Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Glory of Christmastide

Christmas Carols through the ages....

Christmastide is an amazing time of year. While the vast majority of Americans begin the Christmas "season" the day after Thanksgiving and pack away decorations promptly on December 26th, those of us who follow the tradition of the Christian Year have quite a different tradition, one that centers more fully around Christ and His Love for the world.

Advent begins on the 4th Sunday before Christmas and finishes at sunset on Christmas Eve. While many secular Advent calendars, covered with images of Santa Claus and filled with chocolate goodies behind each window, act more as a "countdown to Christmas," the Christian practice of Advent is so, so much more.

"Advent" means "coming" or "arrival." Thus, Advent is partially our waiting to celebrate the arrival of Christ in human form two thousand years ago on that "silent night" in Bethlehem, born of a poor virgin girl in a cave because there was no room in the inn.

But waiting to celebrate Christ's first coming is not the main focus of Advent. No, indeed! Advent is even more about our awaiting the second coming of Christ our Lord, when he "shall come in majesty to judge the living and the dead" in His "kingdom which has no end."

Advent, with its liturgical color of purple, is a kind of a "miniature Lent," a time to evaluate and re-evaluate how we are waiting for Christ's imminent return. Are we living as we should? Are we as kind and as generous as we can be? Are we focused on God in prayer and in reading, studying, and applying His Word? Have we allowed slothful or sinful habits to take a foothold in our lives? These, and many others, are the questions that Advent forces us to face as we await His coming.

My favorite Collect (a collective prayer, prayed daily for a week by the whole of the Anglican Church) for Advent comes from the Second Sunday in Advent:

BLESSED Lord, you caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Help us to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of your Holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life; Which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Then Christmas Eve arrives at last, and as the sun sets and the Holy Day begins, we gather for Lessons and Carols, God's Word read aloud between the beautiful carols of the faith. By far, my favorite Christmas carol is "O Holy Night." The words are so beautiful and true--I "fall to [my] knees" in my heart each time I hear about "the night when Christ was born." Here are the lyrics:

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wise men from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
Then comes Christmas morning with our reading of Saint Luke's Gospel, and this Collect which is prayed daily through the Twelve Days of Christmastide:

ALMIGHTY God, you gave your only and eternal son to take our nature upon him and to be born [this day] of a pure virgin; Grant us, who have been reborn and made your children by adoption and grace, daily renewal by your Holy Spirit; Through Jesus Christ, who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

But the joys of Christmas cannot be contained to only one day; we celebrate Christmas for all Twelve Days, starting with Christmas Eve and concluding on the Eve of the Epiphany, or Twelfth Night, which arrives with sunset on January 5th.

Today as I was going through my e-mail inbox, I came across my weekly dose of Anglotopia which included the Queen of England's Christmas Address. It's a bit long at 7 1/2 minutes, but I really appreciate her message of love and hope during these troubled times as well as her quotations from Scripture and Christian witness and prayer:

Yet between Christmas Day and Epiphany are additional Holy Days. December 26th marks Saint Stephen's Day, memorialized by the carol "Good King Wenceslas":

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Saint Stephen, the first martyr of the Christian faith, reminds us to be bold in our sharing of the Good News and to live lives that glorify Christ, no matter the cost.

December 27th is Saint John's Day--Saint John, the evangelist and writer of several book of the Bible: The Gospel According to Saint John, the Epistles St. John I, II, and III, and the Revelation According to Saint John. So today we remember Saint John, one of the three disciples who witnessed the Transfiguration of Christ as well as the man to which Jesus entrusted the care of His mother, Mary while Jesus suffered on the cross: "When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, 'Woman, behold, your son!' Then he said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother!' And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home" (John 19:26-27). John refers to himself throughout his Gospel as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." The Collect for today follows:

MERCIFUL Lord, let the bright beams of your light shine upon your Church; By the teaching of blessed John, the apostle and evangelist, may we be enlightened and walk in the light of your truth, so that we may finally come to everlasting life; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
December 28th marks the remembrance of the Holy Innocents, the male children under two years of age whom King Herod ordered killed in order to destroy the prophesied king who had been born in Bethlehem: "Then Herod...sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men." But the Lord had protected Jesus by sending a message to Joseph in a dream to flee with the child and his family to Egypt where they remained until Herod's death.

Entrance to the Mission San Luis Rey Cemetery

Since the decision of Roe v. Wade in the early 1970's, the Catholic Church also recognizes the Remembrance of the Holy Innocents to be a day to also remember the millions of unborn children whose lives have been lost through abortion. When our family visits the Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside where our dear friends' daughter is resting in peace, I always stop to pause at the marker inside one of the entrances to the old portion of the mission cemetery which remembers the Holy Innocents who have died via abortion and their mothers who have suffered as a result, for whether one supports or opposes the practice, most women who have undergone the process, for whatever reason, suffer as a result. So we pray peace for them and for a happy reunion with their children in heaven.

January 1 marks the Circumcision of Christ as it occurs on the eighth day, according to Jewish Law, after Christmas Day:

ALMIGHTY God, for our sake your blessed Son was circumcised and bound to the keeping of the whole Law; Grant us the true circumcision of the Spirit, so that in heart and body, we may put away earthly desires and in all things be bound to the keeping of your blessed will; Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Another Sunday (and sometimes two) occur during Christmastide, and thus another Collect is prayed, but the Collect for Christmas Day is prayed daily throughout all Twelve Days, until the Eve of the Epiphany, or Twelfth Night. This last night of Christmas is a night for celebration and revelry as shown in Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night which was performed for Queen Elizabeth at Twelfth Night festivities. Twelfth Night is always a wonderful celebration, and we join the members of Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity in praying in the season of Epiphany (more on Epiphanytide later) and then celebrating with sherry and trifle in the Ackers' living room.

In my e-mail signature during Christmastide, I have included a quotation from Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, spoken by Scrooge at the end of the book:

"I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all year."

--Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

So I wish you all a blessed Christmastide!!! May the glory of our Lord and Saviour shine brightly through our lives as we live and love like Jesus, during this season and always!

A blessed Christmastide to you and yours,

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Snowy Christmas Day in Photos

4th Week of Advent...our family Advent wreath

After spending Christmas Eve with Keith's family and Christmas Morning with just the kids, Keith, and I, we drove fifteen minutes (and 2000 feet in elevation) from our little town to an even smaller one: Mount Laguna, elevation 6000 feet.
There at my parents' 600 sq ft cabin, we squeezed nineteen people for Christmas dinner. The saving grace was the foot of snow that kept almost everyone outside: sledding down the hill behind the cabin, snapping photos of sledding, creating a snow-squirrel (don't ask), or, with my extended family, smoking and drinking. ;)
Enjoy the photos!!!
My parents' cabin atop Mount Laguna

Timothy runs down the snowman in the sledding path
My brother Tom, Brooke, Grant, and Elizabeth at the back
Jonathan hurtling down the track
Benjamin trekking back up the hill....
Christmas snow

Merry Second Day of Christmas!!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Published in Victoria's Reader to Reader

Victoria has long been my favorite magazine, and my dear college roommate and godmother of our kids keeps me supplied with annual subscriptions for my birthday each spring.

Where else can we read about travel, cooking (with recipes), gardening, home decor, fashion, antiques and collecting, and essays from the Writer-in-Residence, all in one magazine?? The photography is incredible, the writing style elegant, and the values of the handwritten word and leather-bound journals are close to my heart.

So to be published in my favorite magazine??


Yes, the January/February 2012 issue of Victoria published a little piece of my writing--something I sent in response to an e-mail call for pieces on "Winter Comfort Food." So over lunch one day, I jotted a little essay on Keith's amazing Tortilla Soup, describing his techniques and the value of warmth and family around the kitchen table he built.

Then I received an e-mail informing me that they were publishing my little letter/essay. Months past the composition, I had little memory of what I had written, so I was thrilled to receive the issue in the mail yesterday.

So I took a few (ha!) photos to show you the spread on which my writing appears....

The January/February 2012 issue of Victoria which also contains touring information on San Diego, including the historic Hotel del Coronado, beautiful Balboa Park, and scenic La Jolla, all of which are favorite stomping grounds and landmarks in our own family history as the Quayle Brothers Architectural Firm designed buildings in Balboa Park and parts of the Hotel Del, including the famous Crown Room.

Victoria's Reader-to-Reader spread on Cold-Weather Comfort Foods
I love Victoria's beautiful photography and layouts
My little essay sketch on Keith's tortilla soup appears on page 11 of this issue of Victoria
Here's the first column of my little piece
Here's the second column of my little piece
Here's the quotation in the inset

I'm sooo excited about the first publication of my prose in a major magazine!! It's just a little thing in a readers' column, but I'm still thrilled to see my name in print in my favorite magazine!!

Wishing you a blessed Christmas!!!

Family Christmas Letter 2011

December 2011
Dearest Family and Friends,

The Barrett Family wishes you a holy Advent, a joyous Christmas, and a blessed New Year in our Lord Jesus Christ! May His Spirit, comfort, and abounding love fill your hearts and homes this season and always!

2011 has been another challenging year for our family. We have definitely experienced highs and lows, but throughout it all, God's goodness has been very evident, and we are very thankful for His many blessings. 2011 has been a year of prayer, and although not easy, deep in prayer is always a good place to be.

We celebrated Benjamin's 12th birthday this month with an evening of ice skating at the nearby outlet center...which was quite an adventure (and I have the pictures to prove it!). Benjamin is in 6th grade this year as we continue to educate the three boys at home. He is taking classes in Chess, PE, and Art at our co-op Class Days with Heritage Christian School and is in his third year of studying German. Benjamin is extremely artistic, and we always find him working on some project or another. And if there's laughter in the house, Benjamin is usually instigating the hijinks.

Starting high school in 9th grade this year, Jonathan, who turned 14 in June, continues to study music, mostly guitar. He is in his fourth year of guitar lessons with the Free Teen Guitar Class, a ministry of Alpine Anglican Church, but his and his teacher's busy schedules meant dropping piano for this year. Jonathan plays guitar on the last Friday of each month at the FTGC's Guitar Jams in the Starbucks parking lot in Alpine (while I hole up in the coffee mecca to write). This year he is taking a double-period Geography class called “Mapping the World by Heart” plus PE at Class Day, and he and Timothy continue learning higher math from “Auntie Jo,” my dear friend from college, Johanna (if he doesn't drive her absolutely insane!). He's also more involved in the high school youth group at Lake Murray. Quite popular at church, Jonathan is definitely our “cool kid.”

In 11th grade this year, Timothy will be 17 in March. He continues to enjoy learning art techniques, and we usually find him with a pencil or pens in hand, sketching something from Lord of the Rings or working on another drawing of some sort. He is taking a double-period Chemistry Lab and PE (with Jonathan) at Class Day; he's been asked numerous times to join the high school basketball team, but he prefers playing for fun over competition. Biking over several times a week to the garden site, Timothy remains very much involved in our town's community garden project where he has taken on a lot of responsibility. He's very involved in the Pine Valley community.

Now 19 and taking a year off from college at Point Loma Nazarene University because of financial aid difficulties, Elizabeth took one class at Grossmont Community College this fall but is mostly working in housekeeping at the Pine Valley Bible Conference Center. Elizabeth truly misses being a literature major in my former department at PLNU and living in the dorms during the week and hopes to return next year. She's considering a change in her major, but has much prayer and research ahead before deciding. The down-time at home has allowed Elizabeth to continue with her jewelry business; her products may be seen on her Facebook page. She has also been housecleaning for my parents since my mom has been plagued with chronic back pain all year.

And, as always, I'm crazy-busy. In addition to schooling the three boys at home, I'm teaching Intermediate Writing to high school students and Medieval History to 4th-6th graders (with an excellent team) at Class Day. I'm also teaching online courses during my 10th year at BraveWriter.com in literary analysis, MLA research, grammar, poetry, and Shakespeare, and I've started my own essay grading/editing business at http://www.susannebarrett.com/ Published at Easter this year, I also assisted in editing a new edition of the Book of Common Prayer revised by Father Acker of Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity where the kids and I worship on Fridays. I also celebrated my 5th anniversary of blogging at Meditative Meanderings.

In his determination to make ends meet, Keith continues to work very hard, mostly doing handyman work for various clients. He continues to work in the office with his dad on occasion, designing one custom home this year with a second in the works. Keith also created a beautiful art deco-style stained glass window for clients who saw his two windows in the Ademas' home, and he's also working on a mosaic floor for my parents' elevator. Keith and I continue with the Scripture Reading Team at Lake Murray Community Church in La Mesa which we have attended for over 18 years. Although he's had a couple of health challenges this year, one of which resulted in his losing a good deal of weight, Keith continues as Head Chef in our household, creating new and exciting dishes that the kids are always happy to make disappear...far too quickly.

Our family wishes you a joyous and healthy 2012 as we all go forth in the love and grace of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior! Come let us adore Him!

With love and prayers,

The Barrett Family
Keith, Susanne, Elizabeth, Timothy, Jonathan, Benjamin, and Dash, too!

And the annual Christmas family photo on the hearth:

And the silly version of the annual family photo:

Wishing you all a holy and joyous Christmastide (all twelve days!!) and a blessed New Year in the grace of Christ our Lord,

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"Anglican Fever" Among Youth

Father Keith Acker of Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity, the first of nine Anglican churches to leave the Episcopal Church's San Diego Diocese six years ago, sent me a news page today, and one of the articles was simply wonderful, so I have to share it.

The conservative Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) did a story dated December 16 on "Anglican Fever," a movement among the youth, mostly college students, who are involved in many start-up church plants within the Bible-centered Anglican Church of North America (ACNA), of which Alpine Anglican, as a Reformed Episcopal Church, is a member.

The accompanying video which contains more information than the print article, was fascinating:

And here's the link for the article, "Anglican Fever: Youth Flock to New Denomination"

I know that for myself, I am drawn to the Anglican Church because of its focus on Scripture, including the new Book of Common Prayer 2011 which uses the evangelical English Standard Version (ESV) Bible as its source for all Scripture passages. To pray through all 150 Psalms each month, to use the Lectionary as a Bible reading plan for morning and evening, to pray the ancient prayers, creeds, and hymns, some dating back to the first century of the Christian Church--all of these Scripture-centered modes of worship have deepened my faith and caused me to fall more in love with my Savior than ever.

So I am not surprised to learn of youth from Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College being on the forefront of "Anglican Fever." The emphasis on weekly Communion, on reverence and congregational participation in worship, and on the extensive reading aloud of God's Word all draw me into the Anglican tradition. I also appreciate the more global emphasis on prayer and the concerns over world-wide poverty. The Anglican Church is extremely strong in Africa and South America, to the point that their churches are sending missionaries here to the US. That's rather humbling, isn't it?

And thus I became involved with Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity over seven years ago, first as Christ the King Anglican, and after leaving the San Diego Diocese of the Episcopal Church, in its present form, both pastored by Father Acker. I found a depth and breadth to God's Word, a depth in prayer and practice, and the value of worshiping God with body, mind, and spirit, rather than merely the mind. I am more aware of God's Presence with me throughout my days and nights, and I find myself turning to prayer more than ever. I feel as if I have truly discovered "the heart of worship" in a tiny church meeting in an elementary school auditorium on Sundays and in the pastor's dining room and garage-chapel on weekdays and Holy Days...all thanks be to God.

So in this Fourth Week of Advent, I pray along with the millions of Anglicans worldwide the Collect (collective prayer) for this week:

O LORD, raise up your power, we pray, and with great might come among us; And, as our sins and wicked ways greatly hinder us in running the race that is set before us, let your abundant grace and mercy come quickly to help and deliver us; Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit, belongs all honor and glory, now and always. Amen.

Wishing you a holy and blessed Advent as we await the Coming of Our Lord,

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Advent Quotations

Our Advent Candle Wreath at Lake Murray, as built by Keith

Advent has long been one of my favorite seasons of the year. I love gathering the kids around the Advent wreath Keith made us a decade ago, lighting the candles and reading God's Word together. It's a precious time of seeing His light shine through the darkness as His Words ring out, bright and true.

Over the years, I have collected quite a few Advent quotations. Usually I share one quotation per week, but with my Advent being so incredibly busy with classes and essays to grade, I haven't been able to post here often. But after staying up grading final essays for my last online class until 3:00 AM this morning, I am finally free to write and post.
One of my favorite Advent quotations is by a now famous man, written well before he became world-renowned:

"It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus open the doors of hope."

--Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI

And another, written by one who died a martyr's death:

"A prison cell in which one waits, hopes,...and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent."

--Dietrich Bonhoeffer

And, finally, a wonderfully thoughtful view of the season of Advent:

"Advent is the perfect time to clear and prepare the Way. Advent is winter training camp for those who desire peace. By reflection and prayer, by reading and meditation, we can make our hearts a place where a blessing of peace would desire to abide and where the birth of the Prince of Peace might take place."

--Edward Hays, A Pilgrim's Almanac

So as we enjoy this Advent season in which we anticipate the celebration of our Lord's First Coming while we wait patiently for His Second Coming, may our hearts and minds be fully devoted to Him Who loves all of us perfectly and everlastingly.

Wishing you and yours a holy and blessed Advent,

Thursday, December 1, 2011

YES!!!!! NaNoWriMo Winner!!!!

YES!!!!!!!! I buckled down like crazy yesterday with 36,500 words written out of the 50,000 words required to "win" National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and wrote ALL DAY LONG.

And I finished. I verified my 50,000-word "novel" with exactly 14 minutes to spare before the midnight November 30 deadline.

I didn't write a novel, though. I completed one novel already started and worked on additional chapters for a second one.

They're not publishable, but they've been wonderful stress-relievers when stacks of essays are teetering precariously and editing jobs are piling up.

It's just been plain FUN.

But finishing NaNoWriMo was also important as for the first time, I offered extra credit to my co-op high school expository writing class: one extra credit point for every 1,000 words written, for a maximum of 50 extra credit points.

Therefore, I couldn't very well not finish when I have half my class as Writing Buddies.

So with a throbbing neck, aching and swollen fingers, and a drained brain, I am simply grateful that, by the grace of God, I pulled out the proverbial "Hail Mary" and wrote my heart out.

Did any of you try NaNoWriMo? How far did you get? Did you finish/win? What did you write? Please leave comments so we can chat about our NaNoWriMo experiences.

Happily spent from writing,


Blog Widget by LinkWithin