In my Christmas Eve sermon, I noted that sometimes the best gift isn’t the most expensive present but the least expected one. I experienced that in Williamsburg, Virginia, during the first Christmas that my wife and I were married. She had remembered an offhand comment from me about a fascination with astronomy. The least expensive present for me under the Christmas tree that year was a book called NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe. I loved it and felt like a kid again outside, under the celestial canopy. The photo shows a later edition because the original gift was used so much that it started to fall apart.
So let’s write haiku about gifts from Christmas past, Christmas present, or Christmas future. Just create one verse with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second, and five syllables in the third line. Here’s mine:
Her gift brought to mind
“the Love that moves the sun and
the other stars.” Wow.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas inside Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in the City of Houston. Here’s a glimpse of our traditional nativity scene beneath hundreds and hundreds of stars in the beautiful, hand-painted ceiling of the nave.
If you’re going to be in Houston on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, click here for information about our Christmas worship services, childcare, and parking. If you’re going to be somewhere else, geographically or liturgically, be sure to take a moment to remember the birth of Jesus, who still comes looking for room in our hearts.
That reality brings to mind the concluding words of a famous Christmas carol that were written by the Rt. Rev. Phillips Brooks, who served as the Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Boston from 1869 until he was elected Bishop of Massachusetts in 1891. You probably know him only as the author of “O little town of Bethlehem.”
O holy Child of Bethlehem,
descend to us, we pray;
cast out our sin and enter in,
be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
our Lord Emmanuel!
Earlier this week, for our first annual Christmas lunch, I took my church staff to a restaurant called Canopy on Montrose Boulevard in Houston. The biggest surprise was the awesome, Star Wars-themed sweater that one of our colleagues, pictured below, wore to the celebration. Yes, the Morning Star dispels even the dark side. That’s good news for the whole universe, including Darth Vader. Seriously.
Christmas sweaters — whether ugly or awesome — are this week’s haiku theme. Take one of those images, or perhaps a memory of something that happened while you were wearing one of these, and write a verse about it with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line.
John Lindsay, a former mayor of New York City, died 14 years ago today on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, where I was the curate at All Saints Episcopal Church. Soon thereafter I was asked to come to the funeral home to pray with a widow and her family without knowing that it was Mayor Lindsay’s family. I said that I was happy to do so but mentioned that it happened to be the day of our staff Christmas party and that I was, therefore, wearing a Christmas sweater instead of my usual priestly clothes. Sitting with that family, wearing a festive green and red sweater while clinging to my stole and Book of Common Prayer, seemed both weird and wonderful all at the same time. “Comfort, comfort my people,” writes Isaiah.
When John Lindsay died,
I — in a Christmas sweater —
prayed with his widow.
The Parish Hall at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston filled up many times over yesterday morning with guests of the Way Station, our feeding ministry to the homeless, for a Christmas party. There was even entertainment provided by a men’s singing group from the Salvation Army. It was an amazing, grace-filled experience not only for our guests but also for our volunteers. Thanks be to God.
Earlier this week I wrote about my family’s recent trip to the Houston Zoo at night to see the
Christmas zoo lights. They were spectacular, which isn’t really surprising because there were over two million lights to behold. At the other end of the spectrum is the theory that less is more. Enter “Blinkies,” a variation on twinkling Christmas lights that someone created in my hometown of Kernersville, North Carolina. This video shows Blinkies in the trees along Main Street in Kernersville. They do seem to have a soothing effect during a stressful season, don’t you think?
So this week’s haiku theme is Christmas lights, holiday lights, zoo lights, etc. Do you prefer to illuminate both the night sky and the windows of your next door neighbors? Do you choose instead to place one electric candle in each of the front windows, hearkening back to early American simplicity? Wherever you fall on that spectrum, tell us about it by writing one verse with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line.
My haiku refers both to the house that I knew as a child and to the Christmas Eve candlelight services at Home Moravian Church in the City of Winston-Salem:
Candles in windows
and a Moravian star
over the door. Home.
My family and I went to the Houston Zoo at night for the first time recently to see their annual display of Christmas lights. I know, I know, they call them zoo lights. Whatever you decide to call them, there are more than two million lights that create that amazing experience throughout the zoo, and our kids loved it.
Today marked the successful launch of NASA’s Orion spacecraft. Although there was no crew on board, the Orion spacecraft, which at some point in the future will journey to Mars, “completed its first voyage to space, traveling farther than any spacecraft designed for astronauts has been in more than 40 years.” Exactly seven minutes into this video of the launch, you can hear the switch in the commentary to Mission Control Houston. Needless to say, that was a favorite moment of mine.
So this week’s haiku theme is about launches into space, into a home life without parents, into risky business ventures, into the adventure that is faith, etc. Write one verse with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line. Here’s mine, which pairs the news about Orion with the recent launches of protests in cities over the erosion of trust between police officers and the African-American community:
Orion’s dawn brings
hope while social unrest brings
protests down below.
My wife and I recently had a chance to escape for a few days to San Antonio, where, of course, we visited the remains of the Alamo. Originally an entire compound that was built in the 18th century as a Franciscan mission of the Roman Catholic Church, the Alamo’s most recognizable structures are the walls of the church that survived the Battle of the Alamo in 1836 between General Santa Anna’s Mexican soldiers and a group of mostly non-Hispanic residents of Mexican Texas. These “Texians” at the Alamo included William Travis, James Bowie, and the legendary Davy Crockett, who had just arrived in Texas the previous month from Tennessee.
General Santa Anna’s army suffered tremendous losses to win that battle. Less than two months later, however, his army would be defeated by Texian soldiers under the command of General Sam Houston at the Battle of San Jacinto in present-day Harris County, Texas. That victory, which was fueled by the memory of the Alamo, secured independence from Mexico for the newly-established Republic of Texas.