Showing posts with the label #Time

St. Stephen, and true martyrdom.

St. Stephen’s Day falls on 26 December, the second day of Christmas. Not that we know Stephen died on this day; it’s just where western tradition happened to put it. In eastern churches it’s tomorrow, 27 December. (And if they’re still using the old Julian calendar, it’s 9 January to us.) In some countries it’s an official holiday.You may remember Στέφανος/Stéfanos “Stephen” from Acts 6-7. Yep, he’s that St. Stephen.In the ancient Hebrew culture, tithes weren’t money, but food. Every year you took 10 percent of your firstfruits and celebrated with it; Dt 14.22-27 every third year you gave it to the needy. Dt 14.28-29 Apparently the first Christians took on the duty of distributing tithes to the needy. But they were accused of favoring Aramaic-speaking Christians over Greek-speaking ones. Ac 6.1 So the Twelve had the church elect seven Greek-speakers to take over the job. Ac 6.2-3 Stephen was first in this list, and Acts’ author Luke pointedly called him full of faith and the Holy Spir…

Twelve days of Christmas.

Today’s the first day of Christmas. Happy Christmas!And there are 11 more days of it. Tomorrow, which is also Boxing Day and St. Stephen’s Day, tends to get called “the day after Christmas,” but it’s not. It’s the second day of Christmas.The Sunday after Christmas (and in many years, including 2020, two Sundays after Christmas) is still Christmas. So I go to church and wish people a happy Christmas. And they look at me funny, till I remind them, “Christmas is 12 days, y’know. Like the song.”Ah, the song. They sing it, but it never clicks what they’re singing about.On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to meA partridge in a pear tree.On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to meTwo turtledoves and a partridge in a pear tree.On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to meThree french hens, two turtledoves, and a partridge in a pear tree.On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to meFour calling birds, three french hens, two turtledoves, and a partridge i…

St. Nicholas’s Day. (Yep, it’s this early in the month.)

Whenever kids ask me whether Santa Claus is real, I’ll point out he is based on an actual guy. That’d be Nikólaos of Myra, whose feast day is today, 6 December, in honor of his death on this date in the year 343.Here’s the problem: There are a whole lot of myths mixed up with Nicholas’s life. And I’m not just talking about the Santa Claus stories, whether they come from Clement Moore’s poem, L. Frank Baum’s children’s books, the Rankin-Bass animated specials, or the various movies which play with the Santa story. Christians have been making up stories about Nicholas forever.That’s why it gets a little frustrating when people ask about the facts behind St. Nicholas: We’re not sure we do have facts behind St. Nicholas. All we do know with any certainty is he was the bishop of Myra. The other stories: We honestly have no idea what parts of them are true, and what parts are exaggerations—or full-on fabrications. It could be all fiction.But I’ll share what we’ve got, and you can take it fr…

Thanksgiving Day.

In the United States, we have a national day of thanksgiving on November’s fourth Thursday.Whom are we giving thanks to? Well, the act which establishes Thanksgiving Day as one of our national holidays, provides no instructions whatsoever on how we’re to observe it. Or whom we’re to thank.Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the last Thursday in November in each year after the year 1941 be known as Thanksgiving Day, and is hereby made a legal public holiday to all intents and purposes and in the same manner as the 1st day of January, the 22d day of February, the 30th day of May, the 4th day of July, the first Monday of September, the 11th day of November, and Christmas Day are now made by law public holidays.—77th Congress, 6 October 1941
House Joint Resolution 41The Senate amended it to read “fourth Thursday in November,” and President Franklin Roosevelt signed it into law. So it’s a holiday. But left undefine…


Or “Resurrection Sunday,” for those who are paranoid about what “Easter” might mean.On 5 April 33, before the sun rose at 5:23 a.m. in Jerusalem, Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead. Executed only two days before, he became the first human on earth to be resurrected.Jesus died the day before Passover. This was deliberate. This way his death would fulfill many of the Passover rituals. Because of this relationship to Passover, many Christians actually call this day some variation of the Hebrew פֶּסַח/Pesákh, “Passover.” In Greek and Latin (and Russian), it’s Pascha; in Danish Påske, Dutch Pasen, French Pâques, Italian Pasqua, Spanish Pascua, Swedish Påsk.But in many Germanic-speaking countries, including English, we use the ancient pagan word for April, Eostur. In German this becomes Ostern; in English Easter.Because of the pagan origins of the word, certain Christians avoid it and just call the day “Resurrection Sunday.” (Which is fine, but confuses non-Christians.)Easter is our most …

Holy Week: When Jesus died.

Our yearly remembrance of Jesus’s death.Sunday is Palm Sunday, the start of what we Christians call Holy Week. It’s also called Great Week, Greater Week, Holy and Great Week, Passion Week, Easter Week (by those people who consider Easter the end of the week), and various other titles. It remembers the week Jesus died.It took place 9–17 Nisan 3793 in the Hebrew calendar; and in the Julian calendar that’d be 29 March to 4 April of the year 33.DAYDATEJESUS’S ACTIVITYPALM SUNDAY.9 Nisan 3793
29 March 33Jesus entered Jerusalem; the crowds said Hosanna. Mk 11.1-11, Mt 21.1-11, Lk 19.28-44, Jn 12.12-19HOLY MONDAY.10 Nisan 3793
30 March 33Cleansing the temple of the merchants; cursing the fig tree. Mk 11.12-18, Mt 21.12-19, Lk 19.45-46, Jn 2.13-17HOLY TUESDAY.11 Nisan 3793
31 March 33Jesus taught in temple. Lk 19.47-48, 21.37HOLY WEDNESDAY.12 Nisan 3793
1 April 33Still teaching in temple.MAUNDY THURSDAY.13 Nisan 3793
2 April 33The last supper; Jesus washes his students’ feet. Mk 14.12-26,…

Epiphany: When Jesus was revealed to the world.

The holiday which grew into Christmas.Epiphany (in some churches it’s called Theophany) falls on 6 January. Well, unless your church still follows the Julian calendar, in which case it’s gonna wind up on 19 January. It comes right after the last day of Christmas. In fact Christmas is celebrated on 25 December because of Epiphany.See, Epiphany celebrates how Jesus was revealed to the world. True, the Christmas stories figure that was with the angels and sheep-herders, and maybe with the magi. But technically he was revealed at the beginning of his ministry, at his baptism, where John the baptist identified him as God’s son.John 1.29-34 KWL29 The next day John saw Jesus coming to him.He said, “Look: God’s ram, taking up the world’s sin! 30 This is the one I spoke of!‘The one coming after me has got in front of me’—because he’s first over me. Jn 1.1531 And I hadn’t seen him! But I came baptizing in water so he’d be revealed to Israel.”32 John testified, saying this: “I’ve seen the Spirit…

St. Thomas, and healthy skepticism.

Thomas wanted his doubts addressed. So Jesus addressed them. 21 December is the feast day of the apostle Thomas. His name Tomás is produced by taking the Aramaic word taóm/“twin” and adding the Greek noun-suffix -as to it. John pointed out he was also called Dídymos/“twice,” so likely he was an identical twin. There’s an old tradition he looked just like Jesus, and that’s why they called him a twin, but since Jesus was likely old enough to be his dad, I think they’d have nicknamed him “junior” instead of “twin.” No doubt Thomas had a twin brother, though we know nothing about him.What we do know is Thomas was one of the Twelve, namely the one who wouldn’t believe Jesus was alive till he saw him for himself.John 20.24-25 KWL24 Thomas, one of the Twelve, called Twin, wasn’t with the others when Jesus came.25 The other students told Thomas, “We saw the Master!”He told them, “Unless I see the nail-marks on his hands and put my finger on the nail-scarsand put my hand on the scar on his sid…

Mary the Magdalene, apostle to the apostles.

The myths (and sexism) behind the first person to see our risen Lord.22 July is the feast day of Mary the Magdalene, whom we also call Mary of Magdala. She’s the woman who shows up in all the resurrection stories, ’cause she’s the very first person Jesus appeared to after he was raised from the dead.John 20.10-18 KWL10 Then the students went away again, to their people,11 and Mary stood outside the tomb, mourning.As she mourned, she then bent down into the tomb, 12 and saw two angels in white,one sitting at the head, one at the feet, where Jesus’s body was placed.13 They told her, “Ma’am, why do you mourn?”She told them this: “They took my Master away, and I don’t know where they put him.”14 Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing—and didn’t know it was Jesus.15 Jesus told her, “Ma’am, why do you mourn? Whom are you looking for?”Figuring he was the groundskeeper, she told him, “Master, if you took him away,tell me where you put him, and I’ll take him away.”16 Jesus told h…

Passover: When God saved the Hebrews.

And how Christians observe it. Or don’t. Or do, but medieval-style.“Why don’t we celebrate Passover?” asked one of my students, when I once taught on the topic.“We do,” I said. “Christians call it Pascha or Pascua or Páques. But in languages with a lot of German words mixed in, we call it Easter. And obviously we do it way different than you see in the bible.”So different, English-speaking people routinely assume Easter and Passover are two entirely different holidays. I can’t argue with that assumption. Christians don’t bother to purge our homes of yeast or leavening. Don’t cook lamb; nor do we practice the modern Jewish custom of not having lamb, and emphasizing it ’cause there’s currently no temple to sacrifice a lamb in. Don’t put out the seder plate, don’t tell the Exodus story, don’t have the kids ask the Four Questions, don’t hide the afikomen and have the kids search for it. Although both holidays have eggs, and we do have the kids look for eggs.Well, some Christians observe P…

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Popularly known as a day for fans of the Irish to get sloppy drunk, it honors Ireland’s patron saint.Pádraig of Ireland, whom we know as St. Patrick or St. Paddy, is celebrated on the date of his death in 17 March 493.In the United States, Irish Americans—and pretty much everyone else, ’cause the more the merrier—tend to treat the day as a celebration of Irish culture. Thing is, Americans know little to nothing about actual Irish culture. (We barely know the accents.) What we do know is Guinness, though we’ll settle for anything alcoholic, including beer filled with green food coloring. Me, I used to love McDonald’s “shamrock shakes,” though I had one more recently and found it way too sweet for my liking. (It’s because they add sugary mint syrup to their already-sugary vanilla shakes.) I much prefer adding vanilla and mint to a Starbucks Frappuccino.Most American customs consist of drinking, eating stereotypical Irish food, parades in which the religious participants express varying …

Shrovetide, Lenten fasting, and naysayers.

Getting ready for Lent… assuming you do Lent.LENTlɛntnoun. A time before Easter for Christians to fast, abstain, and practice self-control. Usually 40 days, like Christ in the wilderness, starting Ash Wednesday.[Lenten 'lɛnt.(ə)nadjective.]SHROVETIDE'ʃroʊv.taɪdnoun. The Sunday to Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, when Christians customarily confess sins (or “shrive”) before Lent.[Shrove ʃroʊvverb tense. Shrive ʃraɪvverb.]I didn’t grow up with Lent. I grew up Fundamentalist, and Fundies consider Lent a Catholic thing and dead religion. And popular culture’s irreligious shrovetide activities seem to confirm all their suspicions.In the United States we’ve got Mardi Gras. The term is French for “gross Tuesday,” a translation I like way better than the usual “fat Tuesday,” because while there’s a lot of awesome jazz, there’s also a lot of shameful behavior going on in these festivals. I’ve been to the New Orleans festival once, as a kid. All I remember were floats, beads, and coins whi…


The eighth Sunday after Easter, when the Holy Spirit started the church.I’m a Pentecostal… and weirdly, a lot of us Pentecostals never notice when Pentecost comes round. I don’t get it. I blame anti-Catholicism a little.Anyway, Pentecost is the last day of Eastertime, the day we Christians remember the start of the Christian church—the day the Holy Spirit gave power to Jesus’s followers. Like so. Acts 2.1-4 KWL1 When the 50th day after Passover drew near, all were together in one place.2 Suddenly a roar came from heaven, like a mighty wind sounds,and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.3 Tongues, like fire, were seen distributed to them,and sat on each one of them, 4 and all were filled with the Holy Spirit.They began to speak in other tongues,in whatever way the Spirit gave them the ability.4 The Jews who inhabited Jerusalem at the timewere devout men from every nation under heaven.5 When this sound came forth, the masses gathered, and were confused:Each one of them wa…

Happy Halloween. Bought your candy yet?

It’s Happy Halloween, not “Happy holidays.” Wait… wrong holiday.
A perfect opportunity to show Christlike generosity—and give the best candy ever. But too many of us make a serious point of being grouchy, fear-addled spoilsports. Image swiped from a mommy blog.For more than a decade I’ve ranted about the ridiculous Evangelical practice of shunning Halloween. I call it ridiculous ’cause it really is: It’s a fear-based, irrational, misinformed, slander-filled rejection of a holiday… which actually turns out to be a legitimate part of the Christian calendar.No I’m not kidding. It’s our holiday. Christians invented Halloween.No it sure doesn’t look like Christians’ original intent. That’s because we let the pagans take it over. By “pagans” I mean non-Christians—not the capital-P religious Pagans, whose nature religions date from the 1960s, but who claim they revived ancient pre-Christian religions. Pretty sure the ancient religions didn’t believe their gods were only symbolic archetypes of…