This is the time of year when the Church picks up one of its greatest and most powerful stories, the birth of the Messiah, and tries to teach it, embody it, proclaim it with integrity. It’s not always easy to do that – the pressure from the culture is first, to cheapen the story and next, to sentimentalize the story and last, to junk the story. These last couple weeks I’ve been working hard on how this story is lived out in the church where I worship and where I convene the commission on music and worship. After much consultation, the Advent music and the Nicholas pageant are well under way. Discussion has begun on a Twelfth Night celebration. I’ll try to make the Christmas Eve liturgy warm, uncomplicated and filled with carols.
I’m uploading the Advent music list for those who care to read such things.
At Christmastime when I was a little girl, the dining room buffet was decorated with an ivory plastic church about ten inches tall. It had plastic stained-glass windows and a hole in the back – where the altar would be – for a tiny light bulb. When plugged in, this arrangement glowed with a warm, golden light. It was a particular yearly concern of mine to get my hands on it and take it apart, so I could see whether there were any little people in there and what they were doing. I broke quite a few light bulbs that way.
At night when our lights are on, St. David’s also glows with a warm, golden light. Christmas is a time of year when people do look in to see what we are doing. They pick up the church, they peer inside, and there we are, singing, lighting candles, eating cookies, taking our holy stories seriously and lovingly, stewards of the whole tradition.They sniff. Cookies! Evergreens! Snow! It isn’t always comfortable to have strangers pick up our church and peer inside, but they are surely welcome to all the light we have to give.
No storytelling gigs of my own until January 6, when I’ve been invited to tell a Baba Yaga story for children. I’m trying to find one that doesn’t involve people being eaten or burned to death. Baba Yaga is no pushover. And – in this quiet time – I’m find the Bible stories I’ve learned this year are starting to talk to each othre, and are forming little social circles to share what they think. I’m excited about this! Judy Fentress-Williams was our keynote speaker at the Network of Biblical Storytellers Festival Gathering in 2006; she said that the books of the Bible talk with each other and argue with each other – Walter Brueggemann calls this testimony and countertestimony. Well, the stories do it too. I wait until my husband and son go to work and then holler the stories around the living room so they can hear each other. Very rewarding, and the dog likes it too.