Monday, December 22, 2008

Scrooge is alive and well and living in New York

The New York Times ran an article reviewing It's a Wonderful Life (one of my top three Christmas movies). The reviewer cast his jaundiced eye at this American classic and painted everything black. You can read his pitiable perspective here. I read it and rolled my eyes. I'll take Bedford Falls over Pottersville any day of the week and twice on Sundays!

It happens every year - embittered people miss the meaning of Christmas. Is consumerism run amok? Absolutely. Does the hustle and bustle become hassle and bustle? Always. Does that have anything to do with Christmas? Nope.

Christmas is about recapturing the wonder of childhood when you look at the colorful evergreen with presents at its base. It's the way baking cookies takes you back to Christmases long ago.

Christmas is about spending time with family and friends. Remember Christmases past and the loved ones who now celebrate with the once newborn and now reigning King of Kings.

I give gifts to express my love to people and feel confident that the gifts I receive express the same sentiment to me. In this we image God who loved us and gave gifts to men, the ultimate being the gift of His Son. I bake goodies and hand them out to friends and family because I remember Christ was born in Bethlehem - the House of Bread. I put lights on my tree and outside on shrubs because I celebrate the arrival of the true Light of the World. I sing carols because the angels also sang at His birth. And above all, I know that the meaning of Christmas is best expressed, as Linus tells Charlie Brown in the Peanuts' Christmas classic, by:

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Luke 2: 1-14

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Penny's Plaque

Several things made an impression on me the first Christmas I shared with Bobby and his parents. One was that Bobby’s Mom (Penny) had an abundance of Christmas decorations. I found this comforting knowing she had prepared him for my Christmas exuberance! Another was that Penny had extra presents available because she never wanted a guest to feel left out.

Penny always had a birthday cake as dessert after Christmas supper. Christmas was, after all, a birthday celebration. Along those lines, she also had a plaque that hung on her front door that said, “Happy Birthday, Jesus”. The first time I saw it, Bobby gave me that sideways look children give to friends when encountering what they deem as parental folly.

When we were cleaning out the house after her passing, there were few things I wanted more than that plaque. It now hangs on our front door.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Caroling, Caroling. . .

One of my favorite Christmas carols is It Came Upon A Midnight Clear. When the hustle and bustle of the season is making you more Ebenezer Scrooge than Tiny Tim, sing the third verse. And if you want to know why I have hope for the future, sing the fourth!


It came upon a midnight clear, that glorious song of old
From angels bending near the earth, to touch their harps of gold.
"Peace on the earth, good will to men, from heav'n's all-gracious King':
The world in solemn stillness lay to hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come, with peaceful wings unfold
And still their heav'nly music floats o'er all the weary world.
Above its sad and lowly plains, they bend on hov'ring wing
and ever o'er its Babel sounds the blessed angels sing.

And ye, beneath life's crushing load, whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow,
Look now! for gladness and golden hours come swiftly on the wing
O rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing.

For lo, the days are hast'ning on, by prophets, bards foretold.
When with the ever-circling years, comes round the age of gold.
When peace shall over all the earth its ancient splendors fling
And the whole world give back the song which now the angels sing.