Christmas Daybook, 12: Eve of Epiphany

Welcome to my final Christmas daybook post for these last 12 days of celebrating. We've been (somewhat sporadically) spending Christmastide with some favorite short films and video clips. What's been your favorite? I'd love to hear about it in the comments section!

 An antiquities dealer in Bethlehem shows a traditional container for myrrh, one of the three gifts the Magi brought to Jesus. (screenshot from following video)

An antiquities dealer in Bethlehem shows a traditional container for myrrh, one of the three gifts the Magi brought to Jesus. (screenshot from following video)

 

O Little Town of Bethlehem from Tim Parsons on Vimeo.

The story of the birth of Jesus told by the people of Bethlehem.

We've arrived at Twelfth Night, the culmination of grand festival of Christmastide. I hope your days have been warm, full, and lighthearted. For those of you who've been unable, because of difficulties, to celebrate in that way this year may you know even more deeply the presence of Emmanuel, King Jesus.

Peace be upon you and yours today and into the season of Epiphany light!


Readings for today: Isaiah 66:18-23, Psalm 29, Romans 15:7-13

Prayer for today: 

God of revelation, as we gather in praise for the gracious mystery of your Son, we remember the many needs of your church and your world.

Offer prayers for your community, church, and the world, concluding with:

Guide us on the path of salvation, O God, that the radiance and power of your Holy Spirit working in the world will gather together all peoples and nations in one community to offer you worship and proclaim your splendor. Amen.
— lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/prayers

 

Listen to T.S. Eliot's "Journey of the Magi", or read it here.


(See all Christmas Daybook posts from 2016 here.)

Christmas Daybook, 10: Savor light

Welcome to my Christmas daybook for these 12 days of celebrating. We'll be spending Christmastide with some favorite short films and video clips. Join me, won't you? 

 

Bruce Munro - Light Shower installation at Salisbury Cathedral

I highly encourage you to dive deeply into artist Bruce Munro's works at his website

In Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God, writer Bobby Gross refers to the seasons of Advent, Christmastide, and Epiphany as the cycle of light (with Lent - Pentecost, the cycle of life). Living out this cycle in the dark winter of the northern hemisphere benefits body, mind, and spirit, individually and as a community. 

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:1-5)

All readings for today: 1 Kings 19:9-18, Psalm 68, Ephesians 4:17-32, John 6:15-27

Prayer for today:

Light of life, you came in flesh, born into human pain and joy, and gave us power to be your children. Grant us faith, O Christ, to see your presence among us, so that all of creation may sing new songs of gladness and walk in the way of peace. Amen.
— lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/prayers

 Observing stars and super moons last December at  Grace Farms , New Canaan CT

Observing stars and super moons last December at Grace Farms, New Canaan CT

Follow light like the journeying magi.  

{an excerpt from my post 12 Ways To Savor the 12 Days of Christmas

Find every possible way to savor the beauty of light during the darkest time of the year.  Light candles, build a fire, sit in the dark and look at your lit tree, visit a holiday light show in town, take a bath by candlelight, go outside and look at the stars.

(read more here)


(See all Christmas Daybook posts from 2016 here.)

Christmas Daybook, 9: Savor winter beauty

Welcome to my Christmas daybook for these 12 days of celebrating. We'll be spending Christmastide with some favorite short films and video clips. Join me, won't you? 

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Trying To Save The Red Crowned Cranes Of Japan - Wild Japan - BBC  & Hitch a Ride with Reindeer Herders | National Geographic

Brrrrr.....

Where you live, too? Even our friends in Austin got snow twice this winter already! 

This is the time to savor the beauty unique to cold and snow. While I have no aspirations to be a reindeer herder in Finland or a farmer helping cranes live through winter in cold Japan, I love knowing about those who do. I applaud their heartiness, and hope I can think about them instead of complaining about the cold. There is an austere beauty in the frigid, and these are just two small, amazing examples.

May you enjoy something cozy on this ninth day of Christmas, friends.


All readings for today: 1 Kings 19:1-8, Psalm 34, Ephesians 4:1-16, John 6:1-14

Prayer for today from Evening Prayers For Every Day of the Year by Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt:

O taste and see that the Lord is good! Happy is the man who takes refuge in him! Psalm 34:8, RSV

Dear Father in heaven, we come to you. With thanks we come to you, for again and again you have helped us. Again and again you have let your light shine out on us so that we could be glad and know that our lives are in your hands. Protect us on this earth, where it is so necessary. Protect us, that the light of true life may shine more and more brightly and we may praise your name with our whole heart. Be with us this night, O God, and touch our hearts with your Spirit. Amen.
— Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt

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Savor warmth

I'm guessing many of you are back to work, maybe even school, today? Here's something to look forward to when you get back home snug and sound.

We keep a hot cocoa "station" up throughout December and January (well, sometimes February, too!). During the early days of Christmastide we tend to enjoy all the special delicacies that the cocoa takes a back seat. Today's a good day to enjoy again the simple pleasure of a mug of hot cocoa and your favorite add-ons (marshmallows, whipped cream, candy canes, schnapps, etc.) Bonus points for all those who actually venture outside before enjoying the hot beverage.

You may also want to invite along some friends. I love this idea shared at Like Mother, Like Daughter -  Modest Hospitality: A Hot Cocoa Party


(See all Christmas Daybook posts from 2016 here.)

Christmas Daybook, 7 & 8: Savor ringing out the old and ringing in the new

Welcome to my Christmas daybook for these 12 days of celebrating. We'll be spending Christmastide with some favorite short films and video clips. Join me, won't you? 

 from " In Memoriam A.H.H ." by Lord Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892) ( source )

from "In Memoriam A.H.H." by Lord Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892) (source)

 

Ring Out Wild Bells - Crofts Family & Ring Out, Wild Bells - A New Year's Song by Alana Levandoski

While I'm vaguely familiar with this poem, it wasn't until reading this recent post by the wonderful Victoria Emily Jones (Art & Theology blog) that I took the time to notice the poem - both the words by Tennyson and the various musical arrangements. (See the blog post for a list of various musical settings.) With the poem top of mind, I noticed a day or so later another retuning from a thoughtful musician I follow on Facebook, Alana Levandoski. 

As we end 2017, I'm so grateful for all of these writers and musicians, for every single collaboration and bit of artistic effort that's culminated in the gift of helping me express both lament for the old and hope for the new. 

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Read Victoria Emily Jones' brief introduction of Tennyson's words: 

"This passage, from one of the greatest (and longest!) poems of the nineteenth century, is the source of the popular expression “ring out the old, ring in the new.” Ringing church bells at midnight on New Year’s Eve was already a deep-set tradition in England, and people understood the ringing as ushering in both life (the new year ahead) and death (saying good-bye to the past). But Tennyson’s poeticization of this symbolic practice has made its symbolism all the more enduring, and his list of specific qualities to let go of and others to welcome in provides a helpful template for new-year prayer and resolution making."

 

All readings for today (first Sunday after Christmas): Isaiah 61:10-62:3, Psalm 148, Galatians 4:4-7, Luke 2:22-40

Prayer for today:

Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
— Book of Common Prayer

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Celebrate today, the final day of 2017

I've been thinking about how the little church I grew up in had a New Year's Eve party that included a lot of food, games, and hilarity, but also a time for sharing hopes and requests, culminating in taking communion together just before midnight. I love that balance of ringing out the old and ringing in the new. Find a way today that is meaningful to you (and your friends and family) to do the same. In the past, we've sometimes each placed a small list of resolutions/hopes/intentions for the new year in the toe of our Christmas stockings to pull out the following year at Christmas. 

Encourage reflection at your table today. It can be as simple as "Name one disappointment and highlight from 2017 and one hope for 2018. If you want to dive a little deeper, here's a great list of questions for conversation and reflection during today's celebration: 20 Questions for New Year's Eve via Art of Simple

Happy New Year, friends!


(See all Christmas Daybook posts from 2016 here.)

Christmas Daybook, 6: Savor memories (even the hard ones)

Welcome to my Christmas daybook for these 12 days of celebrating. We'll be spending Christmastide with some favorite short films and video clips. Join me, won't you? 

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Hill Family Christmas, created by Natalie Murphy

I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!
— Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

England has Boxing Day on December 26, and for the past 25 years or so, our family has Hill Family Christmas. This started the year Brian and I (as the eldest children and the first to have grandchildren) decided we'd prefer to have our own quiet day at home on December 25. My parents and siblings, mostly still living at home at the time, graciously flexed their own important traditions to accommodate ours, and a whole new family tradition began. Now, it's as good as any celebration could be, and I'm grateful to my family's commitment to "keep Christmas well".

I'm especially mindful of these shifts in tradition as my own children have left home. My hope is to flex with their needs in the same way decades ago my parents did with our ours. We've also begun (it seems, comparatively, at a rather late date) to learn how to flex tradition necessitated by our aging grandparents. The fact that I still get to see my grandparents (on my father's side) at Christmas is no small gift, I realize. Yet, it's still difficult to see them decline. You'll see in the video our collective attempt to take the family celebration to them, squeezed in all around my grandmother's nursing home bed. 

I can't think of a better better Biblical passage for Christmas than the one my brother chose and my nephew read and my grandparents verbally affirmed than Revelation 21. In our own visible decline, God is, in truth, making all things new. While our outward bodies (families, traditions, memories) decay, there is a real work being done to restore us all. Thanks be to God.

And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!
— Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

All readings for today: Isaiah 25:1-9, Psalm 20, Psalm 21:1-7, Revelation 1:9-20, John 7:53-8:11

Prayer for today from Evening Prayers For Every Day of the Year by Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt:

On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken. Isaiah 25:7–8, NIV

Lord our God, your kingdom is coming. Your help reaches us. However much we must suffer, we look to you, for you have given us your promise. You have promised that all shall go well with us. You have promised that while still on earth your people may have strength to trust in you and wait for you in patience and joy. So lay your hands upon us, O Lord our God, and let your redeeming strength be revealed in us. You know all our needs. You see into each heart and know how to help, as you have promised. Bless us and help us, and may your name be honored among us. May your kingdom come, and your will be done on earth as in heaven. Amen.
— Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt

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Savor Family Memories (& don't be afraid of the ones that make you sad)

Spend some time today watching the videos and looking through the photos you took of family and friends this year. If you have access to old family movies or photos, look through them. Notice what you are feeling as you savor memories, and avoid making general judgements about who you are and where you come from. Just look, notice, tell stories, voice any sadness, and give thanks.

Here's an excerpt from a post Brian wrote about a painful family memory and a time we did not flex tradition for the sake of our kids: Christmas Confessions From An Exhausted Dad.

One family tradition is to read the Christmas story from Luke 2 while the kids bring each character of the nativity to the stable at the appropriate time.

In our twenty-seven-year-old-parental-wisdom we decided to keep this beloved family tradition using the hand-painted ceramic nativity set that we received for a wedding gift and that we hope is used well after Tamara and I are gone.

Four kids, ages 6, 4, 1 and 17 days, a priceless ceramic nativity, a stressed out dad
and a video camera.

Seriously. Bad idea.

I scolded, growled and snatched Baby Jesus out of the hands of an innocent child. At one point during the morning, I threatened to cancel Christmas. Yep, Christmas cancelled on account of kids being kids. I was George Bailey.

(read more here)
 


(See all Christmas Daybook posts from 2016 here.)