What shall we do now that Christmas is over? Well, even though December 25 may be past, we can celebrate that Christmas is not over. From December 26 through January 6, we are in that wonderful time of the Christian Church Year known as The 12 Days of Christmas. So CELEBRATE those 12 days!
If you were simply too busy with preparations to enjoy very much of December, and if you wished that you could slow down enough to enjoy Christmas, then the Church Year has good news for you. During The Twelve Days, your wish can come true. The Christmas Season does NOT begin Thanksgiving Weekend. For the Church, Christmas doesn’t even begin until Christmas Eve. And then it lasts for 12 luxurious days, in which you can listen to Christmas Carols, munch on Christmas cookies, put your feet up and relax — without having one blessed gift to buy or wrap, without having one card to mail, without having one thing to do in preparation for Christmas. Now is the time to enjoy Christmas. The only problem is that most of us don’t know how to enjoy The 12 Days. Here are some suggestions for you mothers and fathers whom Luther called the “pastors” of the household. After all, even when we are at home, we continue to be “the church
Leave a few decorations up until January 6. It would be great if every Christian family kept up all of their Christmas decorations until after January 6. But this is not likely to happen. Instead of putting all of them away, leave your Advent Wreath and Creche up until January 6. Bring the kings a little closer to the stable every day, and light all 5 candles on your wreath every night.
If you put your Advent Wreath and Nativity people away together, in their own box, on January 7, think of how easy it will be to find this box among your boxes of decorations next year. When it is Friday night on Thanksgiving weekend next year and you suddenly remember that Sunday will be the First Sunday in Advent, you will know exactly where you put your wreath . (If you put some blue, rose, and white candles in your freezer right now, you won’t have to race around for them, either.)
Christmas Card Devotions — If you still have the Christmas Cards you received, place them in an attractive container near the dinner table. After dinner, read a few of them and take some time to remember the person or family who sent the card. Pray for that person and thank God for the lives of those you love.
Have a taffy pull
Grab a cookbook and find a recipe for Old Fashioned Molasses Taffy. Make some taffy & then have a taffy pull. Be sure to boil the molasses long enough, make sure everyone knows that boiled down syrup is unmercifully hot so there must be no horsing around, and make sure everyone has clean hands (or the taffy will turn out grey, not white).
Make a Winter Garden:
While nothing is growing outside, start a garden inside. You can easily grow the following vegetables in your kitchen window
Carrots – Cut off the tops of several carrots, leaving about 1″ of carrot attached to the top. Place carrot tops in a jar lid or pie pan and add enough water tp keep the bottom of each piece in water. Do not allow to dry out. Before long, roots will form and new tops will grow.
Sweet Potatoes – Cut sweet potatoes in the same way as carrots (but cut in half, rather that 1″ from the top), and use the same method to grow green tops. Toothpicks can be inserted into vegetable pieces and used to support them from the rim of a glass. Keep enough water in the glass that the bottom of the vegetable cutting stays submerged.
Beans – Soak bean seeds or dried beans that have been purchased for cooking in water overnight. Fold several thicknesses of paper towel and place in the bottom of a flat bowl or large saucer. Soak the towel with water and sprinkle beans on the soaked towels.Keep towels wet. In a few days the seeds will sprout ane can be used in salads or sandwiches.
Bean sprouts can also be grown in a fruit jar. Put just enough water in the jar to partially cover the seeds. Put on the jar lid. As the water inside the jar evaporates, the air will become very humid, eventually condensing on the underside of the lid and “raining” down again on the seeds. The seeds will sprout in a few days and a “garden” will grow inside your jar.
As all of these plants are growing, talk to your kids about how God helps our spirits to develop and grow, even when we do not notice that anything much is changing.
On January 5 — Have a Family House Blessing on Epiphany Eve
This blessing may be set in the context of a social gathering. It is desirable that leadership roles be shared by two or more persons. Family members, friends, or a pastor may be invited. (Father might lead the greeting and blessing while Mother might read the scripture passage. Children might read the inscription as Father or Mother draws it.) Although a house blessing can be done at any time of the year, Twelfth Night is the traditional time for those families who like to do this every year.
Matthew writes that when the magi saw the shining star stop overhead, they were filled with joy. “On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary His mother.” (Matthew 2:10-11) In the home, faith is shared, nurtured, and put into action. In the home, Christ is met in family and friends. In the home, Christ is welcome.
Twelfth Night (January 5) offers an occasion for gathering with family members for a blessing of the home, using the following as a model: Following an Eastern Orthodox tradition, a visual blessing may be inscribed with white chalk above the front door 20 + CMB + 17. The numnbers change with each new year. The three letters stand for the ancient Latin blessing Christe Mansionem Benedica which means “Christ, bless this house.” (Some people say that CMB reminds them of the legendary names of the magi: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar.)
Greeting: May peace be to this house and to all who enter here. By wisdom a house is built and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. (From Proverbs 24:3-4)
Reading: As we prepare to ask God’s blessing on this household, let us listen to the words of scripture. (Read aloud John 1:1-14 — Ask everyone to listen for references to Jesus as the True Light of the world.)
Inscription: (This inscription may be made with chalk above the entrance:)
20 = CMB + 17
The magi of old known as
C — Caspar
M — Melchior, and
B — Balthasar
followed the star of God’s Son who came to dwell among us
20 — two thousand
17 — and seventeen years ago
+ Lord Jesus Christ, please bless this house
+ and remain with us throughout this coming year and all our days. Amen.
Prayer of Blessing:
Let us pray. Heavenly Father, You revealed Your Son to all people by the shining light of a star. We pray that You would bless this home and all who live here. Surround us with Your presence. Let Your love be our inspiration, Your wisdom our guide, Your truth our light, and Your peace our benediction. We pray through Jesus Christ, Your Son and our Lord. Amen.
Then everyone may walk from room to room. One person may ring a bell while another carries a candle. A third person prays in each room:
O God, protect and guide all who live here. Watch over [our] going out and coming in. May all who enter here know Your love and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
January 6 – Epiphany
The Festival of Epiphany is also called the Feast of Kings, Twelfth Night, or the Last Day of Christmas. This festival originated among the Egyptian Christians during the third century. At that time, Christians began to celebrate the visit of the Magi, who recognized and adored Jesus as the true Savior.
A common custom in many cultures is the baking of a special cake which looks like a crown studded with jewels. In families with children, this helps them understand Epiphany as the recognition, by the Magi, that the Infant Jesus was Christ the King, the Lord of the Universe.
An easy way to make this Epiphany cake is to buy (or make) a bundt cake (or other cake baked in a ring-shape). Frost the cake with white icing (homemade or store-bought). Then decorate the frosted cake with lots of multicolored gumdrops, jelly beans, chocolate kisses, or whatever you (and your children or grandchildren) like to use for decoration.
The Epiphany Season
The season of Epiuphany lasts from January 6 through Ash Wednesday. During Epiphany, the Church focuses on themes of healing and joy, glory and light. Especially light. From the star the Magi followed, through the Morning Star we sing about that shines so brightly, Epiphany focuses on the Light of Christ, shining in the dark world.
“Light-Search” Family Devotions — If you bring home the Sunday worship bulletin for use in your family’s dinner-time devotions, you can have lots of fun with these bulletins during Epiphany. Hunt through the hymns, prayers, and Bible passages (“pericopes”) on the back of the bulletin, looking for all references to “light” or mention of anything that shines (ie: stars, the sun, “reflected glory”, etc)
Let Christ’s Light Shine — The theme of light is the Epiphany theme that speaks to people worldwide. Light is associated with the presence of God, with images from the burning bush in the desert, the pillar of fire through the Red Sea, to the glory in the heavens at Jesus’ birth, and the star of the Magi. One of the ways the newly baptized are welcomed into the Church is through the presentation of a candle that is a miniature version of the Paschal Candle, symbolizing that the resurrected life of Jesus now shines in the lives of the newly baptized. “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in Heaven.” (Matt 5:16)
Snowball Igloo-Lamp — In your front yard, place 12-14 snowballs together on the ground in a circle. Place a votive or a pillar candle in the middle of the ring. Add a 2nd ring of 10-12 snowballs on top of the first. Continue to pile snowball rings on top, making each ring slightly smaller than the ring before until you run our of snowballs. Be sure to leave an opening at the top of your snowball “igloo”. At sunset, an adult can light the candle.
Winter Ice Candles
Needed: medium size balloon, empty plastic margarine tub, votive candle, food coloring (optional)
Fill the balloon with water until it is about the size of a softball and add a drop of food coloring, if you wish. Blow once into the Balloon and then tie a knot in it. Place the balloon in the margarine tum and set outside in freezing temperature (or place in your freezer if it isn’t cold enough outside.)
After 4-5 hours, a fairly thick shell of ice should form inside the balloon. Check by shaking the balloon gently; if the outside is hard and water can be heard sloshing around inside, it is time to pop the balloon. Discard balloon. Pour excess water out to form a cavity in the middle. This is where the candle will be placed. Freeze the candle holder at least 2 more hours.
At sunset, place votive candle in the center of the ice candle holder and light it. Place the candle outside to welcome visitors.
Punched-tin Luminarias — Just in case it KEEPS snowing, here is a snowy-day project that can keep you and your family occupied and celebrating Epiphany for most of the day.
Fill a plain tin can with water and place the can outside until the water is frozen. When the ice is frozen solid, using a permanent marker, dot a design on the outside of the can. Be sure to leave 1″ (one inch) from the bottom of the can undecorated.
Then place the can on its side on a bath towel. PUT ON SAFETY GLASSES BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING ELSE!! Then carefully hammer out the design by positioning a nail on each of the dots and hammering through the tin until it hits the ice. (The ice prevents the nail from bending the tin.) Continue punching holes until you have completed your pattern. Allow the ice to melt (in a sink). Pour out the water that remains in the can, place it outside, and set a votive candle in the center. At sunset, light the candle.
Epiphany Stars — Help children cut stars in assorted sizes from poster-board of thin cardboard, then paint with gold or silver paint. (Or cover with aluminum foil or other metallic paper.) Punch holes in one of the star points, tie nylon filament thread through the hole and hang all the stars in the kitchen or family room prior to the first Sunday worship service during the Epiphany season.
Stargazing — Discover what constellations or planets will be most prominent in your area during the season of Epiphany. Spend an evening stargazing with your family or friends. Invite the neighbors and serve star-shaped cookies and cocoa.
/Sharing the Good News is part of the Magi’s story — Highlight our congregation’s missionaries; point out the world maps on the Evangelism bulletin boards about the persecuted church throughout the world.