Note: Homily recorded with special appearance by Charlie, the Ginger Cat.
Have you heard this Advent carol? It is sung to an 18th century dance tune!
Prepare the Way, O Zion, your Christ is drawing near!
Let every hill and valley a level way appear.
Greet one who comes in glory, foretold in sacred story,
Oh, blest is Christ that came in God’s most holy name!
Christ came once upon a time, two-thousand-twenty-one years ago. And now on the cusp of 2022, eagerly we wait for Christ to be born again.
How can we possibly get ready for Jesus coming to our houses? With all of the cleaning, shopping, decorating, baking, cooking, card writing, Christmas caroling, church-going, and tree trimming, it’s exhausting to just go through the list! It’s a wonder we get any of it done.
I would like to lodge a complaint with someone about this impossible schedule, but I am not sure who to complain to! In the history of the church Advent has been different lengths. In the 5th century when this blue season was first observed in Spain and Italy, it started on The Feast of Martin of Tours, November 11th right after All Saints, which makes a whole lot of sense! I think we should make Advent at least as-long-as Lent! But no one is listening to me!
So, on this second Sunday of Advent, we are already on Day 5 of the Christmas countdown. I love Advent calendars, all kinds! I have three to mark the passing of the days: a folding board book with the Holy Family’s journey to Bethlehem, a wooden Christmas tree with tiny little toys, and a tin roofed house whose windows I fill with chocolate. That’s my favorite.😊
But lucky us! Today we get to prepare the way with St. Nicholas. The original St. Nick lived 1700 years ago. He was the Bishop of Myra on the southeast coast of Turkey. We do not know much about his life: he may have gone to prison for his faith when the persecutor Emperor Diocletian was in power. He may have been at the council that wrote the Nicene Creed in 325. He is the traditional patron saint of seafarers and sailors. Not sure why.
But one thing we know for certain about St. Nicholas is the abundance of his generosity. His reputation for giving gifts to children has made him the very popular patron saint of children everywhere around the world for hundreds of years! And his Bishop’s staff, in the shape of a shepherd’s crook, is the inspiration for the candy canes we hang on our Christmas trees.🎄🎄🎄
So, let me share with you 24-Candy-Cane-Ways we can prepare the way for the coming of Christ.
Candy Cane 1: Write letters to St. Nick, Santa, and Jesus thanking them for all the gifts of Christmas past.
Candy Cane 2: Clean out your toy box and donate gently played with favorites to Goodwill.
Candy Cane 3: Raid your kitchen cabinets and load up your grocery cart with canned goods to donate to The West End Food Bank at St. James’ UMC Church.
Candy Cane 4: Bake cookies to take to school and share with your friends.
Candy Cane 5: For Carpenter’s Shelter pack and deliver a grocery bag filled with some of these items that they need:
- Baby Wipes
- Bathroom Towels and Washcloths
- Full-Size Body Wash and Lotion
- Full-Size Shampoo and Conditioner
- Individual Sized Cereal Boxes
- Shower shoes (flip flops)
Candy Cane 6: While they are asleep, fill your family’s shoes with treats – just like St. Nicholas!
Candy Cane 7: With your parent’s permission, take a tag from the Giving Tree to donate to help buy books for the St. Croix school in Leogane Haiti.
Candy Cane 8: Read the two Christmas stories from the bible: Matthew 1:18 -2:12 & Luke 2:1-20
Candy Cane 9: Make your own manger scene from twigs, leaves, and other things you find in nature.
Candy Cane 10: Don Santa hats and take some dog and cat treats to the animal shelter.
Candy Cane 11: Come to Emmanuel’s Handbell Concert (Saturday, Dec 11 at 5:00 p.m.) to sing carols (masked in the church) and drink cocoa (outside.)
Candy Cane 12: Also in Santa hats, with friends and family, grab a trash bag and pick up litter in your neighborhood.
Candy Cane 13: String popcorn for your Christmas tree or make a wreath for your bedroom door.
Candy Cane 14: Visit a library and discover how other countries celebrate Christmas. (You can can google it, too!)
Candy Cane 15: With your parents, go for a nighttime tour of your neighborhood ‘s Christmas lights.
Candy Cane 16: Cut out paper snowflakes and pin them up in your windows.
Candy Cane 17: Have an at home Christmas concert. Each family member sings their favorite carol solo. (You can also record it!)
Candy Cane 18: Don’t forget the birds! Make a pinecone feeder with peanut butter and seeds to hang in a tree outdoors.
Candy Cane 19: Make Christmas cards to drop off at a local nursing home.
Candy Cane 20: Cuddle up on the couch and watch a Christmas movie: Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Rudolf, the Red Nosed Reindeer.
Candy Cane 21: Drive to a store that has a bell ringer just to put something in the kettle (without going into the store to buy anything!).
Candy Cane 22: Make a family of snow people out of snow or out or play dough!
Candy Cane 23: Hang up your stockings & deck the halls!
Candy Cane 24: Christmas Eve!! Come to Emmanuel’s Pageants in the Pews, at either 3:00 or 5:00 p.m. in the nave. Or if your parents let you stay up late, the Candlelight Vigil Holy Eucharist at 9 o’clock.
Whew! That’s a lot of candy canes! Pace yourself and do your best. God loves you for whatever you do, no matter how little or much. God loves you just for you.
And on Christmas Day, before opening presents (I know this is hard!!) gather around your tree, and sing a single verse of Joy to the World!
So, a blessed Advent 2 to all of you. And a Very Happy Feast of St. Nicholas!
The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog