Ornamental stories

We waited for Chris to come home yesterday before decorating the Christmas tree. He and Nancy do most of the decorating I record the momentous event to be able to post pictures which share it with Joe & Maki who live in Japan. Almost all of the ornaments have some sort of story behind them. We often purchase an ornament when we take a significant trip. (Our recent trip to Alaska is represented by ones from Alaska and from Butchart Gardens in Vancouver BC.) Other were given to us by specific family members or friends. One for example is a duck egg over 3 decades old. Another a bit of oragami that by tradition is thrown onto the tree (originally by Joe – this year by Nancy and Chris.

A couple of years ago Nancy and I had sorted through the Christmas ornaments and we had given each of the boys the ornaments they had been given over the years by godparents or grandparents or by us.

As we were decorating the tree last night and sharing stories of the ornaments Chris went to his room and returned with the box of his ornament. He put some of them on the tree doing the same story telling we were doing…It was a wonderful evening.

It was also a liturgical moment for us as a family.  And I realized once again that the sharing of story which is symbolized before us in some tangible way (an ornament, water, bread & wine, olive oil) – and talking deeply about memory and meaning is what our weekly gathering for worship is supposed to be about. It is not about superstitious ritual nor saying the right words in the right order at the right time to please an ego-centric God who needs and lives on our praise.

Perhaps this is why so many more people come to church on Christmas Eve and Easter – these are times when we share a larger story and are surrounded by the symbols that have meaning for many people. We in the church need to find way to help people break out their own “boxes” of symbol stories and place them on the faith community tree sharing their stories and questions – their remembrances and what it means to them.


About don

The Rev Don Hill is an Episcopal priest, rail fan and writer. He and his wife the Rev. Dr. Nancy Woodworth-Hill are currently Co-Pastors of St Paul's Episcopal Church, Jeffersonville IN, in the Diocese of Indianapolis. They also work as parish consultants in Appreciative Inquiry, strategic planning and spirituality development for parishes and vestries.
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