December 25, 2015

A Christmas Miscellany

Merry Christmas to all.  May this Christmas open your heart and your mind to the greatest story ever told.

Something Wonderful: "Silent Night" featuring Plácido Domingo -ThePianoGuys

 Placido Domingo Silent-Night

Share the Gift.  The Piano Guys and Over A Thousand People Came Together To Break a Record And Bring This Moving Christmas Hymn To Life

 Pianoguys 1000Angelsonhigh

watch on YouTube

In Celebration of Modest Christmases Past
When families had less, when America had less, a single gift could make a lasting impression.

I was in a religious phase, however, and prayed. And on Christmas morning, there beside the tree was a rough, oblong piece of beige plywood stapled or nailed to two pieces of plywood supporting it on either side. And if you looked at it with imagination, it looked exactly like . . . a desk. I was in heaven. I got a kitchen chair, sat at the desk and closed my eyes and thanked God. Then, suddenly, with my eyes closed, in my imagination, I saw it. Everything. There was a manger in the darkness and a man and a woman, and it was cold and there were stars in the sky, and hills, and wise men came with staffs and gazed in wonder. I saw it all, as if on film in a newsreel. It hit me like an electric bolt. I thought: “It’s all true. It really happened. I just saw it.”

Christmas Isn't Candy Canes—It's D-Day in the War Against Satan - Msgr Charles Pope

....the Great Invasion, a daring raid by the ruler of the forces of Good into the universe’s seat of evil. Spiritually speaking, this is no silent night. It is D-Day. Behind the scenes is a deadly enemy....one of whom we rarely speak: Satan. Yet he is active, and involved. 

CHRISTMAS: the hour of faith in the darkness of the world

The Shepherds were there nearby Bethlehem, the Magi faraway, but a principle applies to both: those who seek God with purity of heart are never abandoned. The Shepherds and Magi bore gifts, of different value, but both offered the greatest gifts they had.

There are companies who get the reason for the season like WestJet whose viral video will give you goosebumps as employees perform nearly 14,000 'mini-miracles' , acts of kindness to "help spread Christmas cheer" and AT&T's ad urging us this Christmas to get off our phones,  “This season, give the present of being present.”  While in New York City, it was The Year Christmas Died: Fifth Avenue is a celebration of pretty much nothing––or worse .

Forget public Nativity scenes, as court fiat commanded us to do years ago. On Fifth Avenue this year you can’t even find dear old Santa Claus. Or his elves. Christmas past has become Christmas gone.

The scenes inside Saks Fifth Avenue’s many windows aren’t easy to describe. Saks calls it “The Winter Palace.” I would call it Prelude to an Orgy done in vampire white and amphetamine blue.

A luxuriating woman lies on a table, her legs in the air. Saks’ executives, who bear responsibility for this travesty, did have the good taste to confine to a side street the display of a passed-out man on his back (at least he’s wearing a tux), spilling his martini, beneath a moose head dripping with pearls. Adeste Gomorrah.

For Prisoners’ Children, Angel Tree Is Their Star  Angel Tree has now spent 23 years bringing Christmas gifts to as many of the now 2.7 million children of U.S. prisoners as it can reach.

Started in 1982 by former bank robber and ex-con Mary Kay Beard, Angel Tree exists to ease some of the pain children of the incarcerated experience during the holidays by enabling parents in prison to give their children Christmas gifts.
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Regardless of what a child gets for Angel Tree Christmas,” he says, “it’s the most important thing that they have.” He says he has heard of children who have gotten footballs and slept with them for years...He has also heard of children who have shoeboxes full of Angel Tree tags.

Christmas pictures from around the world

 Venice Santas

The Real Life "George Bailey" of It's a Wonderful Life Who Founded the Bank of Italy which became the Bank of America.

The London Telegraph Christmas editorial: Why the angels dance in the pale sky

In the 1500 years before Botticelli and the 500 since, Christians have celebrated Christmas Day, as dwellers on a single Earth that learns of the possibility of its renewal, and rejoices in that hope....What, though, has heaven got to offer? In his picture, Botticelli suggests that mercy and truth, justice and peace have descended....The claim made by Christmas is that those four things are names for the same transcendent thing, for which the whole Earth reaches out and cannot grasp, but knows it needs above all, as a gift sent down from heaven. Mercy and truth, justice and peace are embodied by a little child with nothing to warm him but the ass’s breath.

 Bottecello's Nativity

Gerard Vanderleun's wonderful Christmas stories

The Gift of the WalMagi
I’d come to New England after many years away and, in Seattle, thought I’d packed well for the trip. I’d made a point to bring my very warm Seattle jacket. I stepped outside into the New England winter this morning and between the door and the car I knew, based on testicle retraction velocity, that my coat had nothing to say to this winter. I might as well have packed and dressed in a Speedo.
The Star
The night sky, now so thin and distant, so seldom really seen, was to them as thick and close as a handful of coal studded with diamonds. They could turn it in their mind's eye even as it turned above them. They reclined on their hill sides, their roofs, or in rooms built for viewing and marking the moon and the stars. They watched it all revolve above them and sang the centuries down. They remembered. They kept records and told tales. They saw beings in the heavens -- gods and animals, giants and insects, all sparking the origins of myth -- and they knew that in some way all was connected to all; as above, so below, "on Earth as it is in Heaven". They studied the patterns of it all and from those repeating patterns fashioned our first science, astrology.
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Sages and mystics, Eliot and Clarke, and a host of others have all had their turns with the story of The Star. In the end it remains what it was when it began, a story. The story of a road trip by three astrologers, kings, wise men. A journey by men who saw something special in the heavens and determined to follow it wherever it led, no matter what the cost.....To see something special. To see something beyond yourself and your imaginings. To follow it wherever it leads. To always remain prepared for miracle. That is the inner music of the story of The Star. Like all stories that survive, it is the music of the heart and not of the head, and like the heart, it will endure.
The Creche by the Side of the Road
But I also thought of the other nativity scene. Halfway over the Grapevine, up along the slope of the dark mountains, an island of light in the midst of a vast and expanding darkness. A little light arranged by the small hands of faith to mirror a larger light moved by the inconceivable hand of God. I'll look for it next year when we drive north. It's so far out of the way, it should still be there. But then, you never know. Do you?

A wonderful series in The Atlantic: The 12 Days of Christmas Songs: an attempt to uncover the forgotten history of some of the most memorable festive tunes. From December 14 through 25, we’ll be tackling one secular song and one holy song each day.

'In the Bleak Midwinter': A Literary Christmas Carol
The lyrics, written by Christina Rossetti and set to music by Gustav Holst, imagine a child being born in a desolate climate.

‘Joy to the World’ Isn't a Christmas Song
The song is synonymous with the holiday, but it wasn’t originally written that way.

The Apocalyptic Fear in ‘Do You Hear What I Hear’
It’s the nativity story, written around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis

‘Christmas Time Is Here’: A Hymn for the Ages
The 50-year-old song from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is here to stay.

‘O Holy Night’: A Call to Fall to Your Knees  The Christmas carol’s charm is in its humility.

'Sussex Carol’: A Reminder of Christmas Music's Local Roots
Before the globalization of Christmas, .....seasonal music was local. In Britain, there were regional and village songs, preserved over decades and centuries in the oral tradition. ....“In several parts of England I have found carols which are peculiar to certain villages, by the inhabitants of which they are regarded as private possessions of great value, to be jealously guarded and retained for their own use."

The Atlantic again, an awe-inspiring  2015 Hubble Space Telescope Advent Calendar  See them in their full glory at the link.

 Advent Cat

a> 6 Shocking New Discoveries About Jesus of Nazareth.  It happened, it really happened.

Posted by Jill Fallon at December 25, 2015 9:52 AM | Permalink