Christmas

Jim Wallis 12-22-2016

Our only hope is that light does come into the darkness, that this child born in an animal stall is still more important than all the kings and rulers, that the “lowly” are closer to God than all the “high”-placed people that we are forced to watch and listen to all the time. I needed last night to remind me again.

John Gehring 12-22-2016

Image via RNS/Tommy Lee Kreger via Creative Commons

You probably don’t think of Christmas as a revolutionary holiday. Twinkling lights on trees, Starbucks gift cards, and sweet carols are not exactly the stuff of subversion. A domesticated Christmas is comforting, but considering our fraught political landscape today, we might find better lessons by reflecting on the disruption caused by Jesus’ birth, and the radical implications of his life.

“A New Father, Awe-Struck” is a new hymn-prayer written days before Christmas 2016. It begins with a traditional image of a manger scene, and becomes a prayer that we may look deeper— at our loving God who chose to come into this world as someone who was poor, powerless, in danger, and a refugee.

Kim Hjelmgaard 12-21-2016

Berlin police urged people to be especially alert Wednesday and warned that the person or persons responsible were likely armed and dangerous. As of Tuesday night, police had received more than 500 tips about the attack. Security has been tightened in Berlin and across other European capital cities.

Joe Kay 12-20-2016

This sight of poor refugee parents and a humbly born baby surrounded by dirty shepherds and visitors from other religions and races and cultures should jolt us. It’s meant to. The manger shows us a world far different than our own, one that we’re being summoned to create with unconditional love and inclusion.

the Web Editors 12-19-2016

Image via Sergey Kohl/Shutterstock.com

On Dec. 19 a truck drove into a Christmas market in Berlin, Germany, killing at least nine people and injuring more, in what law enforcement officials suspect is a terrorist attack, reports the Guardian. The Christmas market was set up in Breitscheidplatz, one of Berlin’s most-frequented shopping areas.

A police spokesperson announced that the incident may have caused a gas leak. The Christmas market has been evacuated and an information point has been established for people in search of missing loved ones.

the Web Editors 12-19-2016

Screenshot via YouTube/Saturday Night Live

Chance the Rapper gifted the SNL stage Saturday with a carol to Jesus. Sprinkled over a choir singing the “ooooohs” on his song “Finish Line/Drown,” he sang, “Jesus it’s your birthday, happy birthday Jesus, Jesus it’s your birthday.”

When the choir called, “This water is deep, Jesus rescue me,” he said, “I like when you say his name on network TV like that.” 

Image via RNS/Reuters/Jason Reed

At this time of year, we often see animals subjected to cruel holiday stunts, or treated as living props in our confusing pageantry.

Domino’s Japan recently announced it was canceling its ill-conceived plan to train reindeer to deliver pizza, following a PETA Asia campaign. And just this week, a man was charged with abusing a camel that was part of a hospital’s live Nativity scene in Pikeville, Ky.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Umit Bektas

As Pope Francis officially opened this year’s Christmas Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square, he said Jesus was a “migrant” who reminds us of the plight of today’s refugees.

Francis told donors who contributed both the Nativity set and an 82-foot tree that the story of Jesus’ birth echoes the “tragic reality of migrants, on boats, making their way toward Italy,” from the Middle East and Africa today.

Image via RNS/Rev. Tuhina Verma Rasche and the Rev. Jason Chestnut

For many Christians who observe the liturgical season of Advent, leading up to Christmas, an Advent devotional is a beloved companion.

Such devotionals typically include a short Scripture reading and reflection on the birth of Jesus.

But most are “crap,” according to the Rev. Jason Chesnut of Baltimore.

Image via RNS/Doctors of the World

Don’t expect a peaceful scene of Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus when you open a Christmas card from Doctors of the World.

The British branch of the humanitarian group has opted to set the characters of the creche in the midst of Mideast crises. On one card, Mary and Joseph are leaning over the baby Jesus, as a missile traverses a starry night.

“Christmas is a time people contemplate the world,” the group said in its online introduction to the cards. “Doctors of the World’s cards seek to remind the public that this year war has forced millions from their homes, and they really need our help.”

the Web Editors 11-23-2016

Image via Google doc/SURJ-DC.

6. Be Kind…To Yourself, Too

“Remember that this isn’t the only conversation/interaction you’re going to have,” writes Christena Cleveland.

7. 19 Questions to Ask

The New York Times had Clinton supporters and Trump supporters ask each other these questions. Listen to their results here.

8. Call the Holiday Hotline

If all efforts at engaging have stalled, SURJ has a holiday hotline to help. “Get stuck? Simply text SOS to 82623.”

Image via Fotosr52/Shutterstock.com

Humanists went to federal court in Denver to prevent Colorado schoolchildren from being asked to put together Christmas gift boxes sponsored by an evangelical charity.

The hearing on Nov. 16 was the result of a suit filed by the American Humanist Association, a national organization of humanists, atheists, and freethinkers. They are representing three humanist families who say the constitution’s guarantee of the separation of church and state is violated when their suburban Denver school district asks their children to assemble Christmas gift boxes that include the “opportunity . . . to faithfully follow Jesus Christ.”

Courtney Hall Lee 1-12-2016

One of the most famous miracles in the Bible was when Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding in Cana. When the wine at the party ran dry, at his mother’s request young Jesus made a lot of wine (and he made the good stuff). From the teetotling temperance movement to the sacramental nature of communion wine, alcohol and faith have an interesting relationship. But after a couple-month celebration of thanks, the birth of Christ, and the arrival of a new year, many observe this month as Sober January.

1-04-2016

On an icy Maine pond one December morning, Chester Greenwood, a 15-year-old boy with oversized ears, was freezing. He cut a few strokes on his new skates before the ear-piercing cold became unbearable. Turning back to his grandmother’s farmhouse kitchen, a sudden inspiration blazed against the chill. The boy gathered a few scraps of farm wire, beaver fur, and cloth. In a moment, he fashioned a solution for the long winter cold: earmuffs.

Image via REUTERS/Max Rossi/RNS

“Oftentimes we’re in a hurry when we call others. But they felt the pope was truly interested in them,” Gabrieli told the Catholic news site Aleteia, which also reported that the boy is seven. “At that moment, they were at the center of his attention. This is what really struck them. He was asking about them; they felt he really wanted to know how they were doing.”

the Web Editors 12-26-2015

1. 12 Things to Do on the 12 Days of Christmas
Don’t take down that tree just yet. Remember that Christmas is an entire season. Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Stephen — the first Christian martyr. Let these ideas take you all the way through Epiphany.

2. ICYMI: Why Jesus Was, and Is, a Political Threat
“The language of Mary is the narrative of revolution and redistribution, two words that the powers that be just hate. And while the revolution that Christ brings is not violent, it is nonetheless completely transformational. Mary got it.”

3. Las Posadas: Searching for an Inn
Washington Post features the Hispanic Christian tradition of recreating Joseph and Mary’s search for shelter. “Making it real, and making it something that’s close to home, fits in closely with Hispanic/Latino theology.”

Jim Wallis 12-23-2015

This is not the talk of charity and giving Christmas toys and turkeys to the less fortunate. The language of Mary is the narrative of revolution and redistribution, two words that the powers that be just hate. And while the revolution that Christ brings is not violent, it is nonetheless completely transformational. Mary got it.

Herod did too. The nearest political ruler to the birth of Christ immediately saw the possible implications for him.

Tree lighting ceremony in Bethlehem. Image via REUTERS / Ammar Awad / RNS

The Star of Bethlehem is the name given to an event in the night sky that the Gospel of Matthew says heralded the birth of Jesus. Three wisemen — or magi, or kings — come to King Herod and ask, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

Image via LifeWay Research / RNS

December means curtains up for church Christmas pageants, hand-bell concerts, caroling kiddie choirs, and Nativity displays on the front lawns.

But the No. 1 reason most U.S. adults — Christians and many unbelievers, too — give for going to church at Christmastime is to “honor Jesus,” according to a new survey from the evangelical research agency LifeWay Research.

More than three in four of churchgoers (77 percent), Protestants and Catholics alike, said they were drawn to attend church to honor the birth of their savior, the fundamental religious experience of Christmas above and beyond all the seasonal fa-la-la-la-la.

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