Like many of you, I've been caught up in Christmas preparations, shopping, decorating, baking and cooking. But I haven't forgotten you dear readers. Here's a digital stocking of all sorts of links to dip into and enjoy.
Today, Bethlehem is sad, somber and dour.
In 1948, 90% of the population in Bethlehem were Christians, today it's less than 35% and they are looking to leavebefore a creeping Islamic fundamentalism.
"There is no hope for the future of the Christian community. We don't think things are going to get better. For us it is finished."
Bethlehem is on the West Bank under Palestinian internal rule and controlled by Hamas.. Imagine the birthplace of Jesus controlled by Hamas!
Bethlehem has also been the #1 launching point for suicide bombers who have killed hundreds of Israelis in the last four years. To forestall such attacks, Israel has built a separation barrier, cutting Bethlehem off from Jerusalem in what one cleric called a' prison'
Here's the Christmas Greeting from Zawahiri.
What happens when a man gets lonely in a cave.
And a Holiday Manifesto
Stay away from malls
Gather around a table
Re-discover family tradition
Re-live fond memories
Forget bad ones
Play with a toy
Play chess with a friend
Spike the Eggnog
Think of someone in need
Do something about it
More at Logic and Emotion
Mediocre Films and Twentieth Century Fox brings you the 24th for all Jack Bauer fans.
The Christmas Story.
No, not Jean Shepherd's story, not the movie great and classic as it is, but the real story, the beginning of the greatest story ever told. For many, it's so familiar, they can't get it anymore, yet it's endured for two thousand years.
Vanderleun in The Star ponders the three astrologers who saw something so amazing in the skies, they had to follow it no matter what.
To see something special; something beyond you. To follow it wherever it leads. To always remain prepared for miracle and amazement. That's the inner music of the story of The Star. Like all stories that survive, it is one of the heart and not of the head, and like the heart, it will endure.
C.S. Lewis wrote on the Incarnation, the great miracle of God becoming Man.
"If the thing happened, it was the central event in the history of the Earth."
He also wrote that if God really did become man,
"our own composite existence is not the sheer anomaly it seems to be.... We catch sight of a new key principle --the power of the Higher...to come down, the power of the greater to include the less....Everywhere the great enters the little--its power to do so is almost the test of its greatness."
A beautiful Nativity by Federico Barocci at Scribal Terror.
Jennifer Roback Morse writes on the power of the Christmas story and why she is Proud to Follow, "You can't make this stuff up."
Jennifer Graham gives us an unsanitized Christmas in Stable Significance.
If you think Christmas is just a warmed over pagan festival, Mark Shea will set you straight.
Terry Teachout presents his Favorite Christmas Records and is so persuasive, I've already bought two songs - I wonder as I wander and A Difficult Season and an album, Benjamin Britten's A Ceremony of Carols.
The Second Vatican Council declared
"The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even that that of any other art."
Father Fessio calls that
a stupendous and shocking statement; the Council actually says that the Church’s music is a treasure of art greater than any other treasure of art she has. Think about that. Think about Chartres Cathedral. Think about the Pieta. Think about Da Vinci’s Last Supper. Think of all the crucifixes from Catalonia in Spain, and all the Church architecture and art and paintings and sculpture. The Council boldly says that the Church’s musical tradition is a treasure of inestimable value greater than any other art.
I'm a long time lover of Gregorian Chant, but I didn't know until now that the Psalms were meant to be sung or that Gregorian chant has its roots in ancient Jewish hymnody.
Father Fessio tells the story of how after much searching, he found a "wonderful rabbi in Manhattan" and asked him "Can you give me any idea what it sounded like when Jesus and his Apostles sang the Psalms?” The rabbi replied, "Of course, Father. It sounded like Gregorian Chant. You got it from us.”
You can listen to some of this glorious music live over the Internet at Choral Treasure
Here's an extraordinary Bread of Angels,Panis Angelicusin a "perfect performance" by the Boys' Choir at St. Philip's Church in Norbury, U.K.
Also at Scribal Terror is O Holy Night With Two Aled Joneses, the grown man singing in a duet with himself as a young boy.
At YouTube some amazing performances are captured.
David Bowie and Bing Crosby singing Little Drummer Boy.
Jose Feliciano singing Feliz Navidad
Sarah McLachlan sings O Little Town of Bethlehem
Elvis Presley sings Blue Christmas,
Enya sings Silent Night in Irish
Judy Garland sings Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
The Ending to a Wonderful Life
Christmas at War
Joseph Morrison Skelly on Bastogne, Christmas, 1944 The 101st Airborne were completely encircled and under siege at Bastogne when the German commander demanded their honorable surrender to which the American commander replied, "Nuts" and then went on to save Western civilization.
Countering the sense of a gathering storm, Michael Novak tells the tale of other dark Christmases in 1777 and 1864 in A Lincolnian Christmas while Robert Godwin writes of The Unthinkable Goodness of America.
Often attributed to Tony Blair is the statement - Only two people ever offered to die for you, Jesus Christ and the American G.I.
I think of all those men and women in our armed forces. How many are lying alone in lands far from home? They are in the inestimable words of Bill Whittle, the sheepdogs, protecting us sheep, standing guard against the wolves, for which we can be everlastingly thankful for these and all those men in the past who fought and died for their future and we are living it.
In the Washington Post, David Ignatius turns to milbloggers to tell of Their Christmas At War.
Via BlackFive comes comes "Merry Christmas My Friend."
Watch the Letter.
Let's remember Christmas at Arlington and thank Morrill Worcester from Maine whose singular acts of gratitude for the past 12 years inspired Wreaths Across America.
Stop in at least once to watch NORAD track Santa on Christmas Eve. Here's the trailer. Hey, Santa has GPS!
Again from Vanderleun, Hanukkah Candles on Christmas Eve.
The world is not as we would wish,
But as we make it, day by day,
And this, the mystery and the gift.
The candles tell us of this gift.
The stars reflect them high above.
The gift is given to us again,
That we remember how to love.
That's my wish for you this Christmas. I hope you have a happy one, but even if it's not, I wish for you that you remember how to love. Open yourself to the story. When the Great, what American Indians call the Wakan Tanka, the Big Holy, entered humanity as a little, tiny baby.