Let Us Keep The Feast: living the Church Year at home (Epiphany & Lent) Edited by Jessica Snell
This slender volume on Epiphany and Lent is a welcome addition to the literature we have on these pivotal times in the church calendar. Jessica Snell alongside Anna Moseley Gissing and Cate MacDonald have put together some beautiful chapters on the meaning, significance, and some practical suggestions for celebrating Epiphany and Lent. I was particularly happy that these talented women spoke about specific ways the family can celebrate these events by acting out the stories, completing a recipe, and putting some artistic touches to the event. Overall, I think this book is good introductions to the reason Christians celebrate Epiphany and Lent and also some practical ways we can do so.
In the introduction Jessica gives us a bit of history behind the practice of the church year. She writes, “Many of the traditions surrounding the Christian church year developed in periods of history when most of the population was illiterate. The pageantry and pantomime of the church year helped people who couldn’t read the Bible remember the stories of Jesus.” (viii) Now that we have the Bible doesn’t mean that we discard the church traditions that were once such a part of worship. Anytime we can alert ourselves to multi-sensory approaches to the gospel stories, we remember what’s it’s like to experience faith as a child. Recreating the story of the magi by having our children dress up, travel like they would the magi, and follow the star is a great way to visualize the gospel story in a very concrete way (13,17). I really thought Cate’s idea concerning young children and Lent was very good in that ‘you are encouraging them to understand the dual nature of fasting: “putting off” is only good when we take on something better.” (36) Physically helping a sibling or grandparent, memorizing Scripture, or helping clean add a sense of accomplishment and service to their hearts can do more than just avoiding a certain behavior.
Anna bridges the gap between our knowledge of Christmas and Easter by writing, “Indeed, Epiphany connects Christ’s birth and incarnation, celebrated at Christmas, with His preparation for death on the cross.” (4) The ministry, growth, and development of Jesus is important for this season because it allows God’s light to shine forth in his Son and this is certainly a reminder of the gospel we hold dear (7). Anna mentions that one convention of Epiphany is the blessing of homes where a 20CMB14 would be written as a reference for “May Christ bless this house in 2014” over the doorway. This simple touch may give the inhabitants a clear reminder that asking for God’s blessing to those who enter connects them to the story of Jesus told in the gospels.
Cate hearkens us back to the ear-splitting words of the prophet Isaiah when she writes, “It appears in this passage that the Lord has chosen a fast that is, in a way, no fast at all. He does not tell us what to give up, but instead what to do. The fast the Lord has choses is charity, justice, and generosity.” (30, based upon Isaiah 58:6-9) We desire to hear God speak through fasting, especially in Lent, so that we might learn to act justly and mercifully each day. Cate also gives an ear to the corporate nature of Lent in which the church gives its members reminders to ‘stay dedicated to your discipline.’ (32) The fast might not be from food, for in our culture a media fast might be more appropriate. Yet, the fast is designed to attune our hearts and minds to God, knowing that the battle with evil and sin is not finished.
I really appreciated this book and will use many of the ideas at home and in church.
Thanks to Doulos Resources for the copy of this book in exchange for a honest review.