Seeing a Christmas tree beside the road the day after Christmas I was reminded that, for some, Christmas is just one day. After that it is “Christmas is over. Let’s get on with things”.
I got to thinking how rich a liturgical life is.
Those who keep such a life know that Christmas is a period of twelve days, as the song The Twelve Days of Christmas reminds us. During Christmas we adore the child in the manger, and we are in awe of the love and mystery of God. In The Word made flesh, God is telling us something significant, namely that flesh and matter are important and, indeed, all of life is important. All is created and loved by God. The mystical presence of God is in and through all of creation. This theme is central to the celebration of Christmas.
Following Christmas the liturgical year unfolds into the season of Epiphany which begins on January 6th, commemorating the visit of the Magi to the infant in the manger. Epiphany continues for six weeks, during which the theme is the light of Christ manifesting itself to the world. Given the turmoil of the world, it may not be easy to comprehend this light. However, we move forward in faith, trusting the words in John’s Gospel: “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” (Jn. 1:5)
The word “liturgy” means the work of the people.
It is a work we do in worship and carry out into the world as we continue to live the Gospel. Each liturgical season has a beauty and strength of its own which sustains us while also speaking to the context and the issues of our time. A major issue of our particular age is care of the earth. This concern expresses itself in our Book of Common Worship in the prayers of the people: “Awaken all people to the danger we have inflicted upon the earth. Implant in each a reverence for all you have make that we may preserve the delicate balance of creation for all coming generations.” (pg. 120). This prayer raises a very important question in the season of Epiphany and beyond.
What are we doing to let the light of the Gospel shine in our world?
Specifically, what we are doing for creation care? What are we doing in our churches in terms of worship, education, conservation, and witnessing (advocating) for care of creation? I am delighted and encouraged to find more churches stepping up to the work of creation care as communities of faith and as individual members. We must continue to grow this work. It is interesting to note that every congregation doing creation care is going about it in a slightly different way. Each one is doing it in a way that works for them; this is certainly not a case of one size fits all.
I am also aware that this urgent topic is not on the radar in many churches for a number of reasons: They find the topic disturbing; They do not want to upset people; They want to escape the world during worship (as if Jesus ever escaped the world…). But I think the biggest problem is that the topic is so huge that it feels overwhelming. Many people do not know where, or how, to start.
It is for these good folk that I write to say I understand your situation.
At one point, I was there myself. However, as a dedicated bird watcher, I became increasingly aware of climate change and its devastating impact. Then too there are my children and grandchildren and the question of what kind of a world and future they will have. It gradually dawned on me that, although I retired from pastoral ministry, I was now being called into the ministry of creation care. Just as I was slow and reluctant in responding to my first call into ministry, so it was with my second call. But as with the first call, over time, it became so strong that it could no longer be denied, so too with the second call. God will have God’s way.
I am serving this new calling in a number of ways. One is that I continue to serve as a member of the Albany Presbytery Peacemaking Task Force, where I focus on creation care. Second, I am also a member of the Capital Region Interfaith Coalition for Creation Care (CRICCC) which is comprised of people from various faith communities who have joined together to work collectively on creation care. In addition, I teach creation care in the New Scotland Presbyterian Church where I worship. And as you can see, I also write blogs.
Through my work on the Peacemaking Task Force and as a member of CRICCC, as well as attendance at environmental education events, I have become acquainted with a number of people and resources. I find myself, therefore, in a position to help congregations ease into the topic of creation care. I am available and willing to offering assistance and resources to those who do not know how to get started in the work of creation care, as well as for those already involved and wishing to expand.
If you have questions, or want to chat about creation care, I would be happy to assist you in whatever way I can. Please feel free to email me with “Creation Care” in the subject line, and include your phone number if you would prefer to talk about this on the telephone.
During this season of Epiphany let us, as people of faith, be about the work of creation care so that the light of Christ, and the light of Christ’s people, may shine forth into the world.