Epiphany

‘Why is the tree still up?’
‘Because it’s bad luck to take it down until Epiphany.’ 
‘What’s Epiphany?’
‘It’s the end of Christmas.’

This conversation, or something like it, happened every Christmas in my early childhood. Our tree would sit in the living room for twelve extra days after Christmas, the wreath stayed on the door, the cards stayed hanging on the walls. It was strange quirk for my very non-religious parents to be such sticklers for this one old school church tradition.

Today I’m much more of the opinion that Epiphany is celebrated not really to protect us from bad luck but to help us transition from Christmas to the rest of the year; reshifting our gaze from our intense focus on the incarnation up to see the whole glorious person of Jesus and everything he did. At Epiphany we mark the day that the wise men came from distant lands to worship Jesus. They had come a long way, travelling for up to two years; now they have finally caught up with the Christmas story and we meet them as our own Christmas celebrations draw to a close.

The wise men read the stars and somehow knew more about Jesus’ identity than the Jews that Jesus was to be king of. Epiphany picks up on this theme of stars and light and illumination, of seeing the truth and knowing the truth and worshipping the truth. Epiphany is the day that says “YES!” to all the good news of the Christmas story. It’s the day that gives us space to join the dots and knit the pieces together, to see who Jesus really and truly is. It’s the day for seeing all the ways that Christmas shows us Jesus’ humanity and divinity. It’s the day for seeing all the ways that Jesus’ birth foreshadows his death and resurrection.

Scripture Matthew 2 Sermon Stott Prayer Epiphany Poetry Eliot 1 Poetry Duncan Andrews Music Handel Make Origami Prayer Hymn for Theophany

It’s the day for moving back into ordinary time.

May God bless you this year with a deep love for and knowledge of his Son. Thank you for celebrating with us.

The Twelfth Day of Christmas

Welcome to the last day of Christmastide – the Twelfth day, famous for the 12 drummers drumming and Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night.

In Tudor England the evening of the final day of Christmas was as time for mirth and merriment bordering on the absurd before Christmas decorations were taken down for the feast of Epiphany. Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night, or What you Will was written for these festivities, which Alison explores below. You’ll also find another prayer of thanksgiving to round out the Christmas season, returning our praise and gratitude for God’s abundant tender mercy that he has lavished upon us, and a Puritan Christmas prayer to close the season. Enjoy Kathy Keller’s article on the post-Christmas Emmanuel, a rich recipe for an Australian Christmas barbecue. We’ll be back tomorrow to wrap up the Twelve Days with the feast of Epiphany.

    Poetry Jono McKeown Make BBQ Prayer Puritan Christmas Play - William Shakespeare

The Eleventh Day of Christmas

Can you believe it? It’s the second Sunday after Christmas, the eleventh day of Christmas, and it’s all nearly over. Most of our family and friends have well and truly moved on from the festive season, but the Christmas Project still has a couple of days of celebrating up its sleeve.

Today’s resources stretch us backwards and forwards in time. There is an ancient sermon from a very very old pope. There is an even more ancient account of God’s work in creation from the book of Proverbs. There is a new poem, pointing forward from Christmas to the days of Jesus as a young boy. There is a dated but wonderful album of children’s Christmas music from the 1990s – the soundtrack of all of my childhood Christmases (and most of my grown-up Christmases too!). And, finally, George Herbert’s famous Christmas poem pulling us through time, inviting us to take our place in the Christmas scene.

 Prayer Second Sunday After  Sermon Leo the Great Music Peter Combe Poetry Caitlin Munday

The Tenth Day of Christmas

The third day of the New Year also marks the third last day of Christmastide. It may well be that after the rush at the end of the year with the sudden change in gear at Christmas that you are feeling tired and exhausted. And after ten days of Christmas feasting, there may well be a fatigue setting in that not even Advent has prepared you for. If that is you, we hope you find today’s resources helpful for taking time to pause and reflect anew on the Christ whose birth we celebrate. From a sermon that was produced under similar circumstances, to an ancient Greek hymn reflecting on the wonder of the nativity, from a recent album release to a Bible reading practice designed to slow you down to think and mediate, take the time this Saturday to ruminate again that God became man.

Also, a New Year also brings with it its own series of habits and practices, least of all the concept of New Year’s Resolutions. This practice has a long history, and was used by Christians in England and North America in the 16th and 17th centuries to stimulate reflection on the year that was and provide direction for growth in the year ahead, particularly as a way of moving from the feasting of Christmas to the return of ‘ordinary time’ that followed Epiphany. If you’re looking for inspiration for your resolutions this year, you may find inspiration with Natasha Moore from New England theologian and pastor Jonathan Edwards over at the Centre for Public Christianity.

    

The Ninth Day of Christmas

Last year at Easter Matt and I learnt that a season of celebration is always going to be interrupted by sorrow and trauma. The season of Advent might be over, but the principles of Advent are still true: Christmas has come but we are still waiting for Jesus to come back! By the ninth day into Christmas celebrating you might have learnt this lesson too. Your celebrations might have been interrupted by sickness, maybe family struggles, maybe all kinds of difficult things. It’s impossible for a season of celebration to be untouched by the sin and corruption that still exists in ourselves and in the world. Today’s collection of resources kind of captures the sadness intermingled with Christmas joy.

Read Isaiah’s prophecy about the end of death and tears. Read T.S. Eliot’s whimsical rememberings of childhood Christmases and Jamie Harrison Dunk’s poem about the dark history of southern hemisphere Christmases. Make bittersweet lavender and citrus cordial. Listen to The Oh Hello’s suite of mashed-up Christmas carols circling from O Come O Come Emmanuel, through the darkness of the massacre of infants in the Coventry Carol through to the explosive rejoicing of Joy to the World and back to the beginning again. Dance with all your might to the joyful strains of the banjo.

     

The Eighth Day of Christmas

The Circumcision of Jesus | New Year’s Day

Happy New Year! Did you stay up for the fireworks and then party through to the wee hours of the morning? Or did you head to bed early to watch the sun rise? It is surprising that what might be the world’s most widely celebrated public holiday also coincides with one of the most obscure feasts on the Christian calendar: the Naming and Circumcision of Jesus. Partly this is because of a quirk; until 1752 in the English-speaking world New Year’s Day was widely observed on March 25, coinciding with the feast of the Annunciation. Yet today is the eighth day after the birth of Mary’s child, the day on which Jesus was named and circumcised according to Luke.

Christ’s circumcision has been seen by theologians such as Calvin and Barth as a proleptic sign foreshadowing his death. At the very least it was part of Jesus Christ, the true Israel, the true adam, participating in our humanity for the sake of our salvation. As Paul writes: ”For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.’

In moving the New Year from Annunciation to Circumcision, Christmas became a festival spanning two calendars. The result was that years now end as they start: a celebration of the one named Jesus, who saves his people from their sins (Matthew 1.21). As you celebrate today, remember that it is this one who’s name is written over the year ahead.

     Music Norah Jones

The Seventh Day of Christmas

It’s the Seventh Day of Christmas, also known as New Year’s Eve in the Western calendar! We are just over halfway through Christmas now.

Today’s resources include one of my favourite hipster Christmas albums by the Californian band Branches. There are two beautiful poems: a new poem by Lauren Smith and the classic Bleak Mid-winter of Christina Rossetti, so evocative and yet also so foreign for those of us celebrating Christmas in the height of summer. There is a recipe for making ice cream out of fruit if that will help to cool you down.

     Make Icecream