Friday, December 31, 2010

On the Seventh Day of Christmas...

We rang in the new year a little early this evening at the home of one of my husband's parishioners.  Back home, and up much later than I intended to be, I'm listening to an odd combination of fireworks and rain and thunder.  Mother Nature is ringing in the new year, too...

I don't have resolutions yet, but think that I would like to make some.  I would like to remember people's birthdays and anniversaries.  I would like to try some new recipes.  I would like to finally paint the bathrooms and the kitchen.  I would like to be more patient and take deeper breaths and read a few more books.  I would like to knit a sweater.

For now, I resolve to enjoy this last weekend of my break, and to remember that it is still Christmas!  (I found that having a candy cane today helped tremendously...may need to try it again tomorrow!)

A Collect for the New Year, by Josh Thomas
Holy God, you have brought us in wholeness to a new year: Make us aware of the needs of others, determined in our efforts to meet both their needs and ours, and joyful in our gratitude for all that we have; that the passing of time may bring us ever closer to you in this life, even as we look forward to your nearness in the life to come, with Jesus Christ our Savior and your Spirit of blessedness and peace.  Amen.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

On the Sixth Day of Christmas...

I thought this post would announce good tidings of great joy about a finished scarf, but I think I'm still about 5 inches away.  I'm hoping that a nice glass of wine and a good movie will help move that along.

I'm still determined to find a pattern for the Best Buy scarf.  The closest I've come is a leaf lace pattern and the candle flame pattern (couldn't get link to work - there are several scarves and shawls that use this pattern), but all the examples I've seen are only one color.  I can't imagine how to alternate colors like the scarf on the lady with mobile broadband.

In the meantime, it's still Christmas!  Charlie 3 (formerly known as Little Charlie, but since his 10th birthday he prefers not to be called "little") designed his own stationary for his thank-you letters, with a tree made out of Bakugan.

And here's my little thank-you letter... Dear Reader, Thank you so very much for taking the time to visit my blog this year.  What a joy it is to have a space for knitting preaching and purling (and planting and picture-taking and...) threads together.  I have not been as faithful in writing as some of you have been in stopping by, and hope that in the new year I will not as quickly forget how much I treasure this space.  Thank you again for being here!  May your Christmas continue to be merry and bright, and may your new year begin and continue in happiness!  Peace, Jennifer

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

On the Fifth Day of Christmas...

F-i-ii-ive go-o-olden moments...

1.  Sleeping in!  I love early mornings if I can be up by myself, with a cup of coffee and a book or a journal.  It's such a quiet, gentle time.  But in that mysterious way that children who are impossible to wake up on school days are awake before dawn on vacation, our house is active before the coffee is even brewed.  So I may as well sleep in!

2.  Leftover soup!  Even better the second day...

3.  Crafting with friends!  Sarah was hand-quilting a gorgeous queen-sized quilt in blues and reds and browns.  I wish I had taken a picture of her beautiful work.  Julie knitted a little and worked on a few more of the felt birds her family gave as gifts this year.  The pattern is from Purl Soho.  We love the bird on our tree!

4.  A ten-year-old with a room full of toys choosing to read instead!  He's been busy with new Legos and Bakugan the past few days, but today he picked up a new book and hasn't put it down.  My favorite part is when, out of the blue, he starts laughing aloud at something he's read!

5.  Yarn!  But not for me, even though I have gotten a lot more work done on my scarf today (see #3).  This year's "surprise ball" from Nana was once again a Christmas treat.  What a fun way to use up scrap yarn hide little treasures and trinkets for your grandson to discover...

...and to give your grandcats a gift at the same time!  Chloe supervised the unwinding of the surprise ball on Christmas day, and Zach has napped on the pile of yarn every day since!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

On the Fourth Day of Christmas...

Curried cauliflower and sweet potato soup is simmering on the stove, and the house smells divine!

We've almost finished all the Forget-me-nots, cookies that, in my family, mean Christmas is very near.

And we finally ventured out in hopes that the post-Christmas crowds were getting weary of shopping.  They weren't.  We found ourselves at Best Buy, and while my guys were oohing and aahhing over all kinds of computer-y things, this is what caught my eye:

The model in this picture in the computer section was smiling, and I'm sure the store wants us to understand she's delighted because she can get on-line so quickly and easily with her new netbook.  But I know she's happy because of the beautiful scarf she's wearing.

Millions of dollars of high-tech equipment, and all I want is that scarf!  

Monday, December 27, 2010

On the Third Day of Christmas...

One way to be absolutely sure you won't have time to knit is to decide to knit two scarves by Christmas.  I started about three weeks ago on Gryffindor scarves for my guys, thinking that they'd be pretty easy to finish since they were entirely done in garter stitch.  I looked at pictures of knitted Gryffindor scarves and planned my own, not following any particular pattern (I now wish I had done them this way - perhaps next Christmas!).

I carried those scarves everywhere I went, and began to think I needed my own time turner in order to get them wrapped and under the tree.  The last ends were woven in on Christmas Eve.  So.  Many.  Ends.  Both were knit from Vanna's Choice in Cranberry and Honey on size 9 needles.  I cast on 21 stitches and knit and knit and knit...

Now that Christmas Day is passed and I don't have a deadline, I have all the time in the world to knit!  I'm finishing up a sock yarn scarf (the yarn is Patons Kroy in Fern Rose Jacquard and the pattern is Red Heart's Colorful Waves Scarf) that began as a simple project to carry on an airplane back before Thanksgiving.  I don't really like the colors, but the pattern is fun.

As soon as I finish this scarf, I'm casting on the Cedar Leaf Shawlette by Alana Dakos.  I love her podcast and her blog, and have looked forward to knitting this pattern since she first published it!  The green is beautiful, but I think I'm going to use some yarn Santa brought...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

On the Second Day of Christmas...

Perhaps today Joseph finally slept.  Two nights before he had stayed awake worrying about and tending to his laboring wife.  He had cleaned out the manger and gathered fresh hay.  He had called for the midwives and stood by anxiously until he heard the baby's first cry, a holy sound for any new parent.

Yesterday he had spoken softly to curious visitors who, passing by pastures outside Bethlehem before dawn, had heard remarkable stories of angels and stars and saviors from shepherds keeping watch over their flocks.  To you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord...  Joseph gratefully accepted the few fish and olives and loaves of bread the innkeeper's wife had brought out, the skin of water she left beside the new mother, the clean swaddling clothes left by the midwives.  He carefully followed their instructions for easing Mary's discomfort and keeping the baby warm.  He watched as they slept, exhausted by the miracle of birth, the immeasurable miracle of that birth...

Last night Joseph had stayed awake, helping every few hours when the baby cried, singing lullabies he thought he had forgotten from his own childhood, wondering what lay ahead for his little family.  The angel hadn't said anything about how to be the adopted father of God.

Soon, all accounted for and assessed, most others would be leaving Bethlehem to return to their homes.  Perhaps they could move into the inn.  Until Mary could travel again, Joseph would be rooted here, back in the place where he had been born, where he, a newborn so long ago, had lain upon his own mother's breast as they slept, exhausted by the miracle of birth.  His father had stayed awake....

Today, Joseph finally slept, and perhaps his dreams were of good tidings and great joy, holiness and heavenly peace.  Before long, his rest would grow fitful and he would dream of kings bearing both gifts and grief... But today, Joseph slept.

Today we wore our pajamas all day long in his honor.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Saint Nicholas

Preached in Middle and Upper School Chapel at St. Andrew's Episcopal School.

1 John 4:7-14; Psalm 145:8-12; Mark 10:13-16

It's a scene many of you know quite well.  There he is, sitting just a little apart form the crowds.  Parents bring their children, although sometimes the children are shy to meet him.  He gently lifts them up into his lap, and smiles as they settle there in his arms.  Believing in him, they whisper to him the desires of their hearts, and he nods to let them know he has heard every hope-filled word...

So.  Who do you think I'm talking about?

In chapel, the answer is supposed to be Jesus, right?  We just heard Mark's story of the time people brought their children to see him.  The disciples were sure he had better things to do than babysit, but Jesus told them in no uncertain terms that children were his business, and that they had better be the disciples' business, too.  Or didn't they remember how to be wide-eyed and filled with wonder, how to trust with all their hearts, how to giggle on God's knee?

Maybe I'm talking about Jesus.  There he is, sitting just a little apart from the crowds.  Parents bring their children, although sometimes the children are shy to meet him.  He gently lifts them into his lap... Who do you think I'm talking about?

Santa?  Maybe... We haven't been to see him yet this year, but every December children whisper to him the desires of their hearts, and Santa nods to let them know he has heard every hope-filled word.

Jesus?  Or Santa?  Sometimes Christians worry that we get so wrapped up in stories of reindeer and rooftops and sleighbells that we forget the story of how angels sang and stars shone and a baby was born on a silent and holy night, how God became Emmanuel, God-with-us, Love-with-us, love all lovely, love divine, in the words of one old hymn.

Every year on December 6th (we're just a few days early!) we remember the story of someone who was grateful for the gift of Emmanuel, someone whose heart's desire, whose deepest hope, was to love God's children.  All of them.  His name was Saint Nicholas, and he lived in the 4th century in what we know as Turkey.  Nicholas was the child of a wealthy family, with enough gold to impress even a Gringott's goblin.  But he climbed into Jesus' lap at a very early age, preferring to settle there than in the lap of luxury.  Nicholas became a priest when he was nineteen, and a bishop not long after that.  He devoted his life and his inheritance to acts of kindness toward those who were most vulnerable in his communities, most helpless, most neglected, most preyed upon by those who insist on taking every toy under the tree for themselves.

We all become children again, wide-eyed and wonder-filled, when we hear of his legendary compassion.  How Nicholas, when a devastating famine struck, fed his people from a small sack of grain that never emptied.  How Nicholas, returning by sea from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, prayed during a violent storm and calmed the wind and waves.  How Nicholas, having learned that a poor man could not afford to pay his daughters' dowries, tossed sacks of gold through the open windows of the poor man's house.  He tossed sacks of gold down the chimney as well, or so the story goes, where they landed in the girls' stockings hanging there to dry overnight...

Years ago, I heard someone say how wonderful it would be if Santa Claus was a verb as well as a noun.  Then, whenever we felt the urge to do something really kind, something really generous, we could say, "Hey, let's go Santa Claus today."  It could be fun...but what are we really talking about?  Because the thing is, we already have a word for doing something really kind, something really generous.  That word is love, which we heard no less than fifteen times in the short reading from First John a moment ago.  Beloved, dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God.  God is love...

This isn't the sentimental kind of love we feel for our favorite ornaments on the Christmas tree, but love that is fierce and relentless and hope-filled, love that is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and of great kindness.  The Lord is loving to everyone, the psalmist sang, and his compassion is over all his works.  Since God loved us so much, the writer of First John said, we also ought to love one another.

We Santa Claus pretty well around here.  We bring our dollars for dress-down or dress-up days.  We collect pennies for peace.  We're even bringing sacks of toys for children whose Christmas trees would otherwise be bare.  We volunteer down the street, up the road, and halfway around the world.  We love. We show compassion.  Peter Gomes, a Baptist preacher and theologian at Harvard's Divinity School, defines compassion as "kindness in the face of the opportunity to do otherwise."

Whatever our faith, whatever lap we choose to climb into, Saint Nicholas stands before us in this and in every season when we have the opportunity to choose how we will treat God's children - which is to say, everyone - and he urges us to choose love.  Nicholas reminds us that in even our smallest acts of generosity and kindness and compassion, God's saving presence comes into the world, not just at Christmas but each and every day.

Sometimes we can give a sack full of gold or grain or toys.  Sometimes we can find the cure, erase the debt, create new public policy, right the wrong, correct the injustice.  Sometimes all we can do is climb up into God's lap and whisper our heart's desires and trust that God hears every hope-filled word.

How will you Santa Claus today?  How will you choose kindness, especially when choosing otherwise would be easier or safer or more convenient?  How will you show compassion?  How will you love?

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God.  Amen.

Artwork: "Jesus and the Children," by Michael D. O'Brien; "Bishop Nicholas," by Emanuele Luzatti; "Saint Nicholas Wonderworker," by Laura James.