Skip to comments.On Christmas
Posted on 01/01/2007 6:58:32 PM PST by sionnsar
Hallo again to all.
We woke up early on Saint Stephen's Day this yearBoxing Day for much of the worldto fill up our car with gas and to visit distant relatives. In the clear light of the second day of Christmas, one of the things that struck us most was the number of Christmas trees that had already been put out on curbs as garbage. Some had their lights and decorations still attached, but others were picked clean, their adornments stashed away to wait another year. In either case, the poor treesand the people who tossed themwere being done a sad disservice. They were missing out on the full twelve days of Christmastide, a season dear to us, full of observances and feasts small and large.
The notion that Christmas is really twelve whole days long is not so much about ritual rectitude as about being careful to get all the joy out of a festal season that God has given us. The Real Ultimate Christmastide tends to be overlooked because the five or six weeks leading up to it have been dominated by Santa Claus, commercialism, Bing Crosby, tinsel and snowmen. But now Christmas is here, and we write from within it on the cusp of the celebration of one of its greatest feaststhe Feast of the Circumcision, known in most of the sanitized world today as the Feast of the Holy Name, or the Naming and Circumcision of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
The first feast day of the year is one we have tended to miss ourselves on account of staying up too late on the night before to be able to get to church on time. It is also one that tends to be overlooked because of its focus on what has been called the most controversial surgical procedure in history. The Circumcision of Christ is elided by Bible-readers and many preachers because it strikes us as culturally inappropriate, strange, unfamiliarly Jewish, or something we just don't want to talk about. (The day probably passes unnoticed on the calendar for most.) It also has an oddly paschal notethe newborn Saviour already shedding bloodwithin what liturgists will tell us is the natal cycle of feasts along with the Annunciation, Presentation and Visitation et al.
Yet this feast tells us something we need to know: that in the midst of this divine, salvific lifenew life, vibrant, joyousthere is humanity, particularity, bleeding and pain. Gentle Jesus meek and mild will tomorrow, as a son of Abraham, become a son of the law through the ritual cutting of his flesh. This was a favourite text for medieval and renaissance preachers, and as the pioneering, facsinating research of Leo Steinberg has shown, it was a common motif in pre-modern and early modern Christian art. It cemented the seriousness, the completeness, the costliness, of God's incarnation as a Jewish boy. It clarified beyond all question that God really was here to be with us in every aspect of our lives as a real human being. John Keble joins the throng of those who look deeply into this feast and find its joy:
There is joy in this hidden season, this hidden feast, for all those who will find it. What's more, there is Good News on this hinge of years tonight that Jesus Christ has come to be the hinge between our humanity and God's divinity. Christmas is not over, and God's love has just begun. Rejoice!
Whether or not any of us make it to church tomorrow on 'a winter's morn', a blessed feast of the circumcisionand a blessed 2007to all of you from all of us. For the second time in five weeks, Happy New Year.
See you next week.
Thanks for the post.
I was feeling a bit blue now that the holiday is past and the trees are alongside the road. My lights are still up and decorations still out.
So happy to learn the season is not over! I love it so!
Happy eighth day of Christmas!
The Bird of Dawning
Some say that ever 'gainst the season comes,
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singes all night long;
And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, or witch hath power to charm,
So hallow'd and so gracious is that time.
(Hamlet - Act 1, Scene 1.)
The holiday is far from past, as my FRiend Salvation notes!
Our tree goes up on Christmas Eve (no sooner), the lights are extinguished for the last time on Twelfthnight (Epiphany Eve), and the tree itself comes down on Epiphany.
The season our (American) secular society celebrates as "Christmas" (with all their parties and shopping) fall in our penitential season of Advent. Okay, we do attend their parties and do what shopping we've not already done by then... but we still know it's Advent and not Christmas.
So glad to know this. I wish the rest of society would hold on to it!!
I breaks my heart to see the valentine displays up already!! ugh!
I have saved this from a year ago when you sent it. It is lovely. Hope you are well!
"A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For the journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter."
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.
Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins,
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death,
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
-- T. S. Eliot
(The first four lines are quoted from a Christmas sermon by Lancelot Andrewes.)
Good King Wenceslas : Lyrics
Play Music !
Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath'ring winter fuel
"Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know'st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes' fountain."
"Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither."
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather
"Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly."
In his master's steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing
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