My daughter got REAALLY into Valentine's Day this year. I have to admit I was less than enthusiastic about guiding her through writing twenty-five Valentines, since on her own she'd make lovely personal creations -- for about 3 or 4 kids. But 25? This calls for mass production, so we were reduced to a very basic "to" and "from" on each one. Most of these she wrote on Wednesday night in the middle of Lenten vespers -- in the front row. But the pay-off was this morning, when somehow she got hold of a pad of little Post-its, and went around writing love notes to all ages and manner of folk at church and sticking them on them. An ambush of affection. It was quite sweet.
you who know me know I’m a calendar/ reading of the day/ devotional junkie. Or
at least, when I buy such books I imagine that I would use them regularly if I just had the right one. I know this
is just another form of consumer fantasy, but I can’t help myself.
OK, this one is old, but Tom Wright is one of the most
accessible serious exegetes around, someone who manages to bridge the evangelical/liberal
gap and really digs into the text. Although this book fits well into the
Lenten/ Easter cycle, it doesn’t have to be read that way.
I’m excited about this resource because of the authors
compiled here: G.K. Chesterton, Madeleine L’Engle, Dorothy Day, and a few 20th
century authors who are still living, like Frederick Buechner. Rather than
arranged around days, this one is organized by theme, moving from passion to
resurrection. More than 40 reflections, fewer than ninety, so it won't take you all the way through the Easter season.
On the tenth day of Christmas, I still don't know all the things my true love has given to me. Yes, there are still gifts under our tree, even for the kids. I know, people will think we have aliens for children, but it really is possible to stretch the gift-giving out for twelve days, and some of the enjoyment that goes with the gifts as well. If anything, as the new year begins and routines resume, the hardest thing is finding the time to all sit down together to open them.
Actually, probably the biggest argument against this prolonging of gift exchange is that there are aunts and uncles and grandparents who start to wonder where they rank in the order of things. It's not a speed dial hierarchy; we really don't order the gifts in any particular way except to make sure that the first gifts after the stockings are some things that can be played with on Christmas Day. But still, I get the sense that some relatives think we're either handcuffing the children to prevent them from opening more, or just plain disappointed we didn't dive into their boxes first.
Today we made sure the wise men were "on the way" to the creche in time to arrive there by Epiphany. Somehow we got into a discussion at breakfast about the textual accuracy of "three kings," which prompted my daughter to go through various permutations on how more than three magi could have offered three gifts. "Well, two magi could have brought one gift each, and and two more could have just brought one together, OR six magi could have . ."(and so on ).
It's really a shame that the Passion story doesn't invite the same playfulness that the Nativity does.
After all my insistence this Advent about how little I care
about the historicity of the virgin birth, Jesus’ birthplace, and so on, it would be
a little inconsistent of me to go through the usual round of debunking that goes on with the
wise men: they came to a house, not a manger; there’s no evidence there were
three; they were not kings but magi. Yes.
Who were they? The
only thing that seems very clear is that Matthew wants us to know they were
pagan. They were from “the East,” and most likely astrologers. Not Torah-observant,
as far as anyone can tell. The Church has at least had the grace to remind us
of this fact every Epiphany and point out that outsiders came to worship Jesus, to offer gifts, and in some sense, to reveal who Jesus was.
But their origin in the East has another layer of meaning
that eluded me until I recently read Richard Swanson’s Provoking the Gospel of Matthew, in
which he points out that visitors from the East were most likely coming from
places that, for the Jews, meant empire, tyrranny, and exile. Visitors from Babylon and Assyria had
been Very Bad News for Jesus’ people for many generations, and the memories
evoked by Rachel’s weeping in chapter two would be memories of seeing God’s
people marched off to exile in the East.
The fact that these pagans show up to worship is also a
reminder that not all the exiles returned. Some faithful Jews remained in Babylon, and others no
doubt slid eastward in their religious observances as well, blurring the lines
between Jew and Pagan. Perhaps some of these never-returned exiles were
ancestors to some of the Magi. In any case, Matthew’s readers would be reminded
that God’s promises had seeped beyond the bounds of Palestine, and even beyond the bounds of official Torah observance, generations ago.
Who are the Magi coming to us today, clear that they are not
one-of-us but ever so curious about Jesus, and so, so generous with their
seeking and their seemingly impractical gifts? How do we receive them?
It's the night before St. Nicholas, so we'll be setting out the shoes by our kids' bedrooms tonight. My own mother used St. Nicholas as a way to "take the edge off" the gift anticipation that sets in this time of year. I'm not sure it's totally necessary in my children's case, since we have November and December birthdays in addition to Christmas. But our German roots call us, and it's great fun to have an excuse to buy a new Christmas book early in the month.
This year, I'm excited about a new book for the Feast of Stephen, Wenceslas. Our other book based on the popular carol has lovely illustrations and just the text of the carol. This one has lovely snowy illustrations but a re-telling of the story from the perspective of the page.
This time of year makes me so grateful to have children at home who still love to be read to.
This winter, please, dear Lord
Send us a real good storm
One where we’re all snowed in
. . .
We who get so uptight
Need a good snowball fight
And should be forced to ski
To rent a DVD
So heap it up to the window sill
Make the mad world stand still
Bury us Lord
Under a real good storm -- Peter Mayer (the Minnesota one)
We are giddy around here, anticipating a real good SNOW tomorrow! For people who fear every winter is our last (and I mean that our in the collective sense, and winter in the meteorological sense), there's nothing like a prediction of 6-10 inches to lift the spirits.
Now, those of you who hate shoveling and long for wearing your sandals again, I don't want to hear any whining. It's almost December, and you live in Minnesota. The larger climate pattern of the earth favors you summer people anyway. Let us have our snow days. .. lots of them, please.
I am such a sucker for seasonal books, especially Advent ones. My newest purchase is from Paraclete Press, which has been putting out some of the most downright beautiful (in the visual sense) Christian books lately. God With Us got my attention with lovely art as well as an unusual mix of contributors: John Richard Neuhaus, Kathleen Norris, Scott Cairns, and Eugene Peterson, among others. I'll be eager to read it. . . slowly. They also have an online subscription available for the Advent/Christmas season, but I had to go for the real paper.
I had good intentions yesterday of partaking in Buy Nothing Day, that is, not partaking in Black Friday. Under normal circumstances, this would be quite easy, since small children and shopping don't usually blend well in my life. But this year, I happened to be "single" on Friday, and often kid-free time is time I use to do the leisurely browsing in stores that I cannot do with an overactive 2 year old in hand. So, what a dilemma. . . . a whole day with no work, no restrictions and lots of good sales. I know I won't have an opportunity like this again before Christmas. On the other hand, I also don't have a lot of shopping to do, since our gifts focus on photos of the family, food, and charitable gifts anyway. Birthday shopping for the almost-3-year-old is done. Like a moth to a flame I found myself at 50th and France anyway yesterday morning, ostensibly to get some groceries to make a meal for a friend who just had a baby (I figure food doesn't count in Buy Nothing Day, and it sure was easier than before Thanksgiving). Yes, I wandered into some stores, mostly clothing stores. And they all had special "one day only" sales. The soundtracks were pumping up the hyperactive, "feel good about yourself" mood, and I felt myself slipping into the identity-seeking thought that accompanies all such shopping: "If I wore this jacket/ shoes/shirt/necklace, I would be more together/ sophisticated/fashionable/ sexy/ admirable/ etc." But then the soundtrack switched to Cher, belting out, "What have you done today, to make yourself feel proud?" Good question! I walked away from the sale rack, walked out of the store, and bought nothing but ingredients for chili and cornbread. And damn, I feel proud. Thank you, Cher.