Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Day

The Twelve Days of Christmas
Merry Christmas! What a joy it is to be able to say those words. After a long season of waiting the joy of the season has arrived. Whether you hear these words on Christmas day or thought the first week of January, they are still true and appropriate. Because, contrary to all of the pre-Christmas sales and pre-Christmas movie count downs, the twelve days of Christmas begin the day after Christmas and run through January 6th, Epiphany.
Traditionally there are twelve days to celebrate the birth of Christ in the Christian year, ending with the celebration of the Magi bringing gifts to the Christ Child.
But like so many things in our world, the twelve days have been rushed. They have been placed before Christmas so that Christmas feels like an ending, instead of a beginning. Once the packages are open, the feast consumed, the joy seems to end.
This should not be so for us who celebrate the birth of Christ! Our joy should go on throughout the season.
There are many theories and ways to do this. Perhaps doing an act of kindness every one of the twelve days would be a good way to share the continuing joy of Christ with others. Some people use advent calendar type reminders of the twelve days. There are churches who have twelve days of Christmas services or Christmas prayers open to all who wish to extend their joy of the season.
There is a song about the Twelve days of Christmas written down in the late 17 hundreds, although its origin is more than likely older. Most of you are familiar with it. It is about a true love sending gifts that increase in extravagance throughout the season. While it more than likely was just a children’s song for fun and mirth, recently people have begun to ascribe theological meanings to the lyrics.
A common story linked to the song is that it was used as a secret catechism during the 1500’s-1700 while Catholicism was against the law in great Brittan. The lyrics were infused with meanings that only the faithful would understand. Some people, including the authors of snopes.com will tell you that such meanings are false. They state that singing a catechism song only at Christmas would lead to very bad memorization at the very least.
While it is true that the song itself has French roots, I would argue with Snopes.com and other neigh Sayers.
I don’t believe that the original intent of the song was to be a catechism. But, that doesn’t mean it can’t be used that way.
In the same manner Christians have adopted traditions from all over the world to represent the birth and salvation through Jesus. The evergreen tree was not originally a sign of God’s continual unending mercy. It was a sign of the hope that a new year would come and that life did not end in winter.
A good number of scholars believe Jesus was born in June, not December, but the church picked this time of year to consider with festivals that were already occurring. To give new meaning to old and beloved traditions. To share the good news of Jesus through any means necessary.
So I will now give you the Christian interpretation of the twelve Days of Christmas, Not claiming that this was the intent of the writers, but claiming it as a way we can share God through all things!
On the first Day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree.
The “true love” spoken of throughout the song is God. The partridge is Jesus, who willingly gave up his life to protect the children of God.
. . . Two turtle doves                                       the two turtle doves are the Old and New Testaments.
. . . Three French Hens                                   The Christian values of Faith Hope, and love
. . . Four Calling Birds                                      The four gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
. . . Five golden rings                                       the first five books of the bible, known as the Pentateuch
. . . Six geese a laying                                      the six days of creation
. . . Seven Swans a swimming                      the sevenfold gifts of the spirit Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy
. . . Eight maids a milking                               The Beatitudes
. . . Nine ladies dancing                                  The nine fruits of the Holy Spirit-----love, Joy, Peace, Patience [Forbearance], Goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
. . . Ten Lords a Leaping                              The Ten commandments
. . . Eleven Pipers Piping                    the Eleven Faithful Disciples
. . . Twelve Drummers Drumming              The twelve points of belief found in the Apostle’s creed

Remember the season of Christmas does not end on the 25th of December! Keep it with you, at least for the next twelve days, if not year round. Bring the joy of Christ through every door. Let the love of Christ show up in unexpected places, like a 16th century French Carol, or at the local Starbucks, or in the return line at Kohl’s!

May your days be filled with the love of Christ and the joy of his birth! Amen and Amen.

Fear Not - A Christmas Eve Sermon

Gloria Dios! En La Teirra Paz a los hombres!
Glory to God and on Earth Peace to men!
Today’s passage gives us these famous words, echoed in many churches in many languages across the world tonight. Words of comfort, of jo , of peace. These words make their way onto Christmas Cards and into the collective hearts of so many Christians and non-Christians alike.
But this year, I find myself asking why these words are so compleling. What is it about these words that endure? That speak truth to our hearts each year?
Too many time I think they endure because they are the opposite of what we live in day in and day out. Peace, Joy, Hope, Love the four Sunday’s of Advent are celebrated to remind us of what the Christ Child brings into our lives. Peace born amid chaos. Peace born into the war and rubble of our lives.
The headlines of the day are anything but good news. There are continued attacks in Aleppo even after a cease-fire has been declared to allow citizens to leave. There are continued concerns about the terrorist attack in Berlin which has European nations weighing heavily the cost of freedom verses the promise of security. People are trying to unravel the reasons behind the hijacking of a Libyan Airplane.
Fear is a much more common emotion for us than peace. We know what it’s like to be afraid. To be worried about our loved ones. TO be uncertain about our jobs. To be surrounded. Even fears from years ago have a way of returning unexpectedly. Tomorrow morning citizens in a section of Augsburg Germany (more than 54, 000 people) will be asked to leave their homes so that a bomb from WWII can be diffused. They must leave their homes Christmas Day so that a bomb from 1944 can be removed from their neighborhood.
Yes, fear is a common thing today, and it was in Mary’s day as well.
The fears of that day were perhaps not too different from today. There were fears of the government, wondering what might or might not be required of citizens. Fears for safety. No doubt the Shepherds that night were on the lookout for wildlife that might attack their sheep, for bandits who might abscond with a lamb or ewe. For silly sheep who might wonder off a cliff. Of all the things, they feared, none compared to a greeting from the heavenly hosts.
Into their everyday ordinary world, of chaos and fears, the angles appeared and told them to not be afraid. Don’t fear, we bring you glad tidings of great joy!
But its not easy to do. The world as we know it is so full of fears that they threaten to overrun us at a moment’s notice. So we stick to what we know. We say our prayers of protection, like spells cast out against evil spirits. We carry our lucky charms to reassure us when the road is dark. We clasp our security blankets knowing that all is right in the world if we can feel that silky fabric.
Like Linus in Charlie Brown, we need our blue blanket to make us feel safe in a world that seems largely out of our control. It gives us stability and hope when we cannot find it within ourselves. But perhaps, just perhaps this year we can be a little bit more like the Linus we see in Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown.
You may not have noticed it, it took a blog by Jason Soroski for me to notice. Linus, who is attached to the blanket more than anything begins reciting the words from Luke 2 to tell everyone what Christmas is all about.
He is holding his blanket in his hands as he begins to speak. And when he gets to the words, “Fear not” he does the unthinkable. Linus drops his blanket.
The birth of Jesus separates us from our fears.
The birth of Jesus frees us from the habits we are unable (or unwilling) to break ourselves.
The birth of Jesus allows us to simply drop the false security we have been grasping so tightly, and learn to trust and cling to Him instead.
This very night, God breaks again into our world with these same words, these same glad tidings of great joy!
This very night, we hear again the promise of the angles and rush with the shepherds to see the babe lying in a manger.
This very night we are invited to let go of our fears and pick up the peace offered in Christ’s name.