Christmas

Cathleen Falsani 12-15-2011
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.

 

Jim Wallis 12-15-2011
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.

Cathleen Falsani 12-14-2011
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."
Ashley Baxstrom 12-13-2011
Still from Rick Perry's ad "Strong."

Still from Rick Perry's ad "Strong."

Here’s the thing. There is no war on Christmas – one has never been declared, except by those proclaiming themselves its victims. There is no liberal attack on “our religious heritage” – whatever people like Perry and O’Reilly might subjectively perceive that to be. It’s history, so it’s not like it can be challenged to a duel. What we do have are instances where individuals and organizations – yes, including bastions of godless progressivism like the ACLU or, you know, atheists – protest against violations of the first amendment in cases where the government or publicly funded programs act in a way that appears to endorse one particular religion over another. What we do have are new perspectives on the role religion (and not just Christianity, because other religions exist in America too, along with not-religion) played in the history of our nation. That’s not an attack. That’s coming to an understanding, that’s developing the course forward for our nation, together. And even then, guess what, it’s still a focus ON RELIGION, as opposed to say the democratic principles that might be something else the country was built upon.

Rick Perry doesn’t need to tell us he’s not ashamed to be Christian. We know he’s Christian. It’s part of who he is and fine, Rick, whatever – be Christian. What we want to know is what will that mean for the rest of us if you happen to receive the GOP nomination or (self-disclosing wince) win the presidential election? Does it mean that you will declare yourself victor over the war on Christmas, institute nation-wide days of prayer and thanks to Lord Baby Jesus or mandate the building of popsicle-stick nativities in every public school cafeteria? Probably not. But does it mean that you’re going to favor Christianity, over Judaism or Islam or Atheism (doesn’t freedom of religion mean freedom from religion as well)?

Cathleen Falsani 12-13-2011
Carrie Newcomer

Carrie Newcomer

In her inimitably lovely way, Carrie Newcomer, the Quaker singer-songwriter, tells the story of June and Emmett and their children gathered at their Christmas table to sing carols and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in her should-be classic, "Long Christmas Dinner." It's a celebration of simple pleasures and the powerful quotidian blessings of family, hearth and home.

It's a quiet, soul-stirring tune with images so vivid and familiar they stay with me throughout the year.

http://youtu.be/MYeIgrYpk8k

We asked Carrie what her favorite Christmas song was and this is what she said...

Jack Palmer 12-12-2011

What Are You Getting Baby Jesus For The Holidays? (OPINION); Math Fail: Fox News Says 8.6 Percent Unemployment Is Greater Than 8.8 And Equal To 9; Guardian: What The Top 1 Percent Really Owns; Romney’s $10,000 Wager Dominates Post-Debate Buzz; Ben & Jerry Explain Why They Support Occupy Wall Street; Limbaugh Calls Poor Children Receiving Free School Meals "Wanton Little Waifs And Serfs Dependent On The State."

Derek Flood 12-12-2011
Office Grinch peppersprays the Whos of Whoville. Image via officer-grinch-21501-

Office Grinch peppersprays the Whos of Whoville. Image via officer-grinch-21501-1321977693-24.jpg

Pepper spray.

Those two words bring to mind two very contrasting images from recent headline news: One is the shocking image of University of California at Davis students seated on a pathway, arms linked in peaceful protest, as they are repeatedly doused with pepper spray by a zealous campus police officer. The other is of the equally zealous shopper on Black Friday who sprayed her fellow Walmart customers so she could buy a discounted X-Box.

On the one hand we have an image of the power of nonviolent protest to expose injustice, and on the other an appalling image of consumer greed.

These are the signs of our times.

Cathleen Falsani 12-12-2011
Bruce Cockburn.

Bruce Cockburn.

Hands down, without a doubt, my favorite Christmas song comes from Canadian singer-songwriter and longtime Sojourners friend Bruce Cockburn with his "Cry of a Tiny Babe" from his 1991 album Nothing But a Burning Light. The verse, "Redemption rips through the surface of time in the cry of a tiny babe," puts a lump in my throat every time I hear it.

http://youtu.be/RlX4cDAkz44

I asked Bruce, 66, who said he's "full of joy and wonder" these days celebrating the birth of his baby daughter, Iona, last month, what his favorite Christmas tune was and his answer is characteristically unpredictable and wondrous.

the Web Editors 12-09-2011
Jesus Christ. Savior.

Jesus Christ. Savior.

FunnyOrDie.com for the win!

"Jesus Christ of Nazareth would like to take this opportunity to refute Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry's most recent TV ad."

Watch what just might be the best parody of a political commercial of all time ... inside.

 

Cathleen Falsani 12-09-2011
Banjo Ben Yahu. http://bit.ly/ry5W6n

Banjo Ben Yahu. http://bit.ly/ry5W6n

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 a fellow who goes by the handle (pardon the pun) "Banjo Ben Yahu" and, in addition to having an epic beard (someone call the casting director for "Whisker Wars" STAT), does the German composer proud with his solo-banjo rendition of Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cathleen Falsani 12-08-2011

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

Today's installment comes from the Daejeon Handbell Choir of South Korea - a quartet (!) of handbell players who impressively play all of the myriad parts while dressed in satin formalwear — without breaking a sweat.

Phew! Hallelujah indeed!

the Web Editors 12-08-2011

Holiday gift giving isn’t all about relishing in the latest technological gadgets, but when that tablet is an innovative and interactive Bible, it would be a sin not to indulge! See the iBle, and all its fascinating and spiritually stimulating content. Two thousand years of history never seemed so exciting! Video from DadsGarage.

 

Jack Palmer 12-08-2011

‘Morning Joe’ Crew Mocks Perry’s War On Christmas Ad; Odd Couples: Gingrich Casts Wide Net To Evangelicals, Tea Party And K Street Lobbyists; The Real War On Christmas; GOP Presidential Hopefuls Make Bid For Jewish Vote; Republicans: Save Social Security!; Protesters Arrested In DC After K Street Shutdown; Obama To Congress: Don’t Mix Oil Pipeline, Payroll Tax Cut; Income Gap Stays Wide In District, Narrows In Suburbs.

Cathleen Falsani 12-07-2011
David Wilcox via http://www.davidwilcox.com

David Wilcox via http://www.davidwilcox.com

It's that time of the year again, the joyful season when Jeff, my iTunes DJ, starts spinning holiday music when I choose "random" from the play options on my keyboard.

I almost always have headphones on with music playing as I work each day, and the surprise of what Jeff, as I call him, comes up with — especially when he reaches into the way-back machine for sonic fodder — is a daily delight.

First thing this morning, Jeff decided to play the tune "Miracle" by Ashville, N.C., singer-songwriter David Wilcox.

Oh joy! It's long been one of my favorite unconventional Christmas songs but I'd forgotten about its many charms until I was taking my first sip of coffee today.

The song, which appears on David's 2006 album Vista, is a take on the Natvity story seen through David's remarkably creative, often childlike sensibilities. Here's a taste of the lyrics:

Few will chose to follow
Out of all the star invites
Most will hide safe inside
With the lantern turned up bright

Waiting for a miracle

Cathleen Falsani 12-06-2011
The Turtle Creek Chorale, in their more traditional garb. Via turtlecreek.org.

The Turtle Creek Chorale, in their more traditional garb. Via turtlecreek.org.

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

Day 3's installment comes from an unlikely gaggle of nuns — in full habits. They are members of the Turtle Creek Chorale, an all-men's chorus from Dallas, Texas. The Chorale has traveled to Europe, performing sold out concerts in Barcelona, Berlin and Prague; as well as two appearances a Carnegie Hall.

Cathleen Falsani 12-06-2011
Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet (aka "Black Pete") in a holiday parade in Holland, 2

Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet (aka "Black Pete") in a holiday parade in Holland, 2006. Photo via http://bit.ly/4rt3nE

Happy Sinterklaas?

Today marks a traditional winter holiday in Holland and other parts of the European Low Countries (the Netherlands, Belgium, Lille and Arras, predominantly) featuring Sinter Klaas, the forerunner of our Santa Claus, who is traditionally accompanied by a helper named Zwarte Piet (aka "Black Pete") — a young man in black face with curly black hair, thick red lips and dressed as a courtisan with a velvet jacket and frilled shirt.

Sinterklaas — who also goes by Sint Niklaas or De Sint in Holland and environs — was a stranger to me until a few years ago when Dutch-American friends introduced him to me. In my friends' home this morning, the children will awaken to wooden shoes filled with goodies.

Sounds like a charming holiday tradition from the old country. But is it simply that?

Cathleen Falsani 12-05-2011

Occupy igloos ... and rooftops. Buy a gun for the one you love ... or a walk-on role on True Blood (for charity!) Theological wisdom from the mouths of (muppet) otters and stand-up comedians. And you never know what you'll find on Google Earth.

Jack Palmer 12-05-2011

Democrats See Opening To Attract Religious Voters In 2012 Election; Does Inequality Matter?; From Occupy To Progressive Renewal: Demanding The Just Society; Occupy Movement A Reminder Of What We Value; The Annual 'War On Christmas' Shows How A Faith That Once United America Now Divides It; Religious Leaders Target Repeal Of N.C. Death Penalty Law; Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church: Kentucky Congregation Overturns Ban On Interracial Couples.

Cathleen Falsani 12-04-2011

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

Day 3's installment comes from the Just in Time Vocal Jazz "JOURNEYS" Concert, December 2009, performing their rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Quincy Jones' gospel-infused interpretation of the Handel classic.

Carrie Adams 12-02-2011

Last night we watched the First Family light the National Christmas Tree.

We expected what we get every year: a broad message about generosity and the season of giving. But what we got was so much more.

President Obama’s remarks were encouraging. They were about the Christmas that Christians celebrate as a week of Advent, not just Christmas as a generic feeling or a season. Several news outlets, including CBN, CNN, and The Christian Post covered the story in a tone of support, somewhat surprised at the president speaking from a place of deep personal faith. His remarks were so wholly about the Christ in Christmas that it could have been delivered by a local reverend.

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