22 December 2014

Robert Louis Stevenson Christmas Prayer

I have never seen this before.  The first half is kind of generic/schmaltzy, but not the second half.  I especially like "and teach us to be merry with clean hearts."
Loving Father, Help us remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship of the wise men. Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world. Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.
Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clean hearts. May the Christmas morning make us happy to be Thy children, and the Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake, Amen!

HT: Challies 

17 December 2014

O Antiphons

Today begins the O Antiphon--the precursor to our Advent hymn O Come, O Come Emmanuel-- countdown until Christmas with O Sapientia (O Wisdom)

From Pr. Weedon's blog:
The Great O Antiphons, used to frame the Magnificat in Vespers in the days before Christmas, begin [this] evening with O Wisdom.  The Treasury [of Daily Prayer] includes them in the daily propers section.  As each of these Old Testament names for God is prayed, and Christ is invoked to come to us, the clarity of whom the Blessed Mother bore is driven home in an unmistakable way, climaxing in the confession that He is Emmanuel, God with us.  The Latin titles read backwards announce:  ERO CRAS - I'll be [here] tomorrow, which is very fitting as the O Antiphons conclude upon December 23.
Resources: You can sing the appropriate verses from LSB 357.  A sermon series based on the antiphons is at steadfastlutherans.org.  Issues, Etc. has a series of meditations on each name here.

Here are some pretty coloring pages.

12 December 2014

St. Lucia (December 13)

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.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 

Feast of Santa Lucia. Carl Larsson 1908

One of the victims of the great persecution under the Roman emperor Diocletian, Lucia met her death at Syracuse on the island of Sicily in the year A.D. 304, because of her Christian faith. Known for her charity, “Santa Lucia” (as she is called in Italy) gave away her dowry and remained a virgin until her execution by the sword. The name Lucia means “light,” and, because of that, festivals of light commemorating her became popular throughout Europe, especially in the Scandinavian countries. There her feast day corresponds with the time of year when there is the least amount of daylight. In artistic expression she is often portrayed in a white baptismal gown, wearing a wreath of candles on her head.
The most famous tradition of St. Lucia's Day is to have the oldest daughter wear a white robe with a red sash (representing the blood that spilled from the martyred Lucia), and a wreath with candles.

She rises early, when it's still dark, and prepares a breakfast of lussekotter and coffee and then wakes and serves her whole family, announcing the soon arrival of the Light of the World, the Christ-child.

Like St. Lucia, our faithful pastors "bear witness about the light," wake dead-asleep sinners, and nourish them with the Bread of Life.  For, anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.  (Eph 5:14)


"The tradition of planting wheat on Saint Lucy's Day (December 13) comes from Hungary, Croatia, and other European nations. Plant wheat grains in a round dish or plate of soil, then water the seeds. Place the container in a warm spot. If the planting medium is kept moist (not sopping wet), the seeds will germinate and the shoots will be several inches high by Christmas. Then the new green shoots, reminding us of the new life born in Bethlehem, may be tied with a ribbon, if desired, and a candle may be placed near them as a symbol of the Light of Christ.
"Place the plate of sprouted wheat near the Nativity set where it will remind all that Christ, the Bread of Life, was born in Bethlehem, whose name means "House of Bread." The wheat recalls the Eucharist which is made from wheat. It also brings to mind Christ's parables about wheat:

[John 12:24; Mark 4:1-20; Matthew 13: 4-23; Matthew 13:24-30; Matthew 13:33; Mark 4:26-29; Mark 2:23-28]

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.  

07 December 2014

The Anti-St. Nicholas

No theological significance to this post, just family life in all it's craziness.

The kids found "money candy" from St. Nicholas in their shoes yesterday morning.  Other St. Nicholas Day traditions in our house include giving away as many toys as the kids are old (that's 19 toys combined!), and reading about the dear bishop.

Ours were deutchmarks, from Aldis

There was some drama about how many silver and gold coins each received; some ate some before breakfast; some ended up with more than others once the candy migrated downstairs.  We had to leave at 8am to make it to Sunday School Christmas program practice, so instead of figuring out who got how many, I said, "We'll figure it out when we get home!"

Later husband went with his dad and brother to see Interstellar.  We came home to this all over the table.


Stage 2: anger
Stage 5: emo acceptance
My second-born was HORRIFIED, and made some of these faces and cried and screamed a lot.

Stage 4: depression

Upon further investigation, it was discovered that, although each foil was carefully peeled, not every crumb of chocolate was eaten, and there were claw marks (!) on some of the wrappers.

We have a Christmas dog we got in December 2012.  He is, as my husband says, the gift that keeps on costing.  He is very handsome, but very clever (or stupid....perhaps dumb like a fox?), and usually does one round of damage while we're gone (trash, if we forget to take it out before we leave, stuffed animal, pillow, bag of flour.  He can open doors, cupboards, gates, screens...).  We forgot to read this description of the "Boxadore" when we blissfully went to pick ours up.  Nothing could go wrong with a free Craigslist ad, right!?*
 The Lab Boxer mix tends to produce a dog that is intelligent and very good with kids. If there is a personality drawback, it is the fact the dog tends to have an absolute ton of energy. If you don't have very active kids or a family member who will take the dog for a run each day, you may end up with a pup that destroys things in the house because they have so much pent up energy. 
I'm a sucker for handsome men and dogs
So, back to St. Nicholas.  Did you know the Scandinavian, Slavic and German countries have sort of an anti-St. Nicholas who punishes bad children? He goes by many different names, and can look quite frightening!  I believe he is in the "trickster" tradition of Puck or Loki, but can be quite sinister. So we're thinking of renaming Little Bear, our anti-St. Nicholas, our bad Christmas dog**

                  Black Pete
 (or Swarte Piet), Santa's mischievous little helper

                  Krampus, the original coal-gifter (and sometimes terrifying child-eater)

                     Or maybe Arius, the original Anti-St. Nick!

For more less-than-perfect Church Year in the home reading, see Rebecca Sicree's classic article on the gift-giving Lizard Man, Bethlehem Baboons, and Advent Air Bazookas! 


* concerned dog lovers: He's 80 lbs and just had some mild indigestion; he's fine (and more importantly, my carpet is fine)

 **everyone else, wondering why we still have this monster: Who else are we going to mock, ridicule, deride, and snuggle on the couch with?  He is the ultimate family court fool, and he seems to keep a good sense of humor about it.  Plus, he keeps bad guys away and is a good mouser.

04 December 2014

Bloody Christmas

While listing off to a friend what we do during the conventional "Christmas season" (Thanksgiving to December 25), I tried to express how we also observe the 12 days of Christmas.  And then I realized how bloody Christmas week is

Dec 26  St. Stephen's martyrdom
Dec 27  St. John (not bloody)
Dec 28  Holy Innocents' martyrdom
Jan 1     Circumcision and Name of Jesus

So I guess I go with "We continue to celebrate Christmas after Dec 25 by honoring those who first died for the sake of Christ, and Christ's first shedding of blood."

Awkward. (And, no, I didn't actually say that to my friend.)

But that's how the Church Year works, and why it works so well.  Unlike what our Reformed friends claim, a liturgical season does not neglect the theology of the other seasons.  If anything, the Church Year, and especially the lectionary, discipline the Church to continue to proclaim the whole counsel of God, year after year, season after season.  And I expect we will be doing the same in Eternity.

Lord, I believe Thy precious blood,
Which, at the mercy seat of God,
Forever doth for sinners plead,
For me, e’en for my soul, was shed.

O let the dead now hear Thy voice;
Now bid Thy banished ones rejoice;
Their beauty this, their glorious dress,
Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness.

14 November 2014

Advent 2014

Gettin' ready for Advent, the first liturgical season I fell in love with!  Sister, Daughter, Mother, Wife has a great Advent linkup. Check it out!

Here's my Advent post from way back in 2011, edited a bit:

And again Isaiah says,
"The root of Jesse will come,
    even he who arises to rule the Gentiles;
    in him will the Gentiles hope."

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, 
                            so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.                                 
Romans 15:12-13

The Last Judgment Fra Angelica

Happy New Year!  The Christian Church, at least in the West, marks Advent as the beginning of a new church year.  We look forward, as ancient Israel did, to Christ's birth, but as the New Israel, also to Christ's return in glory.  Meanwhile, we enjoy His very presence in Word and Sacrament.  While looking for Advent material, I found two meditations on Christ yesterday, today, and forever.  

On a Roman Catholic site is an essay based on a quotation by St.Bernard: "In the first coming, He comes in the flesh and in weakness; in the second, He comes in spirit and in power; in the third, He comes in glory and in majesty; and the second coming is the means whereby we pass from the first to the third."

I did not disagree with that statement, or really with the rest of the essay (with a few exceptions). However, the Advent banner over at lcms.org was more compelling: "As Christ came long ago in Bethlehem, so we pray He would come among us today in Word and Sacrament and again in all His glory in the last day."

Bernard is right, Christ through the Holy Spirit dwells among His Church in spirit and power, as 1 Corinthians 2:4 says, but more specifically in how does He tabernacle among us? By Word and Sacrament, still in the Flesh

During Advent we remember His first coming "in flesh and weakness," but also confess He continues to come to us, in the Flesh, and in weakness (plain water, simple bread and wine, a sinful pastor). God's ways are hidden, and appear weak to us. Flesh and weakness are not replaced by Spirit and power, but rather actually deliver to us the power of the Holy Spirit, that is, the gift of faith and salvation.

So, as Lutherans, rejoice in the hope to come, God's glory.  But remain in the little helpless God-Baby, born in Bethlehem, and the naked, wretched God-Man, cursed and dead on Golgotha. Continue to eat His Flesh and drink His Blood until He returns.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  Romans 5:1-2

One of the many concerns of Christian parents, across confessions, is how to "take back Christmas," or keep Jesus the "reason for the season."  For liturgical Christians, this can mean restoring Advent and moving Christmas to its historical place (beginning at Christmas Day, but lasting  all the way to Epiphany!). One way to observe Advent is to save your festivities (cookies, parties, open houses) for the real Christmas season. Another is to wait to decorate until Christmas Week, or even Christmas Eve.

And I think Advent is a beautiful season for the woman of the house.  She can plan, cook, clean and wrap without stressing out. Then she can actually relax for days instead of one day. Everything is drawn out and takes longer and tastes sweeter because there isn't a mad rush.  A mad rush to prepare, a mad rush to party, then it's all over.  I know some families who do their Christmas shopping after Christmas Day, then spread the giving out over the rest of the season.  On a practical level, praise God for Advent!

Here are some sites with great ideas (use your discretion; only the third one is Lutheran)

Baby Steps for Celebrating Advent
Fisheaters-Advent Overview
Christmas in September (lots of Advent ideas, too!  Read through all the comments!)

What we're gonna do....

Learn a new hymn
Slowly decorate the house:
On Advent Sundays put electric candles in each window, and an Advent Wreath on the table.
Eight days before Christmas ("Golden Days" singing the O Antiphons) we'll add Christmas lights and an empty Nativity Scene.
Hide-n-seek each morning during Christmas Week for certain Nativity figures until Mary on Christmas Eve and Jesus on Christmas Day.  Wisemen begin to make the trek from upstairs.
 We always get our tree a few days before Christmas and decorate it on Christmas Eve
Attend midweek services (if this is too hard with many little ones, ask your pastor to send you a copy             of the order of service, list of hymns, and copy of his homily)
Make Christmas gifts
Make Christmas cookies and treats to freeze, to consume only during Christmas
Introduce new (read "different") prayers to memorize and pray during bed time
Continue to memorize the catechism

Other ideas I'm interested in, but am not committing to, yet:

*Collecting 30 or so religious picture books to wrap up in tissue paper and "unwrap" each evening before bed to read.  Of course, many will be Christmas-themed, but not all of them.  An Arch Book on John the Baptist (preparing the world for the first advent of Christ) would be appropriate, or some of the parables about the Parousia. You could, over time, collect a lot from amazon/garage sales/used book stores.

*Freezing meals over advent to use during Christmas. What a great way to prepare to rest during the season!

What are you doing special for Advent?

Comfort, comfort ye my people,

speak ye peace, thus saith our God;
comfort those who sit in darkness,
mourning 'neath their sorrow's load;
speak ye to Jerusalem
of the peace that waits for them;
tell her that her sins I cover,

and her warfare now is over.

06 August 2014

Joseph of Arimathea (July 31)




July 31st the church remembers Joseph of Arimathea.

 "Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate wondered if He was dead by this time, and summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether He was already dead. And ascertaining this from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth and laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were looking onto see where He was laid." Mark 15:43-47


I took some time to explain to the babies that this Joseph is different from the Joseph in Egypt and Jesus' earthly father Joseph. There really are a lot of Josephs and Marys in the Bible aren't there? We read from one of our Easter books, the Crucifixion account and since it was Joseph who asked for Jesus' body, gave him a tomb and laid him there, I decided that making a tomb would be an appropriate craft.


Inspired by this tomb we got to work. I had very very low expectations but knew we'd at least have fun mixing ingredients.



Our humble tomb. 
Unfortunately, I didn't have an oven proof bowl so I used the inside of a bundt cake pan. :) 

There are tons of Easter Tomb crafts that are appropriate for this day.
Also a lot of  Easter Tomb snack ideas that would be fun for kids. You can find some of these on my Easter Pin Board.

17 July 2014

The Commemoration of Ruth (July 16)


July 16th the Church commemorates Ruth the Moabitess.




Snack Ideas: Pretzel "Bundles of wheat", Wheat Thins, Whole Wheat Crackers


Craft: Baskets for gleaning, idea from HERE.


To Watch: The Story of Ruth 
To Read: The Story of Ruth and Naomi from the Alice in Bibleland series
Ruth and Naomi Arch Book

To Sing: Our Lutheran Service Book has wonderful hymn for occasions like this,
 #855 For All the Faithful Women:

"For Ruth, who left her homeland
And ventured forth in faith,
Who pledged to serve and worship
Naomi's God till death,
We praise You, God till death,
We praise You, God of Israel,
And pray for hearts set free
To bind ourselves to others
In love and loyalty."

"You promised to preserve Your people and save Your inheritance, using unlikely and unexpected vessels in extending the genealogy that would bring about the birth of Your blessed Son. Give us the loyalty of Ruth and her trust in the one true God, that we, too, might honor You through our submission and respect and be counted among Your chosen People by the Grace of Jesus Christ." Amen. Treasury of Daily Prayer

You can find more about Ruth on this blog HERE.

24 March 2014

St. Joseph Guardian of Jesus (March 19)


March 19th is the Feast of St. Joseph, Guardian of Jesus. I'm sure it's just me but Joseph seems to be one of those saints easily overlooked, lurking in the background, in the shadow of Mary and certainly of Jesus.

Joseph is many times painted as looking pretty frail and sad. But in my mind he was a little more manly than that.  We don't know much about him but I believe it's safe to assume he was just like any Daddy.


A Protector








 A Teacher of Scripture


 A good and honorable father.


One St. Joseph's Day tradition is to make a "St. Joseph's Altar". As Lutherans we don't pray to saints or pay homage to them so I was uncomfortable making an altar and believing it would bring good fortune to our family. 

I like to think of St. Joseph's Day as the Church's Father's Day and in fact in Italy March 19th (The Feast of St. Joseph) is Father's Day.

So we celebrated the fathers in our family.


Remembering the Guardian of Jesus by honoring our own fathers and giving thanks for them is a great idea.

Anything you would do for Father's Day would be appropriate for this Feast. I had my children make cards for their father and grandfathers.


Coloring pages:


For a snack we made little "Josephs" in his carpenters apron, with a carpenter's square and his staff.


More cookies, "Joseph's tools", hammers and carpenters squares. 

Other attributes for St. Joseph are: 
Carpenter's square or tools, the infant Jesus, staff with lily blossoms, two turtle doves.

For more ideas for celebrating the Feast of St. Joseph visit:

"We sing our thanks for Joseph,
The guardian of our Lord
Who faithfully taught Jesus
Through craft and deed and word.
Grant wisdom, Lord, and patience
To parents everywhere
Who guide and teach the children
Entrusted to their care."

01 February 2014

The Purification of Mary and Presentation of our Lord (February 2)

I'm still here!  We're expecting another little one any day now, and if she's a girl, we will name her Anna, after the prophetess in Luke 2

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.  She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

Here is a previous year's post about the Presentation (commonly called "Candlemas")

Here is a very thorough article by Pr. Abrahamson on the origins and history of the Feast.