Amanda Greene 11-28-2012
Photo: Christmas tree, © Jennifer Nickert /

Photo: Christmas tree, © Jennifer Nickert /

“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.

Adam Ericksen 11-28-2012
Photo: Holiday shopping, © Infomages /

Photo: Holiday shopping, © Infomages /

"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.

Brian E. Konkol 11-26-2012
Photo: Christmas countdown illustration, © Jiri Hera,

Photo: Christmas countdown illustration, © Jiri Hera,

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.     

Jim Wallis 11-21-2012
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.”

Carrie Adams 11-20-2012
Photo: Mother and daughter shopping, © michaeljung /

Photo: Mother and daughter shopping, © michaeljung /

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.

Center yourself during this busy holiday season with our top 10 Advent resources.

Julie Polter 11-02-2012

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

Sandra M. Tully 11-02-2012

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

Chris Lisee 06-12-2012

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.

Sarah Vanderveen 01-13-2012
Mussels. Photo by Sarah Vanderveen.

Mussels. Photo by Sarah Vanderveen.

...Now that the brittle, shedding Christmas tree
is down by the street
and the ornaments have all been put away,
I flip through pictures of beach walks
and parties and presents opened and sunsets....
Timothy King 12-28-2011
Illustration from Dickens' "Christmas Carol." Image by Tim King

Illustration from Dickens' "Christmas Carol." Image by Tim King

“Marley was dead, to begin with.”

So begins the classic tale of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. It is a story that has been told and re-told through various mediums since the novella was published December 19, 1843.

I sat down recently to watch the new Disney version of the tale. It features a CGI rendition of Scrooge with the voice of Jim Carrey.

After 15 minutes I shut it off.

It wasn’t that it was particularly bad. I didn’t give the movie enough of a chance even to figure whether it was worth watching. What I realized is that I wasn’t much interested in hearing the same story again from a secular perspective.

A Christmas Carol, I would argue, is not ultimately about Christmas, but conversion.

Christmas is the stage and the catalyst through which transformation occurs. It is a leading character to be sure. But, it is the radical change that occurs in Ebenezer Scrooge that most compels me.

Steve Stockman 12-25-2011
"Lying in a manger." Image via

"Lying in a manger." Image via

At the center of the nativity picture is that baby in the manger.

That baby Jesus will be many more things as his life, death, resurrection and eternity continues but here in the straw, and central to everything he will do and be, he is a symbol of grace.

This is what Christianity boils down to. This is it at its most naked. Shed the tragedies of Christian history, the boredom of what you’ve experienced in Church (how was that possible!), the legalism that has oppressed your youth or whatever else has damaged your perspective of God and you are left with this amazing concept of grace.

Put most simply, grace is the “unmerited favor” of God.

Cathleen Falsani 12-24-2011
Clark and Ellen Griswold of "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation."

Clark and Ellen Griswold of "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation."

On this Christmas Eve, as you gather with "kith and kin" on the threshold of the Christ Child's birth, we give you a moment of familial rejoicing from the Clark W. Griswold family of Chicago's North Shore and the great Christmas light miracle of 1989.

JOY TO THE WORLD! (Drum roll, please...)

Timothy King 12-24-2011
Illustration from Dickens' "Christmas Carol." Photo by Tim King.

Illustration from Dickens' "Christmas Carol." Photo by Tim King.

When I imagine Jesus telling his disciples, “Let the little children come to me,” I have a vision of the adults moving aside and Tiny Tim with his crutch crawling into the lap of Christ. 

In the scene where Tiny Tim is introduced, his father tells this story of him:

“Somehow, he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas-day who made lame beggars walk and blind men see.”

It is this child like faith that moves Scrooge to ask the Ghost of Christmas Present if the boy would live to see another Christmas. The spirit answers that he sees an empty chair at the next Cratchit Christmas. Scrooge begs for the future to be changed and the boy spared.

Timothy King 12-24-2011
Illustration from Dickens' "Christmas Carol." Photo by Tim King.

Illustration from Dickens' "Christmas Carol." Photo by Tim King.

The Ghost of Christmas Past showed Scrooge a total of five visions. It is only the last two which are dark. The first three show the seeds of Scrooges own repentance.

The first vision shown to Scrooge by the Ghost of Christmas past is that of a young Scrooge reading alone, neglected by his peers, just before Christmas. Scrooge, watching his old self, begins to cry.

“What’s the matter?” asked the Spirit.

“Nothing,” said Scrooge. “Nothing. There was a boy singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should have given him something: that’s all.”

Cathleen Falsani 12-23-2011

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

Today's entry is a traditional orchestration and performance of Handel's famed chorus by The Cathedral Choir of New Jersey. The video is taken from the 66th rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" performed by the choir on Dec. 5, 2009 at Hawthorne Gospel Church in Hawthorne, NJ.

Hallelujah Chorus from RVR Video Productions on Vimeo.

Cathleen Falsani 12-22-2011

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

Today Handel's "Hallelujah" is brought to you by the junior high students from Oostburg Christian School in Oostburg, Wisconsin.


The OCS kids stated their own tween version of a "Hallelujah" flash mob in the school cafeteria. The resulting video of their impromptu-ish performance is heartwarmingly earnest and awkward. Just like junior high itself (in its best moments.)

Watch the video inside...



Jim Wallis 12-22-2011

I love the lights and the love, which somehow seems a little easier during this season. Most of all I love the message: God made flesh, becoming human, and dwelling among us.

Our giving and receiving of gifts is most of all a reminder of the good gifts that God has already given to us. There is an old Sunday School saying that goes, "You can’t out give God."

No matter how much we give to those around us, it can never match the Light of the World entering into the darkness to be with us. Emmanuel, God with us, is the gift that can’t be out given.

In all the hustle and bustle of Christmas, don’t forget that. And don’t forget the people that you are especially thankful for.

Cathleen Falsani 12-21-2011
Westminster Abbey 1749. Via Wiki Commons

Westminster Abbey 1749. Via Wiki Commons

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

Today, a classic, rousing rendition of Handel's chorus from the choir of Westminster Abbey from 1982.

Joshua Witchger 12-21-2011

Whether it's variations on familiar holiday tunes, cartoons prancing around on screen, or watching kids open terrible presents, treat yourself to a break from the day to take in a little holiday cheer.