That most wonderful time of the year is again upon us, but what truly makes it sparkle with wonder? As millions of refugees worldwide flee their homelands looking for a place to lay their heads, it is important for us to remember the humble and destitute circumstances chosen by the Lord of Glory for His first Advent into the world. For this reason and many others pertaining to our salvation, the Church has designed these several weeks leading up to our Lord’s Nativity in human flesh to be a time of fasting and increased prayer. But in the rush to hunt down gifts for every person on the planet and attend every holiday party offered, it is easy to forget our eternal destiny and the place where true life can be found. So where can a weary shopper go, besides church, to pray more, shop less, and truly wonder at the condescension of our God? Continue reading →
Several years ago for seminary, I composed the following sermon for a class on the exegesis of the Gospel of St. Matthew. I share it here with all in honor of the Old Style celebration of Christmas. Stay tuned also for an announcement of our Best of the Best in 2014. Happy Christmas to all and blessed and Happy New Year! Continue reading →
It happens to us every year as we approach the eve of December 25th. A certain Christmas euphoria overtakes the family, and we simply cannot resist gorging ourselves on the rich liturgical offerings of so many Protestant and Roman Catholic Churches. Since we celebrate Orthodox Nativity on the Old Calendar (January 7), this affords us the opportunity to visit other churches on one of the holiest Christian holidays of the year. And I cannot think of a single holiday on the Western liturgical cycle in which services are offered throughout the entire evening, even as late as 10:00pm! Continue reading →
Sounding at least one last note of repentance for this beloved season of Advent before we ramp up to the festivities of Christmas. My boss has done it again with this sermon from a few weeks ago. He did not directly intend this resonance, but I had a phrase from the confession at Anglican Morning Prayer drumming through my head the entire time:
ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare thou those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore thou those who are penitent; According to thy promises declared unto mankind In Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.
It seems like this phrase from sports is a wonderful and contemporary rephrasing of an old idea of “leaving undone those things we ought to have done.” May this nostalgia for righteousness inspire our upcoming celebrations of the Lord’s birth in our frail human flesh.
“I’d love to have that one back again.” Serious sports fans who watch the post-game interviews will have heard the phrase. Pitchers who let a pitch hang too long so that it was hit for a game-winning home run will say it: “I wish I could have that one back again.” Quarterbacks who under-throw the ball and have it intercepted on the final, losing drive of the game will say it: “I’d love to have that one back again.” Golfers who miss an easy putt that costs them the tournament will say it, too: “I wish I could have that one back again.”
I bet all of us have had times in our life when we would love “to have that one back again.” Maybe it was something we said or something we did. And even though we said it…
I refuse to add to the growing litany of bloggers who want to end the atrocities of our over-driven consumerist culture. While I mostly agree with their criticisms, I don’t think it works to curse the darkness without lighting a candle. And the candle of prayer that I wish to light on this commencement of Holy Advent is a plug for a very potent service of prayer. Continue reading →
The secret is out or at least it should be. Those of us celebrating Christmas on the Old Calendar (O.C. January 7) are still very much within the season, the 12 appointed days of celebration after the event, which makes it a total of 24 if you count somewhat the 12 days celebrated after December 25. So if you are the type that thinks Christmas comes and goes too quickly, think about visiting a Russian, Serbian, or even a Bulgarian Orthodox Church on the Julian Calendar. Then hold on to your tree, keep up those decorations, and don’t throw away that fruit cake because the O.C. gives us another 12 days to party! Continue reading →
It was unthinkable. Several years ago, we were celebrating the annual feast of St. Nicholas, and our priest confessed that there was not a single person in our parish whom we could wish a happy name’s day. My wife, who was pregnant at the time, turned to me and we decided then and there to start a trend that is all too common in other Orthodox and Eastern European Churches. Now, including my son, there are at least two boys named Nicholas in our parish. We are now more like the Greek family in My Big Fat Greek Wedding with every other person named Nick, Nikko, Nikki, or Nikolaki.
Every year faithful Christians struggle with the rush and distraction of holiday preparations and long to take a moment to slow down and reflect on the real meaning of the season. It is an especially difficult struggle for Orthodox Christians as we are prescribed by Mother Church to fast in our preparation to meet the newborn King in his Nativity. The Lenten Fast by comparison is somewhat easier in the sense that the season is already more austere in the wider culture (everyone fasting in the springtime, if for no other religious reason, so that they can fit into summertime bathing suits). The weeks leading up to Christmas in America are anything but austere. Between Christmas parties at work, holiday concerts galore, and the extra latte at Starbucks to keep up our shopping stamina, few things in the broader culture give us pause to stop and reflect on our eternal destiny with one amazing exception, Charles Dicken’s classic Christmas ghost story, A Christmas Carol. Continue reading →
I am always a bit ashamed in traveling to Russia and other places in the world that I come from a country where shared folk singing is not as strong as in other cultures. That is until I consider the great American and British tradition of carol singing around Christmas time. Continue reading →