with friends and family far and near. May you experience Emmanuel, the presence of God with you.

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

American Girl, Red Cups and Ridiculous Controversy

Much ado about nothing has been exploding across my social media about red cups and Christmas. I promised myself I would ignore such a silly controversy and the made up “war on Christmas.” I have my own rant on that, and it has nothing do with saying “Merry Christmas” and EVERYTHING to do with selling cheap garbage in August, with tinny Christmas music playing while enslaving children in other countries to make cheap trinkets for us to stuff our stockings and overspend our budgets to celebrate Jesus.

The same time the red cup silliness hit my newsfeed, another story about the “cultural wars” slipped in and has been largely overlooked.

416356941_lg

American Girl publishes a magazine and highlighted a young African American girl and her family and the charity her dads have created for children in foster care. This girl was adopted with her brother and then this couple adopted two more children also brothers. The author of the American Girl article was interested in the charity Comfort Cases and investigated. The article was a result of that investigation.

I understand that there is more than one opinion about gay marriage. However the constant use of the term “war” is grating on my nerves. The charity that Rob Scheer has started has helped over 7000 foster children. The Washington Post, among other news outlets have written about this controversy. The article “American Family Faces Harsh Criticism” shares the story of the article and the nature of the push to boycott American Girl.

The criticism is that American Girl should have use a different girl and a different story. Seems to me that focusing on Amaya and her dad’s charity helps point out how many children need a family, need to be loved and cared for. Two men, who love each other, have adopted four such children and work to provide backpacks for those who don’t have a family. I don’t know anything more Christian than that. Which part of Jesus’ sayings “let the children come to me” and to not cause harm to little ones is confusing? Jesus blessed children and used the image of children to talk about the kingdom of God.

I have spent a couple of days wondering what is wrong with folk. The red cup brouhaha was a video made by someone who obviously has issues. A red cup, is a red cup and has nothing to do with the celebration of Christmas. I, personally, don’t look to Starbucks to share with me my religious understanding of Christmas. Last time I checked, reindeers, snowflakes and snow men are NOT Christian symbols. In fact red for Christmas isn’t a Christian color: purple or blue is the color of Advent and the color of the twelve days of Christmas is white and gold.

Why do we focus on the color of a cup or on a wonderful family that is making a difference in lives of children with no families as a problem? If Christians, myself included, want to celebrate the birth of Jesus, there are a variety of ways that has nothing to do with the words “merry” the color “red” or an overpriced doll that would truly be a witness to God’s grace in the world.

So I am going to choose to spend less time on those who would create a false controversy and more time on those working to transform the world with love and grace and justice. Bringing food for United Methodist Open Door Ministries, helping Inter-Faith ministries with Operation Holiday ad the Overflow Shelter for the homeless is an action that is closer to bringing Christ’s reign on earth than worrying about the color of cup. Celebrating a family who brings those without a family into a home is a deeper commitment to Christ than a boycott of a magazine or a store.

Instead of posting silliness on social media about things that don’t matter, like red cups or whether someone says “Merry Christmas”, post something positive that will make a real difference in the lives of children, the lives of homeless, the refugee, the lost and those who are lonely. I think we can transform the world one person at a time if we look to those who need love and grace and offer the best of who we are in response.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized