the festival of epiphany...

Ok, ok, I know (dear purists) that the Feast of the Epiphany is not until January 6th - and that
today is only the 9th Day of Christmas - I know that, really!  But in the grand compromise known as the local church - in competition with school vacations, family schedules, the possibility of snow and all the rest - many of us celebrate some of the feast days on the nearest Sunday. And after trying to rehearse a Christmas pageant BEFORE December 24th for years - and never succeeding - it became clear that we should move the whole thing to Epiphany (or there abouts) and enjoy life rather than fight reality.

So that's what we've done for the past four years - and we did it again today - in a gentle, fun, unstressed and inter-generational way. Funny how some of my greatest insights have tumbled out of mistakes or even just the necessity of the moment. There was a time, about 20 years ago, when there were LOTS of children in worship. Back when my colleague, Kristie, first introduced me to our Christmas Pageant, there were 20+ children and three tiers of youth participation. We had a huge crew in Tucson, too. But in the 21st century in a small, struggling New England city, not so much. We've done this pageant with just children but my youth crew is getting older - and busier - so not everyone was available for today. In fact, we had a dearth of shepherds. Enter the "mother of invention: necessity!" I recruited 6+ adults to fill out the ranks of shepherds - plus a few women to stand in as angels - and voila: an inter-generational event that not only made the pageant work, but created a time for youth and adults to have fun together. 

And, man, was it a ton of fun. (For more pictures go to our First Church on Park Square Facebook site @
Whenever we can create an organic inter-generational time at church everyone wins: these gigs are never forced, never patronizing to our youth and children, and help us all grow closer to one another in love and respect. Parents and families get to know one another in new ways, too and we get to see our young people through the eyes of others - and grow in appreciation. Another thing that happens in these kinds of gatherings is that they express hope to the gathered congregation implicitly. I don't have to point out how grounded, humorous, smart and wonderful our youth are - it is visible for all with eyes to see. I don't have to tell them how great the adults in the congregation are either: they experience it. So in a time when so many of us worry about the future and fret about the present, these encounters are a quiet reminder to trust and be open to God's tender possibilities. Like St. Francis is rumored to have said: preach always - use words only when necessary. 

So now we start to slowly take down the decorations, dim the candles, and enter the first part of "Ordinary Time" in the church calendar. I had a former colleague who used to disparage calling this season "ordinary time."  She thought it sounded boring and uninspired: every day should be special! But that's foolish - something you say when you haven't been around the block very much - because not only do we needs highs and lows, ups and downs, to create a rhythm ot our lives; none of could endure 365 days of feasting. There ARE ordinary days - times to reflect, study and learn about how to live with hope and compassion - and that's what we'll attempt for the next five weeks. And then it will be Lent.  


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