In the Bleak Midwinter

The Christmas poem, In the Bleak Mid-Winter, was written by Christina Rosetti in the 1870s for Scribner’s Monthly magazine. The haunting verse was set to music by Gustav Holst in 1906 and remains one of the most beautiful and truest expressions of the miracle of Christ’s birth.

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk,
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air -
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man
I would do my part;
Yet what I can, I give Him -
Give my heart.

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The Meaning of Advent

One of the great joys of Christmas is the arrival of special guests. It may be a son or daughter who has been away at college or in the military. It could be a favorite aunt or uncle who has flown in for the holidays. Friends might be coming to share a holiday dinner. Whoever it is, you anticipate the arrival of your guests and prepare yourself and your home for their coming. And finally, when you hear the knock or the doorbell, you jump up, eager to welcome your loved ones into your heart and home.

That spirit and emotion are at the heart of Advent, a way of celebrating Christmas that may be new to you. Perhaps you’re aware of Advent but don’t know a lot about what it means or what you’re supposed to do about it. When you hear the word, you probably think of candles and calendars. While those are often involved in the celebration, they are merely symbols of what Advent is all about.

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Prepare Him Room

One of the great joys of the Christmas season is the arrival of special guests. It may be a son or daughter who has been away at college or in the military. It could be a favorite aunt or uncle who has flown in for the holidays. Friends might be coming to share a holiday dinner. Whoever it is, you anticipate the arrival of your guests and prepare yourself and your home for their coming. And finally, when you hear the knock or the doorbell, you jump up, eager to welcome your loved ones into your heart and home.

That spirit and emotion are at the heart of Advent, a way of celebrating Christmas that may be new to you. Perhaps you’re aware of Advent but don’t know a lot about what it means or what you’re supposed to do about it. When you hear the word, you probably think of candles and calendars. While those are often involved in the celebration, they are merely symbols of what Advent is all about

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Home for Christmas

Few words better capture the emotion and the attraction of Christmas than home. The simply lyrics form the song, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”—originally written from the perspective of World War II soldiers—instantly inspire longing for that place in our memories (or in our dreams) where the warmth of family and the joys of the year’s most wonderful time of year come together.

The reason home has such universal appeal is simple. Home is the primary place where we are known and loved. There are no sweeter words than those you utter at the end of a long journey, especially at Christmastime: “I’m finally home.”

Yet for all its warmth and familiarity, there can be something disconcerting about home, and it’s not just the heated discussions that sometimes erupt, or the cruel words that occasionally slip out not long after we arrive. For all the charms and joys of home, something isn’t quite right. There’s a flaw that none of us have ever been able to fix. No matter how beautiful it is to go home, it’s never a place where we feel completely settled or at rest.

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The Wonders of His Love

There is a reason we call this the most wonderful day of the year: Christmas is truly filled with wonder. Or at least it should be. Somehow over the course of 2,000 years our wonder has become somewhat diluted, if not downright negative.

We consider the miracle of the incarnation--God taking on human form--and we pose a question we might ask of an illusionist: "I wonder how he did that?" Or worse, our wonder is more like doubt, mainly because we buy into the notion--on a practical level, at least--that Jesus was a wise teacher and a social justice advocate, but hardly the supernatural being Scripture makes Him out to be.

Neither of these senses of wonder--speculation or doubt--is anywhere near the wonder that Jesus should incite in us. We should be ashamed when we settle for a pedestrian kind of wonder. Our wonder at Jesus and the day He was born should rise far above our normal human emotions to the place where we are literally frightened at the very idea that the most holy God has identified with us in such a personal, self-sacrificial way.

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You were Made for Chistmas - Thanks Mr. Mumford for the Reminder

You were MADE to meet your maker

If you know me then you know that my wife is way cooler than me. No question. One such area of cooler-ness is that she seems to find new and interesting music all the time. This is especially depressing for me because I have been a musician, in one form or another, for the better part of 20 years. Depressing I say - but on with the point.

One such discovered band (update - now super popular and super Grammy nominated) is Mumford and Sons and they have a song Awake my Soul that I love with the following lines:

In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
Where you invest your love, you invest your life

Awake my soul, awake my soul
Awake my soul
You were made to meet your maker
You were made to meet your maker

Normally the phrase “meeting your maker” is used around the idea of death and the fact that we all get the chance to meet our maker - like it or not – when we close our eyes that last time. You meet your maker when life runs out – or rather into Him.
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The Anticlimacy of Christmas

Something’s wrong with me.  I’m already feeling like Christmas is anticlimactic, and it’s not even Christmas yet.  (And I’m making up words like anticlimacy).  Most people reserve melancholy for after the fact, but not me.  I like to get a jump on these sorts of things.

I suppose I’m just getting to the point in my life where the years have piled up enough to notice some things that are always true.  And for me, I always find the day after Christmas to be a bit of a letdown.  I don’t even put all that much stock in the trappings of Christmas, but there are at least 5 things I love about Christmas, and the truth is, they never pay off.  Even the good things don’t pay off.

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Seventh Consideration: Home.

“I’m not sure if people know what ‘home’ is anymore,” a fellow church member expressed during a conversation from earlier this year.

This comment struck a cord with many as we nodded and contemplated the meaning of home. As the Christmas season is now upon us, I can't help but consider home once again.

Many consider the two to go hand-in-hand this time of year – home and Christmas. Some wait to go home. Others work on creating a home, and more still do not have safe homes at all.

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Sixth Consideration: Traditions (That started in the 80s)

The 80s returned last night… in all their glory.   My husband’s employer (which will remain nameless to protect those involved) had their first themed Christmas party and it was also the first time spouses were invited.

As I crimped and hair-sprayed, I secretly wondered if this was a cruel joke and if we would be the only ones to show up in a full length sweater dress and neon jump suit.  Luckily, we were greeted by side pony tails, animal print spandex, and pop rocks – lots of pop rocks.

What was the bane of my week (“Seriously? 80s? What am I going to wear?” Etc.) became a delightfully fun event.

As I put on two inches of blue eye shadow, I screamed – with a little delight – “I look like my mother!”   When my hair creation was done, I was surprised to resemble my first-grade self.  A little girl who wanted a perm soooo badly that I believe I had three before I was 10.

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Fifth Consideration: Believing in Santa Claus

I have reposted the most reprinted letter to the editor in history for number five. It shows that sometimes faith springs up from the most unexpected places.  Even though the jolly guy in a red suit gets a bad rap at times for his naughty and nice list and gobs of toys, it is important to consider what this actual man stood for and believed in, so that we to may continue to believe in him.

Dear Editor,
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in the Sun, it's so." Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia O'Hanlon
115 West Ninety-Fifth Street     

1897


Actual response from Francis Pharcellus Church, New York Sun's Editor from 1897
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