Monday, December 27, 2010

The Holidays--an insightful and inspiring essay from my niece

My niece read this to us on Christmas morning before we all opened our presents. It was absolutely beautiful and I wanted to place it here verbatim.

Please enjoy. I couldn't be more proud of her:

The Holidays-- an essay by Alyssa Jones, ninth grade

"As the snow falls on the ground in December, you think about all the gifts that you want, that you have to buy for people. you also think about when your family gets to come down or up for Christmas, or if you get to go up or down to your family for the holidays. you think about if you will be able to get your car out of the snow tomorrow for work or school, but what we really think about is how lucky we are to have our family,how lucky we are to see and have snow, to have a warm house, money to buy and receive presents, if you just think about those things and don't get caught up in all the movement of the holidays and just let that stress fall off of you and get caught up in the moment of happiness, that's what Christmas and the holidays is really about. well, actually, no, it's about the birth of Jesus Christ as a baby, and the holy story of it, so see if you really think about what it's really about, many things come to mind. so just try to remember that through the holidays, and I'm not saying to not enjoy it, that's the point I'm making, be happy with how lucky you are and be happy about whatever happens, and make it happy for everyone. God has a plan for everyone so let it be. Happy Holidays. :)"

Friday, December 24, 2010

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!! -- check out this cool video

Merry Christmas from me and my snarky muse. 2010 has truly been a year of writing dangerously for me, and I hope it continues into 2011.

In the meantime, enjoy this video. Very, very, very, clever. My sentiments exactly.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Flash Opera Mob---at MACY'S. A random act of culture

Okay, granted, this was back in October and I am just now running across it.

According to my preliminary Google search, the  organ at Wanamakers department store is believed to be the largest pipe organ in the world [28,000 pipes] and quite possible the largest 'playable' musical instrument in the world. Watch what happens when unsuspecting shoppers are treated to a surprise concert from members of the Philadelphia Opera Company.

How cool is this?

And if you want information on the event, here's the article from the Philadelphia newspaper...

Flash Opera Hits Macy's

Christmas Myths part two -- Was Jesus a Capricorn?

Okay, pardon the astrology reference in the title---no one get over-sensitive about it.

So let's tackle the when Jesus was born issue--here are some resources and information I found out about it--but it was doubtful it was on Dec. 25. Most likely, it was in fall, because the shepherds had animals out in the open. However, it could have also been a mild winter.

Here are some comments on the subject.
, J. Hampton Keathley on takes a different view:

One of the main objections [to the December birthdate] has been that sheep were usually taken into enclosures from November through March and were not out in the fields at night. However, this is not as conclusive as it sounds for the following reasons: (a) It could have been a mild winter. (b) It is not at all certain that sheep were always brought into enclosures during the winter months. (c) It is true that during the winter months sheep were brought in from the wilderness, but remember, Luke tells us the shepherds were near Bethlehem rather than in the wilderness. This indicates, if anything, the nativity was in the winter months. (d) The Mishnah tells us the shepherds around Bethlehem were outside all year and those worthy of the Passover were nearby in the fields at least 30 days before the feast which could be as early as February (one of the coldest, rainiest months of the year). So December is a very reasonable date.

He also quotes James Kelso, an archaeologist who spent a number of years living in Palestine, on this issue stating:
"The best season for the shepherds of Bethlehem is the winter when heavy rains bring up a luscious crop of new grass. After the rains the once-barren, brown desert earth is suddenly a field of brilliant green. One year when excavating at New Testament Jericho, I lived in Jerusalem and drove through this area twice every day. At one single point along the road, I could see at times as many as five shepherds with their flocks on one hillside. One shepherd stayed with his flock at the same point for three weeks, so lush was the grass. But as soon as the rains stopped in the spring, the land quickly took on its normal desert look once again"

I tend to file this under it is not as important WHEN we celebrate Christmas, but HOW we celebrate it. Are we lost in commercialization or do we approach it with charity, reverence and joy?

A few more quiz questions" 

The sign the shepherds were to look for in identifying Jesus was:

a.   a Christmas tree
b.   Three wise men
c.   A baby lying in an animal feed trough

The answer is: c


And now to the Wise Men.... 
The “star in the East” was seen by

a.  The shepherds
b.   Three kings from the Orient
c.    Astrologers living in Persia

The answer is C—astrologers living in Persia.
So, even though I'll be the first to admit that I love the  carol "We three kings of  Orient  are" [especially this really cool piano arrangement I have of it] they were actually  magi.

My understanding is that magi were also academics,  scholars,  and astronomers [in addition to astrologers--- many folks get the two mixed up] . 

The wise men came to visit Jesus:

a.  While Jesus was lying in the manger
b.  Just after the shepherds returned to the fields
c.   In the house where Joseph and Mary were staying

The answer is c – in the house where Joseph and Mary were staying.
The wise men weren't there the night Jesus was born. Of course, I still have them  in my Nativity scene.

And dude, does anyone know why  Nativity scenes have two white and one black wise men? Granted, we don't know the ethnicity of them, but I just think it's interesting that it's two white and one black in almost every display I see...what's up with that?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

How much do you really know about Christmas? Popular Holiday Myths, part one

--So I've been terribly remiss about the blog lately--my bad. I just finished up a semester teaching workplace communication at the local community college, and everything was kind of on hold until the final grades went out.

But I'm back, and enjoying a snowy evening with my writing group near B's farm, and it's absolutely wonderful.

I received this information from a Sunday School teacher -- J-- and it raises some interesting aspects of what really is a part of Christmas and how much do we really know about this holiday. I hope you enjoy this short series that I'm going to call:

How much do you really know about Christmas?

Question #1:

Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem:

a: on a camel

b. in a wooden cart

c. in a Volkswagen

d. with Joseph walking and Mary riding a donkey

Scroll down for the answer:


None of the above

Okay, that may have been a trick question. Granted, MAYBE she was riding on a donkey, but we don't know. Some scholars think that is very unlikely, since Joseph may have been too poor to own a donkey [let a lone a camel]

Question #2

Jesus was born in:

a: a stable

b: a cave

c: the house of a relative

d: None of the above

Scroll for answer:

Answer: most likely --b-- in what amounted to a public shelter at the time.

Scripture records that Jesus was "wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger," and a manger was a feeding trough. That is where many get the image of Jesus born in a stable--which very likely could be the case. However, during that time, mangers were also frequently etched into the rock walls of caves, since many people--except perhaps the most wealthy--kept their animals in the open. So the manger could be either in a stable or in the inside wall of a cleft of rock--which is where the tradition is formed that Jesus was born in a cave.

Many scholars also believe the cave scenario because the region would be cold at night [regardless of the time of year] and a fire would be needed. Of course, a barn is the last place you'd want a fire. Other scholars believe that Jesus may have been born in a stable and laid in a manger, but more than likely the Holy Family spent most of their time in Bethlehem out in the open--particularly during an event that would have had crowds of people into the city.

It was not a warm, cozy, cute environment like the ones seen on Christmas cards [though artistically, I do like those pictures.] It was more likely that the Christ child was born into extreme poverty in an environment that was scary and amounted to little more than a public shelter.

One final question:
Christmas trees, mistletoe, ivy and holly were pagan icons. True or False?

The answer is: true.

It is no secret that many Christian traditions intermingled with pagan traditions during the festival of Saturnalia. Indeed, some of these traditions were "adopted" in order to help Christianize many pagan Celts and druids. This is one reason why the first Puritans in American did not celebrate Christmas--they viewed it as too pagan.
However, there is also a story about how Martin Luther saw a group of evergreen trees in the snow and it reminded him of the everlasting love of Christ.

So while I do know of many fellow Christians who do not have Christmas trees or mistletoe or Santa because of this, I prefer to see the tree as a fun activity that has no bearing---good or ill---upon what I believe is the True meaning of Christmas, the birth of my Savior.

Many may agree to disagree with me on this---and that's fine. St. Paul says we should not argue over debatable matters, "for who are you to criticize another's servant?" [paraphrase, NIV]. Feel free to leave comments agreeing / disagreeing---but this is not a place to get mean.

It is an opinion, granted, and just my opinion, but the Light of Christmas has nothing to do with colored bulbs that are blinking on an evergreen. But when I see the lights, it reminds me of The Light.

Coming up... Jesus was born on December 25....right?