Monday, December 24, 2012

2012 Christmas Message

Linda Worthiemer (of NPR) shared her  mother's
recipe for Lemon fruitcake.
The carols…the lights…the greens…the stockings hung by the chimney with care…the 78 degree weather…it just feels like Christmas.  And, Christmas reminds me of fruitcake.

An “Ode to a Fruitcake” by Ryan Taylor:

Fruitcake! Fruitcake!

 Oh, what a glorious fruitcake!

 Nothing quite says, “Merry Christmas, Good Cheer!,”

 like a fruitcake.

With raisins, green pineapple, candied orange peel,

 an applesauce batter to make a good seal,

 the walnuts and hazelnuts, pecans and cherries,

 cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves mid dried berries!

Though many may dispute its reputation,

 the fruitcake is a holiday sensation!

 And, though the thought might fill a few with dread,

 I proudly declare that the fruitcake

 is the ultimate queen of quickbread!

Fruitcake! Fruitcake!

 Oh, what a marvelous, glorious, beauteous fruitcake!

 “Merry Christmas, Good Cheer!”[i]

 In ancient Egypt the fruitcake was considered an essential food in the afterlife.  The oldest fruitcake dates back to Roman times. In the Middle Ages they branched out and added honey, spices, nuts and preserved fruits.

By the 1700s, in Europe, a ceremonial type of fruitcake was baked at the end of the nut harvest. By the eighteenth century people got inventive and created the plum cake; they were so “sinfully rich” they were outlawed.  During the Crimean War soldiers carried them into battle.  In the end the fruitcake would find its home at tea. 

Queen Victoria is said to have waited a year to eat a fruitcake she received for her birthday because she felt it showed restraint, moderation and good taste.  So it is that, good citizens of her Majesty’s realm, and all Anglican Church men and women have become fine connoisseurs of fruitcake – it’s in the catechism. 

Today the average fruitcake has a 1:1 density ratio with mahogany.

The world's oldest known fruitcake was made on Nov. 27, 1878, by Fidelia Ford, of Berkeley, Ohio.  Today, Fidelia Ford's great-grandson Morgan, who is 92 years old, lives in Tecumseh and still possesses the 134 year old cake.

So you see…the fruitcake has been made, and its miraculous mysteries have been shared, passed down by generations, for over a millennia because it gives life, it nourishes and it sustains you no matter what the world may bring. [Pause]

No matter the darkness.  No matter the loneliness or heartache…God’s love, love, is the most sustaining message of Christmas.  Like an ancient recipe passed down to us tonight we hear the echoes of love in songs and readings.

The truth is we live lives of spiritual uncertainty.  Lives marked by faith and goodness can seem out of reach. The world longs for renewed hope, words of kindness and mercy.

As one philosopher put it, “We try to find cosmic satisfaction in a lifestyle, a career, a self-image, or a romantic relationship.  Some employ therapists to attain self-acceptance, forgiveness, and understanding."[ii]  Yet, that does not satisfy.

We gather to night, to rediscover a spirituality adequate for our times.  On this most holy of nights, we remember the story of love.

We remind ourselves of the sustaining angelic words, “Do not be afraid, love has come.  A light in a land of darkness…  Joy in the midst of sadness… Peace in the midst of war… Justice out of chaos… worthiness instead of relentless guilt…Fear not, God is with you, love is here.”

We put ourselves in the midst of the story of God’s in-breaking love; that it may wash over us and sustain us.

We allow ourselves to feel the love of God which swims within our heart to the deepest corner of our soul where it connects with our intimate quiet longing.

We acknowledge the love which unites heaven and earth.

We rehearse the truth that God’s love comes to the lowly, the weak, the powerless, and the forgotten. 

We recall this love and we name him Jesus.

Tonight we share our love abundantly with one another, with our neighbor, with our family members, and all those we meet; wishing them the very best of life.

We believe in a world where love triumphs over greed, poverty, oppression, malnutrition, abuse, illness, war, and all other dark powers we have created and have come to know.  And, for those who find their life yoked to this sacred story there is an inescapable desire to change the world one small act of love at a time.  The world is being recreated by love. 

Such miraculous mysteries passed down, for over a millennia.  Sustaining truth, that no matter what may come or what the world may bring.  God’s love, love, is the most sustaining message.

 In his letter to a friend, the great American preacher, Philips Brooks (Episcopalian, rector of Holy Trinity, Boston, and author of “O Little Town of Bethlehem”) wrote:

 God is seeking us and giving himself to us…that is love, not that we loved him but that he loved us…There is such a thing as putting ourselves in the way of God’s overflowing love and letting it break upon us till the response of love to him comes, not by struggle, not by deliberation, but by necessity, as the echo comes when the sound strikes the rock.[iv]


O holy Child of Bethlehem

Descend to us, we pray;

Cast out our sin, and enter in,

Be born in us to-day.

We hear the Christmas Angels

The great glad tidings tell:

O Come to us, abide with us,

Our Lord Emmanuel.[v]

So take your children’s hands, embrace your beloved, welcome your family, hold your friends tight, and share the warmth of God’s overflowing love. 



[i] Ode to a Fruitcake by M Ryan Taylor, Copyright © 2008 M Ryan Taylor
[ii] Helminski, Knowing Heart, p 5.
[iii] Robert Bly, "A Christmas Poem", Morning Poems. © Harper Collins, 1998.
[iv] Alexander V. G. Allen, Life and Letters of Phillips Brooks, London, 870ff.
[v] Phillips Brooks, in English Hymnal, London, 1906, no 15.

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