Sing Joy to the World
Sing Good King Wenceslas
All: Good King Wenceslas looked out on the Feast of Stephen
When the snow lay ‘round about, deep and crisp and even;
Brightly shone the moon that night, tho’ the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight, gathering winter fuel.
Choir (King): “Hither, page, and stand by me, if thou know’st it, telling,
Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?”
Congregation (Page): “Sire, he lives a good league hence, underneath the mountain;
Right against the forest fence, by Saint Agnes’ fountain.”
Choir (King): “Bring me flesh and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither;
Thou and I will see him dine when we bear them hither.”
All: “Page and monarch, forth they went, forth they went together;
Through the rude wind’s wild lament and the bitter weather.”
Congregation (Page): “Sire, the night is darker now, and the wind blows stronger;
Fails my heart, I know not how, I can go no longer.”
Choir (King): “Mark my footsteps, my good page, tread thou in them boldly.
Thou shalt find the winter’s rage freeze thy blood less coldly.”
Sing the Twelve Days of Christmas with the motions
1st day… A partridge in a pear tree……spread your arm over your head to make the branches of the tree
2 turtle doves…hook your thumbs together to form a bird
3 French hens…make a 3 sign with your hands and bounce fingers three times (use index, middle, and ring fingers on both hands)
4th…Four calling birds…form hands into beaks and open and close your fingers like quacking birds
5 golden rings…hold up your hand with fingers extended and put 5 rings on your fingers of one hand
6 geese a laying…make wings out of your arms and shake your butt a little
7 swans a swimming…make a swimming motion
8 maids a milking…acting like you are milking a goat/cow
9 ladies dancing….put your finger on top of your head and dance like a ballerina or curtsey/bow
10 lords a leaping…do ballerina leaps forward –or jump
11 pipers piping…act like you are playing a clarinet or flute (use the fingering motion)
12 drummers drumming…act like you are playing a drum
Prayer of Confession Lord of the Dance who brought joy to the world so that your kingdom would be complete, we confess that often we think being religious and going to church is very serious business. We work so hard to sit still and be quiet. We forget that play, creativity, imagination and delight are holy gifts from you because they are part of your nature. You want us to giggle, and dream, laugh and dance. You want nothing more than for our hearts to brim over with joy and peace and love. Send your Holy Spirit upon us to free us from our self-made prisons. Remove all self-consciousness, make us bold to dream, and play and laugh out loud as we worship God-With-Us in spirit and in truth today. Amen.
Prayer of Illumination Shine within our hearts, loving God, the pure light of your divine knowledge, and open our minds and hearts that we may understand and embrace the message of your Scripture. Amen.
Psalm 100 (from the Book of Common Prayer)
1 Be joyful in the LORD, all you lands; *
serve the LORD with gladness
and come before his presence with a song.
2 Know this: The LORD himself is God; *
he himself has made us, and we are his;
we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.
3 Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise; *
give thanks to him and call upon his Name.
4 For the LORD is good;
his mercy is everlasting; *
and his faithfulness endures from age to age.
Gloria (from Angels we have Heard on High) Gloria, Gloria, in excelsis Deo! Gloria, Gloria in escelsis Deo!
Lesson and Kingdom Kids called Las Posadas in Mexico and Simbang Gabi in the Philippines
The children dressed as the Mary, Joseph, Shepherds and Wise Men represent Joseph. The Adults represent the innkeeper. The children walk from one row of pews to the next looking for shelter.
Children to Adults 1: (knock) In the name of Heaven, hear my plea for shelter. My poor wife is weary. Do not send us away we cannot go on!
Adults 1: No I have no room for you here. You must go on you cannot stay. I have no room for you today! I do not know who you are you must go away!
Children to Adults 2: (knock) Do not be cruel! Give us love and hospitality and the King of Heaven will reward you for that.
Adults 2: Go away now, don’t bother me. If I get too upset I might just beat you up.
Children to Adults 3: (knock) We have come all the way from Nazareth and are exhausted. We aren’t robbers, I am a carpenter named Joseph.
Adults 3: I don’t care about your name; just let me go back to sleep. I already told you I will not open my doors to strangers.
Children to Adults 4: (knock) My wife is asking for shelter, you have such a big house. Please let the Queen of Heaven stay for just one night.
Adults 4: If she is a queen, why is she traveling alone at night asking for shelter?
Children to All Adults: (knock) My wife Mary is the Queen of Heaven because she is going to be the mother of the Word of God.
All Adults: Oh, are you Joseph, is your wife Mary? Come on in travelers, I did not recognize you!
Children to All: May God repay you for your hospitality. And may Heaven shower blessings down upon you so that your cup runs over with joy.
All: Joyful is the house that welcomes the Holy Family. Although this home is poor, I offer it to you from my heart.
The first Christian communities celebrated Christ’s life, death and resurrection every week with Communion and were hoping for his immediate return
- When the church realized that Christ wasn’t coming soon it started to add yearly festivals. One can't stay in a state of heightened expectation every day for a long time. Festivals give that experience for more condensed periods of time.
- Festivals also helped people imitate Christ so they, like he, could be the imago Dei (dramatic reenactments of Christ’s life like Las Posadas help people practice hospitality) Baptisms were scheduled to take place when the church remembered Jesus' baptism – and at the celebration of his resurrection
- Festivals were also times to teach who Jesus Christ is (fighting the teachings of Arian – Jesus was human but not fully divine, and Apolinarus – Jesus was God but not human at all)
First celebrations were unitive – all themes of Christ wrapped into one
By 200s this started splitting
- Christmas – Natalis – Nativity - a festival of God being born as all humans are born
- Easter – a festival of God dying a fully human death and God’s resurrection
- We don’t have any clear historical evidence of a specific date for Jesus’ birth – shepherds in the fields at night would indicate Jesus birth was in the spring when lambs were being born.
- History of Religions hypothesis – most commonly known in our culture
- Church wanted to Chrstianize an existing pagan holiday – Saturnalia – A pagan Roman emperor created a day to honor the sun god. Christians made a connection between the sun god and Malachi’s prediction of the Sun of Righteousness
- But why would Christians want to associate with a pagan festival – and risk breaking the first two Commandments?
- Evidence has been found that Christmas is older than Saturnalia
- Calculations hypothesis
- Creation inspired the date – time is governed by the movements of the planets, stars and sun and the symbolism of numbers. ‘The heavens tell of God’s glory” The moon and stars and sun dance in a rhythm set by God/Christ/ the Word who created them.
- In a perfect unblemished life one’s death would be on the same day as one’s conception. So if Christ’s death happened on the Spring Equinox (March 25) he must also have been conceived on the spring equinox March 25 and must have been born on the winter solstice December 25.
- This is an explanation that allows for Christians to be faithful to their God
- By the same reasoning the church came to believe that John the Baptist was conceived at the Fall equinox and born at the summer Solstice. (Quebec and France – St. John Baptist day)
January 6 is the Egyptian date of the solstice – (symbols for Egyptian celebrations included light, water and wine)
Epiphany was an older festival than Christmas, and pulled together three themes that had been the focus of three distinct early church communities – the magi at Bethlehem (Jerusalem – where the gospel of Matthew was written – light of a star), the Baptism of Jesus (Alexandria – where the gospel of Mark was written. Mark starts his gospel with this story - water) and Jesus first miracle at the wedding at Cana (Ephesus – where the gospel of John was written. John makes this his first story about Jesus - wine)
People were baptized on Epiphany and Easter – Lent and Advent were developed as intense periods of preparation (penitential purple). After Christmas was added to the calendar the days between December 25 and January 6 became a celebratory season of Christmas.
Why Haven’t American Protestants celebrated the whole season of Christmas?
We can blame the Puritans for cutting down Christmas to just one day – from 1659-1681 Christmas was outlawed by them here in Massachusetts making it illegal to even take off work on December 25 or to commemorate the Lord’s birth in any outward way. It only became a legal holiday in the USA in 1856. They overcompensated for the revelry that often took place in Britain.
Notes about the Symbolism of the 12 Days of Christmas song and Green Grow the Rushes - most likely use to teach children their catechism - but various possible meanings
1 The True Love is God - One is one and all alone and ever more shall be so
Partridge – truth of the church – Pear Tree – Christ’s love for the church
2 Turtle Doves - Mary’s offering when Christ was presented at the temple for circumcision - Could also be Old and New Testaments. Lily-white boy clothed in green might be Moses and Elijah at the transfiguration – Peter wanted to build shelters of green branches for them to stay on the mountain; or the white marble statues of St. John and Mary on either side of the crucifix in many old churches. They were covered with rushes during holy week
3 French Hens - could be the Trinity The Rivals could be a corrupted "Riders," or "wisers" i.e. the Magi. Or it could be Peter, James and John who were fighting about who was the greatest.
4 Calling Birds - Gospel Makers - Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
5 Golden Rings – originally meant a kind of golden colored pheasants with ringed necks (pheasants are on the stable in some paintings of the nativity - see examples below) – Symbols at your Door - could be a Mazuzah, or the Torah, or the pentagram like we see in DaVinci's human - a symbol of human perfection.
6 Proud Walkers - might be proud waters corrupted i.e. the water jugs turned into wine at Cana.
7. Seven Days of the week, the 7th being the day God rested. Symbolizes divine perfection. Stars in the sky Pleiades – also in Revelation seven stars symbolize the seven churches
8. Maids a milking April Rainers Hyades star cluster shine during April rains – connection to Noah’s ark
9. Ladies Dancing/Bright Shiners – sun, moon, five known planets, Milky Way and the Empyrean (highest heaven) The stars in their corses are telling God's glory
10. Ten Commandments
11 Pipers - 11 who went to heaven (minus Judas)
If the Gold Rings are birds there are seven birds and five active humans on the list of gifts. These are all living - the 7 birds (symbols of the soul) 5 energetic human beings – exhibiting new life in Christ - repeated giving reminds us of God’s outrageous generosity 364 gifts every day of the year
Sing Green Grow the Rushes
Pastor Sarah: I’ll sing you One ho.
Congregation: Green grow the rushes, ho! What is your One ho?
Pastor Sarah: One, is one and all alone and ever more shall be so.
Two two lily-white boy clothed all in green-o
Three, three the rivals
Four for the Gospel Makers
Five for the symbols at your door
Six for the six proud walker
Seven for the Seven stars in the sky.
Eight for the April rainers.
Nine for the nine Bright Shiners
Ten for the Ten Commandments
Eleven for the Eleven who went to heaven.
Twelve for the Twelve Apostles
Thanks to Lawrence Stookey whose book Calendar explains the Christian year very well, and Karen Westerfield Tucker and other liturgists who have researched these questions.