“All is calm, all is bright!” – Away in a Manger
As clergy, this song has often struck me as silly, thinking about the nitty gritty logistical side of Jesus’ birth. My goodness, things were complicated, attending the census, taking lodging among the animals. But yet each year, I still love hearing that song because it holds a deep nostalgia of this season.
So much of Advent and Christmas are like this, we the clergy are tasked with holding the balance of what we know of Christ’s humble beginnings, and the stories the rest of the world tells us about them. It can be a difficult position to be in, especially when our beloved vocation keeps us from our beloved families.
Especially in my first call when I was single with my family a full day’s drive away, I ended up spending my Christmas Eve alone in my office, preparing for worship. One year it was folding paper cranes for a reading of the Birds of Bethlehem, another it was preparing decorations and candles.
With those experiences in mind, this crate was created with the desire to serve as a bit of a companion in often lonely season. The main item is a Crock-Pot, and inside were a handful of items that I’ve used as illustrations in sermons, that may be helpful for you to do the same.
Fun fact: the content of this mailing ended up with a value of over $40! There are additional materials available for you on this page to enhance your personal and ministerial life. With a referral link to Jen Hatmaker’s Audiobook, that gave you an additional $17.50 value.
Click on the picture to link to where you may purchase that item.
This crockpot is the very thing I wish I would’ve had with me at church while folding paper cranes and Skypeing with my family’s Christmas Eve party.
Click on the image for a PDF of the cookbook that I created for the mailing.
This mirror was selected to coordinate with a favorite story of mine from Robert Fulghum In his book, “It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It,” he tells this story: “At the last session of a two-week seminar on Greek culture, our instructor (asked), ‘Are there any questions?’ These two weeks had generated enough questions for a lifetime, but for now there was only silence. So I asked. ‘What is the meaning of life?’ He looked at me for a long time, asking with his eyes if I was serious and seeing from my eyes that I was. ‘I will answer your question.’ Taking his wallet out of his hip pocket, he fished out a very small round mirror, about the size of a quarter and said: ‘When I was a small child, we were very poor and lived in a remote village. One day, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. I tried to find all the pieces and put them together, but it was not possible, so I kept only the largest piece. This one. And by scratching it on a stone I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would never shine. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find. I kept this little mirror, and as I grew up, I would take it out in idle moments and continue the game. As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I am not the light or the source of light. But light is still there, and will only shine in many dark places if I reflect it. I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have I can reflect light into the dark places of this world and help change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of my life.’”
There are a great many sermon illustrations that go along with candlelight, but particularly in this season, I like talking about the passing of light with the continuation of the work of Christmas. Christmas Poem by Jim Strathdee When the song of the angels is stilled, When the star in the sky is gone, When the magi and the shepherds Have found their way home, The work of Christmas begins: To find the lost and lonely one, To heal the broken soul with love, To feed the hungry children with warmth and good food, To feel the earth below, the sky above! To free the prisoner from all chains, To make the powerful care, To rebuild the nations with strength and good will, To see God’s children everywhere! To bring hope to every task you do, To dance at a baby’s new birth, To make music in an old person’s heart, And to sing to the colors of the earth!
This particular item was included because I found the full lyrics of “I Heard the Bells” particularly compelling this season, but could certainly be used in a great many other contexts: Christmas Bells Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807 – 1882 I heard the bells on Christmas Day Their old, familiar carols play, And wild and sweet The words repeat Of peace on earth, good-will to men! And thought how, as the day had come, The belfries of all Christendom Had rolled along The unbroken song Of peace on earth, good-will to men! Till ringing, singing on its way, The world revolved from night to day, A voice, a chime, A chant sublime Of peace on earth, good-will to men! Then from each black, accursed mouth The cannon thundered in the South, And with the sound The carols drowned Of peace on earth, good-will to men! It was as if an earthquake rent The hearth-stones of a continent, And made forlorn The households born Of peace on earth, good-will to men! And in despair I bowed my head; “There is no peace on earth,” I said; “For hate is strong, And mocks the song Of peace on earth, good-will to men!” Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men.”