Tag Archives: frankincense

26 December: Sober this Christmas?

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I was looking for inspiration for Saint Stephen’s day, a martyrdom straight after the birth of baby Jesus. I also had an eye open for frankincense, because Abel is to play Caspar the Wise Man or King in the school Nativity play. Siesta is the obvious shop for such things in Canterbury and they did not disappoint: half a dozen sticks of frankincense, or so they claim were soon found and in my bag.

It was on my way out that I saw the card, the bright red was hard to ignore. The message on the front read, ‘What’s sobriety got to do with Christmas’, which reminded me of the ancient card or cracker joke: ‘be like the early Christians this Christmas, get stoned.’ Which brings us back to Saint Stephen, shown here with a pile of the stones people used to kill him. The statue is above the main door of his Church in Canterbury.

Already on Pentecost Day the Apostles had been accused of drunkenness because of their proclamation of the Good News (Acts 2:15). A few weeks later Stephen was arrested, and his words sound like a drunken illusion (Acts 7:56-60).

Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, [who was] calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Even when stone-cold sober, people can act irrationally and sinfully; a sobering message indeed.

Let us pray for all our Christian sisters and brothers who are trying to live out their vocation as members of a minority, sometimes suspected of treason, open to accusations of blasphemy, and liable to suffer violence and murder.

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January 6: a gift, a cracker.

keys.

I don’t recall meeting a Balthazar or even a Caspar, and the only Melchior I ever knew was from Slovenia, well west of Palestine. He was not rich enough to offer gold, frankincense or myrrh in any quantity, though he was good company.

I like to think the gifts the Kings – if Kings they were – offered were practical as well as symbolic. Gold coins to set the Holy Family up in Cairo when they got there; incense to cover the smells of stables and possibly worse, and myrrh for a tender young bottom.

Christmas cracker novelties are perhaps the ultimate in unpractical gifts. Not this one. The key that’s in the lock has a black case on its handle which came from a 2016 Christmas cracker. I can distinguish it in the dark and so let myself in. The key of my little kingdom.

It reminds me of the family gathering, a family to be grateful for. And though it’s black, it does its job in the dark, paradoxically I can say ‘lead kindly light’ … I think 6th January is the last day for us Latin or Western Christians to say Happy Christmas to each other – but it’s Christmas day for Orthodox Christians.

Happy Christmas, one and all!

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