Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Gathering on Holy Ground

Italian creche--note the baby has not arrived yet

While I served at St. Matthew’s one of the joyful activities was writing/revising prayers for the “stations” we made to begin the “midnight mass.” After a half hour or so of singing best-loved carols and hymns which hadn’t made it into the regular liturgy, the lights would go down. A hush of anticipation fell over the gathered congregation. Then the Deacon and I, accompanied by 2 torches and a varying number of choir members would make our way through the church, stopping for song, prayer and the lighting of candles at the Advent wreath, the baptismal font, the Christmas/Chrismon tree and the Crèche. The sense of increased light coming into the dark world with the Christ was liturgically enacted.

Returning to the front of the church we were joined by the whole choir, who had changed their scapulars from blue to gold, other acolytes carrying banners and crosses and the thurifer with Queen of Heaven incense, wafting heavenward. Proclaiming that the dwelling of God is with creation, that God will dwell with us and we shall be God’s people; that the glory of the Lord has been revealed and all flesh shall see the salvation of our God, we began to process throughout the church singing, “O come, all ye faithful.”

French creche from Aix in Provence  (very tiny and handpainted) The ladies on the left are bringing lavender; and a fisherman on the right is bringing his catch.

In this week before Christmas, accustomed to that prayerful writing/revising, I have wondered how these prayers might be used in the domestic church, in my own home, as I won’t be presiding at Christmas services this year for the first time in 20 years. We have an Advent wreath, Christmas tree and a crèche to bless, so that may well suffice for my liturgical longings. Here are the Stations we used several years ago, singing specific verses of Longing for Light as we made our way from place to place.

At the Advent Wreath
Deacon: During Advent we wait in darkness and long for light. We wait with hope, we long for peace, we desire joy and we yearn for love as we prepare in pregnant anticipation for God’s light and life to invade our world and transform our hearts.
Dean: Tonight we proclaim that a tiny human being, Jesus, is that light and life. Let us announce salvation to people everywhere. Love came down from heaven. Light not shines in the dark and darkness cannot overcome it.
The Candles are lit.

Wooden German creche (Now what is that pig doing here?)

At the Font
Deacon: Jesus burst forth from the waters of the Virgin’s womb to take our human nature with its pain, sorrow, joy and dreams. In the waters of baptism we burst forth spiritually re-born, so that we may live in righteousness and holiness all our days.
Water is poured into the font.
Dean: O God, whose Holy Spirit brooded over the waters of creation, sanctify this water for the service of your holy Church, that it may be to us an outward sign of the cleansing refreshment of your grace and a reminder of the life and light you share with us now and for ever. Amen.

African soapstone creche

At the Tree
Deacon: God created the heavens and earth and all that is in them. In a beautiful and peaceful garden, the tree of life and the tree of knowledge grew. When our ancestors disobeyed and ate the fruit of that tree, God pronounced a curse where hard work, pain and death became our way of life. But on another tree God’s Son worked our whole salvation, breaking the power of Satan so that everyone everywhere would be blessed and could become a blessing to others.
The tree is lighted.
Dean: Good and gracious God, bless this tree as a reminder of your promise that the citizens of your kingdom would be as numerous as the stars in heaven. Let these Chrismons (ornaments which represent individuals and events of salvation history) remind us that the cross of crucifixion cast its shadow over the stable in Bethlehem where our Son, our Lord, was born. Amen.

Mexican creche

At the Crèche
Deacon: During the dark of night, in a rude stable, a child was born. There was nothing to suggest anything out of the ordinary. But this was the Son of God, the Child of Mary, the long-awaited light of the world.
The babe is placed in the crèche.
Dean: Blessed Jesus, Son of God, we pray that you will bless this crèche to be a sign of your humble birth that we may stand in humble awe at the mystery of your Incarnation. Tonight as we behold you in the faces of friends and strangers, let us join our voices with the angels and archangels who proclaim your birth. And grant that we may be strengthened to greet your when you come again in glorious majesty as our Lord and Redeemer. Amen.

And so gentle reader, may Jesus bless you with a joyous, peaceful and loving Christmastide.  As for Mother and me, friends will join us for traditional prime rib on Christmas Day and to help us consume some of the 50 dozen cookies, the carmel corn, party mix, cashew brittle, cranberry tortes and fruitcakes that we have been busy making all December.  We do love to cook almost as much as we enjoy sharing our efforts with other and feasting on them ourselves.  Taste and see, the Lord is good!

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