Archive for December, 2008

Postpone Christmas?

December 23, 2008

I’ve been a priest of the Episcopal Church for 40 years. Not once in those decades have I missed a Christmas Eve midnight mass. This year, I will.

Portland, Oregon, where I live and work, along with much of the rest of the Pacific Northwest, has been socked in by a week of freezing weather with big snow accumulations. When I read this morning that another, albeit weaker, front was due in on Christmas Eve, I cancelled all services for Christmas Eve and Christmas day, and moved them to the following weekend whose weather is to be rainy and mild.

There is no biblical or theological reason that Christmas has to be on December 25. The early winter choice was made by prelates who wanted to convert some pagans away from their worship of the sun gods just after the winter solstice. There is no historical reason to think that Jesus Christ was born on December 25. The day has become engraved in our minds by tradition and by commercial interest.

What is supremely important to the person of faith is the INCARNATION: the belief that God became flesh. We’re going to worship the God who becomes person when we can. For us, in this place, it’s not going to be December 24 and 25.

It still feels funny. Whatever will I do on Christmas Eve? I will enjoy my home and family and solitude, remembering that calendars and schedules are human inventions to help bring order to our common life.

Maybe we could do with less calendaring and scheduling. More on that another time.


A funny time for churches

December 22, 2008

Here it is two days before Christmas Eve, and here I sit at home, comfortably marooned by ice and snow and freezing rain and general all around genteel misery, wondering what Christmas is going to be like for this parish priest.

In spite of the (usual) heavy demands on my time in the days and weeks before Christmas, known in my tradition as Advent, I love the Christmas services. People actually sing in church because they know the carols. People say they love the sermon mostly because it’s short and to the point. I know that many people at the “midnight mass” (now moved two hours early to accomodate the stress of staying awake that late for our aging faithful), have had a drink or six before coming to church, dulling their critical senses and giving a false sense of congeniality.

Having said all that, this year I wonder. The recession is hitting home to everyone. Working class people are being laid off, and comfortable retirees are refusing to open their monthly and quarterly retirement fund statements. The mainline denominations, of which mine is the most mainline (Episcopal) are generally losing people and therefore financial support.

I’m almost 67, the time when a generation or two ago, my ancestors were either well retired or dead. I wonder what’s ahead in the next few years.

Chances are, I will keep on doing what I’m now doing, assuming that my respective employers don’t tire of me.

I wish for all the world peace, prosperity, freedom from suffering, disease, and want, and for a sense of completion at something in your life and the challenge to get up and work another day. Merry Christmas.