OWAAT December 31: The Psalms and Christmas Continue, and a New Year Begins

Do you know that in Christian tradition there really are 12 days of Christmas – that it’s more than just that Christmas carol that takes forever to sing (incidentally, not that you asked, but my favorite version of The Twelve Days of Christmas is definitely the one done by the Muppets)? Not only are we at New Year’s Eve day, we’re also on the 7th day of Christmas. Liturgically speaking (according to the Revised Common Lectionary), we’re at the First Sunday After Christmas Day. This coming Saturday, January 6, is Epiphany, the day celebrated in the church as when the wise men of the Middle East came across Jesus.

Daily Bible readings:

December 31 – Psalm 128
January 1 – Psalm 129
January 2 – Psalm 130
January 3 – Psalm 131
January 4 – Psalm 132
January 5 – Psalm 133
January 6 – Psalm 134

Think:

Our Psalms for this week are mostly fairly short, and in that testify to the good news that it doesn’t take very long to praise or otherwise communicate with God. Though some of us are lucky enough to have the week between Christmas and New Year’s days off, there is a whole lot going on liturgically and theologically. What have been your experiences of observing and celebrating Christmas? Have you experienced it primarily as a one day secular holiday, a 12-day holy celebration, or something else?

Pray:

As we wrap up with chanting the Psalms, what was your experience with them? What would you keep the same? What would you do differently next time?

With our entry into this new month and new year, we begin a new spiritual practice: the Rule of Life, a practice most famously done by St. Benedict of Nursia. Since this is the time of year in which New Year’s Resolutions are so popular, it may be helpful to let our practice coincide with what you may already be doing, and to think about the broad principles by which you would like to live in 2018. There are many different ways to come up with a rule for your life – it is important to note that this spiritual discipline, like any worthwhile one, is meant to encourage you to get into a rhythm of joy, rather than burdensome and/or unnecessary life regulation. As with most of the spiritual practices on our radar, there are many good websites covering the history and creation of rules of life.

Adele Ahlberg Calhoun in her Spiritual Disciplines Handbook encourages us to consider 5 questions or points when writing a rule for our life: when, where, and the practices by which we feel closest to God; our most important values and life aspirations; what one is currently doing to reach important goals; the practices that suit who we are; where we would like to change; and the disciplines we would like to try to affect that change.

The above concepts are more fully explained in this document from the CS Lewis Institute, “A Personal Rule of Life”  Please read it and experiment with the composition of your rule of life. Please share any insights you have from doing this activity! Consider not only what you are doing to experience God in your life, but also how you are using God’s power available to all of God’s people.

Act:

In these continuing days of Christmas and the beginning New Year, as we take stock of the year that has happened and the one beginning, what are you doing to welcome Jesus and be Jesus in this world? What should you do and who should you work with this year to build and reveal God’s realm in this world?

Check the Think! Pray! Act! calendar for things to do.

Find your local faith- or congregation-based community organizing network/organization and participate in their work and actions. Here are links to the major faith-based community organizing networks and their local affiliate organizations:

DART – Direct Action and Research Training Center

Gamaliel

IAF – Industrial Areas Foundation

IVP – InterValley Project

PICO – People Improving Communities through Organizing

What’s going on in your living of the Gospel? Let us know in the comments, in our e-mail discussion group, or on social media.

References:

Benedict of Nursia. Benedict’s Rule. Worcester, PA: Christian History Institute, 2017. https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/study/module/benedicts-rule

Bourgeault, Cynthia. Chanting the Psalms: A Practical Guide. Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, 2006.

Bratcher, Dennis. “The Christmas Season.” The Christian Research Institute, 2015. http://www.crivoice.org/cyxmas.html

Brueggemann, Walter, and William H. Bellinger Jr. Psalms. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

“Instructions for Developing a Personal Rule of Life.” CS Lewis Institute, n.d.

McCann, J. Clinton. “Psalms” in The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary Volume III: Introduction to Hebrew Poetry, Job, Psalms, Introduction to Wisdom Literature, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs. Abingdon Press, 2015.

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