Monday, November 28, 2011

Advent is a Gift, not a Law

Here we go with the Advent Wars.  A lot of church people just don't get Advent.  "Why can't we sing Christmas carols?"  The newest lament is that children don't sing them in school so they don't learn them because we don't sing them enough in church.  My comeback, is "yea but then when will they learn Advent hymns?"  Plus I schedule Christmas hymns well into Epiphany.

And forget about holding off the Christmas decorations.  A few churches I've been able to save one or two Sundays for Advent only.  And usually people find the stark simplicity quite moving.  As long as they can have the tree up by Sunday School Program which has to be schedule in the middle of December because is out of town for Christmas.

And now the pastors are arguing about it.  Pastors are so competitive and so defensive.  If you aren't doing what I'm doing, you must be wrong.  Which really means, I may be wrong so I better tell you how wrong you are before you figure how wrong I really am. 

So you have the pastors who have been able to keep a pure Advent.  Of course they think that's all because they are such good pastors and able to whip their church into shape (no credit goes to the congregation at all or the context)  And they make the pastors who compromise feel defensive.

But now there is pushback and there are pastors who have decided in order to get the church to relate to the culture and be hip and all that - we need to just throw out Advent and get with the program.  Bring out the tree,  sing all the Christmas carols.  All in the name of being relevant to the culture.  No pastor ever just says "You know, I just got tired of fighting  and so I gave up"   And now pastors who are hanging on to Advent are on the defensive and must justify themselves.

Advent is a gift.  It is not a law.  And even if it were a law as Lutherans we are not justified by how pure we keep Advent, nor by being hip and "brave" enough to toss it out.

I'm still in the hang on to Advent camp, but I'm all for compromise.  If singing a few Christmas songs and putting up the tree early will help people experience the gift of Advent, by all means be "impure".  Lord knows Jesus broke a lot of purity laws.  One of my churches has all the decorations up.  But I took baby Jesus out of the manger and told them I was going to hide him until Christmas.   So they could have something to look forward to.  

It's a gift, people.  Don't fight over it.

Famly Advent Wreath

I bought this little advent candle holder many years ago when the kids were still small.  It's a ring of children from around the world holding banners that say Joy, Peace and Hope.  

The years have been hard on what was not exactly meant to be a family heirloom. 

I wonder if it was even meant to hold real burning candles as part of one girl's head has been burned off by hot wax.

A few years ago I thought it was time to throw it away.  "NO!" my high school aged kids protested.  

It held special memories for them as we would light a new candle every week in Advent during dinner.  

When my college senior daughter was home for thanksgiving she reminded me to be sure to bring it out for Advent.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday FIve - Gifts

From the RevGalBlogPals:
Following on from Thanksgiving, and picking up the "Black Friday" theme of boycotting the Christmas rush for bargains I thought it would be good to set a simple Friday Five yet one to get you thinking. I am sure that you'll agree that some of the best gifts we receive do not come in fancy wrapping paper but might be the gift of an unexpected afternoon with a friend or coming across a long forgotten photograph, or- well the list is endless.
 So take a bit of time to think back over the last year and ponder the gifts it has offered to you, then list five of those gifts, in no particular order- there is only one rule- all of these gifts must have been free, neither you nor anyone else should have spent money on them!

Okay.  Well first I want to say that I do not believe in boycotting Black Friday.  I just didn't go today because there's nothing I want, my daughter wanted to relax this weekend and I have no money.   I just don't see anything wrong shopping for bargains.   I don't see anything wrong with shopping.  It's like eating.  Some people misuse eating.  It doesn't mean eating is bad. Although seeing the news today about the bad behavior of shoppers makes me think it was wise to stay home. 

But I can certainly think of the free gifts I received this year. Although I'm probably NOT going to follow the rule of no money spent.  Because I don't think money is evil.  And I received gifts that involved money and I don't believe they should be shunned or discounted or disrespected.

The gift of living in this parsonage in the country for a year.  I've had deer and skunks in my backyard, a fledgling hawk on my front porch, cows in the pasture I could see from the kitchen window (and in my front yard when they got out) and I got to watch a full season of soybeans grow right out my window.  I always enjoy watching the seasons --it is the only thing that makes winter bearable for me but this was especially a gift.  

I love all my kitties Tommy is my oldest.  He's such a good kitty.  He used to love to run outside with the kids when they were playing outside at VBS.  He would let little children pat him and pull his tail. I don't know how old he is, I thought maybe he was a a couple of years old when I found him 11 years ago but the vet thinks he probably is older than that.  He was a fighting Tom when I found  him but any cat I brought into the house he accepted calmly as a member of his family.  All that fighting though had a price and he has FIV.  Which is not a death sentence at all but between that and his old age, I consider all the time I have with him a gift.

    The gift of the celebration of my 25th anniversary of ordination.  That took a little money but the real gift was a parish that was willing to do this for their interim pastor

    A roadtrip from California to Iowa with my sister.   I was able to do this because my parish gave me a gift of money for the trip when my mother died. Gifts of money can be very meaningful.  

    My kids, of course!

      Thursday, November 24, 2011

      Wednesday, November 23, 2011

      Pie (or more specifically Pie Crust)

      I made a pie crust from scratch this morning.  Seems like a simple enough thing but this is a skill that has eluded me for years.   I had tried several times, several recipes and most of the time the dough ended up being thrown in the trash in a very tantrum like gesture.  People would give me recipes assuring me it was foolproof.  And give this really helpful advice "The trick to so not work the dough so much"  Yea but THAT was the problem, I could not get the dough to roll out enough for a pie.  It would come apart, it would stick, it would take so much handling it became worthless.

      One of the things I brought home from my mom was a large good quality food processor.  And armed with that and Melissa D'Arabian's recipe, I finally successfully made a pie crust.  The trick is definitely the food processor and cold butter, adding a little ice water at a time and wallah! You have the dough exactly the consistency you want.  Yes I know Grandma never had a food processor.  Maybe you can make dough without one.  I'm happy to have one.  I'm happy to make food that's less processed and has more pure ingredients.  The pre-rolled stuff tasted fine but this is better.

      I'm 54 years old and I've learned to make pie crust.  This summer I saw the Grand Canyon for the first time.  There's a lot more for me to learn and see in this world.  Just one more thing to be thankful for.

      Oh and I made pumpkin pie.  The secret to my pie is that I use sweetened condensed milk.  I think it makes a creamier pie.

      Tuesday, November 22, 2011

      As if it were up to us to *keep* Christ in Christmas

      I know it's not even Thanksgiving - but I love this Poster from The Fat pastor