January 11, 2017

Bearing gifts, hosting parties

For years, I hosted a Rose Tea for the women of the church on the weekend of the third Sunday in Advent (Rose Sunday, hence the name). It was always a lovely occasion with great conversation, delicious food, and sometimes a few carols. But after everyone left the house, I flopped onto the couch, a cartoon effigy of a woman sapped of every morsel of energy.

Who throws an extra party into the pre-Christmas mix? What kind of glutton for punishment am I? Over the years, we’ve gotten much wiser (at least on this account). We host gatherings for the church and staff during the actual Christmas season – or in the first few days of Epiphany. This year, the church staff enjoyed a Christmas luncheon on the day of Epiphany. Vestry members (as well as spouses/partners or family) came to our house for dinner on the first Sunday of Epiphany, and last night, the staff of my workplace (a faith-based organization) held its holiday gathering.

I encourage congregational leaders to consider this type of schedule for Christmas parties. I think there are many benefits:

  • It separates the church’s celebrations from the secular frenzy of December. You’ll enjoy it more. Really. When you’re not running from event to event or trying to bake and wrap and buy and visit, you’re able to settle in for conversations and enjoy each other.
  • It honors our liturgical year. This type of schedule gives the expectant season of Advent its due. And all too often, we see Christmas Day as the conclusion of the holiday, instead of the beginning. Christmas doesn’t actually start until December 25, and the liturgical season is twelve days. Celebrating during that period – or during the next liturgical season of Epiphany – offers a tangible reminder of our theological principles.
  • The holidays aren’t joyful for everyone. Hosting a gathering after Christmas Day seems to change expectations a bit and give some space for those who struggle during the holidays.
  • You can re-gift. Didn’t like the socks from an aunt or the singing bass fish plaque from a neighbor? Wrap it back up for the white elephant exchange! Take the first step in your new year’s resolution of waste not – and want not.
  • You don’t have to rush to take down the Christmas tree and all the decorations. You have a solid excuse (as if you really needed one!).

Be early adopters of this Epiphany party trend. After all, the Wise Men brought their gifts in Epiphany; that should be good enough reason for us.