Merry Christmas!!

Merry Christmas!

“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”

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Music Monday – Mary, Did you Know?

Music Monday – Rose of Bethlehem

Continuing the Advent theme, here is Selah’s Rose of Bethlehem.

Music Monday – O Holy Night

During the next four weeks of the Advent season, I’ll be posting a Christmas song each Monday.  Let’s start with one of my favorite songs sung by one of my favorite groups.  Here’s O Holy Night, sung by Third Day.

Music Monday – Christmas Music Redux

I like Christmas music probably about as much as your average guy does. I’m not the kind of person that wants to start playing it while everyone is setting up their stuff for Halloween and stop playing when we celebrate Memorial Day. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but in my opinion, there’s only so many different arrangements you can do (and listen to!) of Silver Bells, Silent Night & Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire. These get real old, real quick. My wife would probably call me a scrooge for this, but I’m glad that all radio stations don’t play Christmas music 24-7 during the month of December.

There is one exception, however – the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. If there was a radio station that played nothing but TSO year round, I would have it preset to my #1 station on my truck radio. Now, before you think that there is some hope for me after all, be warned that TSO is not exactly what you would call traditional. TSO is similar to the Mannheim Steamroller. Only on steroids. TSO is what you would get if you crossed Metalica and Nat King Cole. But even then, their style is as varied as it is non-traditional.

For example, in the beautifully stirring Christmas Canon (below) you have a simple orchestral piece set to Pachabel’s Canon accompanied by a children’s choir. If you can watch the video or listen to this piece without being touched, perhaps you should check your pulse.

Compare that with their “O Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night” arrangement (my absolute favorite of theirs) and you’re probably left wondering if this is the same group.

But even in this ramped up version of two beloved Christmas hymns, you are still left almost breathless at the beauty of the music. Even if the musicians didn’t intend on conveying this thought, in listening to this piece I’m left with the impression that perhaps in Heaven it wasn’t a “Silent Night” on that Christmas evening, but one of majestic triumph and celebration as the pivotal point of all history comes to fruition in the birth of Jesus Christ. As I listen to the first part of the song, I imagine the shepherds out in the fields, listening as the angel of God proclaims “I bring you good news!” Then the song builds as the entire angelic chorus join him in singing “Glory to God in the Highest!!” The song then reverts back to the shepherds immediately after the sky turns dark once again, the air still crackling with excitement, but the song now focuses once more on a bunch of lowly shepherds filled with nervous curiosity and brimming with the desire to go find the Messiah.

They have so many other original scores and arrangements of traditional songs too that run the entire spectrum of style. So if you’re into non-traditionally traditional music, you’ve got to check out the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Bah Humbug?

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

…AND IT’S NOT EVEN THANKSGIVING YET!!!!!!!

And so begins another festive season of retailers gleefully opening their doors at the most ungodly hours of the night – at least, the owners are, I’m not so sure about the employees. Holiday tunes waft over the intercoms, bright lights spring up all over, and parking lots fill with those selling Christmas trees.

Now, please don’t get me wrong. I enjoy Christmas. Really, I do. Especially since our children came along, the joy of the season has increased. But amid all the wrapping papers, sappy music, food, food and more food, I have to wonder if something has been lost. I mean, think about. We’re not even past Thanksgiving (I refuse to call it Turkey Day)– a day traditionally set aside to give thanks for our many blessings – and already our senses are being bombarded with ploys to help us expand our ever increasing pile of stuff. You can ask my wife – I hate being asked what I want for Christmas. I haven’t delved deep enough into my psyche to determine if it’s simply because I don’t want to bother thinking of something or if it’s some sort of semi-conscious rebellion against materialism. I’m inclined to think it’s more of the former than the latter.

Or perhaps it’s something a little more personal. Christmas should be a time of celebrating God’s gift to us – His Son, Jesus Christ. Yet every year, we’re faced more and more with the stark reality that the true meaning of Christmas is being swallowed up in the buying and the giving. Where it gets personal is the realization that what I am seeing played out in the economics of it all is the reflection of my heart during the entire year. Oh sure, I might go through the motions of “remembering the reason for the season” as it were, but in all honestly, is Christmas time the only true time that I really stop to ponder the Gift or the Giver and how I should be affected? Perhaps all the yuletide buying, giving, receiving, eating, traveling, sleeping, working, planning, and general running around simply show us a condensed version of what Christ sees in us all year long. I’m so busy with the stuff of life that I relegate Christ to an afterthought instead of celebrating HIM as life itself.

This year, instead of getting all crotchety about the trappings of the season, the season should cause some inward reflection and repentance on my own busyness of the year and my forgetting the gift I have in Christ.

“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

…and to all a goodnight

Christmas is here again. Wow, where did this year go?! So much has happened this year. By far the best thing was Carlos and Jeremiah coming home in January. These two little guys have changed our lives in so many ways – most of them good. Carlos has grown from a somewhat shy little boy who spoke no English to an EXTREMELY extraverted 5 year-old who will talk your ear off (mostly in the form of a question). Although he has his share of “orneriness,” he is such a thoughtful boy who looks out for his mommy and little brother. His “love language” is definitely giving things to people. He seems to always have a surprise for me when I get home in the form of a card that he had made, complete with envelope, or wanting to give me one of his toys as a special surprise. If I forget to take something with me to work one day, he’ll re-gift it the next day.

Watching Jeremiah learn new things is a constant source of joy for me. Perhaps one of my favorite things was when he learned about dogs. Anytime he sees one, hears one, or thinks he sees or hears one, he’ll look at me, point in the direction of said dog, (imaginary or otherwise) and make his barking sounds, which sounds something like “Oooo, oooo.” He is constantly wanting to do whatever Carlos is doing. If Carlos is racing around the house with his truck, Jeremiah wants to as well. If Carlos is reading, Jeremiah wants to read. And even when he’s in trouble, he sometimes gets this silly, goofy grin that makes it really hard (not impossible!) to enforce discipline.

My wonderful wife is as beautiful as ever. She is the best wife, mommy and friend in the world. Even though the switch in full-time jobs has been challenging at times, she has been so great at adapting to mommy-hood. She is an excellent teacher with Carlos, helping him to learn his letters and numbers. I really don’t know how she finds time to do all the stuff she does. I love you, sweetheart!

I was going to blog about the stupidity that invariably accompanies this time of year (such as the so-called “war on Christmas”), but I think we hear enough of that from the talking heads. So instead I leave you with this:

Merry Christmas to all!!*

*Disclaimer

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2007, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great – not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere – and without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.

By accepting these greetings you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for herself or himself or others, and is void where prohibited by law and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher.

This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.