Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Season

(Source)
It's the Christmas season, it's a time for many things, it's a time for gift giving, bright lights, and (supposedly) good will. Ya know peace on Earth, good will to all men. (Hey, I didn't write the original, I just quote it.)

It's also Hanukkah, which sparked a conversation with my pal Shelly as I was purchasing my breakfast at my place of employment.

"Happy Hanukkah!" While she knows I'm not Jewish, she knows I like holidays and usually know more than mine own.

"Yes, at sundown."

"No, today is the first day of Hanukkah." She insisted.

"Yes, it starts at sundown. Today." I, ever the pedant, replied.

Now she's giving me the gimlet eye, all married men know this look.

"Okay, is today the first day of Hanukkah or not?"

Me, looking somewhat puzzled, began to explain that in the Jewish tradition, the Sabbath, most holidays and other things of that ilk begin at sundown.

"So at sunset tonight, Hanukkah begins. So while today is indeed the first day of Hanukkah, it hasn't started yet."

So now Shelly is laughing. I am replete with puzzlement as I gape like an immigrant just off the boat in a strange land.

"Hahaha, I thought you said Sunday, now I get it, you said sundown. Hahaha."

I guess I should enunciate. Sometimes my speech, like my writing, isn't as clear as I think it is. Just ask The Missus Herself.

(Source)
All that aside, for me, Christmas has always been my favorite time of year for as long as I can remember. Lights, family, carols, fun, decorating, food, gifts, and the like all hold a very special place in my heart.

For those starting to wonder, yes, I know the reason for the season. The day commemorates the birth of our Savior, Jesus the Christ. (Often the contrarian in me thinks Yeshua and Messiah in place of Jesus and Christ. The same perhaps, but the former feel more "authentic.")

I have to admit, church confuses me. Especially as our pastor is very much into this lectionary thing, which, to be honest, I simply don't care for. I'm sure my Catholic friends must find such an attitude to be somewhat appalling. No doubt I would've been burned as a heretic in the olden days.

I don't need reminding of the prophecies which foretold the coming of the Messiah, I know he came. He was born, he died, he was resurrected. I know these things. I don't really care to rumble through the Old Testament at Christmas time. Give me Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Especially John -
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
It is the season of light, of joy, of love.
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
Prophecy has its place. I get it. But the Lord has me, hook, line, and sinker. Why do pastors feel the need to constantly convince us of the rightness of our belief? Of the need to believe? I am bought and paid for, why continue the sales pitch?

(Source)
Okay, yes, I get it. Some folks need the reinforcement, am I perhaps missing something?

There's a fellow over there on the sidebar whom I've been following as of late. Very Catholic he is, at least so he appears to me, a Congregationalist by birth, a Baptist by choice, and a seeker of knowledge. (God gave me a brain, I believe he intended that I use it, so I do.) Very interesting reading, while I can't say that I agree with him in all respects, he's a smart fellow and is generally a good read.

He has yet to confuse me.

I see the glories in God's Creation all around me, in the rocks and the trees, the life which surrounds me, the mountains, the plains, the sky. My God is a powerful God whose mind we mere humans cannot fathom, this much I know. There is much I don't know, there is much I don't understand.

But I have faith. And really, it's all I need.

So I shall enjoy Christmas as I always have, the lights, the decorations, the music, the food, the drink, the laughter of children. I will give a nod to jolly old Saint Nicholas, I will dream of sleighs drawn by eight tiny reindeer. I will revel in the memories of Christmas past and pray for peace for Christmas future.

But keep your dour Puritanism away from me. God is love, he forgives his children if they but ask and beg his pardon.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Enjoy this season of light. May you be loved, may you love.

Whatever you believe.





20 comments:

  1. I found a book in my library about Puritanism. I don't know where I picked it up from, but it stated that Puritans spent more on beer at their get-togethers than on food. I think they got a bum rap as killjoys.
    I'm with you, I love this season. There is wonder and excitement at the colors, the snow, the presents, the greetings. All because of a pivotal time when God became flesh, to communicate His great love, with which He loved us.

    I really love the old testament prophecies about the promised Messiah. It shows that this was God's Plan from the git go. We didn't surprise Him when we sinned. He was prepared for it. And as scripture unfolds it shows His desire to provide what we need. This unfolding picture (like those old gas station maps), as He reveals Himself to His creation leads to the unveiling of the Word of God, Jeshua the Messiah (the culmination of the revelation).

    Man! Good post today. Happy Christmas!!

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  2. A simple reminder of the reason for the season is all I want.

    “Advent, which means "coming" in Latin, is the period of four weeks before Christmas. We await the coming of Jesus into the world. Advent is a time to prepare and remember the real meaning of Christmas. But the weeks leading up to Christmas can be so full of hustle and bustle, seemingly endless activity and obligation, that we don't have time to consider the reason for the season.
    If this is what you are experiencing, remember the words of Psalm 46. Grab a minute when you can to just be still, even if it is just for a minute. Take a deep breath and remember that God is God.”

    Well, that, the music, and the skits by the kids,

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    1. Ah, you misunderstand. I am so far outside the hustle and bustle that I can't see it from where I'm at. I think the point I was trying to make is that some preachers take ALL of the glory out of Christmas, the way I remember Christmas when I was young. An important part of that glory was the way I remember the church around Christmas when I was young. Now it seems formulaic and dry, very dry. When I'm in church I am at peace, I am content, however, that being said, I don't always care for the message from the pulpit.

      As an adult I still feel the "magic" of Christmas, whereas many of my contemporaries do not. That saddens me.

      I do miss the skits by the kids.

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  3. The older I get, the more I find that my church has left me, not me who left the church. Somewhere around Vatican II the concept of the Mysteries seems to have been lost, replaced by an ugly socialist screed that grates my ears and soul, that has gotten louder and louder over the years (culminating in the latest papal election.)


    The concept of good and evil that I grew up with, a more medieval version than was popular back then (thanks, I think, to the Cajun-sided lessons from my dad) clashes hard against today's pop-cultural versions. Heck, some branches of the Church of England/Episcopalians have even come out and said that God and Christ don't exist (How can you call yourself a Christian and not believe in the Christ-King?)

    My views, where good and evil are much more real (more like Kamis in Shintoism) are antiquated, to say the least. But in my defense, I have been around people who just radiate good, along with others who just walk in a dark cloud of evil. And places that just felt 'right' along with places that just felt 'wrong.'

    And, angels are not our friends. Those soulless messengers are deliverers of the news from God, and to take info back to him.
    I hope, considering what happened to the people in the Bible who did, never to meet an actual angel. My goal is to stay under the radar from either side, and skate my way to peace and goodness. I think the crochetiness that I exude helps toss up a spiritual smoke-screen... At least, that's my idea. So far, not seen either the Morningstar or Michael, or any of their compatriots, so it seems to be working...

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    1. Ah, angels, are they soulless, I've never thought about that. There is so little in scripture to fill them out as real beings. Messengers they truly are, Gabriel's message to Mary springs immediately to mind.

      But an angel was set outside of Eden to prevent us from returning there, supposedly. So many of the ancient writings have been obscured over the centuries by the various councils, conclaves and the like. (Like how does the Song of Solomon qualify when the Gospel of Thomas is not? Puzzles me.)

      Your views on good and evil sound very similar to mine. (Amazing that you would mention kami, there is much in Shinto and in Buddhism which appeal to me, yet a Christian I remain. I KNOW who my king is.)

      Another great comment Andrew.

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    2. Angels don't have pupil-eyes. Since eyes are the windows of the soul, then the hypothesis is that angels are soulless. Angels can appear to have full eyes, but it is just appearances.

      Hollywood touches touch upon this in the movie "The Prophecy" with Christopher Walken as Gabriel. And some in the movie "Dogma."

      Angels aren't nice. They are Angels. They are warriors and watchers, clerks and accountants of God. Which is why the betrayal of Lucifer and his followers was such a blow to Him.

      Those who receive messages from Angels have their lives radically changed, for good or ill. I want angels to be with me when I struggle against evil, like the way Michael and a host of white clad Angels on horseback joined with the Normans in Italy when struggling against a host of Byzantines and Saracens. Outnumbered, beleaguered, the angels came through the ranks, wheeled, formed up with the Normans, and then aided them in a huge victory. I want an Angel to guide me to heaven, when I depart this earth.

      I fear an Angel coming to me, giving me a message. I (roughly) like my life the way it is. I fear the call, which would change so much. (Yet, I can hear that voice, in the distance, calling me, so quietly calling me to who knows what, to orders, to a different life. Calling me when I am in despair, when I am failing. One day I may listen to that voice.)

      And, yeah, Shinotism is the only 'eastern religion' that calls to me, as I see so much of Christianity in it, in the treatment of the soul, in the treatment of the world. Almost two different interpretations of the same message. I have known a few Japanese catholics who expressed also Shinto-istic feelings.

      Then, just as there are so many different variations of language, there has to be many variations of the message. Not just Protestants, Catholic-lights (Episcopals) and Catholics as Christians, but Judaism, and other religions. There is even some truth and peace in Islam, just not enough I fear, which makes sense, as it is a derivative of both Judaism and Christianity.

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    3. Copy all, I concur on your assessment of Islam. Not enough, not near enough.

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    4. It is what happens when a man debases the Message for his own purposes. Selectively interpreting what is left didn't help matters either.

      The Message and the Mysteries are just that. For good or ill, good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. The Book is full of stories of all this happening, and why. Sometimes there is a reason that we can fathom. Sometimes it is just Mystery.

      To choose piecemeal from that fractured interpretation of the Message is like reading a child's Cliff Notes version of a Reader's Digest condensed book. With a giant spoonful of spite and hate. I wonder what they will be like if they ever grow up. One can hope.

      Ah, well, think I'll enjoy this 3rd day of Hanukkah with my semi-Jewish (she converted from fundi-Christian to Reformed Judaism and then to Catholicism when she married me. I'm such a lucky guy!)(And I like surprising my wife with Jewish things. It's not wrong, after all, Christ was Jewish.) wife and pray for peace and good will for all this blessed season.

      Blessings to you and yours, and may you have a white Christmas (without the blizzard part.)

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    5. Definitely without the blizzard part.

      Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas to you and yours.

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  4. No complaints from this Catholic. I'm good with a little bit of lectionary, which we get, but not too much. And that's paired with a relevant sermon (aka Homily) to bring out the highlights. Then we get snacks, (ok, I'm going to hell for that comment). If it was all lectionary or all sermon, I'd be church shopping! I am loved and try to be worthy of that daily.

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    1. The Host is not A SNACK!

      That's the donuts and coffee later in the church hall. Mmmm. Donuts after mass. A true family tradition.

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    2. Tuna - Homily and sermon, synonymous? There are times when I get annoyed when the sermon is too "preachy." Then it strikes me, they are called preachers for a reason.

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    3. Andrew - Donuts and coffee, aye!

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  5. From "Keep your dour Puritanism away from me..." onward, you express my sentiments exactly. It is a time for joy. It is a joyous LIFE when we know where we're headed and keep the destination in view. Merry Christmas, my friend.

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    1. And to you and yours, a Merry Christmas indeed. (Hope your December gets better than it has been.)

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  6. I fully agree with you about the season, all the preparation, the music, lights, colors, and general good will feelings that are floating around this time of year. I really miss the school Christmas pageant/show. But the best part was going to Candlelight Service on Christmas Eve.
    When I was a kid, I loved opening the presents to see what books I got. I still do, although my grandmother is no longer alive to send me a big box of books. Although when I was very little (5-6ish) I got a farm set (barn, fields, and all kinds of farm animals). According to Dad, years later, it was a major PITA to put together (Tab A into Slot B, etc) but I loved it, and it survived until after my sisters came along 10 years later. Well, mostly. The dog chewed on one of the cows when he was a puppy.
    So now I need to go work on Christmas cards so they can get in the mail.
    Enjoy the season!!

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    1. I am enjoying the season, I usually do. While there are little things that vex me, I keep my eye on the big picture.

      Ah, memories of assembling things on Christmas Eve. Parts missing, instructions written by someone whose English was fractured at best. I definitely remember Tab A and Slot B!

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  7. Being a military brat and then in the military myself, I've seen a lot of priests. (Figure a 3 year tour, unless somebody arrived exactly the day you did, you saw a minimum of two folks in that position.) Most were pretty good, not great at sermons. Some were horrible, cliche followed by rambling, followed by more cliche. A few were amazing. So....pretty much like mankind. Best I've ever seen's was Father Mike Scalia in Springfield VA. Interestingly, his father's name was Antonin. Razor sharp analysis of what the days readings meant. Completely understandable to this fighter pilot's brain. (Stick goes right, plane goes right, Mongo!)
    Since retirement, it's been about 50/50 on the very good, not so good scale. Current Priest has a remarkable ability for his sermons to provoke a "how in the heck did he manage to figure out what I've been thinking about this past few days."
    I'll give that credit to a little whisper from the guy above and be grateful.
    It's a great time of the year, and between now and Easter, I'm especially grateful for "things"....In general.

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    1. There are days when I think my church's navigation system is drifting. Then it'll snap back.

      Best pastor I ever knew retired after we'd been with the church for a few years, we remained great friends until his death in early '08. Still miss that guy a lot.

      But yeah, like all professions there are good ones and bad ones, most are (as expected) average.

      I rant and rave at times, it's hard to stay on the path, but I'll get there.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)