Christmas Traditions – Part 1

Over the next week or two, Pam and I will be sharing some of our family’s Christmas traditions.

Christmas Cards

We love opening Christmas cards together as a family. This is part of our tradition and as part of that tradition, they are handed out at dinner time and opened when we sit down as a family for dinner. Last year, I accidentally opened a Christmas card when it came in the mail and you should have seen the looks from the rest of the family. We enjoy connecting with current friends and with old friends through Christmas cards as well as connecting with family.

Twelfth Night

From The Voice:

The Twelfth Night is January 5th, the last day of the Christmas Season before Epiphany (January 6th). In some church traditions, January 5th is considered the eleventh Day of Christmas, while the evening of January 5th is still counted as the Twelfth Night, the beginning of the Twelfth day of Christmas the following day. Twelfth Night often included feasting along with the removal of Christmas decorations. French and English celebrations of Twelfth Night included a King’s Cake, remembering the visit of the Three Magi. In some cultures, the King’s Cake was part of the celebration of the day of Epiphany.

Tonight the season of Christmas draws to a close. This will be the last night our outdoor decorations will be lit and with the warm weather forcasted for Monday, they should be coming down on Monday. Our indoor tree is still up and that usually comes down mid January. Last year it was sometime in February because Pam was so sick. Earlier this week, we took the decorations down in the church. While Christmas is over, the journey continues…Carp Diem!

Lectionary Readings

Holy Name of Jesus
January 1, 2008

Psalm 8
Numbers 6:22-27

Luke 2:15-21
Galatians 4:4-7 or Philippians 2:5-11

Today’s second reading begins in the same place as the first, in the Psalms. Luke gives us the narrative of the young baby Jesus being dedicated in the temple — which is part of the reason for today’s reading. Mary and Joseph took their baby boy to the temple to be dedicated and circumsized as was the Jewish custom. It was at this ceremony that he was named Jesus. Today is the eighth day after Christmas, so today we remember the name of Jesus, which should really be remembered every day. The New Testament passages are among my favorite passages in the Bible, especially the Philippians passage. Jesus has been given the name that is above every other name — that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. I think it’s appropriate to finish with the blessing or benediction from Numbers —

May the Lord bless you and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.

Weekly Lectionary Reading

1st Sunday after Christmas
Dec 30, 2007

Psalm 148
Isaiah 63:7-9
Matthew 2:13-23
Hebrews 2:10-18

Why did Jesus come to earth as a baby — a frail human baby? The writer of Hebrews sets it up for us.

17 Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. 18 Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.

Jesus came to be “God with us” — Emmanuel. No wonder the psalmist and the prophet are so joyful. They were confident that God was with them and would be with them. Jesus came as a baby to be God in the flesh or God with skin on. What a comforting thought.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

I know it sounds like the name of a popular Christmas tune, but there really are 12 days of Christmas. Christmas (contrary to popular opinion) begins on December 25 and ends on January 5. Which is cool, because since we have moved away from home many years ago, we have always had several Christmas celebrations, most of them after Christmas day. The Voice has a great article on the season of Christmas, and I wanted to share a few excerpts from the article on the 2nd day of Christmas.

Among all the festivals and holidays of the Christian Church year, Christmas remains the most observed and most popular. Of course, much of that popularity, especially in the West, is due to the commercial promotion of the holiday. In many Protestant churches through the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Christmas was noted but not really celebrated. While observed in some church liturgies, there was very little in the way of gift giving and family celebration that marks the season today. In fact, until relatively recently, in the middle to latter nineteenth century, Christmas was a regular work day. In many areas of the world today, it remains a comparatively insignificant holiday even among Christians. Still, the Christmas story captures the heart in a way that transcends all the commercial hype.

While we most often think about Christmas as a single day, it is actually a season of the year. In its popular sense, it extends four weeks before Christmas Day and for two weeks after. However, the time before Christmas is a special season called Advent, comprising the four Sundays before Christmas Day. While the entire season of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany can be seen together, they each have distinctly different roles in the Church year. The term “Advent” means “coming” and is a season of expectation and hope, the time of waiting for the coming of the Messiah that is celebrated at Christmas. This time of waiting symbolizes the waiting throughout the Old Testament for the new act of God that would bring deliverance to his people. For Christians this season of expectation also symbolizes the waiting in anticipation for the Second Coming of the Christ when he will return and restore all things (see The Season of Advent).

Contrary to advertising campaigns that tout Christmas as beginning with Advent (or Halloween!), the actual Christmas Season in most Western church traditions begins at sunset on Christmas Eve, December 24, and lasts through January 5. Since this time includes 12 days, the season of Christmas is known in many places as the Twelve Days of Christmas. January 6 is usually celebrated as Epiphany, although it carries different significance in various church traditions.

Christmas Night

Nativity of the Lord – Proper III
December 24 & 25, 2007

Isaiah 52:7-10
Psalm 98

Hebrews 1:1-12
John 1:1-14

We finished our Lessons and Carols service last night with this verse. I’ll share it without commentary:

1 In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He existed in the beginning with God. 3 God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. 4 The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

6 God sent a man, John the Baptist,
7 to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. 8 John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. 9 The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

10 He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. 12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

Nativity of our Lord

December 25, 2007

1 At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.
6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7 She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.
8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.