December 2015/January 2016
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”; Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” ~ Luke 2:13-14; Revelation 5:11-12
A couple of years ago I was meeting with the local Sayville clergy, and we were discussing the practices that our congregations hold during the Christmas season. As many pastors do, we lamented the fact that Christmas ends far too early. When we are supposed to be just starting the celebration, many people are bringing it to a close. The music changes, dead trees line the streets, and people have moved on to what they are doing for New Year’s and beyond. One of the pastors said he likes to go on vacation after Christmas as a means of recovery. Advent and Christmas are a busy time, and rest is needed (especially this year when Ash Wednesday arrives so quickly – Easter is March 27th, y’all!). People have said the same to me after Easter; that I should take off after a busy Holy Week.
And then it dawned on me. While we talk about the hope we have in a continual, unending celebration in eternity with our loved ones around the throne of God, our practice of such things is rather poor on this side of heaven. We love the buildup, and enjoy the day of celebration, but in many ways our world, and maybe even our clergy sometimes, have taught us to quickly put things behind us and prepare for the next thing. When it comes to our celebration of the Christ Child at Christmas, we sometimes forget that it is a 12 day celebration – after Christmas Day! While the world is putting the brakes on a busy and festive season, trying to recover, we in the Church ought to be stepping on the gas, celebrating the great gift that Christ is and rejoicing in the light and life he brings for us.
To help with this, we are going to do just that at St. John’s…step on the gas. We will of course have our usual schedule of services on Christmas Eve, and despite its usually low attendance, we will have our Christmas morning celebration. But we are not stopping there. The following two days, Saturday and Sunday, we will have our usual schedule of services, but we will continue the celebration. Based upon the beloved Christmas song The Twelve Days of Christmas, we will have a series of lessons and Christmas hymns relating to the “hidden” truths behind the words of that song.
Why? Because the story of Christmas is too important and sacred to put out with the crumpled wrapping paper on Dec. 26th. We want to keep the celebration going for our newborn king and our life in him. After all, the angels in the shepherds’ fields have not stopped singing, all the way through to eternity, so why should we? Join us as we keep the joy going this Christmas, proclaiming among us, and to all, the Good News that Jesus Christ is born!
Angels we have heard on high,
~ Pastor Noack
Sweetly singing o’er the plains,
And the mountains in reply,
Echoing their joyous strains.
Gloria in excelsis Deo. Gloria in excelsis Deo. (LSB 368, st. 1)