Happy 2023! I loved worshiping together on New Year's Day — the caroling deep cuts, the 1600+ year-old homily, the interactive Prayers of the People, and hot chocolate and free books and kids running around on the lawn afterward (in tee shirts! in January! and the glory of the Lord shone all around us!).
Sadly, the John Chrysostom homily that Katie, Buz, and Kevin preached didn't record, but you can read the full text here. I re-read it this morning; it's beautiful and provocative.
I also appreciated the time of year-end reflection in the Prayers of the People. If you'd like to spend more time with those reflections, you can read Sunday's prayers here. And for a more in-depth reflection on the year, I posted a few resources in last week's letter.
Looking back: Advent outreach
Amidst all the busyness of the past few months, our little church also generously gave, prayed, and served our neighbors:
We gathered 51 coats for Randolph students and their families — more than double last year's number, and in about half the time — just before the weather turned bitterly cold. Thank you!
A group of Incarnation women facilitated an art activity for Afghan refugee women to support the trauma recovery work that our outreach partner Vera is doing with that community. We laughed, drank tea, shared stories, held babies, and painted together one Friday morning in mid-December. I learned a bit about what it was like to grow up female under Taliban rule, as well as favorite dance moves and memories of home. The paint wasn't even dry on our canvases before our new friends were asking when we could do it again — so we hope to make this a regular part of our outreach in 2023. If you're interested in participating in art projects with Afghan women, please let me know! No artistic skills required. This opportunity is only open to women, but we're hopeful it will open doors for other ways to serve. Thank you!
We prayed for the children of the Al Hol refugee camp every Sunday in Advent, and you gave over $5200 to our Advent & Christmas offering to support Partners' work there. Thank you!
Are you interested in helping to shape Incarnation's outreach efforts? We'd love to grow our Outreach Team. If you're interested in exploring, fill out this form and let us know!
Looking ahead: Epiphany home blessings
January 6 marks the end of the Christmas season with Epiphany, the day we remember the visit of the Magi to the child Jesus. Epiphany means "revelation" and it names both the day (Jan 6) and the season that follows. During the season of Epiphany, we hear stories that slowly reveal who Jesus is, what he is like, and what kind of kingdom he came to establish.
Epiphany is also the traditional time for home blessings, just as it commemorates a visit to Jesus' own home. There is a very old Christian tradition of "chalking the doors" at Epiphany, using blessed chalk to write above the doorway a series of symbols like this:
20 + C + M + B + 23
The inscription is a visible reminder of Christ's blessing over the home.
The numbers at the start and end of the line designate the new year (2023)
The crosses between the numbers and letters represent the cross of Jesus
The letters ‘CMB’ have two meanings: they abbreviate the Latin prayer Christus mansionem benedicat, which means “may Christ bless this house”; and they are the initials of the traditional names for the Magi: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar.
The inscription is made of dusty chalk, a product of clay, which reminds us of the humanity of Jesus
On Sunday, we'll provide blessed chalk and printed liturgies for praying a simple Epiphany blessing over your homes. You don't need a priest to do this, you can adapt the liturgy however you like, and there's nothing magic about this chalk or these particular numbers or letters.
But tangible practices like this help connect us to the reality of the incarnation — that God inhabited his creation in the person of Jesus and is making all things new. For centuries, Christians have relied on tangible stuff like chalk and beeswax and linen and bread and wine to mark the reality of God's presence in every nook and cranny of his creation, and of our own lives. So I encourage you to take some chalk and a liturgy, grab a friend or two, chalk your door and ask God to bless your home and all who will enter in 2023.
Sunday will also bring new members and a baptism! Please pray for little Micah Soo and his parents, Evelyn and Kevin, as they prepare for Sunday. See you then — we're back to 10am at Randolph!