Beyond the Pulpit

January 2021

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ, greetings to you all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Folklore and tradition are wonderful things.  Most of us come from cultures and places steeped in folklore and legend.  Out of these deeply held stories of our past, or at least the past of our people or the places we live, often develop traditions.  Sometimes these traditions take on a lives of their own and become almost magical.   Rarely does anyone remember or know the origins of these cultural icons, but as they are passed down through the generations they gain power and prestige, and in many ways begin to define who we are and dictate the things we do.

Holidays throughout the year tend to attract these cultural phenomena of action born out of tradition which were begat of legend and folklore.   One of the traditions of Santa Fe church, a fairly new, is the service for the Hanging of the Greens.  A service which revolves around lifting up and celebrating the origins of Christmas decorations.  This year we were not able to celebrate this service, and no one misses it more than I.  But I hope that missing it will make it all the more important and powerful next year.

As for me, at this time of the year, I find myself looking back on the folklore of my cultural heritage, and I marvel at some of the legends that have been passed down among the Pennsylvania Dutch.  Some I have remembered and now look back on with fondness, some I have rediscovered and allowed to become part of my annual ritual, and the most powerful ones, which have never been far from my mind, perhaps may need to be given greater consideration.

For example, I have distant memories in my young childhood of hearing the story that on Christmas night between eleven pm and midnight, the cattle in the barn understand and speak in the language of humans.  I vaguely remember asking if I might sneak out to the barn to hear it for myself.  But alas, I was too young and needed to be in bed.  Over time, it was forgotten, until recently.  However, I have discovered that it doesn’t seem to apply to dogs and cats, or perhaps they only speak German rather than English.

A few years ago I rediscovered the legend that on that same Christmas night during the same hour, the well water turns to wine, for three minutes.  Frustratingly, I have yet to discover exactly which three minutes it happens.  But I will keep trying.

Finally, there is the tradition of eating pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day.  I know some of the folklore behind this one, and it is based in the observation of nature.  Chickens, when they eat, scratch the ground and walk backward.  Pigs on the other hand, always move forward as they root through the dirt looking for food.  On the first day of the new year, you really ought to concentrate on moving forward, not looking back, so it makes sense to eat pork instead of chicken.

This particular tradition is one of those that has risen to status of magic.  It was well known by everyone where I grew up, that it was good luck to eat pork and sauerkraut on New Years Day, and it was bad luck not to.  Rarely, have I failed to maintain this tradition.  I have even added to this New Year’s ritual, my wife’s Southern tradition of eating Black Eyed peas.   As 2020 began to unfold, I began to wonder about these things.  I am pretty sure we didn’t have pork and sauerkraut until January 2.  If that is true, I apologize, 2020 may have been my fault, at least in part.  Now you may call me superstitious, or you may call me silly (and I know many of you have), but I will make sure I get it right this year, I WILL be eating pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day.

I cannot wait for this year to come to a close and say “good bye” to 2020, a sentiment shared by many of you.  We all have high hopes for 2021.  Therefore, I hope you will all consider joining me in enjoying some pork on New Years Day 2021 and bring in the new year properly.  At the very least, please avoid chicken on January 1.  There probably is no real magic to this tradition, but after the year have just had, it couldn’t hurt.

But more importantly, since we really have had little control over the events of the year.  Let us not forget that we do have control over ourselves.  Let’s pledge to one another to improve our own lives through pray and study and service and fellowship in 2021.  As the pandemic draws to a close (and we hope it will end soon), let us pledge as well that we will NOT take for granted all the little traditions of Santa Fe that bring us together.  Let us look forward to returning to our lives together at Santa Fe, reconsidering our priorities and strengthening the ties that bind.

May the blessings of God, the peace of Jesus Christ, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit be with you all.