Robes and Stoles, Part 1

Many professions distinguish themselves by distinctive dress. Examples include a deputy’s badge, a firefighter’s helmet, a doctor’s white coat, or a chef’s apron. Form often follows function although ostentation can also play a part.

RobeMethodist clergy traditionally wear robes and stoles while leading worship. This practice varies, however, especially with the rise of contemporary services. People occasionally ask about the significance and symbolism of clerical garb.

Some scholars believe the practice originally emulated the robes worn by Jewish priests in the Hebrew Scriptures. In the early church, Christians donned a white alb cinched with a rope that symbolized their baptism.

Ironically, John Calvin inspired the robes most commonly worn by Methodist clergy today. The founder of Calvinism was a practicing attorney who wore his legal robe to preach. Judges still wear similar garments in the 21st century.

Authors also note that the Methodist Church historically has placed a high value on educated clergy. Clergy robes and academic gowns share much in common, including the use of “stripes” on the sleeves to designate a doctorate degree.

A clerical robe also serves as a symbol of ordination in the Methodist Church. Varying widely in cost, color, fabric, and design, they serve as a reminder of the call to specialized ministry that all clergy share.

Next week: Robes and Stoles, Part 2.

Teaching Preaching

This Saturday Northside Church will host the Atlanta College Park District Leadership Training. Party down! Yours truly will lead a session on “Preaching and Worship.”

But how does one TEACH preaching?

Seminary equips clergy with the basic tools to write a homily. Over time, ministers develop their own styles, methods, and processes.

I typically start with an idea accompanied by a title, topic, and Scripture lesson. Then I gather resources that inform the subject—background Bible study, illustrations, stories, Internet research, and more.

This is not a solitary pursuit. The Worship Team at our church meets weekly to exchange ideas and inspire creativity.

But preaching’s a funny business . . . .

Sometimes I write what might well be the finest sermon in the history of Christendom, and nothing stirs, not even a church mouse. Other times I stumble through a homily only to have people say it was the best sermon they’ve ever heard. On other occasions, people share meaningful quotes that I never said.

These moments remind me that preaching is a human-divine partnership. The Lord works in, through, and despite the minister. Paul said we hold heavenly treasures in jars of clay. Preachers are human beings tasked with proclaiming the divine gospel.

Also, teaching preaching is tough when the instructor is still a student himself!

There’s a Place for You!

The Northside Church theme for 2019 is: There’s a Place for You. Throughout the year, we will explore how the Lord has created a place for each of us in the kingdom of God, the body of Christ, and a community of faith.

The January Worship Series includes:

  • January 6 There’s a Place for You: A Community of Faith
  • January 13 There’s a Place for You: Purpose and Power
  • January 20 There’s a Place for You: Unity and Diversity
  • January 27 There’s a Place for You: Student Sunday

During the year, we will focus on Ephesians 4:1-6 where Paul identified unity as a chief characteristic of the church. He wrote:

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

There IS a place for you at Northside Church every Sunday in January!

The Day after Christmas

Dec 26

Each year I share my one attempt at poetry entitled “The Day after Christmas.” It reminds us that Christmas is not only a day or a season but also a lifestyle. May we celebrate the good news of Christ coming into the world year-round. 

‘Twas the day after Christmas and all were asleep

The twenty-fifth had left them all tired and beat.

The stockings were slung carelessly on the floor

Stripped of their contents and of interest no more.

The children were exhausted, collapsed in their beds,

With visions of sleeping-in fixed in their heads.

And mama in her flannel and me with my mate,

Were in hopes that we too might get to sleep late.

When out in the front there arose such a racket

I sprang from my bed like a frightened jackrabbit.

I stubbed my big toe on the way to the door,

And set off the alarm system on the first floor.

The early sun’s light shone bright on the toys

Left in the front yard yesterday by my boys.

Then I saw a car splashing right through the muck,

A red, white and blue delivery truck.

My head was aching and my stomach felt ill,

As the postman delivered a hand full of bills!

The charges were listed in dollars and cents,

Payment would empty the United States’ mints.

Now, Visa! Now, Penney’s! Now, Macy’s and Rich’s!

On, Walmart! On, K-Mart! On Abercrombie and Fitch’s!

November and December we had a great ball,

Come January, we owe something to all.

I made my way through a maze of presents piled high,

Looked again at the bills and gave a great sigh.

Turkey bones roosted on the dining room table,

Yesterday we ate all we were able.

I tried to turn on the new espresso maker,

Complete with a digital, alarm clock waker.

My family stumbled slowly down the stairs

As cordial as a den of hibernating bears.

I bent down to pet our faithful dog, Carl,

But he snapped at my fingers and let out a snarl.

My wife dressed quite quickly and shouted to all,

“I’m going bargain hunting all day at the mall!”

The children slammed the door behind them as well,

Going to friends’ homes for Christmas show and tell.

And I collapsed in my brand new easy chair,

To see how my favorite football teams would fare.

I held a glass of Alka-Seltzer firmly in my fist

Regretting last night’s snack I should have missed.

During halftime I arose from the recliner,

My team was ahead and the world seemed much finer.

Wading through the wrapping paper piled knee high

Something on the mantle piece caught my eye.

Half hidden beneath discarded ribbons and bows:

The manger scene had been placed weeks ago.

Carefully clearing the bright paper away

I witnessed the reminder of that first Christmas day.

The Christ child rested in a bed simple and small

Sent by God into the world to save us all.

Nativity figures of that first silent night,

Made it quite clear what had been lost to sight.

“A Happy Christmas to all!” is because of God’s son,

On the day after, our Christmas has only begun.

  

Christmas Eve Worship

Christmas Eve Worship Schedule

Northside United Methodist Church

2799 Northside Drive NW

Atlanta, Georgia 30305

www.northsideumc.org

11:00 a.m.       A Family Service of Candlelight & Carols                Sanctuary

2:00 p.m.         A Family Service of Candlelight & Carols                Sanctuary

4:00 p.m.         Contemporary Christmas Worship                           Faith & Arts Center

6:00 p.m.         A Service of Carols, Candles, & Communion           Sanctuary

8:30 p.m.         A Service of Carols, Candles, & Communion           Sanctuary

Nativity Animals will be present from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in The Wallace Garden. Children young and old are invited to visit.

Childcare for ages 6 weeks to 2 years will be available at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.

Childcare for ages 6 weeks to pre-K will be available at 4:00, 6:00, and 8:30 p.m.

O, come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!

The Five Senses of Christmas

FIve senses Christmas

 Sights of Christmas:

The world wrapped in holiday colors of red, green, silver, and gold. Crimson berries nestled in emerald green holly leaves. Wreath-clad doors, mailboxes garbed with garland scarves, and shrubs robed in lights. The “Big Tree” towering over Lenox Square. Piled gifts spilling beyond the sheltering arms of a Christmas tree’s embrace. On, off, on, off, on, off, on, off of blinking bulbs. Windows alight in warm candle glow. Stockings hung by the chimney with care. “Kiss-me-quick” mistletoe dangling from doorways. Clydesdale horses stomping through a Currier and Ives winter wonderland. Traffic-jammed mall parking lots. Church pageant children clothed in over-sized bathrobes, cardboard wings, and pipe-cleaner halos.

Sounds of Christmas:

Salvation Army, red kettle ringers. Jingle bells jangling. Salutations of “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays.” Crackling, cackling fires.  Carolers’ off-key singing. Horn blare of traffic jams. Canned carols endlessly looping on store speakers. “’Twas the Night before Christmas” recitations. Children’s Christmas morning squeals of surprise, delight, and excitement.

Smells of Christmas:

Dusty boxes of attic-stored decorations.  Fir-scented Christmas tree smell. Hickory wood smoke wafting from ice-frosted chimneys. Oven roasted turkey basting. Sugar cookies baking. Cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, peppermint, and allspice. Apple cider simmering on the stove. Flavored coffee steaming in a mug.

Feelings of Christmas:

Sticky, sappy, prickly, pine boughs. Polar breezes that cut through pants to discover where underwear ends. Cozy down comforters for long winter’s naps. Fleece, flannel, wool, fur, cashmere, leather, velvet, cardigan, and cotton layered clothes. Overcoats, gloves, hats, and scarves. Candy-cane kisses from a sugar-smeared child. Children laying awake on Christmas Eve, knowing the night will never pass. Home for the holidays. The presence of loved ones, both present and absent.

Tastes of Christmas:

Anjou pears, red delicious apples, navel oranges. Hot cocoa with sliver sprinkles of chocolate and topped with marshmallows. Sweet eggnog sprinkled with cinnamon. Honey ham, sweet potato soufflé, cornbread dressing, and deviled eggs. Gingerbread dunked in milk. Chex mix baked with butter and garlic. Some homemade pumpkin pie.

In the Gospels, one title given to Jesus is “Emmanuel” which means “God with us.” For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, God’s grace is all about us in these Holiest of Days. During this Christmas season, see, hear, smell, touch, and taste that the Lord is good!

 

A Christmas IQ Test

Christmas QuizMuch of what we “know” about Christmas actually comes from TV specials, greeting cards, holiday songs, legend, and tradition. Today I invite you to test your Christmas intelligence quotient. Is your knowledge about “the reason for the season” based on Matthew and Luke or Currier and Ives?

Q1:      Christmas has always been celebrated on December 25.

A1:      False. No one knows the exact date of Jesus’ birth. In a prior calendar, December 25 originally marked the Winter Solstice. The church “baptized” the date to celebrate the advent of “the light of the world” during the 4th century.

Q2:      What did the innkeeper say to Mary and Joseph?

A2:      According to tradition, the innkeeper said, “There is no room in the inn.” Despite countless children’s plays to the contrary, the innkeeper does not have any speaking lines in the Biblical accounts.

Q3:      Who saw the star in the east?

A3:      The wise men saw the star in the east. Many Christmas cards show the shepherds following the star to the manger; however, the shepherds went to Bethlehem after the angelic chorus announced the Christ’s birth.

Q4:      How many wise men made the journey?

A4:      Most people know the correct answer is “THREE.” Most people are wrong! The Bible never mentions how many wise men came to see the newborn king. They DID bring three gifts. By the way, they were not kings, either. So the carol “We Three Kings” is inaccurate in every detail!

Q5:      What is frankincense and myrrh?

A5:      My favorite response is that frankincense is “an eastern monster story!” In reality, it is a precious perfume. Myrrh is a spice often used for preparing bodies for burial—a strange gift for a newborn. Even at his birth, the babe of Bethlehem was also the Christ of the cross and the Lord of the empty tomb.

Q6:      Where did the wise men find the baby Jesus?

A6:      Months and even years may have passed before the wise men arrived. According to the Matthew’s account, they found the Holy Family in a home and not a stable.

Q7:      Which animals does the Bible say were present at Jesus’ birth?

A7:      Don’t throw away your manger scene’s barnyard menagerie, but the Gospels say nothing about any animals at the nativity.

Q8:      Where do I find the Christmas story in the Bible to check these answers?

A8:      Matthew and Luke contain the stories of Jesus’ birth. Matthew focuses upon Joseph and includes the wise men. Luke focuses on Mary and describes the angels appearing to the shepherds.

During Christmas, many families enjoy the tradition of reading holiday books together. In addition to other seasonal classics, I encourage you to include the Gospel accounts of the first Christmas in your reading time as well.

By the way, according to the author, there WILL be an end-of-book test.