By Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt
There is a certain expectation that a December article being written for this diocesan newspaper in October should include some sorrowful tone of how the commercialization of Christmas is evident at the time of writing.
It is very easy to feel myself slipping into that mindset after having seen lights on a Christmas tree inside an apartment on October 23. The sighting of a combination of Hot Cross buns and Easter Egg chocolates next to pumpkin pies and gingerbread house kits, which are in close proximity to copious amounts of Halloween candies generates a seasonal confusion syndrome which is in need of an antidote.
As people of faith, what are we to do?
May I suggest that an answer may be found as close as your personal church calendar. Hidden in plain sight are remarkable stories of people of faith, who down through the ages have stories and traditions attached to their lives which may generate all kinds of personal or family celebrations. How we make these stories our own, will, I have every confidence, deepen our own faith and enhance our daily lives.
Signs, symbols and even special food preparation have been linked with the observation of stories of faith through time. Generations of Christians have found that the use of familiar elements of storytelling and acts of hospitality create a framework around which an example of faith may be passed along to the next generation. It is not limited to a “Teacher/Tell” relationship, where a story may be heard and forgotten in quick succession. By fully engaging in the experience and having that connection enhanced by a tangible sensory element, the potential of having that story remembered is greatly enhanced.
Throughout the Season of Advent an Advent Wreath is given a place of importance in our churches. It is, perhaps, an expectation that we would hope to find the Wreath in that setting in the days leading up to the Christmas Season. Do you have one in your own home? Being creative with an Advent Wreath and ensuring that everyone has a part to play in lighting the Wreath throughout the Advent Season builds a sense of how the marking of time as people of faith is different from simply ticking off the days until December 25.
Advent calendars, which used to simply be found as paper products with small, perforated windows that opened up to show either Biblical scenes or Bible verses are hard to find. These days the little windows open up to reveal chocolates, jellybeans or, in some the larger collections, samples of jams, beer or scotch. Another option may be seeing each day of the Season
of Advent as a time to add to a collection of food which you may gift to your local food bank or generating some other kind of meaningful act of generosity which will make a difference in the lives of others.
There are a number of congregations and individual clergy for whom the Feast Day of Saint Andrew on November 30, holds great significance. As a patron saint of a church or a day marking an Ordination anniversary, the white “X“, of Saint Andrew’s martyrdom is a familiar sign. While he worked as a fisherman, Andrew responded to the call of Jesus, who simply said,” Follow Me”.
To celebrate his day, why not plan to enjoy a fish dinner, or some Scottish delicacy, since his link with Scotland is indelibly etched into that culture? Take the time to research the traditions which have generated that connection.
December 6 often slips by without full appreciation being given to the story of Saint Nicholas. This very real-life person has a story which is connected with the traditions of caring for children, pawnbrokers, and for those who are invested in church history of the fourth century, a link with the Council of Nicaea! Gift giving as a way to celebrate the Feast of Saint Nicholas is a feature of a number of European cultures. Discover the story of Saint Nicholas and make it a part
of how you celebrate his faith and example of Christian witness.
December 13 is another day which does not have a high profile. It is the Feast of Saint Lucy, a Christian martyr, whose acts of generosity and caring for the poor identified her as a person of faith in a time when being a follower of Jesus had extreme consequences. As one whose light of faith shone brightly in a darkened world, the life story of Saint Lucia was claimed by many Scandinavian cultures. They looked to the candles lit in her honour as beacons of hope breaking through the deep dark winter night.
The Season of Advent, the Season of Christmas, the Feast Days of the Saints all enhance the month of December. As people of faith, we may choose to mark time in a way which is different than the rest of society. The date of the day will remain the same, but the significance of the day will only be experienced when we take the time to discover the stories, the history and the traditions which make each day more than simply another square on the paper calendar.
It is our story of faith, which is ours to discover, claim as our own and to share with others. It is, perhaps the gift of great meaning which is ours to share as we celebrate, not only the gift of Christmas, but also the God given gift of each and every day.
Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt has retired from full time parish ministry, but continues to offer priestly ministry in the Diocese.