Image from http://clipart-library.com/clipart/826094.htm, for personal use
Christmas and the four weeks of Advent that precede it are a bit different for me, since I serve as an assistant minister at a United Methodist church. They are usually a blur of vocational activity, into which I try to squeeze some basic personal activity. This year I helped decorate the church (it’s like putting up decorations at home, only on a BIG scale), sang with the choir in a service of Bible readings and music, taught a four-week study related to Advent, planned and organized the annual Christmas pageant, went on a youth outing to New York City, and assisted the pastor with two Christmas Eve services.
I missed hearing one of my grandsons sing a solo, both at a special musical performance and Christmas Eve at his grandfather’s church. Thank goodness for cell phones and social media, because I was able to enjoy “Gordy” singing “Away in a Manger.”
I also missed having Christmas Eve dinner, since the church I serve is about 15 miles away and I don’t have the time between services to run over, eat dinner, and return to the church. I wasn’t alone, though. There were a few folks who volunteer at the church in various capacities who stayed between the services and did not have dinner with their families, either. Hmm… now that I’ve put this on paper, maybe next year we’ll have a little meal together. Food for thought!
All of the above is a far cry from the Christmases I grew up with. But a calling to serve in a congregation relocates one’s understanding of both religious and secular celebrations.
So, since we are in the season of Christmas – which does not end until January 6, at least in liturgical tradition – I’m putting up an excerpt from Saint Maggie that highlights what an “old fashioned Christmas” looked like for her.
In the excerpt, Maggie is in the midst of a crisis. She has walked out of her beloved Methodist church over a disagreement. Notice who helps her solve the immediate problem of where to worship on Christmas day. Notice what is familiar: the dinner and the giving of gifts. There also are some things that might be familiar to some and unfamiliar to others: worshiping on Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve and spending part of Christmas day in service to someone else. By the way, "A.M.E." is shorthand for "African Methodist Episcopal."
Of course, how Christmas was observed would have differed from family to family, just as it does today. And Maggie’s world of 1860 was far less commercialized than it is today. In fact, 1860 sits on the cusp of the commercialization of Christmas, something that was to start in the mid-to-late 1800s and accelerate throughout the 1900s and into the 2000s.
Enjoy the excerpt!
Merry Christmas, if you celebrate.
And to all reading this: Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings, and Love and Peace in the coming year!
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder