(Monday’s post coming out a little early in case you want to do this at the weekend.)
On the Twelfth Day of Christmas my true love … finally took the hint and we had roast partridge for dinner, with a nice pear crumble for pudding!
Twelfth Night (January 5th) marks the official end of Christmas and the start of Epiphany, when we think about the visit of the wise men. Twelfth Night was traditionally a day of feasting and celebration (and dressing in yellow stockings with crossed garters if you’re Shakespearean.)
These days we usually celebrate by putting away the Christmas decorations. Not quite so much fun, and without the glitz of tinsel and lights our homes can seem quite bare and depressing. All the more now that so many of us are confined to our homes ‘cos of that darned virus. (Can’t wait to get my jab in the arm!)
So here’s a lovely traditional practice to mark our homes as places of God’s blessing and presence – chalking your doorway with symbols that remind us of God’s guidance and provision. After the year that has gone, I like the idea of being reminded of God’s care every time I walk through my front door.
It is simple, quick, great for all ages and traditions, and very Covid-safe. (One day we won’t have to say that.) Yet it is also a profound ritual, which can help many whose homes have been places of confinement, stress, loss or anxiety in 2020. It can help us to look to the new year with God’s presence, resting in his care.
Also, as a bonus, here is an all-age colouring page, for some down time amid the frazzle. You don’t have to be ‘arty’, or a child, or a children’s worker to do colouring. Think of it as praying with pencils. Basically, it’s an excuse to sit quietly for a while (and who among us would not like that?)
Epiphany is when we remember the visit of the wise men and the guiding star. So put on some music, find a comfy nook, and spend time with God’s word (and perhaps a left-over mince pie). How will you follow God’s guiding this year?
Click the picture to download A4 sized image.
Chalking the Doorway
The practice of writing on doorways has a long history. Back in Deuteronomy 6:9, (just after the Ten Commandments), Moses used it to help the Israelites remember. It also brought to mind the Passover, when the blood of the lamb was splashed on the doorposts as a sign that all inside were under God’s protection.
Today, chalking the doorway is a visible symbol of God’s presence, peace and blessing. I don’t know about you, but I could use the reminder.
You will need:
- A doorway
Pretty simple, huh?
How to do it:
Gather your household outside the main door of your home (church / school / workplace etc), and take turns reading the short passage from Matthew (below) and writing these letters in chalk either above the door, down the sides, or on the doorstep.
20 + C + M + B + 21
We finish with some optional short prayers or responses, (choose what suits your group), and a final blessing, written out below.
(This photo is from Westcott House, one of Cambridge’s theological colleges, and right opposite my college, Wesley House, on Jesus Lane.)
What does it mean?
The 20 and 21 are the current year (so change it to 22 or 23 etc in future years).
The crosses remind us of Jesus and of the star that guided the Wise Men to him.
The letters C, M and B are for their traditional names (Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar), but can also stand for ‘Christus Mansionem Benedicat’, which is Latin for ‘May Christ bless this house.’ Or if Latin is not your bag, how about thinking ‘Christ, My Blessing’ each time you pass underneath?
Write the letters first, spaced out, then the numbers, and finally add the crosses.
Read this short gospel passage about the visit of the Wise Men, and imagine them coming to your home, just as they visited Mary, Joseph and the young Jesus. We hope that they would find Christ living in our homes too.
Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11
Wise Men Visit the Messiah
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Wise Men from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him. … The star that they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced greatly. Going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they fell down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”
One person reads out these words slowly, with pauses for different people to write these symbols either above the door, down the sides or on the doorstep:
20 + C + M + B + 21
The Three Wise Men: Caspar [pause while someone writes C], Melchior [write M], and Balthasar [B], followed the star to find the Christ child two thousand  and twenty-one  years ago. May Christ [+] bless [+] our [+] home [+].
- If you like you can take turns saying any of these brief prayers, or make up your own.
- Alternatively, pray The Lord’s Prayer.
- There are also some short verses and responses that you could use.
- Or jump straight to the blessing.
Peace be upon this house (school/church/etc), and upon all who enter here.
Bless this house and all who live within.
May all who enter our home rejoice to find Christ living here.
Lord Jesus, may we be like the star that guided the Wise Men to you, shining the light of your love to others.
God, please bless (names of people) who live in this house. May it be for them (us) a place of peace and blessing.
Verses and responses
v: God shall watch over your going out and your coming in.
r: now and for ever.
v: Blessed shall you be when you come in
r: and blessed shall you be when you go out
v: You discern my going out and my lying down
r: you are familiar with all my ways.
Speak the words of Aaron’s blessing to each other, then re-enter the house.
The Lord bless us and keep us;
the Lord make his face shine upon us
and be gracious to us;
the Lord turn his face toward us
and give us peace.