When candles lifted
for Silent Night
wax-dripped and wick-burned
lie haphazard,
dropped in baskets

When cotton ball sheep masks
tinsel halos
spray-paint gilded gifts of the wise
shepherd staff and wooden trough
find storage corners
to mark time til next December;

When liturgies recited
carols sung
luminaries extinguished
bulletins recycled
sanctuaries draped in cloak of poinsettia red
have held the promise, past tense.

Then the tide of Christmas—
good tidings of great joy
heaven and nature sing,
the ebb of frenzy
the flow of good news

It is among my favorite words:

This time that carries us to another shore;
these days that celebrate the one in the manger
who will soon admonish us to go across to the other side.

These moments to reflect and wonder,
to ride the waves of laughter
and the waves of grief that swamp our frail vessels
all the way to the One whose voice the wind and sea obey.

A Potpourri of Holiday Cheer

When it comes to December, what I call Clergy Superbowl, our very lives are acts of creativity: how will we balance activity and reflection? home stuff with church stuff? the “shoulds” with the “want-tos?” tradition with innovation? It is a constant balancing act:

Some of us cook.

Some of us craft.

Some of us order takeout.

And it’s all good.

One YCW writes:
I remembered that Ian, my Presbyterian pastor husband, and I are thinking about having a holiday party for our clergy friends. It will be simple–because in this season clergy especially need simplicity!  The gimmick: it will be a religiously-themed wine party. Bring a bottle with a name you can theologize on, and then do.

–Jennifer M. Creswell ministers, cooks, and drinks in Portland, OR.
(Let us know how the party went, Jennifer!)


As expected, many of our traditions and practices revolve around food. Rebecca Lesley, pastor of Suffolk Presbyterian Church in Suffolk, VA, wrote, My Swiss-German grandmother always makes a stollen and we must, must, must have honeycakes! Oh, and hot buttered rum on Christmas morning.

And Grace Burson, Curate at Grace Episcopal Church in Manchester, NH, shared her Christmas menu: Schnecken (German cinnamon rolls, homemade with enormous effort) for breakfast, along with fruit salad and scrambled eggs. And my family of origin does a big Christmas evening buffet, with homemade bread and cold cuts and cocktail sausages and crudites and millions of cookies.
Oh, and Turkish phyllo rolls called boereks, stuffed with cheese and dill, which were made as a fundraiser by the nursery school we all attended and have become a tradition.

Grace also continues her family’s tradition of real candles on the Christmas tree… as well as the traditional placement of the fire extinguisher in a handy place nearby. Read more

The Light of Christ

OK, so it was a cheesy children’s sermon anyway. Though most children’s sermons—or at least the ones I give—come that way, this was particularly so. But it was Easter—my first ordained Easter!—so amidst all the preparations for Holy Week services, and especially my much-anticipated Easter sermon, I grabbed the first half-decent object lesson I found. At least the adults would like it.

For $2.99 I bought a foam brick at a craft store and stuck candles in.There were regular candles on the left and right, and a trick candle smack dab in the middle. When it came time in the service I marched to the front of the chancel and confidently called, “I would like to invite all the children to join me for the children’s sermon.”

“The Bible says that Jesus is the light of the world,” I told the children, pulling out my brick. “The light shining in the darkness.” I took out a match and lit the middle candle. “But do you know what happened to Jesus on the cross?” The tiny hands of our three budding theologians shot into the air.

“Jesus died on the cross!” shouts Susie smiling. Read more