Christmas

On 200th Birthday, There’s No ‘Bah Humbug’ for Charles Dickens

Photo: Christmas tree, © Jennifer Nickert / Shutterstock.com

Photo: Christmas tree, © Jennifer Nickert / Shutterstock.com

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me.” 
– Ebenezer Scrooge from
A Christmas Carol.

WILMINGTON, N.C. — ‘Tis the season for “Bah Humbug” and “God bless us every one,” especially as the world caps off a year of celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the birth of novelist Charles Dickens.

Starting this weekend as the Christmas season begins with Advent, cities will transform their streets to Victorian English landscapes with strolling carolers and stage different productions of Dickens' most famous yuletide work, A Christmas Carol.

Dropping Out Of Our National Religion

Photo: Holiday shopping, © Infomages / Shutterstock.com

Photo: Holiday shopping, © Infomages / Shutterstock.com

"When you really drop out of the national religion of shopping you gain all kinds of time and a capacity to do what you might really prefer to do … and you gain a chance to be about the number one priority, which is to try to ease the burden on the poorest people in our world, especially those who are stuck in warzones." – Kathy Kelly, Peace Activist

This year my hometown of Chicago hosted the NATO summit. Thousands of protestors came to voice their concerns about war and the economy. Along with peace journalist Bob Koehler, I had the great fortune to interview one of those protesters, Kathy Kelly. (You can listen to the interview on my Voices of Peace podcast here.) Kathy is a three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee and lives a fascinating life. She is an advocate of nonviolence on a global scale and has been arrested more than 60 times in the U.S and abroad for nonviolent protests. Kathy has traveled to Afghanistan and Iraq more than 26 times, remaining in dangerous combat zones during U.S.-led military strikes. She risked her life by going to Baghdad during the United State’s infamous “Shock and Awe” campaign.  

Kathy was the perfect guest to help us explore our overarching question at Voices of Peace – How do we build a lasting, sustainable global peace? She knows firsthand about the violence in our world and she’s on a mission to transform that violence into peace.

A Season of Urgent Patience

Photo: Christmas countdown illustration, © Jiri Hera, Shutterstock.com

Photo: Christmas countdown illustration, © Jiri Hera, Shutterstock.com

On the morning of Nov. 7, just hours after polling places closed and as votes continued to be counted, the national attention seemed to simultaneously switch from projected winners to the issues that deserved immediate attention. Instead of speculation surrounding which candidates may emerge victorious, many expressed the need for swift action on climate change, job creation, and education reform. The meticulous analysis of exit polls was abruptly replaced with calls for change surrounding immigration, taxes, and sustainable peace in the Middle East. Wwithin moments of receiving the news of Election Day winners, the general public swiftly switched its collective attention to matters of the immediate future. 

In light of the various challenges facing our national and global community, there are indeed numerous issues that require the immediate attention of our elected officials.  And our newly re-elected president, as well as others placed into public service, should be called upon for genuine cooperation, fair action, and immediate impact.  

But while urgency is required in light of pressing concerns, an overindulgence of immediacy also contains a long list of shortcomings. Discipline and patience are required to bring forth intellectual depth, balanced consideration, and lasting compassion.  As humans are more inclined to favor short-term over long-term rewards, the virtue of patience should be appreciated for its many worthwhile benefits.     

Dear Congress, This Holiday Season, Don’t Make the Poor Poorer

photo   © 2008   Krista , Flickr

photo © 2008 Krista , Flickr

A lot of ink, pixels, and air have been used on the potential effects of the so-called “fiscal cliff.” While many experts say that “cliff” is a misnomer (it’s more of long slope in the wrong direction), there is at least broad agreement that it’s not the right direction for the country’s long-term health.

We’ve heard a lot about the potential effects on Wall Street, our nation’s credit rating, and even the military. But little has been said about the devastating consequences for our nation and the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people — or for the charities and non-profits that serve them.  

This week, the Circle of Protection, released an open letter to the president and Congress with a simple message: during the holidays, please “advance policies that protect the poor — not ones that make them poorer.”

10 Gifts You Should Get Your Daughter This Christmas

Photo: Mother and daughter shopping, © michaeljung / Shutterstock.com

Photo: Mother and daughter shopping, © michaeljung / Shutterstock.com

The first part of 2012 was rough for the ladies. Exhibit A. Exhibit B. Exhibit C.

Any response? Any backlash? Oh right, the election. In the 113th Congress, there will be 20 women in the Senate. When I was a teenager, I read Nine and Counting: The Women of the Senate. That book is obsolete, and it makes me so happy. Though, I hate that we have to count how many women are in leadership (go to 2:35), we are making strides. It should just be so ingrained in our minds that we shouldn’t have to describe them as “the third woman CEO,” but just “CEO.”

In 2013, the entire congressional delegation from New Hampshire will be women. Their governor will be a woman. It’s awesome. So maybe the last quarter of 2012 (and beyond) will be a glorious time to be a woman. But what does the last quarter of the year really mean? CHRISTMAS!! 

Last year, I wrote a blog post called, “The Top 10 Worst Toys to Give Your Daughter This Christmas.” Not to brag or anything, but it was pretty awesome (in the worst way possible). But you know what? It’s time to give a shout out to the toys that are positive for girls. Let’s lift up some good examples. Let’s never be surprised that a girl says “I want to be an astronaut” or “I want to be president.” And that dream can start with a toy. But let’s face it, it’s hard to find toys that are geared towards girls without stereotyping, or just a boy’s toy that’s painted pink.

So, here it is — the Top 10 Gifts You Should Get Your Daughter This Christmas.

New and Noteworthy

Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron / Silver and Gold by Sufjan Stevens / Star of Wonder by Mary Lee Wile / The Food and Feasts of Jesus: Inside the World of First-Century Fare, with Menus and Recipes by Douglas E. Neel and Joel A. Pugh

Photo: Brandon Hook / Sojourners

Julie Polter is Senior Associate Editor at Sojourners.

When You Are a Child

You wait a long time for Christmas morning
drifting asleep even as the ebony slate of sky
shatters in clarion silence
Glory, Hallelujah!
and shepherds in the hills cast down their rods
look up at angels and find themselves
no longer huddled in darkness
but lucent between the stars.

You, no longer a child but still drifting,
enter the mystery that is darkness
willing to open the gift inside your own singing
recognizing the song of songs from the first Eve—

     We all live for the Light

Supreme Court Tosses ‘Christian Candy Cane’ Case

WASHINGTON --- An appeal over Christmas sweets turned bitter on Monday (June 11) when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the so-called “Christian candy cane” case.

The case out of Texas has become a rallying point for conservative Christians concerned about free religious expression in public schools and students' ability to distribute religious literature.

The case, Morgan v. Swanson, kicked off nine years ago in the Plano Independent School District as principals prevented self-described evangelical students from distributing religious literature on school grounds.

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