Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Retired Preacher's View from the Pew

Now that Christmas is over we can all sit back and relax! On the home front all we have to do is take down the decorations, return the “dud” presents, and pay the extra bills that Christmas generates - and clean out the Thanksgiving leftovers that got squeezed to the back of the fridge. We can just enjoy the memories.

Pastors can relax because the extra and what should be special services are over until we get to Lent and Easter. They can get back into the routine of regular services again. Parishioners can relax, too. Those involved in the kids programs and decorating the church will get a break until next Christmas. It’ll be a relief for those folks who only feel the need to attend church at Christmas and Easter- they won’t have to worry about getting to church again until April 24, 2011.

We’ll notice a lot of empty seats around us when we come to worship on Sunday mornings. On the news this morning they talked about several polls taken showed that 60% to 90% of the people who celebrate Christmas don’t believe in Christ. (That reminded me of some members we had in our church in Michigan whose daughter and son-in-law were Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Our kids don’t believe in celebrating Christmas, but they sure like getting the presents.”)

We’ll notice, too, that the Christmas carols and songs we started hearing in store about the time of Halloween aren’t to be heard anymore until next year’s Christmas shopping begins. One of my pet peeves is that we stop singing them in church, too. And sometimes it seems to me that we can’t wait to get the Christmas decorations down in church.

Which brings me to the point. There is one more thing for Christians that often goes by unnoticed. The people of the world don’t see it and it’s become lost in some churches because of all the effort put into the December 25th Christmas and because most years it occurs on a weekday. And we sure don’t want another extra church service after all the Christmas ones, we might get too much religion!

EPIPHANY-sometimes called The Gentile’s Christmas. Its day is January 6th and the Epiphany season goes from then until Ash Wednesday. Epiphany celebrates the events of Matthew 2:1-12. It’s the first account in the Scriptures of Gentiles (that’s you and me, anybody who isn‘t a Jew) coming to worship the Savior.

It’s the twelfth day of Christmas. (We all know that song! A few years ago I decided to give my wife a Christmas gift and also a little something on each of those twelve days. I’d put it by her pillow when I got up in the morning so she’d find it when she got up. Big mistake unless you‘re prepared to do it every year thereafter! Every year I’m reminded… “Dear, what happened to the twelve days of Christmas?”)

When I was the pastor of a church I always liked to make a big deal of Epiphany. We’d ask people to bring their manger scenes and we’d set up a display of them in the church. One more time we’d sing all those beautiful Christmas hymns and songs. Every other year we’d sing “The Twelve Days of Christmas” (it was too long to sing every year) and explain some of the religious traditions and legends that went with it. And most years we’d do it on January 6th!

We never had big crowds of people flocking to church for the special celebration, especially if it fell on a weekday, but it always was special. All the “fooferall” that went with December 25th was behind and we could concentrate on what Christmas was all about, the birth of Emmanuel, of God with us. We could come to worship the one named Jesus, who saved us from our sins.

I hope you have a blessed Epiphany.

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