Category Archives: Worshp

The War on Thanksgiving

     We’ve all heard about the war on Christmas, but I think that there is also a war on Thanksgiving.  I have been reading a lot of things about Thanksgiving in the last few weeks, and especially during the last few hours.  What I notice is that giving thanks, at least giving thanks to God, has been taken out of most people’s understanding and most people’s celebration of the holiday.

     Some people call it Turkey Day.  That’s it?  We have a nationally recognized holiday about eating turkey?  If I were an outside observer from another planet, I would surely want to know why the eating of turkey was the sole subject of a holiday.

     I have heard people, including our President, say that it is a day to celebrate community.  That is partly right.  In the myth of the “The First Thanksgiving” the Pilgrims were celebrating community.  I have heard people say that it is a day to celebrate friendship.  That is also partly right.  The Pilgrims celebrated with their new friends, the Wampanoags.  However, there is no mystery about the true purpose of the holiday.  The name of it indicates that it is about giving thanks.

     I have heard people talk about what they are thankful for.  Some have been doing so throughout the month of November.  I applaud these people, but in some cases there is a missing element.  People are talking about what they are thankful for but not whom they are thankful to.  In the President’s weekly address he talked about being thankful, but did not say, as presidents before him have said, that we should thank God for our blessings.

     When you say, “I am thankful for my children,” what do you mean?  If you only mean that you are happy that you have children or that you are proud of your children, then say so.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  But if you are thankful for your children, it means that you are thanking somebody for them, and the one who gave them to you is God, so thank Him.

     I have seen in a politically correct textbook the statement that the Pilgrims held a thanksgiving feast to thank the Indians for helping them.  What?  I guess that when we say we are thankful for our homes and our health, we should write a letter to the head of the Iroquois Nation and express our gratitude.

     No, thanks.  I’ll be expressing my gratitude to the God who is the ultimate source of all blessing.  I will be giving thanks, which is what Thanksgiving is obviously about, to somebody–not just for something.

Crystal Clear

400px-hope_diamond.jpg     I have always been intrigued by gems and crystals, as most people are to one degree or another.  Last summer I got to see the Hope Diamond at the Smithsonian Institute.  It was stunning, although there were many other crystals that I found more interesting in the museum.

     What I like most about crystals is their regularity.  In a world full of seeming chaos and of real chaos, it’s nice to find something that formed according to a patten.

     In my pre-Christian days I viewed cyrstals in a mystic, magical way.  I now longer ascribe magical powers to crystals, but I do view them in a somewhat mystical way.  They remind me that God is a God of order and that He appreciates beauty.  I’m humbled to think that God put all that order and beauty into the world for you and me to enjoy, and I’m thankful that He created us in just the right way so that we could enjoy those things.

      Although it’s overused today, the word awesome describes my reaction to these amazing creations.  How much more awesome is the One who created them! 

Lenten Inspiration

     Eve at The Third Eve has written a beautiful meditation on Lent called “Dust You Are.”  If you don’t read anything else during this Lenten season, I urge you to read this profound piece.

A Religion of Peace?

     No, I’m not writing about Islam.  I raise the question because of a skuffle that took place at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

     They had just celebrated the birth of the Prince of Peace and were cleaning up, when the fight broke out.  Apparently a Greek Orthodox adherent crossed into the Armenian Apostolic section, and then all you-know-what broke out.  The offended parties battled each other with brooms.

     Two things about the story are interesting to me:

(1)  Nobody was killed.  If there is going to be a religious fight, then one with brooms is better than one with bombs.

(2)  This was the first time since 2000 that pilgrims were able to get to the church without incident.  We can be thankful for that, even though it is a shame that the fight occurred.

Why I Celebrate Hanukkah

     As a Christian I have often celebrated Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukah).  Why?  I have several reasons.

1.  I admire the heroes of the Hanukkah story, the Macabees, who fought against religious and cultural oppresssion.  Their story is very inspiring to me.

2.  The events surrounding Hanukkah occurred between the time of what Christians call the Old Testament and the New Testament.  There is a gap between those two parts of the Protestant Bible, and the story of the Maccabees helps to fill in the gap.  I mean, the world, including the Jewish world, didn’t cease to exist during those four hundred years.

3.  Jesus apparently celebrated Hanukkah (John 10:22-23), or at least he made Himself very visible in the Temple area during that feast.  I believe that the Christian Church of today would still be celebrating it if Gentile Christians had not removed many vestiges of Judaism from the Church.  I also believe that some elements of Hanukkah point to Jesus, just as other Jewish holidays do.

4.  I want to be informed of what Jewish people believe, because thy are my “spiritual cousins.”  And the best way to learn about something is to do it yourself.  The actual experience of lighting the candles, saying the blessings, reading the stories, and singing the songs gives me a multi-sensory way to learn about my Jewish friends and neighbors.

5.  Jewish people have been persecuted horribly even in modern times.  I find it odd that so much hostility is harbored against them, and it fills me with pain to think about.  What is worse is that some of that hostility is harbored by people who call themselves Christians.  I don’t want to be like that.  And I want to influence other Christian people not to be like that.  Celebrating Hannukah and other Jewish holidays is not just my way of understanding Jewish religion and culture, it is my way of extending myself toward them in a symbolic way.

1-menorah1.jpgHAPPY HANUKKAH

Favorite Christmas Songs

sing11.gifHere are videos of my five favorite Christmas songs. 

 Love Came Down at Christmas

 What Child Is This?

 Oh, Holy Night

In the Bleak Midwinter

Hark!  The Herald Angels Sing

What are your favorite Christmas songs?

A Jewish Take on Winter Holidays

The Individual Voice wrote some wonderful comments in my War on Christmas 3 post that made me smile.  Here are some bits of it with my responses:

“. . .anything funded by our government should celebrate all or no religious holidays.”

I’ve been saying that for years.  I once had a school administrator tell me that celebrating Eid al Fitr and Hanukkah was multicultural but celebrating Christmas was an unconstitutional establishment of religion.  Insane!

“My children’s school chose to go with diversity and celebrated them all. There were Christmas trees and Chanukah menorahs and Quantza lights.”

Good for that school!  How fortunate your kids were to have a truly diverse environment instead of the PC conformity that currently passes for diversity.

“I viewed that as part of every American’s education: the learn about other religions and cultures and to share your own. “

Hear, hear!  Religion exists.  Billions of people practice some kind of religion, and it is limiting and misleading not to teach kids about them.  And it is just plain unfair to leave out one of the main ones, just because it is the majority religion in America.

     “Stores should be required to respect their employee’s diversity of holidays.  If the store wants to alienate Jews, throw up a Christmas tree and forget the menorah.  We’re used to it.  I grew up in a public school system that said Christian prayers and had Christmas pageants and I just assumed we Jews were invisible and unimportant, that we should just be grateful we weren’t being gassed or deported.”

I’m sorry that you had such a school experience.  Truly I am.  Just so you know, I am not advocating what you write about here.  As noted above, I advocate diversity and the recognition and inclusion of all faiths.  It shouldn’t bother a Christian to view Hanukkah decorations or to have the story of the Macabees acted out, any more than it should offend a Jewish person to see Christmas deocrations or see the story of the Nativity acted out.

     “But I sure wish you knew some of the beautiful Hebrew ballads I sing on Hanukah as well.”

Surprise!  I do know two such songs:  Maoz Tsur and Mi Y’malel, and they are beautiful.  I love the story of God supporting the heroic Macabees in their fight against Syro-Greek oppression.  In fact the story has a lot to do with our current discussion.  No group has the right to stamp out somebody else’s religion.

Christmas Arriving Soon

angels.jpgHark!  The Hearld Angels Sing (v. 2)

by Charles Wesley 

Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;

Christ the everlasting Lord;

Late in time, behold Him come,

Offspring of a virgin’s womb.

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;

Hail th’ incarnate Deity,

Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,

Jesus our Emmanuel.

Hark!  the herald angels sing,

“Glory to the newborn King!”

Christmas Approaches

bells7.gif

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound the carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn, the households born
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Christmas Countdown

nativity_1.png

 

 Love Came Down at Chrismas

by Christina Rossetti

 

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and to all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.