Christmas Daybook, 5: Savor Christmas carols

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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Nat King Cole - "The Christmas Song"

John Denver and The Muppets - "12 Days of Christmas"

Brian and I enjoyed browsing through old television Christmas specials on YouTube this year. Some of it was just plain old unwatchable from the tacky to the wacky, but here's five of our favorite moments that have stood the test of time.

What would you add?


Today's readings: 2 Samuel 23:13-17b, Psalm 18:1-20, 2 John 1-13, John 2:1-11

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

I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:1-2, NIV

Lord our God, we thank you that we have often felt you close to us. We thank you that you are near us and that you strengthen the weak. Remember us and give each one the help he needs to be true to his calling. Remember all humankind and grant that we may go forward in spirit and in truth. Give new light to the peoples who are still in great darkness. Let your kingdom and your reign be revealed and your name at last be honored by all. Amen.
— Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt

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Sing Christmas carols.  

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

The Anglican worship service sings only Advent hymns during the month of December.  We try to follow suit at home. Although -- I'm not gonna lie -- long about December 2 this year I caught Brian singing "Santa, Baby" in the kitchen one morning!  The Sunday after Christmas our worship pastor plans a Lessons and Carols service leading us, in his words, in a last gasp of Christmas.  With the frenetic pace of December, don't you love the idea of Christmas caroling at a nursing home or around an elderly friend's old upright piano during the last week of Christmas?

May I also recommend an excellent post by worship pastor/musician Bruce Benedict: Christmas Carols – extra verses and alternate lyrics fest. Perhaps you could spend some time today - alone or with others - singing these obscure stanzas. 


(See all Christmas Daybook posts from 2016 here.)

Christmas Daybook, 4: Holy Innocents

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? 

 (source)

(source)

 

He Came Down from Speak Life

Poet and Anglican priest Malcolm Guite writes at his blog the meaning of today's remembrances in the church calendar:

The Holy Innocents (Refugee): "...today, the fourth day of Christmas, is the feast day of the Holy Innocents. It is the day the Church remembers the story, told in Matthew’s Gospel of the appalling cruelty and wickedness of Herod in ordering the massacre of innocent children, in a bid to protect his own power-base. Appalling, but only too familiar. What Herod did then, is still being done by so many present day Herods. This scarred and wounded world is the world into which Jesus was born, the world he came to save, and amongst those brought by his blood through the grave and gate of death and into the bliss of Heaven are those children of Bethlehem who died for his name without ever knowing him. But he knows them, as he knows and loves every child in Syria, and he says of them, to every Herod, ‘Whatsoever ye do unto the least of these, ye do it unto me.’

Guite shares a sonnet titled Refugee in honor of the Feast of Holy Innocents. (Please read; it's profound.) I've chosen to share a short film I discovered last year, featuring another sort of child our society (around the globe) too quickly abandons. In the past few years, several different friends have received the gift of a child with Down Syndrome, and I have grown in my understanding, compassion, and love for what many refer to as #theluckyfew

There's a line from one of the prayers in the Book of Common Prayer that Brian and I have clung to in the past year: Enlarge our hearts to love the things that You love, oh God. Today, let's say it this way: Enlarge our hearts to love the people you love, oh God. 

Amen.


Readings for the Feast of Holy InnocentsPsalm 124, Jeremiah 31:15-17, Revelation 21:1-7, Matthew 2:13-18

Prayer for today:

We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
— Book of Common Prayer

 Thanksgiving with a family from my mother's ESL class, 2010.

Thanksgiving with a family from my mother's ESL class, 2010.

Extend Your Family

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

The  years we lived in Austin we missed our extended family something terrible at Christmas. Occasionally, we made the financial sacrifice to fly home and that helped a little; at the same time we're glad we've had the opportunity to experience Christmas without family nearby. With twelve whole days to celebrate, we enjoyed spending a few of them with other people who were alone, and try to make that part of our celebrating no matter where we live.

From a Think Christian article I wrote in 2017: "When it comes to hospitality to neighbors, I don’t know anyone more on mission than my parents. Apparently this habit began when they were newly married, living in a high-rise apartment building outside of Washington, D.C. Unsure how to meet their neighbors, they relied on their small-town instinct: share food. I still try to imagine how my mom must have felt, in her early twenties, carrying a freshly baked apple pie to another apartment.

Unsurprisingly, this method worked. My parents became friends with many of their neighbors—some that lasted a lifetime and some who, over coffee and more pie, asked questions about Christ. Last weekend, during a visit home, my mother told a story of the Algerian immigrants she knew from teaching English classes at the local civic association. When she discovered the family had recently moved into her neighborhood, she naturally made them a loaf of bread and delivered it to their door."


(See all Christmas Daybook posts from 2016 here.)

Christmas Daybook, 3: mulled wine for St. John's Feast Day

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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Cranberry Mulled Cider via Tiger In A Jar 

The third day of Christmas is also the feast day of Saint John the Apostle. Throughout church history, Christians have celebrated this feast day with mulled wine

St. John the Apostle, is the disciple "whom Jesus loved". It is a custom in the old countries to drink of "St. John's Love". The Church provided a special blessing of wine in honor of the Saint. According to legend St. John drank a glass of poisoned wine without suffering harm because he had blessed it before he drank. The wine is also a symbol of the great love of Christ that filled St. John's heart with loyalty, courage and enthusiasm for his Master; he alone of all the apostles was not afraid to stay close to Our Lord during the Passion and Crucifixion.

Here's a simple recipe for St. John's Love (mulled wine) from a liturgical resource. Or you can make a non-alcoholic version with the cranberry cider recipe in the video above. (I've written out the recipe in this old post.) 

For what it's worth, our family likes to add a little bourbon to our glasses of hot cider. As our children have become adults, this has become a favorite family tradition throughout the 12 days of Christmas!


Today's readings: John by Malcolm Guite for the Feast Day of Saint John the Apostle

May I suggest, if not today then sometime within the new year, a reading of the entire book of John in one (or two) sittings? I had the opportunity to do that this Advent and it was deeply meaningful.

Prayer for today:

Shed upon your Church, O Lord, the brightness of your light, that we, being illumined by the teaching of your apostle and evangelist John, may so walk in the light of your truth, that at length we may attain to the fullness of eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
— Book of Common Prayer

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Make time to stay home

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

Read, watch movies, play games, take naps, take walks in the neighborhood. In our house, we're especially fond of the tradition of wearing pajamas all day as often as possible during Christmas.

(read more here)


(See all Christmas Daybook posts from 2016 here.)

Christmas Daybook, 2: Rediscover family & cultural traditions

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? 


 Polish Christmas Wafers (Opłatki) By Mario Carvajal ( source )

Polish Christmas Wafers (Opłatki) By Mario Carvajal (source)

I'm grateful to Leila at Like Mother, Like Daughter for pointing me to this delightful peek into one Polish family's traditional celebration of Christmas Eve. Here's one Polish-American's take on the same traditions from the memory of his childhood:

"As the early evening gathered, the now impatient children were tasked with locating the first star in the sky, a symbol of the heavenly manifestation which lead the Wise Men to Christ; this was the official sign of the start of the vigil meal. On cloudy evenings, somehow Dad always managed to sight the star anyhow; I grew up thinking he had an eagle’s vision. The evening melted into deep candlelight, and the Christmas tree and decorations were lit for the first time. The home would be awash in the uncommon smells of dishes made only once per year. As the table was prepared, one additional symbolic place was always set for the potential traveler or unexpected guest, and as children we sometimes imagined the angel which would sit there regardless."

I hadn't heard of the traditions we see play out in the family's video, and was particularly intrigued by the little ceremony prior to their meal. I found a lovely 4 minute video that describes the traditional Polish Christmas Eve tradition of of sharing Oplatek, placing hay under the white tablecloth, and setting a place for the unexpected guest.

Also, here's a brief, helpful post at NPR about the family ceremony of beginning Christmas Eve with the Polish Christmas wafer.

What are some of the cultural and ethnic traditions your family includes in your Christmas celebration?


Today's readings (continuing from lectionary for Christmas Day): Isaiah 52:7-10, Psalm 98, Hebrews 1:1-4, 5-12, John 1:1-14

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

Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The Lord has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Psalm 98:1-3, NIV

Lord our God, we thank you from our hearts, from the bottom of our hearts, that you consider us worthy to work with you so that redemption may come to the world in Jesus Christ. Already today many are rejoicing in their Redeemer. They are full of hope and comfort because the end is approaching - that evening when your glory shall be revealed, when the whole world and all nations shall glorify you, O great God and Father in heaven. Come into our time, we pray. Help us, Lord our God. Day and night we look to you in the hope of beholding the time of your glory, in the hope of receiving the peace that is beyond all understanding and of finding redemption, the great redemption from heaven, through you, the God over all flesh. Amen.
— Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt, Plough.com

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"While we feast, we savor."  

{An excerpt from my post Family liturgies for Christmas & my Mama's rule for feasting.}

My mother created a rule for feasting years ago. As a family, we'd often be invited into other people's homes for mouth-watering meals, but too many times the dinner conversation revolved around the fattening, unhealthy qualities we consumed. It felt like each dish spooned onto our plate came heaped with sides of shame and guilt.  At her own dinner table, my mother would not tolerate this sort of pious, joy-wrecking conversation.  This is how she taught us her motto for hospitality: While we feast, we savor.

This is no way to feast, friends. Keeping in mind that legalism kills, but order brings life to our family celebrations, Brian and I keep my mother's rule close to heart. While we feast, we savor. At Christmas, we savor every sort of gift - food, music, family, friends, and the boxes and bags we wrap up and hand to each other.  All of it -- the ones we give and the ones we receive -- unearned.  All of it, grace. 

(read more here)


(See all Christmas Daybook posts from 2016 here.)

Christmas Daybook, 1: Rozhdestvo (The Nativity)

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? 


    Rozhdestvo   (The Nativity)  (1996), written and directed by  Mikhail Aldashin :

Rozhdestvo (The Nativity) (1996), written and directed by Mikhail Aldashin:

I'm grateful to Victoria Emily Jones at Art & Theology for pointing me to this stunning and sweet short film. 

"Rozhdestvo (The Nativity) (1996), written and directed by Mikhail Aldashin: I am blown away by this wordless animated short from Russia. Using a naive art style washed in sepia tones and set to a soundtrack of Bach and Beethoven, it tells the story of how angels, humans, and animals came together on the first Christmas to worship the newborn Christ. It opens with Gabriel peeking out from behind a tree at Mary hanging laundry, then chasing her down a footpath to tell her what God is up to. For every person and critter he encounters, Gabriel flashes open the book of God’s word, pointing them to the shalom it prophesies and inviting them to enter in. By the end, shepherds, fishermen, kings, rabbits, lambs, and lion are participating in a round dance outside the stable, while an angel orchestra (which includes violins and timpani!) plays from the rooftop."


Today's readingsIsaiah 62:6-12, Psalm 97, Titus 3:4-7, Luke 2:1-7, 8-20

Prayer for today: The Collect for Christmas Day

O God, you make us glad by the yearly festival of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we, who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer, may with sure confidence behold him when he comes to be our Judge; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
— Book of Common Prayer

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Practice gift giving and receiving

{An excerpt from my post Family liturgies for Christmas & my Mama's rule for feasting.}

It seems that, in my lifetime, people have changed their opinions about Christmas gift giving. Maybe Charlie Brown started it, bemoaning commercialism? We join his melancholy lament in our house; we also guard against extreme measures that might on the surface seem wise, even spiritual. Christ taught us to give our possessions to the poor, yes, but He was no pious ascetic, shunning feasts and merrymaking.

Jesus, Himself, showed us how to receive gifts well. Picture him, feet covered with Mary's perfume, delighting in the scent of her costly gift. She shamelessly -- and extravagantly -- gave; Jesus shamelessly received. Judas' super-spiritual nagging that Mary wasted an opportunity to give to the poor couldn't even ruin the moment. Maybe Jesus had learned the joy of receiving, all those years earlier, when men from another country filled his mother's living room with abundance.

As in every other practice for living, Jesus shows us the way to delight in both the giving and the receiving of gifts.  We bask in gift-giving at Christmas, not only to remember what Christ modelled the first time He came to earth, but also to remind each other what we anticipate when He comes again.  Haven't we been told our future reconciliation with Jesus unveils the greatest Gift Exchange in History?  He makes a new Heaven and a New Earth, and we give Him all glory, laud, and honor (including something about crowns)?  No matter how spiritual it might seem, fostering guilty consciences by limiting our enjoyment of Christmas does not make us more like Christ.

There is a time for fasting; Christmas is not that time. (read more here)


(See all Christmas Daybook posts from 2016 here.)