I’ve subscribed to the two Christmases theory for a long time. Two Christmases, and I like them both, though I think one of them is more important than the other. One Christmas looks forward to Santa Claus coming to town. The other Christmas remembers that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Of course, a growing number of people only celebrate the Santa Christmas, and a very few people – mostly they live in caves – celebrate only the Jesus Christmas. In between, there are those of us who try to balance the parallel holidays. My version of that balancing act puts more emphasis on Jesus and tries to keep the two holidays more or less separate. Some of you may look at it differently, but, for instance, I really don’t like that famous Santa kneeling at the manger bed painting. Call me a heretic, but I’m not even sure the Little Drummer Boy should be there, pa rum pum pum pum.
To be fair, many Santa Christmas folks are willing to let a little Jesus stuff seep into their celebrations. Joy always plays well, though it may not be the great joy of the angel’s message to the shepherds. And if you want to be a little more serious about things, you can always add “Peace on Earth.” But like joy, peace on the Santa side of things may not be what the angel choir had in mind:
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:13–14
When peace has mostly to do with getting along, you might as well cancel the angel choir and bring on Santa and his purple-nosed reindeer trailing a 60s-era peace banner. All we are saying is give peace a chance. Continue reading
In my high-country backpacking days, we would use topographical maps and a compass to try figure out exactly where we were and how we might get to where we wanted to go. Using the compass to orient the map, we’d determine a couple of distant peaks or landmarks indicated by the contour lines on the map and shoot the bearing of each of them. The theory is that your location is where the two lines drawn on those bearings intersect.
Of course, ask anyone who’s done much high-country backpacking about the time they got lost. I remember when my friend Norm and I had taken some of the middle school boys from the youth group at church on a Memorial Day weekend trip into the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness of the Sierra Nevada. We were still below timberline, but patchy snow covered the ground and it was not always easy to stay on the trail. A thick overcast filled the sky, so not even the sun could tell us the direction we were headed. Continue reading
Christmas lights are a big deal in our neighborhood. Becky and I went for a subtle and tasteful string of multiple colors across the railing on the front porch. We think it looks really nice. But subtle is not necessarily the name of the game, so we may have to do something different next year.
Some of our neighbors have displays with thousands of lights and one isn’t even a display. It is a show, and a very impressive show at that. Auburn friends, you should drive by. We are in Bear Creek – off of County Road 52 between County Roads 31 and 35 (that’s how we name the roads between the cornfields here in Indiana – what it lacks in imagination, it makes up in pretty much always knowing where you are).
The word wonderland is much overused this time of year, but a nighttime drive or a walk through our neighborhood is worth the time it takes.
When the sun goes down, our neighborhood becomes something of, well, a wonderland of lights and displays. I love it. Continue reading
The first Sunday of Advent.
I have been thinking about Advent. Our pastor here in Auburn graciously asked if I might be willing to create the readings for the lighting of the Advent candles on the four Sundays of Advent and Christmas Eve. It was a generous offer, and I gladly accepted.
I’ve also been talking with a friend whose background is in a non-liturgical church, but who has a new position this year and must lead his church, like Saint Andrew, an otherwise low church, through an observance of Advent.
Traditionally, Advent is the season that begins with the fourth Sunday before Christmas and continues through Christmas Eve. The old readings and prayers have a double focus on Christ’s first Advent at his nativity in Bethlehem and on his second Advent at the end of time, coming as judge of the living and the dead and bringing with him a new heaven and a new earth. Continue reading
For many of us, Thanksgiving Day is the best holiday of the year. Family. Food. A time to pause and remember and give thanks. But Thanksgiving 2020 is not going to be a traditional Thanksgiving. The family circle will be smaller. Sure, there will be food, but the family members who always bring the pumpkin pie or the cranberry salad won’t be with us this year. No other pumpkin pie will be quite as good and, frankly, we might as well pass on cranberry salad if it’s not that cranberry salad.
As for thanks, we’ll be tempted to cast blame rather than to offer thanks. We’ll blame a heavy-handed government or fate or maybe even God for a Thanksgiving that is not going to be what we planned. If we’d been given a choice, we would have skipped all that 2020 has brought to our favorite holiday and so much more.
We cast blame rather than offer thanks at our own peril. Continue reading