Dry Desert
St. Paul's Manna Blog

He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna... in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
(Deuteronomy 8:3)

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum, Wie treu sind deine Blätter!“ O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how loyal are your needles (a literal translation of the German)! Have you put up your Christmas tree yet? Traditionally, Christmas trees went up on Christmas Eve and stayed up for the 12 days of Christmas. These days though, family traditions hold sway. Rev. Jill and I put up our tree on the weekend after Thanksgiving. That is the earliest we have ever done it. After the ravages of 2020, it seemed like we needed to start the Christmas cheer early this year.

There is a valid point to be made, however, about not having your tree up too early. Prior to Christmas Eve we are in the season of Advent. It is a season of anticipation, not celebration. The festive nature of a Christmas tree is out of step with the intent of Advent. That does not stop us from putting it up in our homes though...mine included.

I used to think there was a dissonance in having your Christmas tree up at home but being firmly in Advent at church. It struck me as a lack of harmony; a siloization that was clearly inferior to living harmoniously across all areas of our lives.

These days, with a few more laps around the sun on my body's odometer and many more gray hairs on my head, I've changed my mind. As followers of Christ, we do not only live in the present moment. We live in the past, present, and future...all at the same time.

We proclaim this in a myriad of ways. To pick just one, consider what we affirm as we prepare to receive Holy Eucharist: Christ HAS died. Christ IS risen. Christ WILL come again. We are a people who have a touchpoint with this world in this moment, but the fullness of ourselves is outside of this time and not of this place.

So enjoy your Christmas tree at home while you live out Advent at church. Heck, hang an Easter egg on your tree if you want...although I'd prefer you find an empty tomb ornament...but that's a story for another day. Blessings my friends.

Updated: Nov 30, 2020

2020 is finally slouching towards conclusion and Christmas will soon be upon us again. As I reflect on this time of year, it occurs to me that this is when I think of my childhood most. One of my fondest recollections from those past Christmas seasons is A Charlie Brown Christmas. It was a yearly tradition in my house to watch that cartoon. I’m happy to report that Zack and Tommy both like it.

Even after all these years that wonderful story of the Christmas play and the little tree, and Charlie Brown’s angst-filled cry against the commercialism of the season, still manages to tug my heartstrings.

Have you ever read the lyrics of the song “Christmas Time is Here” that plays in the background during part of the cartoon? Have a look:

Christmas time is here Happiness and cheer

Fun for all that children call Their favorite time of the year

Since many of the traditions of the season focus on children, it’s easy to think that Christmas is only for kids. But Christmas is for all of us. Christ came into the world for everyone, even (and perhaps especially) for those who don’t think they need Him.

Snowflakes in the air Carols everywhere Olden times and ancient rhymes Of love and dreams to share

Music is such a wonderful part of this season. We reserve special songs with special words for this time of year, not only carols but hymns as well. Emotions are invoked in their singing that, because they don’t fit in any other place or time, create sacred space for us.

Sleigh bells in the air Beauty everywhere Yuletide by the fireside

And joyful memories there

Christmas is indeed a time of memories: of relishing old ones or creating new ones, or both.

Christmas time is here We'll be drawing near

Oh, that we could always see Such spirit through the year Oh, that we could always see Such spirit through the year...

The last four lines say it all. We tap into something during the Christmas season that should be there every day of the year. How we act when we have the ‘holiday spirit’ is how we should treat everyone everywhere all the time.

Even during normal times, the winter can be hard for folks. During this unprecedented time of trauma, it will be that much harder for everyone. In some ways this will be the winter of our discontent. God gave the Hebrews sustenance in the midst of adversity in the form of manna. This site is meant as manna for our journey through this wilderness winter.