January 1st, in the Christian calendar is not the beginning of a new year. This is the day we celebrate the circumcision of Christ. Since our cultures are more squeamish than were those of our ancestors, modern calendars usually list it as the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. Just like every Jewish boy, Jesus as circumcised and formally named on the eighth day of his life, and so, one week after Christmas, while we are still celebrating the wonder and the joy of the Saviour who came to dwell amongst us, we celebrate this occasion In Jesus day, a name was far more important than it tends to be today. Introducing a person just about gave you their whole genealogy and sometimes even reflected their personality.
As a celebration of then naming of Jesus why not get together with a group of friends for a party – always a good way to shake off those post Christmas blues. Bring a name book with you. Look up the names of each person in your group and discuss their meanings. Get each person to share the story of why they were given that name. Then ask the question: In what ways does your name reflect the call that God has placed on your life? Some of you may like to consider a new name that reflects what you believe is God’s call on your life. One friend of mine changed his name from Bill to Will because he felt it better reflected his desire to use his life “doing the will of God.”
Next spend time discussing the names of Jesus. Get each person to write down the names that they remember as being applied to Jeuss in the Scriptures. You might like to have a competition to see who can think of the most names. Or you could write a poem or song that reflects these names. end your time with a discussion about how you could represent these different aspects of who Jesus can me to those who live around you.
This morning I have been reading through some Advent meditations sent to me by our good friend Mark Pierson in New Zealand Unfortunately they arrived too late to use for Advent but Mark’s reflections are always refreshing and provocative. I have adapted one here that really impacted me this morning:
God moved into the neighbouhood, as a baby. Powerless. Vulnerable. Approximately 500,000 mothers die in childbirth each year most of them in the poorest countries of our world. When a mother dies like this it is almost certain that her child will die too God takes a risk. Where in the world today will women be giving birth in similar circumstances to Mary?
Take a flower and place beside your Advent wreath. As you watch it this week let it remind you of women living in poverty and crisis who are carry and bearing children in situations even more dire than Mary’s. Pray for them
Here is another Christmas prayer that this reflection inspired
Jesus you come
In the voice of the poor
In the hurting of the sick
In the anguish of the oppressed
Jesus you come
In the weakness of the vulnerable
In the questions of the doubting
In the fears of the dying
Transform our indifference into caring
Transform our acquisition into sharing
Transform our hearts of stone to compassion
Here is an interesting bit of Christmas trivia that shows how creatively Christians have always managed to ensure that followers of Christ are trained in the tenets of their faith. The Christmas song The Twelve Days of Christmas, is not really the nonsense rhyme its seems to be.
According to kirkweb.org, the song was written in England between 1558 and 1829 when it was a crime to be Catholic. In fact writing anything that indicated adherence to the Catholic faith could get you hanged. It was devised as a catechism song to help young Catholics learn the principles of their faith. The “true love” mentioned in the song doesn’t refer to an earthly suitor, it refers to God and the partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ. Read more
I am sitting in our dining room looking out onto the snowiest landscape I have ever seen here in Seattle. About 12″ of snow covers our yard and garden and there is the possibility of more to come. We are all anticipating a white Christmas.
The fun aspect of the snow is that it has forced us all to slow down and enjoy life a little more. Everyone is walking rather than driving and as I tramped around the neighbourhood taking photos I said hello to people I normally only see at our annual street party. The kids have been out sledding and last night we sat around a cosy fire making a dent in the mountains of cookies we had baked for the open house we intended to hold last night.
Yesterday was a good day for quiet reflection and a great opportunity to write some liturgies for Christmas and Epiphany that I will share with you over the next few days
Joy to the world our Saviour comes
Not in power, not in might but in in the tenderness of love
He comes as the promise of life hidden in a mother’s womb
This is the time we believe once more thta perfect love casts out fear
That generosity transforms scarcity into abundance
That righteousness overcomes oppression with justice
This is the time we are assured
That God’s light has come into the world
And the darkness will never overcome it.
I don’t normally blog on Sunday but with most of the roads closed, 6″ of snow on the ground and more to come my Sunday routines have changed. This article courtesy of Jordon Cooper in Saskatoon Canada caught my eye. One has to wonder who is the government bailing out? Obviously Christmas cheer for some.
Banks that are getting taxpayer bailouts awarded their top executives nearly $1.6 billion in salaries, bonuses, and other benefits last year, an Associated Press analysis reveals. Read more
As more people get online, they are encountering another type of digital divide: the online segregation of Christians. … You can see a similar segregation reflected in profiles of Christians on online social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace; most people will have friends with backgrounds similar to their own. If everyone links to people they know, the result is that a disproportionate number of resourced individuals and ministries will link to each other, while ministries serving under-resourced communities are stuck in a virtual ghetto. The rich link to the rich, while the poor link to the poor. Read more
Perhaps one of the other places we need to consider connecting in new ways over the Christmas season is over the internet. How could you increase your connection to people of other cultures and backgrounds at this season and so increase your understanding of God’s international community.