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.