Thursday, December 31, 2009

Picking and Choosing

This link to the "Nine Big Stories the Mainstream Media Missed in 2009" is a good explanation of why I get most of my news from the internet.

Here's hoping for more objective--and competent--news coverage in 2010.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Time

The Twelve Days of Christmas are only up to Day 3. There's plenty of Christmas time to still come after the "three French hens," but denuded Christmas trees are already being tossed into dumpsters, and festive lights and decorations are being torn down and stashed away.

Each year, this American rush to stow Christmas in the attic always makes me feel forlorn. Why are we in such a hurry to dispense with the most joyous time of year?

As I never tire of pointing out to people, December 25 is the merely first day of Christmas. It continues in twelve sequential days, up to January 5, the eve of the Epiphany--which celebrates the Magi visiting the Christ child.

There's a Christmas carol, "Good King Wenceslas," entirely devoted to December 26--"the feast of Stephen." In the British Isles, December 26 is part of the Christmas holiday. When the kids and I were in Ireland three years ago, everyone referred to it as "Stephen's Day" (they pronounced it "Steffen's Day"). It's called "Boxing Day" in Britain and Canada, but the point is--it's still Christmas time!

Those twelve lords will come a-leaping soon enough to let you it's time to move ahead into the New Year. So in the meanwhile, sit back, sip some eggnog, and enjoy your Christmas tree for a few more magical evenings.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Blank Verse

"Here are your tools," indeed. Gore should use one of them to nail himself into a cave until the climate is safe for hot air.

There once was a poet named Gore
Whose poem was a terrible bore,
When he read it aloud
He stunned the whole crowd,
And will be thought sane--nevermore.

Photo: AP

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Home for Christmas

For the first time since 2005, I’ll be at home for Christmas. Since Pete died in January 2006, I’ve been on a quest to outrun the evocative memories and emotions of the season, always his favorite and our family’s primary holiday.

Our plans never varied on Christmas. Guests were always welcome, but we stayed home, every year. Each Christmas Eve I would prepare lasagna and stash it in the fridge, to bake on Christmas Day when the company arrived. We always attended the earliest Christmas Eve Mass at our church so that we could spend a full evening with eggnog, gingerbread cookies, and the classic movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

During the past three Christmases, my kids and I have been to Ireland, Chicago, and New York. They were all wonderfully festive journeys that allowed me to elude the innumerable traditions our family had lovingly constructed over twenty-five years.

But, sooner or later, it’s time to face the living room. This will be my year to do that. Fortunately, I’ll have the good company of my son, Matt, and daughter-in-law, Nicole. We’ve bought a tree, the first in four years, although it’s in the back yard; we’re still deciding the best time to decorate it. Tree trimming was always an elaborate ritual for our family, even after the kids were grown. We would coordinate schedules in early December until all of us could be together to spend a day or evening on the project.

Christmas almost here, and I’m gingerly feeling my way towards it. Not only is Pete long gone, but our daughter, Kristine, now lives in Boston and will be celebrating Christmas in her own new home.

Life is always changing, sometimes very painfully; but Christmas remains a constant light at year’s end. Somehow, I think I’ll be just fine.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Festival of Lights

And so they kept the dedication of the altar eight days and offered burnt offerings with gladness...

Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is the Hebrew word meaning "dedication" or "celebration."

The miracle of Hanukkah is described in the Talmud, the major text of Jewish teaching. In short, in the year 168 B.C., the Syrian king Antiochus IV seized the holy temple in Jerusalem and dedicated it to the Greek god, Zeus. Judah Maccabee and his soldiers decided to fight back. In the year 165 B.C., after the forces of Antiochus IV had been driven from the Temple, the Maccabees discovered that almost all of the ritual olive oil had been profaned. They found only a single container that was still sealed by the High Priest, with enough oil to keep the menorah in the Temple lit for a single day. They used this, and miraculously, that oil burned for eight days (the time it took to have new oil pressed and made ready).

It's an ancient story of human bravery and God's grace, a holiday worth celebrating each year.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Manhattan Declaration

All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.

The Manhattan Declaration, released on November 20, 2009, is a document whose time has come. With the proposed health reform bill threatening to force doctors, through the power of government, to end lives against their conscience, it's time that Christians of every denomination and philosophy take a firm stand in asserting our values.

Our intrinsic right to life, natural marriage, and religious liberty are imperiled today as never before in our history. The Manhattan Declaration is a step in the direction of protecting not only our faith, but our principles and our way of life.

Over 260,000 people have signed the document since its release. If the Founders of our country were here today, I'm willing to bet that their signatures would have been among the first.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

For the Police Officers

For the just man, though he die early, shall be at rest.

Photo by Mike Siegel, The Seattle Times