Duke Chapel in Christmas Dress

I darkened the doorstep of the Duke Chapel today expectant to see greenery, poinsettias, and bows. Sure enough, I saw greenery, poinsettias, and bows.

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A peek into the nave from the narthex revealed masses of poinsettias near the front (chancel).

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A panoramic view of the nave: Duke Chapel is a “cross-shaped church” with a long isle down the middle and perpendicular sections near the front that are called transepts. In this photo, the nativity is on the back wall of the left transept and is framed in pine garland.

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My favorite ‘ornament’ was the Advent wreath. For those unfamiliar with the Advent wreath (suspended from the ceiling in this picture), it is comprised of five candles. Four of the candles (often purplish in color) are lit one each week leading up to Christmas. The white candle in the middle is the Christ Candle, which is usually lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

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The circular evergreen upon which the candles rest represents the eternity of God.

Also on display in the Duke Chapel until December 30th is a collection of nine paintings by Robyn Sand Anderson that explores the visual interpretation of scared choral music.

Duke Chapel: Getting Dressed for Christmas

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Duke Chapel at Christmas

Earlier this week, I stepped into Duke Chapel for the first time in many weeks and witnessed it getting dressed for Christmas. U-Haul storage boxes were stacked behind the last pews, a testament to the festive work that was well underway.

Reportedly, the decorating process takes about two days, and I was glimpsing Day 1 of the efforts. Even as a work in progress, the Chapel was gorgeous.

Here are some of the pictures that I took:

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Pine wreaths adorned the entrance of the Chapel.

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The narthex bore reminders of the Messiah—an annual Duke University tradition.

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The gates of the Memorial Chapel, to the left of the chancel, were decorated with pine wreaths. — Duke Chapel; Durham, NC

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The Advent Wreath, pictured here in the foreground, originated as a Lutheran tradition; however, many Christian denominations today use it as a symbol depicting the four weeks leading up to Christmas.

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The pipe organ created a beautiful backdrop for the Advent Wreath. (Photo taken from the front of the nave looking back toward the narthex.) — Duke Chapel (Durham, NC)

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The Duke Chapel nativity is handmade and beautifully illuminated year after year.

Duke Chapel will be “in full dress” for the annual Candlelight Open House on Thursday, December 18th, from 12 noon to 2pm.

Vespers ’86 and Snoopy ‘96

It’s December 4th already! I was up before the crack of dawn baking Christmas cookies and reflecting on last evening’s vespers (or, in plain English if you please, the sunset evening prayer service).

It was my first Advent Vespers, and it was lovely. In combination with Bible readings, silent reflection/prayer and a brief sermon, we sang the Holden Evening Prayer, which was written by Marty Haugen in 1986 when he was the musician-in-residence at a retreat center known as Holden Village—thus “Holden” in the name. (It’s also referred to as Vespers ’86, and you can hear a faithful version here.)

As I was getting out my sifter for my cookie making extravaganza, I spotted my old Snoopy mug from the 1970s—the one where Woodstock is sleeping at Snoopy’s feet, empty mugs all around him. The caption reads, “It never fails…three root beers and Woodstock falls fast asleep!”

I’ve been a fan of Woodstock and Snoopy for as long as I can remember. I always thought it started when my Sunday School teacher, Mr. Bricker, gave me a Woodstock pin for knowing my memory verses. I was four years old at the time. But it turns out, as I was going through some old photos the other evening, my Peanuts passion goes back a little further than that. …To at least three years old. The proof? A scene from Christmas past: Christmas 1973.

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Snoopy and I, we go way back. 🙂 — Christmas 1973

And since it’s Thursday, I’ll close with another throwback. This one is from 1996.

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On one of my Christmas trees this year (and nearly every year) hangs the 1996 “A Tree for Snoopy” Hallmark Keepsake Ornament.

Season of Great Expectation

trees-2 Advent begins today, November 30, 2014. I look forward every year to this four-week season, which leads up to Christmas.

I pulled out my nativity two days ago, (in expectancy of the expectancy, you might say), unwrapping each porcelain piece with care. When I got to the bottom of the box, I let out a yelp. Where was Jesus?

A nativity without Jesus wasn’t much of a nativity, I thought. Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas.

I rifled through the packing paper in search of the tiny, white piece trimmed in gold. To my great joy, I found it.

I was struck by this scene, simple though it was: moments of great expectation followed by the delight of discovering the baby in the manger. I then decided to do what many Christians practice, (but had never done myself): wait until Christmas Eve (or Christmas) to place Jesus in the manger.

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Come, Thou long-expected Jesus.