March 24, 2017

December 2, 2012

The Rabbis and the Christmas Tree

From November 29, 2010, when I was blogging as Northern Plains Anglicans.


Advent/Christmas/Epiphany decor takes me back to one of the churches I served in Southern California. It was part of a very diverse interfaith community. We had an especially good representation of Synagogues.

At one of the clergy gatherings, the theme was “Tell Us About Your Winter Holidays.” As you might guess, Christian clergy moaned and lamented about sentimentalism, commercialism and too much busyness.

The Rabbis weren’t impressed. “It’s the only time of the year your people transform their homes,” one said. Then a group of them laughed and said in unison, “A good Jew is made in the home, not the Temple.”

That stuck with me. Advent calendars and wreaths, Christmas Trees, garlands, creches and other decor are means to convey the message and spirituality of church seasons. And study after study in aspect after aspect of life tells us that what children experience in the home is formative. Churches and other settings can have input and influence, but the most significant formation of a soul takes place through its most significant formative relationships.

Winter weather on the way here - good days to stay in and decorate. And to talk up the decor:

“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.” Deuteronomy 11:18-21


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The Advent wreath I received from my mother’s estate is the first thing assembled every year.  I use violet candles because that is what I grew up with in the cathedral. 

The cathedral in SD used to have a gigantic Advent wreath suspended via pulley system above the center aisle at the choir.  As a crucifer, I was warned each year to somehow avoid hitting the wreath…and do it without looking up during the procession.  The fire marshal put an end to that wreath back in the late 1970’s.  It was magnificent.

[1] Posted by midwestnorwegian on 12-2-2012 at 05:31 PM · [top]

Wise words from the Rabbis.

I put together our advent wreath on the weekend, just a simple circle of pine branches, four red ribbons and four red candles, the colours I remember from my childhood. 

My granddaughter sat with me while I made it, and asked questions about what Advent is.  I explained we light one candle this Sunday, two on the next, and so on until the 4th sunday in advent.  She took it all in.  After we hung it up and lit it, she kept going in to look at it.  I think she will remember about advent.

[2] Posted by MichaelA on 12-2-2012 at 09:50 PM · [top]

#1, That must have been a tradition in many Cathedrals across the nation. I remember such a huge Advent wreath at the Episcopal Cathedral in New Orleans in 1990s when I was a grad student.

MichaelA, That is great you shared that with granddaughter. I bet she will remember learning about Advent from you for years. You may think she has forgotten and then one year she will surprise you with a clear memory of the day.

Interestingly enough, some of my favorite memories from childhood are of our Nativity which was set up piece by piece. First Mary and Joseph came out and were put somewhere far from the room where our Nativity was. Every day they moved closer. We were allowed to put hay in the stable for every good deed during advent.  All was put together on Christmas Eve. After Christmas Eve services, Baby Jesus was put in place but not before.  The wise men did not arrive until Jan. 6th every year.  I like taking time to remember the story.

My favorite wedding gift was the very nice china Nativity we got from our parish choir. At the time we married, we were members of the choir.  I just love getting it out. Now we have to find a cat safe place for it.

[3] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 12-2-2012 at 10:46 PM · [top]

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