A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey…
—T. S. Eliot, The Journey of the Magi
When my son was growing up, his father was often away in January, leading study abroad classes through Europe. Ben and I were left in dreary Washington state, dreaming of traveling to far away places. To make our time more special, I planned outings and activities. We frequented Starbucks for tasty treats. We’d make a special day trip to Seattle, to visit museums, shop in our favorite bookstores, eat at beloved restaurants.
I found ways to extend the Christmas season, relying heavily on the idea there are twelve days of Christmas, not just one. We began to celebrate Epiphany in our house, leaving our tree up and lit until January 6 and the magi of our nativity set took a long and circuitous route to the manger. Often we would bake a King’s cake for a special meal, and we took up the old tradition of Chalking the Door. I had read of the tradition of preparing the home for a visit by the Magi, leaving a bowl of water for their camels and shoes next to the door for a surprise gift of candies and treats in return. So every January 5th we’d tell the story of the Magi, put out a big bowl of water by the front door, carefully place our shoes nearby—and miraculously, the next morning all the water would be gone and a few of our favorite treats would be stuffed into our shoes!
In those small ways we were finding ways to practice our faith at home, weaving the stories into our lives just a little bit more during the long winter. These past ten months while we have not been able to worship in one place together, we have been creating new ways to be a faith community together. We’ve found deep meaning and relationships in Thursday night vespers. We’ve discovered new insights and ways of thinking about our faith as we’ve watched films and had weekly discussions on Zoom. We’ve made Advent wreaths at home, practiced prayer while coloring, and we’ve even sung along with others while our mics were muted! And as a congregation we have adapted our traditions so that we could continue to give generously to our neighbors, sharing gifts with families needing help this year.
It’s not been easy. And as we have been worshipping in our homes, I pray that our spiritual lives have been enriched by the expanding nature of our gatherings and practices. In this new year may we continue to cultivate the practices which deepen our faith wherever we find ourselves: in our homes, at work and play, and in our sanctuary, again, as well.
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A native of Illinois, Rev. Nancy Gowler lived for 26 years in the Pacific Northwest. She joined the ministry of First Christian Church in Morehead, KY, in July of 2020.