Category Archives: Christmas

A Humbling Moment

My wife bragged about how well I can make gravy.  She’s right; however, I was nervous about making it in somebody else’s house.

It was coming along just right–smooth, thick.  I thought that I had the flame adjusted just right.  Then I realized that the bottom was getting scorched.  I took it off the heat, but it was too late.  I ruined it.

Did I mess up because I was so axious about it?  Did my wife’s bragging jinx me?

It looks good but tastes bad.  That’s how I feel about myself at the moment.  I appear smart, capable, confident.  Inside I am idiotic, klutzy, and embarrassed.

Other than that Christmas has been very enjoyable.

Defining Christmas

     Defining things can be very important.  For example, how do you define baseball?  It is a game in which people hit a ball with a bat and try to advance around four bases in a diamond shape.  You could play with rackets on a rectangular court with a net across it, and that simply would not be baseball.  It would be tennis.

     At a park in Santa Monica, most of the Christmas displays this year will not be about Christmas.  They will mostly be messages from atheitsts about Christianity as a fable and about the “separation of church and state.”  In fact 6/7 of the displays will be presented by atheists.  In the past, local churches used about 2/3 of the display areas to present the Nativity. 

     For me, it is a matter of definition.  What is Christmas?  It is a celebration of the birth of Christ.  It has become more than that for some people and different from that for some people, but doesn’t the holiday called Christ-mas have something to do with. . .hmm. . .Christ?

     Here’s what I think.  If the city is celebrating Atheist Day, then the displays should relate to Atheism.  Just imagine the reaction if a bunch of religious people put up displays dedicated to religious belief on that day!  Likewise, if the city is celebrating Christmas, then the displays should relate to. . .I don’t know. . .maybe. . .am I crazy. . .Christmas.

     I hope I’m not laboring the point to much, but it would be like allowing anti-homosexuality messages on Gay Pride Day.  It would be like allowing pro-pollution messages on Earth Day.  It would be like allowing displays that descreate the American flag on Flag Day.

     You might point out that there is more to Christmas these days than the celebration of the Nativity.  True.  At least some of the displays should include less religious themes.  However, there is a difference between religious neutrality–shown by snowmen and candy canes perhaps–and outright anti-religious hostility.  And, as I mentioned previously, we are talking about Christmas–not about some general, purposeless, undefined winter holiday.

     But what about free speech?  I believe in free speech as much as the next person–in fact I think I can safely say that I believe in it more strongly than the average person.  However, I also believe in propriety and tolerance and respectfulness.  Just because people have a right to free speech, it does not follow that absolutely anything goes.  For example, the city should not allow neo-Nazis to put up a caricature of a Jewish person with a caption of “Christ Killer” in a public park.  They should not allow somebody to put up a picture of Santa Claus with a X across it and a caption reading, “Santa is fake, kiddies.”

     By the way, does anybody want to insist that there is no war on Christmas?

     What harm is there in depicting the Nativity in a city park?  Will it force anyone to become a Christian against his or her will?  Will it cause people to fall down dead when they gaze at it?  Even people who do not believe that Christ is the Son of God or the Messiah or anything important can still be inspired by the myth of a king from heaven being born in a humble setting, can’t they?  Even people who practice another faith can show respect to the teachings of Christianity, can’t they?

     I’m a Christian, but I have seen statues of the Buddha.  No harm came from it.  I have heard the call to prayer from a mosque, and I didn’t instantly convert to Islam against my will.

     I think the atheists are shooting themselves in the foot.  Most people will be disgusted by these anti-Christmas displays.  Most people will see these folks for the beligerent jerks that they are.  Far from indearing people to their beliefs and to their cause they will offend and alienate people.

Best Secular Christmas Songs

It’s kind of weird to think about secular Christmas songs. After all, Christmas is essentially a religious holiday.  Although I treasure the birth of Christ and consider it the “real meaning” of Christmas, I like the secular trappings of the holiday as well.  I like many Christmas songs that do not mention the Nativity.

*The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)

It’s a beautiful song by Mel Torme that’s loaded with wonderful Christmas images the way that Santa’s sack is loaded with toys and goodies.  My favorite rendition of it is by Nat King Cole.  Aaron Neville sang it beautifully, too.

*Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

When I hear this song, I think of the scene in Meet Me in St. Louis in which Judy Garland sings it.  I still prefer Garland’s rendition; however, Yolanda Adams has done a great upbeat rendition of it fairly recently.

*Merry Christmas, Darling

I probably shouldn’t like this song.  It’s a bit schmaltzy.  However, when I hear Karen Carpenter singing it, it feels like she is singing to me.  I used to want to marry her, even though she was way to old for me.  Now I should slink away in embarrassment.

*Sleigh Ride

This item is not specifically a Christmas song, although most people associate it with Christmas.  I love the orchestral version of it–played by the Boston Pops of course.  I also like the lyrics that were written after the instumental version.  Johnny Mathis’s rendition is great.  There is also a nice rendition of it by Natalie Cole.

*Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree

Growing up, I listened to Brenda Lee singing this one.  My siblings and I would dance around our Christmas tree whenever my mother played it on her stereo.  It’s really fun, and Christmas should be fun.

Absolute Best Christmas Songs

In the previous post I listed some really bad Chistmas songs.  In this post I will list the very best.  Feel free to disagree or challenge my selections.

*O Holy Night

The melody, but Alphonse Adam, is one of the most beautiful and dramatic melodies of all time.  The words are deep and significant.  Here’s my favorite section:

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His Gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His Name all oppression shall cease.

*In the Bleak Midwinter

The words are by Christina Rossetti, one of my favorite poets.  She portrays the Nativity in a senstive, loving way which is extremely heartwarming.  I have a hard time holding back tears when I hear it or sing it.  Here’s my favorite verse:

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

*Angels We Have Heard on High

It tells the story of the shepherds and the angels very well, and the Gloria section is fun to sing.

Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
What the gladsome tidings be
Which inspire your heavenly song?

Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

*O Come, All Ye Faithful

This majestic hymn makes me want to march with my brothers and sisters to the manger to see the baby Jesus.  I especially love it played by an orchestra with trumpet fanfares and a big, bold coda at the end.

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to Thee be glory given;
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.

*What Child Is This?

I love the haunting melody and the question-and-answer format of the lyrics.   I like the full version–not the one with a repeated refrain (“This, this is Christ the King. . .”) but the one with the complete verses.  Here’s the entire song:

What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

 

 

Worst Christmas Songs

If you have not heard these songs, you are fortunate.  Play them for your worst enemies, but do not play them for any of your friends.  Please!  Have mercy.

*Christmas Shoes

It is the sappiest Christmas song–perhaps even the sappiest song ever.  It is the audible version of putting five tablespoons of saccharine in your teacup.  It doesn’t make me cry; it makes me want to vomit.

*Last Christmas

A song in which a man is still griping about the woman who broke his heart last year does not exactly promote Christmas cheer and jollity.  This year he plans to give it so somebody “special.”  That word alone is enough to put the song in the worst-ever category.

*Wonderful Christmas Time

Some songs have boring lyrics.  Some songs have boring melodies.  This song has both.  It basically tells about being at a party and having a wonderful Christmas time–over and over and over.  Enough already!

*Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer

Making a joke about grandma’s demise is about as broad as you can get in the humor department.  Remember the film Throw Grandma from the Train?  After all, we really want kids making fun of their grandmothers during the season of “goodwill to men.”

*Please, Daddy

This song is another one that doesn’t exactly elicit holiday merriment–unless a father passing out drunk under a Christmas tree is merry.  Even children who really have father’s like that deserve cheering up with songs like “Jingle Bells” and “Frosty the Snowman” and “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas.”

*Do They Know It’s Christmas?

It’s a good cause but a lousy song. 

*All I Want for Christmas Is You

Christmas is not really about hooking up.

*Christmas Conga

It just doesn’t work.  I like Cyndi Lauper, but I hate this song.

My Wish For You

     To my regular readers and to whomever else might be reading this post, I wish you all the best as one year ends and another is about to begin.  May you have good health, financial success, and emotional fulfillment. 

     If you celebrate Christmas, then I wish you a very Merry Christmas.

     If not, then I wish you a very merry day anyway.

Happy Holidays

     Ramadan ended in September this year; thus Eid ul Fitr had already occurred long before December.    The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah was over by December 10.  I mention these holidays because every year we are told that Christmas is not the only holiday celebrated around December 25, and so we should say “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas.”

     It would be pretty silly to wish Muslims a happy holiday three months after their holiday occurred.  It would be almost as silly to wish Jewish people a happy holiday after December 9.  So, if somebody required you to say “Happy Holidays” this year, what holidays do you think you were supposed to refer to?

     The War on Christmas has not been a hot topic this year.  I have read one or two articles only about people banning the word Christmas.  In the past few years one could find numerous examples of it, as well as examples of the banning of Christmas decorations–even secular ones.  I have no idea whether the media just got tired of it, or if people have settled on a truce, or what exactly has happened.

     Since Christmas is the only major holiday in and around December 25, 2010, I hope people have felt free to acknowledge it.

     In case you are wondering, there have been a few instances, as I mentioned:

          On November 27, Philadelphia renamed it’s Christmas Village a “Holiday Village.”  What holiday do you suppose those trees and those decorations are for?

     On December 1, Senator Jim Inhofe announced that he would not participate, for the second year in a row, in Tulsa’s “Holiday” Parade.  I doubt that people are unsure of what holiday it’s for when they hear bands playing “Jingle Bells” and see Santa Claus riding on the fire engine (or whatever they do in their parade).

     On December 2, parents in a North Carolina school district noticed that their school calendar listed a “holiday” rather than Christmas.  District officials said it was a mistake, and they revised the calendar five days later to include the word.

     On December 7, toll booth attendants in Florida were told that they could not display any Christmas decorations in their booths.  I do not know if they were allowed to put up Kwanzaa decorations.  I cannot imagine that they would get away with banning those.

     On December 13, a YMCA in New York hosted a holiday luncheon.  Instead of sitting on the lap of Santa Claus, children were invited to visit Frosty the Snowman and his sidekick, a penguin.  What’s religious about Santa Claus, I ask you?  I know Christians who don’t even ackowledge him because they consider him sacrilegious or even pagan.

     On December 17, some bank examiners ordered the Payne County Bank in Oklahoma to remove the Christmas decorations that they had put up.  The decision was eventually reversed by the Federal Reserve.

     On December 19, Nina Totenberg said, “I was at a – forgive the expression – a Christmas party at the Department of Justice,” she said, “and people actually were really worried about this [budget mess].”   Why would somebody have to forgive a person for mentioning Christmas?

Using Common Sense

     I often write about schools and school districts that do outrageous things in order to be politically correct or in order to enforce zero-tolerance policies.  I am happy to write about a school district in Oregon that used their noggin, that is, they applied some simple common sense to what is called the December dilemma.

     First, they read up on case law to find out what courts really have ruled in regard to freedom of religion and freedom of expression.  It seems that so often, thanks to the media, school officials are misled to believe that religion is totally banned from school and that kids do not have freedom of expression in regard to their beliefs.  That is not true at all. 

     The school district decided that instead of banning all signs of Christmas, they would take the inclusive approach.  They will allow holiday displays that honor several holidays, which seems reasonable based on court rulings and on common sense.  It beats the approach of teaching on Islam and Hinduism but banning all mention of Christianity.  It beats the appoach of banning all mention of religion as though religion and religious beliefs do not exist.  I like  their approach very much, and I believe that they will “get away with it.”

Christmas Songs

     I have been listening to a lot of Christmas music lately.  I love it.  I sometimes listen to three different versions of the same song on any given day.  I probably had different favorites last year, but here are my top three sacred Christmas songs and my top three secular Christmas songs along with my current favorite performer.  (Can you tell that I’m partial to female singers?)

—–

1.  “What Child Is This?” sung by Allison Crowe

2.  “O Holy Night” sung by Mandisa

3.  “In the Bleak Midwinter” sung by Moya Brennan

—–

1.  “The Christmas Song” sung by Aaron Neville

2.  “The Christmas Waltz” sung by The Carpenters

3.  “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” sung by Yolanda Adams

—–

What Christmas songs have you been listening to?  What are your favorites?

The Meanings of Christmas

     Chistmas has come and gone, but its messages still resonate in my mind. Sometimes people talk about the true meaning of Christmas, but it seems to me that Christmas has more than one meaning.  Here are some of them:

1.  God Keeps His Promises

     A cursory reading of the Gospel of Matthew indicates that the early Christians saw Jesus as the fulfillment of dozens of prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures.  God said that He would send a Redeemer, and He did.  The great news is that if God kept some of His promises in the First Coming, then He will undoubtedly keep the rest of His promises in the Second Coming.

2.  God Is Willing to Humble Himself

     The Incarnation of God in Jesus shows us tangibly that God, the Supreme Being, is willing to humble himself.  Not only did He become a human being, but He became the tiniest and poorest of human beings.  It is the sign that the angels gave to the shepherds:  a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.  You can’t get much lower than that.  And God did it for us.  How much more should we humble ourselves for Him?

3.  God Wants Us to Know That He Understands Us

     It says in the book of Hebrews that God came to earth in human form in order to understand both the temptations with which we struggle and the various difficulties that we face.  God understands; therefore, we can trust Him.  When we pray to Him, we are not praying to a perfect being who cannot understand us, we are praying to a perfect being who subjected Himself to the imperfections of a human body and to life on this earth.

4.  God Loves the Entire World

     In the Gospel of Luke we read of Jesus’s presentation in the Temple.  The old man Simeon prophesied over the infant Jesus, saying, among other things, that He would be a light to the Gentiles.  The Hebrew Scriptures hinted that God’s Messiah would come not just to save the Jewish people but also to save the Gentiles.  In Jesus the idea of “God’s Chosen People” makes sense.  It is not that the Jewish people are loved more, it is that they were chosen to prepare for the coming of the One who would share God’s love with all nations.

5.  God Is Unstoppable

     Although King Herod tried to kill the King of the Jews, God made sure that it did not happen.  The Magi were warned not to return to Herod, and Joseph was instructed to sojourn in Egpyt.  That sojourn was the re-enactment of the days when the Israelites were in Egypt.  People may try to thwart God’s plans, but they will not succeed.