Christmas

Being Christ in a Consumer Christmas

Christmas light display at the Yodobashi-Akiba store, Japan. http://bit.ly/usVkK

Christmas light display at the Yodobashi-Akiba Department store in Akihabara City, Japan. Image via http://bit.ly/usVkKm

Beneath the usual clamor of the holiday season is the faint din of anger.

Once again many have raised their voices regarding the “secularization” of Christmas. Armed with slogans such as “Keep Christ in Christmas,” they ensure we don't forget that this is a holiday about Jesus of Nazareth.

Common greetings such as, “Happy Holidays” are met with a defensive, counter-greetings of “… and Merry Christ-mas to you too.” 

Try using the abbreviation “Xmas.” Some folks believe this is literally “X-ing” Jesus out of the Christmas!

What seems to be glaringly absent from these vocal Christmas Crusaders is any protest against the gross consumerism, greed and selfishness that arrives every year with holiday season.

Hit the Hallelujah Button: Kuwa na Krismasi njema!

Handel's Hallelujah Chorus. Image via www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/4489992140

Handel's Hallelujah Chorus. Image via http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/4489992140

Each day leading until Christmas we will post a different video rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" for your holiday enjoyment and edification.

Today's installment comes from the POTS Chorus of Kenya who performed Handel's famous chorus on the African choral music competition, Kwaya.

See them take "Hallelujah" for a spin inside....

 

Christmas Favorites from SoJo's Christmas Favorites: Karen Peris of the Innocence Mission

Karen and Don Peris of The Innocence Mission. Image via www.theinnocencemission.

Karen and Don Peris of The Innocence Mission. Image via www.theinnocencemission.com

I can name any Innocence Mission in two notes or less. Half a second if the song begins with Karen Peris' voice. If you're a fan of the Innocence Mission, which is comprised of Karen Peris, her husband, Don Peris, and bassist Mike Bitts, you know precisely what I'm on about.
 
Karen Peris' voice is what I would imagine one of the Sirens (the nice one) might sound like, or perhaps the voice of a selkie — those mythological beings the Celts believed were seals who could shed their skins and become human for a time. Karen's voice is sweet, but never saccharine. Earnest, certainly, but never straining toward pathos or reaching for an emotional response.

It's light and full of delight. Simply (and it's simplicity is part of its great charms) beautiful.

The Innocence Mission's rendition of "Away in a Manger" is a prime example of what Karen Peris' voice can do. It's in high rotation in my Christmas 2011 mix on iTunes and rarely fails to put a lump in my throat or a tear in my eye — signs that the Holy is drawing nigh, according to the great sage of Vermont, Frederick Buechner.

There's Just Something About Mary: The Power of Yes

To be a people marked by the faith of Mary is to be a people, who say, "Ok, I don’t understand what’s going on and I know that my life isn’t going to end up looking like one I would choose out of a catalogue but I trust that God is at work in all of it."

Blessedness is being used for God’s purpose more than it’s getting what I want or things being easy.

Christmas itself isn’t about getting what you want, or making sure you’re giving others what they want. To experience Christmas is to trust that God can do this thing again. God can again be born in me, in you, in this broken mess of a gorgeous world.

In the 4th century St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote, “What was achieved in the body of Mary will happen in the soul of everyone who receives the Word.”

See, God is at work in you in much the same way God was at work in Mary. (Not necessarily in that the Holy Spirit’s going to knock you up.) But I do think that you carry in your body the blessing of God and having faith like Mary means allowing yourself to trust that.

Christmas Favorites from SoJo's Christmas Favorites: Jason Harrod

Jason Harrod in concert, Raleigh NC 2010. Image via the artist.

Jason Harrod in concert, Raleigh NC 2010. Image via the artist.

The first time I heard Jason Harrod sing was more than 20 years ago at a coffee house at Wheaton College outside Chicago where we were both studends at the time. He sang Neil Young's "Sugar Mountain," and his tenor voice was so pure, so perfect and sweet and heartbreakingly earnest, I ended up crying in my mochachino.

We're both now in our 40s, Jason is stil singing like an angel, and I'm still listening (occasionally in tears) along with many other fans who have discovered the unique charm of Jason's Smokey-Mountains-meets-Brooklyn-subway sensibilities and ever soulful wordsmithery.

Jason and his former musical partner in crime, Brian Funck, recorded "Lion Song" on their self-titled second album, Harrod & Funck that, while not a Christmas song per se, has always felt like a winter tune and tale to me. Seeking shelter from the cold and finding it. Getting lost and being found. The great gift of grace in all of its myriad forms — in relationship, in a light in the darkness, a glimpse of the horizon in the storm, or in the first toddling steps taken by a baby boy sent as a gift (to ALL) to heal and reconcile the world.

Advent or Government Shutdown, Which Matters More?

Kalenderlys (Advent candle) - Image via Wiki Commons http://bit.ly/rqjL59

Kalenderlys (Advent candle) - Image via Wiki Commons http://bit.ly/rqjL59

There is, once again, a threat of a government shutdown. Congress, once again, can’t get along. Even the most basic decision making has stalled as each party postures for their base.
 
But, it’s almost Christmas and there a better and brighter things to focus on then the latest Rasmussen tracking poll.

I’d like to share some Advent reflections from my former professor at North Park University, Scot McKnight. He is in the midst of a series that points to what Advent is supposed to remind Christians of. It’s a simple message with deep meaning: Jesus is King.

Christmas Favorites from SoJo's Christmas Favorites: Sam Phillips

Sam Phillips. Image via Wiki Commons http://bit.ly/stvGiZ

Sam Phillips. Image via Wiki Commons http://bit.ly/stvGiZ

Sam Phillips is achingly honest.

Whether she's singing about relationships — with loved ones, the world or God — politics, art, the church, Aimee Semple McPherson or Christmastime, you can count on Sam to bring her singularly pure voice and the truth. She is true blue (and one of her favorite guitars is as red and shiny as RudolfOn her new album, Solid State: Songs from the Long Play, Sam has two songs that have quickly become new favorite Christmas tunes for me. One is explicitly about Christmas, and the other is not, but both speak eloquently (and truthfully) about the mystery and melancholy that the season brings to many of us.

In "It Doesn't Feel Like Christmas," Sam talks about missing someone special during the holidays. The lyrics are sad, her voice is sweet, and the juxtaposition of the two strikes a deep chord in my heart. True. Difficult. Beautiful.

 

The Real War on Christmas ... by Fox News

Jim Wallis

Jim Wallis

The real Christmas announces the birth of Jesus to a world of poverty, pain, and sin, and offers the hope of salvation and justice.

The Fox News Christmas heralds the steady promotion of consumerism, the defense of wealth and power, the adulation of money and markets, and the regular belittling or attacking of efforts to overcome poverty.

The real Christmas offers the joyful promise of peace and the hope of reconciliation with God and between humankind.

The Fox News Christmas proffers the constant drumbeat of war, the reliance on military solutions to every conflict, the demonizing of our enemies, and the gospel of American dominance.

The real Christmas lifts up the Virgin Mary’s song of praise for her baby boy: “He has brought the mighty down from their thrones, and lifted the lowly, he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich empty away.”

The Fox News Christmas would label Mary’s Magnificat as “class warfare.”

So if there is a war on Christmas it ‘s the one being waged by Fox News.

Christmas Favorites from SoJo's Christmas Favorites: David Wilcox

David Wilcox

David Wilcox

In this season of expectation as we await the incarnation of God-with-us, my heart turns to a song that, to me, captures the spirit of Christmas.
 
It has no jingle bells or chestnuts roasting by an open fire. There is no explicit reference to mangers, magi or a baby boy. But Asheville, N.C.'s favorite son, singer-songwriter David Wilcox, nails the heart of the Christmas story in his song, "Show the Way."
 
The sense of expectation, pearched on the edge of our seats waiting for something to happen — waiting for the divine surprise — is palpable in the song David first recorded on his 1994 album, Big Horizon.  And while David's tune "Miracle" — a whimsical retelling of the story of the Three Wise Men (whom he calls the "Three Wise Guys") — is also a Christmas favorite, it's "Show the  Way" that I return to in Advent, as we abide with joy, waiting to hear the cry of a tiny baby in a stable in a backwater town in the land we call "Holy."

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