In The Wee Hours: Second Christmas

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We’ve all heard the song, and most of us have probably sung it. “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” I admit. I had no clue what that song was referring to all the time I was growing up. Twelve days? Which twelve days? I thought it referred to the twelve days before Christmas. It wasn’t until 2008 that I came to understand the deep beauty of the Twelve Days. My Second Christmas, as it were.
Let me tell you the story.

2008 was a particularly hard year for me. I was coming to grips with a deep personal loss I’d experienced two years prior, but hadn’t truly grieved. The loss itself is a story for another time. As the second anniversary of the loss drew closer, my grief began to build. I felt it coming like a slowly building tsunami, and in early September, it hit. It was hard. It was deep. And, despite the support of my family and friends, it was lonely. The Darkness (as I refer to that time) extended throughout the fall and into the Advent/Christmas season.

One thing you must know about me is that I dearly love the Christmas Season! I have always loved it. The decorations. The anticipation. The beauty. The Babe in a Manger. I love it all! That year, though, The Darkness hung like a murky blanket over everything. I couldn’t “get into” Christmas. I didn’t decorate. I might have sent out cards. I don’t remember. Probably not. I don’t think I even had an Advent Wreath, which I’d done without fail for 15 years or so by that point. I just didn’t have it in me. Grief is like that, sucking joy out of the things that bring the most joy.

On Christmas night, while driving home from my best friend’s house after spending Christmas with her and her family, I began to cry. Christmas was over, and I had missed it. I felt like I had slept through it and had just awoken to find it over. When I got home, I turned to a small group of online friends who had also been walking me through The Darkness. That’s when one of them said, “But Janet. Christmas isn’t over. It’s just begun. Haven’t you heard of the Twelve Days of Christmas?”
Wait. What?!
She went on to explain how the Twelve Days start with Christmas and end on Epiphany (well, actually the day before, I know). That I hadn’t really “missed” Christmas. That I could still celebrate. Right then, I took out my favorite Nativity set and wept as I put out the pieces. It was such a gift to be given. A Second Christmas of sorts.

Oh, but it gets better.

You see, in the Evangelical tradition, salvation is talked about as “asking Jesus into your heart.” I know other church traditions are different. For me, this occurred on Jan 6, 1985. My mom prayed with me and wrote the date in my childhood Bible. I’ve always known that date.

Did you notice it, though?
Jan 6th.
That’s Epiphany.

I did not make this connection until 2008. I didn’t know that Jan. 6 was even a religious date until I was an adult, and then I only knew that it was the day that the Magi coming to see Jesus was celebrated. I had only recently learned the name “Epiphany,” and had only just learned of it’s relation to Christmas and the Twelve Days. I had to learn more.

Webster’s defines Epiphany as: “a Christian feast day commemorating the revealing of Jesus as the Christ to the Gentiles.”

And that’s when God brought everything together for me.

The Magi from the East…. Gentiles…. kneeling before the Christ-child…. Recognizing Him as the king that He was/is….
1980+ years later…. 10 year-old me…. a Gentile… sitting in bed and recognizing Him as the Savior He is, and asking Him to be mine.

It was 2008, the year of The Darkness, when Christmas was so hard and I thought I had missed it, that I was “given” an entirely new Holiday to celebrate in a way that was deeply personal to me. It was so beautiful and so redemptive of such a dark time in my life.

I am so glad to be a part of a church now that celebrates Epiphany. Were it not for the Pandemic, we’d have a Twelfth Night Party. I was planning on making a traditional Twelfth Night Cake. Ah well, maybe next year.

Until then, Happy Epiphany, all!

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In The Wee Hours: The Light Has Come

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Lux venit, lux venit
Lux venit sursum corda
Lux venit, Lux venit arise
Shine for your light has come

I love this refrain from Michael W. Smith’s Christmas album, sung by a boy choir. I love it even more since joining my little Anglican church. There is a part of our liturgy each week called “The Sursum Corda.” It goes like this:

Celebrant: The Lord be with you.
People: And with your spirit.
Celebrant: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them up to the Lord.
Celebrant: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: It is right to give him thanks and praise.
It is right, our duty and our joy, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven, who forever sing this hymn to proclaim the glory of your Name:

BCP, pg 132

At this point, we sing or recite the “Sanctus,” which is directly out of the book Revelations 4:8 and Isaiah 6:3, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory.” It’s what the Seraphs and Beasts sing night and day around the Throne.

Every time we come to the Sursum Corda – every, every time – my heart thrills a little. It’s become my favorite part of the service. I think a lot of that has to do with a homily our late Father DJ gave on this part of the liturgy. I wish I could remember it exactly. I wish I could quote it for you. What I do remember is the gist. When we recite this part of the liturgy, and “lift our hearts” towards the Lord, we join that Great Cloud of Witnesses and all the Saints and Angels around the throne of God and around every altar in every church here on earth. We are united as one voice. There is a mystical, glorious unity that occurs. It’s an echo of Heaven, right here on earth. And I love it. So much. 

Lux venit.
The Light has come.
Sursum Corda.
Lift up your hearts.

Behold the Light of the World.
Oh come let us adore Him.

A Homecoming Of Sorts

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I cannot believe it’s been over five years since I added anything here. I knew it’d been a while, but…. Wow! I started feeling a little overwhelmed with keeping this up, and it became more of a chore than a joy.
However, I recently went looking for a specific blog post, and realized that I never posted it. That got me thinking that maybe it was time to dust off the cobwebs and put a few posts down. No pressure.
To get you up to speed, here’s my Christmas letter from 2019.
For more of what I’ve been up to, check out my Instagram.

December 3, 2019

Dear Friends and Family,

As the decade draws to a close, I figure it’s high time that I send out a little update. Most years, I have very little to say. However, the past two years have been a little more eventful. I’ll start with 2018. 

In April 2018, I had the wonderful privilege of visiting my dear friend Heleen in The Netherlands! It was my first trip to Europe. Heleen and I “met” online about a dozen years ago and have been dear friends since. We previously met in person when she visited a mutual friend in Texas in 2010. I’d been wanting to visit her for quite some time and finally decided to just do it! I’m so glad I did. I spent two weeks with her family, exploring her beautiful little city, Hattem, and some other sites in her country. We even made a day trip to Dusseldorf, Germany so I could visit the land of my ancestors. 😉 I’ve made tentative plans for a return trip next year. I would love to make it a semi-regular thing. 

Many of you may remember my two cats, Harley and Jasper. I lost Harley to cancer in 2012. It was just Jasper and I for a couple years until we welcomed Ziva into our home. She has been a delight and a much needed comfort as I lost Jasper in July 2018 at the age of 18. Ziva is loving being an only cat, so I don’t see us adding to the household any time soon.

2019 had been mostly uneventful until October. As you most likely noticed, I have a new address!  I had been casually looking for a new apartment when I stumbled upon a small, detached apartment home on a 9-acre horse farm near Monroe, WA. The price, timing, and features were just right. It’s smaller than my last apartment, but I have an in-unit laundry for the first time in over a decade! I officially moved on November 1. Ziva and I are settling in, and I’m finding that country life suits this “city girl” just fine. I traded sirens and neighbors for farm noises and neigh-bors. I’m loving all the animals! I keep saying that it’s “like therapy.” 

I still work for the same Home Care agency. I just celebrated my 22nd anniversary with them. I still love my job! Thankfully, my commutes didn’t change much with my move.

I hope all is well with you and yours. May you have a Wonderful Christmas and a Blessed New Decade!