Christmas

One Solitary Life

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I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.

                                                       H.G. Wells

 

 

Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.

He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself…

While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. While He was dying His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth – His coat. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen long centuries have come and gone, and today He is a centerpiece of the human race and leader of the column of progress.

I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.

 

I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creation of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.

                                           Napoleon

 

 

 

Thirty Years Ago: Reagan Christmas Address

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On December 23, 1981, President Ronald Reagan addressed the nation.  The video above is an excerpt from that speech.  The portion of the address dealing with the attempt by the then Polish Communist regime to crush Solidarity, the Polish labor union leading a movement for freedom that would ultimately be the spark that destroyed Communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, is omitted.  A few things struck me about the address:

1.  When is the last time a president quoted G.K. Chesterton?

2.   Reagan’s reference to children as a gift from God.

3.   His reference to Christ’s first miracle being His coming to humanity as a helpless babe.

They don’t make them like Reagan anymore, and more is the pity.  Here is the text of his address: Continue reading

Christmas 1944: Battle of the Bulge

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In 1944 at Christmas the American and German armies were fighting it out in the Battle of the Bulge, the last German offensive of the War.

Patton’s Third Army fought its way through to relieve the Americans desperately fighting to defeat the attacking German forces.  The weather was atrocious and Allied air power was useless.  Patton had a prayer written for good weather.  Patton prayed the prayer, the scene from the movie Patton depicting this may be viewed here.  The skies cleared after Patton prayed the weather prayer, and Allied air power was unleashed on the attacking Germans.

During the Battle of the Bulge, the 101rst Airborne Division made a heroic stand at Bastogne from December 20-27 which helped turn the tide of the battle.  On December 25, a packed midnight mass was held in Bastogne, with Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe, who commanded the 101rst troops at Bastogne, in attendance.  Afterwards the General listened to German POWS singing Silent Night, and wished them a Merry Christmas.

General McAuliffe issued a memorable Christmas message to his troops: Continue reading

Festivals of Light

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Now Judas celebrated the festival of the restoration of the sacrifices of the temple for eight days, and omitted no sort of pleasures thereon; but he feasted them upon very rich and splendid sacrifices; and he honored God, and delighted them by hymns and psalms. Nay, they were so very glad at the revival of their customs, when, after a long time of intermission, they unexpectedly had regained the freedom of their worship, that they made it a law for their posterity, that they should keep a festival, on account of the restoration of their temple worship, for eight days. And from that time to this we celebrate this festival, and call it Lights. I suppose the reason was, because this liberty beyond our hopes appeared to us; and that thence was the name given to that festival.

Josephus

I have always thought it fitting that Christmas and Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, are so close together usually on the calendar.  Approximately 160 years before the Coming of Christ, the Jews revolted against the Seleucid Empire.  This was one of the most important struggles in all of human history.    It determined that the Jews would remain a people set apart, worshiping Yahweh, and not become, like so many Peoples before and since, a lost people, blended into larger populations, their god forgotten.  It was this revolt, led by Mattathias, his name meaning “gift of Yahweh”, and his sons, known collectively as the Maccabees, that is told in First and Second Maccabees.  The revolt was successful, but ultimately, through civil wars and the overpowering military might of Rome, the Jews again fell under foreign domination, and Jesus was born into a world ruled by Rome.  However, the revolt established that the Jews would remain a separate people, worshiping their God and safeguarding their faith.  This was an essential element in setting the stage for the coming of Christ. Continue reading

The True Meaning of Christmas

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A Charlie Brown Christmas was first broadcast in 1965 on CBS.  I was 8 years old and I was stunned at the time by the passage of Linus quoting the Gospel of Luke in explaining the true meaning of Christmas.  Apparently CBS executives wanted to cut this passage out, but Charles Schulz, normally a fairly non-confrontational man, was adamant that it remain in. Continue reading

A Bad Witness to the True Meaning of Christmas

It was December 21st and MrsDarwin and I were standing in the local branch of our bank, getting a cashier’s check for more money than I like to think about so that we could go close on our new house. These things take time, as people don’t normally come in and asked to cut large chashier’s checks, and as we were standing there I gradually became aware of an increasingly loud conserversation between an elderly male customer and a teller at the other end of the counter.

“I’m very offended,” he announced. “Very, very offended. And do you know why I’m offended?”

“Why sir?”

“Because I am a Christian and when I look around here four days before Christmas I don’t see a single Christmas decoration. Do you know how long I’ve been a customer here? I want to talk to your manager.”
Continue reading

Christmas at Bastogne: 1944

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During the Battle of the Bulge, the 101rst Airborne Division made a heroic stand at Bastogne from December 20-27 which helped turn the tide of the battle.  On December 25, a packed midnight mass was held in Bastogne, with Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe, who commanded the 101rst troops at Bastogne, in attendance.  Afterwards the General listened to German POWS singing Silent Night, and wished them a Merry Christmas.

General McAuliffe issued a memorable Christmas message to his troops:

Continue reading

Of Christmas and Klingons

 

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Hattip to Midwest Conservative Journal.  I enjoy Christmas traditions.  The Christmas Tree, singing Carols, wretched Illinois weather, hot coco, presents, watching several versions of A Christmas Carol, etc.  Perhaps the wildest version of a Christmas Carol is a Klingon adaptation of the timeless tale, presented, of course, in Klingonese.  The Wall Street Journal gives us the details:

CHICAGO—Across the country this week, productions of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” are warming hearts. In this city, one version poses this question: What if Charles Dickens were a Trekkie?

The answer runs an hour and 20 minutes and includes three fight scenes, 17 actors with latex ridges glued to their foreheads and a performance delivered entirely in Klingon—a language made up for a Star Trek movie.

“It’s like an opera,” says Christopher O. Kidder, the director and co-writer. “You know what’s happening because you already know the story.”

For those not fluent in Klingon, English translations are projected above the stage.

The arc of “A Klingon Christmas Carol” follows the familiar Dickens script: An old miser is visited on a hallowed night by three ghosts who shepherd him through a voyage of self-discovery. The narrative has been rejiggered to match the Klingon world view.

 

For starters, since there is neither a messiah nor a celebration of his birth on the Klingon planet of Kronos, the action is pegged to the Klingon Feast of the Long Night. Carols and trees are replaced with drinking, fighting and mating rituals. And because Klingons are more concerned with bravery than kindness, the main character’s quest is for courage. Continue reading

Joe Biden’s War on Christmas

 

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Reason TV has fun with recent statements by Veep and National Clown Joe Biden that the lame duck Democrat 111th  Congress should stay in session up to Christmas in order to pass legislation now that would not have  a prayer of passing after the 112th Congress is sworn in next month.  I think Reason TV is being unfair to Jolly Joe.  I think  he loves Christmas with all of its bright lights, colorful presents and good food, not to mention the day off.  Joe has always been up for a good party, and to say otherwise is simply not true. Continue reading

Mass at Midnight on Christmas Morning

This Christmas my local parish was something to behold. Midnight Mass began with light only from decorations on the Evergreen trees, the Priest, escorted by the Deacon and members of the local Knights of Columbus, processed through the Pews with an icon of the baby Jesus to be laid in the Manger. The entire Church was silent and it was beautiful.

As is typical of Christmas and to a lesser extent Easter Masses, the Church was full. This is an unusual circumstance for my parish, as on any typical Sunday the Church is probably half empty. In New England, people who don’t usually come to Church come to Church on Christmas. This is a disheartening aspect of Catholic life in America. Is there anything that can or should be done about it?

Continue reading

Pope Benedict Assaulted, Doing Fine

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI was pulled down by a woman during the Christmas vigil Mass on Christmas Eve.  In the video you can see the woman jump the barrier and instantly you see Vatican security react but the distance between the Pope and the barrier was small enough for the woman to bring down the Pope.

Along the way Roger Cardinal Etchegaray also fell as the woman barreled her way towards Papa Bene and through Cardinal Etchegaray.  The good French Cardinal is currently still hospitalized with a broken hip.

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Pope Benedict immediately got up and proceeded to celebrate Mass as the congregation clapped joyfully seeing that Papa Bene was unharmed (not shown in the video).

Vatican security is reviewing their procedures amid this recent break down in security.  But keeping in balance the Pope’s access to his sheep to his safety is a delicate task.  Father John Zuhlsdorf has floated the idea of bringing back the sedia gestatoria, the portable papal throne where adequate lines of men would flank the chair bearers.

Preliminary reports have suggested this is the same woman, identified as Susanna Maiolo a Swiss-Italian, also jumped a barrier at an earlier papal procession but was tackled before she could reach Papa Bene.  It has been reported that Miss Maiolo appears to be unbalanced, but this hasn’t been confirmed.

Finally the Vatican will pardon her for her attack on the pope and offer leniency (in any future prosecution I assume).

_._

To read the Zenit news blurb on the attack on the Pope click here.

To read Father John Zuhlsdorf’s suggestion for a return to the sedia gestatoria click here.

To read what a sedia gestatoria is by the The Catholic Encyclopedia (1912 version) click here.

To read a more contemporary definition of the sedia gestatoria by Wikipedia click here.

To read the pardon of Susanna Maiolo by Samuel Goldsmith of the New York Daily News click here.

Christmas Wishes from Hugo Chavez

Surely every parent has moments when he or she think that the toy obsession at Christmas has got far out of control. Some turn to religion, seeking to “put the Christ back in Christmas”, but that big, cuddly man of the people Hugo Chavez has a better idea:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called for an end of Christmas “consumption insanity” and replace presents for children with stories about national independence hero Simon Bolivar, local media reported.

“For the love of God, let’s halt this, let’s put the brakes on this consumerist, capitalist insanity, that leads us to lose our spiritual values,” said Chavez.

Chavez suggested to stop buying toys “that as mothers and fathers we are practically forced” to buy. He also said that there is little sense in buying new clothes each December before Christmas Eve as these sales do not benefit the small merchants, but “their owners, the wealthy, the big distributors that make a bundle squeezing people.”

“Let’s sit with the children and tell them stories of Bolivar, of the motherland,” the Venezuelan President said, adding that he makes this appeal from his heart “to put aside these vices.”

Somehow, I’m not sure that “Bolivar and the motherland are the reason for the season” has quite the same ring to it. But surely Chavez’s heart is in the right place.

Have a happy Boxing Day/St. Steven’s Day/ Second Day of Bolivar!

A Merry Christmas To Those Who Guard Us While We Sleep

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Hattip to Big Hollywood.  A film clip from Battleground (1949), a rousing tribute to the heroic stand of the 101st Airborne at Bastogne at Christmas 1944, which helped turn the tide of the Battle of the Bulge.  We should always be mindful of the men and women in our military who are far from their families today, celebrating Christmas often in dangerous situations.  May God bless them and keep them, and may we always remember the sacrifices they make for us.

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