Once upon a time, a very long time ago, I wrote a sermon that had quite the half-life on the interwebs. I saw it was, for a time, referenced all around the globe.
It was written while I served our Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Tempe, Arizona. I no longer recall the exact circumstances around the why of it, but I suspect that Sunday was the 26th, as the subject and title of the sermon was “Boxing Day.”
It appears there was so little easily available on the web related to Boxing Day that google searches would usually pop my sermon on the first page. I was told by the church’s web manager it was the number one hit for a couple of years.
Looking back at it, I don’t really think there was all that much of value in the sermon. I certainly only recall one good line, and it was a throw away. I announced the title to the staff, and our music director Kelly Walker asked what was Boxing Day, anyway? To which I said I didn’t yet know. To which she said, “Oh, James, what if it turns out its the anniversary of the British forcing the Chinese to buy opium? Then what will you do?”
Of course it isn’t about the Boxer rebellion, nor about pugilism, nor about getting rid of the boxes after Christmas. Today Wikipedia, Snopes, and Youtube all explore the meanings of this holiday, also called St Stephen’s Day in England.
In fact Boxing Day is a bit of a mystery even to those who observe it, and its exact beginnings are simply lost in the mists of time. Today it is a holiday in much of the former British Empire, it means most people get the day off from work. I guess it wasn’t that big in England in the eighteenth century as it didn’t become anything here on this side of the pond. The only certain thing about Boxing Day was that in the relatively recent past it was the time when you gave presents to your social inferiors. Your peers got their presents on or before Christmas. Where social superiors fit into this scheme I don’t know…
I suspect the connection to St Stephen is simply its association on the calendar. The 26th being the feast of St Stephen, by tradition the first martyr of the Christian church. It was, by the bye, St Stephen’s execution where not yet St Paul admitted to holding the cloaks for those doing the heavy work…
In any case, I hope this strange day that follows that even stranger day where one of the most lovely stories of a babe and a mother and the birthing of hope into the world has been overtaken by an orgy of acquisition, something the very opposite of its intent is near equally an opportunity to pause, to witness.
So, my suggestion for Boxing Day:
Today might not a bad time to just stop, to breathe a bit, and to notice.
Just step back a single step and from that vantage notice.
You could even ask what are those boxes? A worthy subject of contemplation. And. Something even more wonderful. That finest of distances might even allow us to leap out of those boxes that we and others constantly stuff us into.
Do that. And, then, maybe, who knows? Maybe from there you might find your heart calling you to leap from those boxes into the dance, the dance of the calling heart…