Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The liturgical season changes and lives as a trusted friend

Happy 12th day of Christmas (or blessed Epiphany, depending on when you read this).

I am not a card-carrying member of the liturgical police. I once took heed to some wisdom from one of my professors, Pat Keifert, that tradition is more of a trusted friend than a lord. I tend to look at the liturgical calendar that way. That cuts me off from some discussion in some of the circles in which I travel, but I'm not going to lose much sleep over it.

However, I do keep Christmas until the 12th day in one form or another, whether it be in my prayers or reflections, in music, in family traditions, or through a little gift that I share with Melanie. I cherish the lights a little bit more, savor a song about the Incarnation. The end of the 12th day is a bit melancholy for me--because winter seems a little less bright when the celebration is gone. I still love the cold darkness of the season, because the lights in the sky appear that much brighter. My oldest daughter and I used to say goodbye to Christmas time as we took the tree to a recycling point. We would say goodbye to Christmas, thank Jesus for being in our lives, and say we will celebrate again Jesus' birthday next year. That is okay with us, but we were still a little bit sad.

Epiphany for me is a time to encourage my fellow Christians to live out and be a piece of the Incarnation and be the light of Christ in the world when it is tempting to forget about serving the neighbor in January and February, when public discourse has gorged itself on end of the year giving and other generosity projects. Noble gifts, but they easily lose steam. We cannot lose heart. So the evening of the 12th day of Christmas is a little sad, but also a time to remember to not lose heart, the joy of living the Incarnation has only begun.


  1. I've always tried to hold on to the liturgical year, but the lectionary and I are on the outs. I just envision this gathering of theological bureaucrats at the Days Inn by the airport in Dayton, Ohio, going through Scripture deciding what we can and can't hear in worship. I always include the little bits they leave out.

  2. Thanks for your comments, Mark. As an interim pastor, I tend to weave things in with current congregational practices for worship. My current congregation does not use the Revised Common Lectionary. They loosely work with the liturgical seasons. I'm not devoted to either. It's definitely more challenging to preach without the RCL with integrity. I have to work extra hard that I'm not merely dishing out my own agenda. I have similar reservations about the RCL.

  3. "Agenda" is a word that has lost its meaning for me because it has acquired such a negative connotation. The problem with agendas is that everybody has one, me included, but it seems like only the "other guy's" agenda ever gets called an agenda, always as a criticism. What's wrong with having an agenda? Do we really need to use the RCL to adhere in some way to the liturgical year? I'd like to know more about the liturgical year. What agenda is the notion of the liturgical year trying to implement? Wouldn't it be possible to "weave things in with current congregational practices for worship" as part of the liturgical year without necessarily needing to follow the RCL? I also think we could do with more Bible reading in church, which the liturgical year provided, correct? We in the church really need to learn better how to really read and really hear our sacred text. Look, I'm no traditionalist for traditions sake, but this is an agenda I could probably live with.

    Sorry about the somewhat rambling comment(s)! Hope it makes sense.

  4. Tracy--

    I am aware that I have an agenda. My personal caveat is that avoiding MERELY dishing out personal agenda over and against Gospel. I understand that I am human and my words are interpretive. When crafting a preaching calendar plan, it is more challenging to faithfully discern my role in Gospel proclamation, as opposed to using the RCL.

    With regard to the liturgical calendar, I haven't developed my thoughts as to what it means to preach a topical sermon series that is woven with the liturgical calendar. It was the right timing for me to preach sermon series. After essentially 3+ trips through the RCL--it feels like I'm finding my way through preaching again, and that is a good thing. As far as I can tell FLCC works with Advent/Christmas, Lent, and Easter. I'm still learning my way around.

    Regarding Bible reading, I think the onus is on a congregation to offer as many opportunities to read the Bible as possible (one of the reasons I really like Book of Faith). I don't necessarily agree with the idea that worship is the place pile on more Bible readings. I think a central Bible passage is most effective (though I'm not against using more in certain situations). I think building a culture and community that is formed by Bible reading, study and reflection takes far more than its use in worship.

    I'm not sure if I adequately dealt with your comments, but that is my best shot. Thanks for posting.