Saturday, December 27, 2008


There are twelve days to Christmas, so it's never too late to wish everyone here a Merry Christmas!

If you want to get a taste of what the meditations for the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day serivces, you can find them at the link below.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Thought for the Day

Friday in Advent 3, December 19 2008

By Jan L. Richardson, in Night Visions, United Church Press. (c) 1998 (out of print)

This restless hope
is what drives me
beyond the weariness
beyond the discomfort
beyond every thought
that what I carry within me
will never come to birth.

This restless hope
beyond all reason
flutters beneath my heart
and grows within my soul.

It is beyond me,
and it is of me,
and it is delivering me

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Upon moderating comments

Dear friends,

I am an old woman, a crone, in fact, and as such I am protective of those who are so kind as to read my aged ramblings. This blog recently attracted a commenter who saw fit to use the slightest excuse to post extensive comments regarding the sex life and death of gay and lesbian persons. The comments are cut-and-paste jobs from a discredited "textbook" on the subject.

In fact, I remember witnesses reading straight from the text while testifying against a bill that would include people merely perceived to be gay or lesbian among those protected by an existing civil rights bill, in Delaware. I testified in favor of that bill, wearing my clergy shirt and all, and received hate mail and anonymous threatening phone calls.

I can take it. But there is no reason you, gentle reader, should have to. So, I regret to say that I have switched to moderating comments before allowing them to be posted.

This will not last forever. I thank you for your patience, and I appreciate your visits to Ramblings with Lois. May you have a blessed what-is-left-of Advent, a Happy Christmas, and a joyous New Year.

Peace be with you all.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


I've got vague thoughts of Christmas trees and decorations running around in my head. The magic but not the substance. The glitter but not the Light. This is the time of year I give in to my longing for magic. For St. Nicholas to be rea. For God to set all things right.

Another report of cancer in the blogosphere, and a second woman waiting for a diagnosis of a mass near her uterus. This stuff sucks. There's no excuse for it. It makes me crazy trying to make sense of it and a loving God at the same time.

I read a mass email recently that claims God is not a being, God is all things. If God is all things, is God the cancer, as well? A friend said not to think so much - it just gets a person all tangled up and depressed.

I don't think what I get is depressed. I think I get determined, resolute, still believing (crazy), still living faithfully (crazier still), asking questions, waiting for answers, expecting them, and forced to trust that in the all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

Magically. With a sleigh pulled by reindeer across the moon, and a saint who defies time and space, and deepest dreams made flesh.

Thought for the day

Why the hell didn't Aquinas write down his vision? the one that made him laugh at all his great theological work. the one that made him stop writing his great "sum of all thinking about God". I find it bloody unfair not to know what he saw.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Advent - Christmas Trees or Christmasfreeze?

This week I learned a new word: Christmasfreeze - like ice cream freeze, that brain numbing shot of lighting that happens when your mouthful of ice cream hits a certain spot on the roof of your mouth and ZING - ice cream freeze. The only way out of it is to warm the roof of your mouth slowly with your tongue, which you hope isn't as cold as the ice cream.

Christmasfreeze is the brain numbing shot of lightning that happens when the expectations of this season of December, known to some in the Christian world as Advent - "something is coming" - pile up and come crashing down all at one time and there is no defense against it.

I had Christmasfreeze once. I was serving a church in Boothwyn, Pennsylvania. Two days before Christmas Day, on December 23, the bishop phoned and said, "St. Martin's will have to be closed. We'll try to re-deploy you." (Whatever re-deploy means, it always makes me feel like a stealth missile aimed at some unsuspecting congregation, the purpose of which is to demolish the old and start everything over again.)

Well, to say the least, that phone call took all the Christmas out of me. I wanted none of it. The call was tantamount to being fired, and since I was a Priest-in-Charge, an appointment by the bishop rather than a choice of the congregation that was on the verge of closing when I was appointed anyway, it was indeed a firing. I've not been fired since I had my first job at the soda fountain in still-segregated Lewes, Delaware in the 60's. I was an outsider and they kept me only a week. I said or did something that was outside the culture and I was fired.

The Christmasfreeze was severe. I told my husband I didn't want to deal with any of the stuff we usually did. Forget the annual trip to a tree farm on Christmas Eve to buy a tree, put it up, decorate it...I convinced him to get a small artificial tree. That was my concession to the season. I let him put lights on it. I ignored all my boxes of decorations.

The antidote to Christmasfreeze could not come from me. I didn't want an antidote. So two angels came to visit on Christmas Eve, a few hours before the late night service. They had been turned out of their church for being a gay couple who wanted to be acknowledged as a couple. Could they come in to the church just for a few minutes and pray together?

I wasn't there. My spouse was practicing the music for the service. He let them in and stayed out of their way while they went to the steps of the altar and knelt together and prayer. Then they left.

My spouse came straight down the lawn to the rectory to tell me that two angels had visited. He told me the story, and my christmasfrozen brain and heart returned to what for me passes as normal. After Christmas I went and bought four ornaments for the small artificial tree.

Christmasfreeze is nothing to laugh about. It is real. It is serious. Those of us who do not suffer it don't have any idea how we contribute to it. Our "Ho-ho-ho-ing" and our shopping and singing and cheer send a message to others that this is expected of them, whether they feel that way or not. Imagine what it's like, then, to be a priest, to whom people look to, in a sense, make Christmas happen for them? Those two days between the bishop's announcement to me and the arrival of the angels was just plain hell. How was I going to get through that Christmas service, with all its expectations.

In the end, I did get through it, and enjoyed Christmas Day. We didn't do the family thing. We just had a quiet few days together. It was six more months before St. Martin's did indeed close. I was not "re-deployed" in that diocese. Instead, I was called (a far cry from "deployed"!) to Norwalk, Connecticut.

This is our third Christmas here. For those first two Christmases, I was still haunted by the Christmasfreeze of that one awful December. Last weekend, my spouse and I were returning from going out to lunch, and there was the gardening center, on a corner in our neighborhood. And I asked, "Can we stop here and get a Christmas tree?" And we did. Not on Christmas Eve. That day. And we put it up and put lights on it. Spouse brought up one of the big boxes of ornaments, but I haven't put any on. I'm just enjoying having a real live Christmas tree again.

And I took out my favorite, ancient Christmas jigsaw puzzle and spent most of the week putting it together and warming my heart with Christmas.

The difference is I'm not responding to any cultural or religious or community expectations. I'm doing what delights me. That includes what I do for and with the congregation I serve. In the end you can't meet people's expectations, nor the culture's or religion's, because you can't please everyone. Trying to do so just makes me a miserable person to be with and to work with. If I do what delights me, then occasionally doing some of the things that don't give me life or that drag me down can't keep me down for long. For, lo, there's one of the things that gives me delight, outside of the realm of expectations, and it's there before me.

I guess that's all I have to say this eve of Advent Three. This Sunday used to be called Gaudete Sunday: Joyful Sunday. A break in the Lent-like expectations of Advent. Happy Gaudete Sunday.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Advent or Christmas 2

It's snowing. It's 10:40 p.m. and there is already a decent dusting on the ground.

Yesterday we bought our Christmas tree. This is the first real tree we've had in 4 Christmases. When we have a real tree we usually buy it just before Christmas Eve, in keeping with our families' traditions of putting up the tree on Christmas Eve. But this year I want the lights and the tree now. I'm not denying myself this treat anymore.

I love this season, the season of November and December. I love the darkening evenings and the promise of lights reminding me that one day the sun will return. I've been an Advent scrooge for long enough. I'm 63 and 1/2 years old and from now on I please myself.

The artificial tree we used for three Christmases has been put up in the back yard, and lights strung on it. I looked out just now and there's snow on the little tree, with the red and white lights shining through it.

It just doesn't get any better than this.

I'm a priest and I say, if you want to put up your tree and your lights and play Christmas carols, you go right ahead and do it!

And while you're at it, make an early start of going around doing nice things for people as well.

Tomorrow is Advent 2. Enjoy!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Advent has arrived, or is it Christmas?

Over at Mad Priest's blog OCICBW... we are celebrating "You don't have to be a Christian to celebrate Christmas!", as a response to those in our own Episcopal church nationwide as well as those in the Anglican Communion who have been for years now declaring us liberal types non-Christians. We're celebrating with links to Christmas tunes since if we're not Christians, then their rules about Advent and Christmas carols are right out.

Christmas tunes are forbidden during Advent, for those who are observant Anglican Christians. We can't sing them in church, while the rest of the world is inundating us with tunes everywhere else we go, and not the really good tunes, either. We have to wait until December 24 in the evening, and then, with the rest of the world putting a stop to all Christmas music after December 25, we get to keep singing, out of step, for twelve more days.

I have been a stormtrooper as a priest, with regard to this practice of not letting my congregations sing a single Christmas carol, except Silent Night or Away in a Manger if the Christmas Creche/Pageant takes place during Advent, which of course it always does.

But to tell you the truth, I start playing Christmas music on Thanksgiving Day.

A long time ago, when I was ten, my mother took us to Radio City Music Hall for the annual Christmas Show. She bought an album of the Nativity music, with carols on the reverse. At around the same time we acquired an album of German Christmas carols, all in German. From that time on, on Thanksgiving Day, we were allowed to listen to both albums, and keep playing them until Christmas.

Every year we wanted to listen to the albums at odd times - summer, for instance - but we had to wait until Thanksgiving Day. To this day I begin to listen to Christmas music - the good stuff, not the Frostie or the Rudolph stuff - on Thanksgiving Day. This year we played a cd of "Celtic" Christmas music on our way in to spend Thanksgiving with my niece, and on Saturday we played a cd of Christmas carols from Kings College Chapel on the way home.

So who have I thought I am, refusing to let my congregations sing Christmas carols in church during Advent?

Last year all that changed. We still sing Advent music - there are Advent purists in this and every congregation - but the congregation's offertory hymn is a Christmas carol. Yesterday we sang "It came upon the midnight clear". Next Sunday we'll sing "Love came down at Christmas", then Advent 3 will be verses 1,2, and 6 (the non birth verses) of "While shepherds watched their flocks" and on Mary Sunday (yes I know the tradition of celebrating Mary on Advent 3, but since the Mary reading is always on Advent 4, come on now folks, get real!) we will sing "Lo, how a rose".

Now Lent is another thing altogether! I know churches that use Easter bulletins all during the Lenten season. I bet they sing "alleluia" songs as well. But not here - that is a country too far for me to go.

But Christmas carols during December, why not? (and that's a rhetorical question, of course!)