Where Are You Christmas?

I took the Christmas decorations down today, which consisted of removing the Christmas tree of lights from the wall, packing up the Nativity and taking down the various coloring pages I did through Christmas & Epiphany. Except for one, which I like so much I’m keeping it around for awhile.

I had mixed feelings about this. I *really* wanted to stick with ALL THE CHRISTMAS through Candlemas, follow the lead of Sybil MacBeth and relish the season of Epiphany but I was also really longing to change things up a bit. I kept humming “Where Are You Christmas?” while I thanked the Nativity figurines for another season’s service. As I prepared tonight’s dinner for the slow cooker, I listened to some pop songs… not my Christmas playlist.  A change of scene seemed so appealing. Then I remembered that Sybil doesn’t suggest staying in Christmas mode the whole time — she suggests honoring Epiphany as its own season — changing everything to white, for example. Inviting the Kings to teach you a little about evangelization, for another.

So I kept one string of Christmas lights hanging (which is really nothing out of the ordinary for me), and made a star out of white lights where the tree was. I took my little jar of frankincense, gold and myrrh and placed it in the wreath on the table with Mary holding Jesus. I’m thinking about Lent, how I’ll get some purple ribbons for the wreath that was an Advent wreath that will become something else – perhaps just a place to hold some sacred thoughts.

I can see Lent on the horizon, and in the meantime the landscape is changing, transitioning through this “Ordinary Time.”

Star of Wonder...
Star of Wonder…
Gifts for Baby Jesus
Gifts for Baby Jesus

 

 

Epiphany, Almost

The Magi haven’t quite made it to the Creche in my house – it will be a few more days journey for them. In many churches today, however, the Christmas season ends today with the Epiphany of the Lord. The Magi are finally here!  Life can return to normal!

It’s a little unfortunate. On this day, we have two more days until the 6th of January, the traditional date of Epiphany. However, the world feels a little weary of Christmas — and no wonder, since we started celebrating back in November! Christmas breaks are over for schools, preparation has begun to re-enter Ordinary Time – by tomorrow, the green will return in the cloths of the Church. What makes me sad about this is that there is nothing Ordinary about today, or next Sunday, or the Sunday after that. These next Sundays are all about the Theophany – the manifestation of the Incarnation. In other words, we see the signs of the Incarnation — we see signs that this man, Jesus, is God.

I think this season deserves more than Ordinary Green. Perhaps, though, that is another lesson for the pilgrim. Perhaps the Ordinary is the time to look deeper to the Extraordinary.

There is a tradition to this day that I’d like to share: The Blessing of the House. Perhaps this came about because of the detailed story of the Magi entering the House where Jesus was, but whatever the origin, it’s nice to take a moment to bless the house and it’s inhabitants, isn’t it? Often a church will bless chalk that will then be brought home & you then write your own blessing above the door:  20 + C + M + B + 15. (In some Eastern churches, the Priest journeys from home to home to bless them personally! It can take awhile.)

C + M + B symbolizes Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, the traditional names of the Three Wise Men. It also means Christus Mansionem Benedicat, Latin for “May Christ Bless this House.”

Perhaps you don’t have any blessed chalk, or perhaps your Church does not observe this traditions. No worries. I’m here to help. If you’d like a blessing for your home, I’ve made one you can print.

It looks like this:

Epiphany Home Blessing
Epiphany Home Blessing

You can download a full-sized 8×10 version here. If you just want the year part, just trim the bottom off. For alternative prayers to use when blessing your home, check out the ecumenical Liturgy site.

So go, pilgrim, and bless your house. I’ll be back on Tuesday with my Magi.

 

Christmas. It Happened.

The theme for Christmas this year was “what makes Christmas feel like Christmas?”

This was the first Christmas in several years that I did not have any church duties. I ALWAYS have church duties. I’m either reading or singing or coordinating or greeting at at least one, usually more than one, Mass. One year I sang at three Masses between Christmas Eve & Christmas Day, including a last minute duet during the Carols before Midnight Mass. I moved about a year ago, though, and I haven’t quite found my place at the church that I sometimes go to. So no church duties this year. And that was really quite strange for me. It might have been the first time in a decade that I didn’t have some responsibility at Christmas.

I did go to Midnight Mass at this new church I’m trying out. This church… it is one of the friendliest churches I’ve ever been to. I like the Pastor. Sometimes I’m not super-fond of the music (I’m a music-nerd. Have mercy.) but the people are so… nice. And the liturgical ministers are so… joyful. Did I mention the people are nice? I sat next to a family with 4 daughters, and one of them, who was probably about 13, asked me if I was by myself, wished me a Merry Christmas, admired my purse, and was just great. It was lovely.

The homily was… not. It was preached by the Deacon (the in-training type, not one of the permanent variety) and he stretched the text a bit. Actually, that’s not quite true. He preached on the Good Samaritan. If you’re confused, then you’re in good company. There was something about the Innkeeper, and how we’re like the man beaten on the road, who apparently rejected the help of the priest and the Levite, which is what we’re like as sinners, and the Samaritan is Jesus. This is an interpretation that Augustine used, to which I 1) roll my eyes and 2) take bets as to the Deacon’s coursework last semester. Whether it’s an appropriate interpretation or not, though, I don’t think it’s the right homily for Christmas. Mostly because 1) it’s not the text and 2) it’s Midnight Mass. People need to feel good. Some of those people haven’t been to church since Easter, and guess what — you just confused them on a story they thought they knew well by introducing  a questionable interpretation with a VERY flimsy thread to Christmas.

I wish I had the discipline to end my rant here, but this was the SECOND homily at this church in ONE week where the Deacon did not preach the text. On the 4th Sunday of Advent, the Deacon preached on John 1.

I don’t get it. Well, I do. Too often we preach what we wish we could preach, regardless of the text. I used to really understand this, because as a student preacher I only preached once a quarter or so, and I wanted to make it count. I wanted to spread the Good News! People needed to hear the WORD! Too many times I started with what I thought people should hear me say, and not with what God was saying. Thankfully, God corrected me. There’s only one time I switched the text, and that was for my senior service at Drew, and that was mostly because there was a song I really wanted to use, and the text didn’t quite match. Hey, I wanted to go out with a bang. (I did. We even had a drumming circle.)

My point is that the Lectionary is how we get through The Story, and if our leaders skip ahead or jump around at their whims (or worse, because of their hubris) we’ll get lost. And honestly, I have enough trouble along The Way.  So, a gentle suggestion to help the pilgrims: PREACH THE TEXT.

OK, now I can end my rant.

When I came home, I waited until Actual Midnight and put Baby Jesus in the Creche. Then I lit the candles in my Advent Wreath, including a white one for Christ. (I always thought this was the tradition — the United Methodist Church I served for several years always lit the Christ Candle at the Candlelight Service, but apparently not all churches do that. Hmmm.) On Christmas night, I moved the Shepherd into the creche. And the Doctors, because if I had a TARDIS, I totally would go to the Birth of Jesus.) I colored a simple Nativity scene. And I put Mary in the center of the wreath.

Christmas Collage

And then I spent some time thinking about what makes Christmas feel like Christmas… and what makes me feel like a Christian. I’m still sorting that out.

BONUS: Speaking of preaching the text: