Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas Sermons


A couple of unlikely readings that gave me
something to think about on Christmas Eve:

1. At St. John's Episcopal Church ~ Lafayette, Indiana

"I figure that at least as an elf I will have a place; I’ll be in Santa’s Village with all the other elves. We will reside in a fluffy wonderland surrounded by candy canes and gingerbread shacks. It won’t be quite as sad as standing on some street corner . . . I am trying to look on the bright side. I arrived in New York three weeks ago with high hopes, hopes that have been challenged. . . . But instead I am applying for a job as an elf. . . . I am afraid I won’t be able to provide the grinding enthusiasm Santa is asking for. I think I’ll be a low-key sort of an elf. . . . "

by David Sedaris
from his essay "SantaLand Diaries"
in his collection Holidays On Ice

[Click to hear Sedaris read from his work.]

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2. At Chapel of the Good Shepherd ~
Purdue Episcopal CampusMinistry:


The Christmas Shoes

It was almost Christmas time
There I stood in another line
Tryin' to buy that last gift or two
Not really in the Christmas mood

Standing right in front of me was
A little boy waiting anxiously
Pacing 'round like little boys do
And in his hands he held a pair of shoes

And his clothes were worn and old
He was dirty from head to toe
And when it came his time to pay
I couldn't believe what I heard him say

Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my mama, please
It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there's not much time
You see she'seen sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful, if Mama meets Jesus tonight

He counted pennies for what seemed like years
Then the cashier said, "Son, there's not enough here"
He searched his pockets frantically
Then he turned and he looked at me

He said, "Mama made Christmas good at our house
Though most years she just did without
Tell me sir, what am I going to do
Somehow I've got to buy her these Christmas shoes"

So I laid the money down, I just had to help him out
And I'll never forget the look on his face when he said
"Mama's gonna look so great"

Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my mama, please
It's Christmas eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there's not much time
You see she's been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful, if Mama meets Jesus tonight

I knew I'd caught a glimpse of heaven's love
As he thanked me and ran out
I knew that God had sent that little boy
To remind me what Christmas is all about

Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my mama, please
It's Christmas eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there's not much time
You see she's been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful, if Mama meets Jesus tonight

I want her to look beautiful
If Mama meets Jesus tonight


by Eddie Carswell & Leonard Ahlstrom of NewSong
Book, written by by Donna VanLiere
Movie, starring Rob Lowe
Song, also performed by John McNicholl

[Click to hear a few other versions.]


This song & more on my current post

~ "Ruby Slippers & Red Shoes" ~
on The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker:
A Fortnightly [every 14th & 28th] Literary Blog of
Connection & Coincidence; Custom & Ceremony

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Fairy Tale

"Mistletoe hung from the gas brackets in all the front parlors;
there was sherry and walnuts . . . and crackers by the dessertspoons . . .
the brandy, the . . . mince . . . and blazing pudding . . .
And then, at tea the recovered Uncles would be jolly;
and the ice cake loomed in the center of the table like a marble grave.
Auntie Hannah laced her tea with rum, because it was only once a year."
from A Child's Christmas in Wales
by Dylan Thomas


Thanks to my facebook friend Ann for her comment:
"Foods and dishes look like they
came right out of a fairytale!
Lovely!"

Speaking of fairyland . . .

At Christmas dinner, my son Sam, asked for a preview of our New Year's Resolutions. Aside from my usual -- read more, worry less -- I was stumped . . . until this morning when I checked out my StoryPeople of the Day, only to discover that Brian Andreas had once again pinned the horn on the unicorn:
unicorn life
Today, after some reflection, I decided I’m never going to pretend I know anything about Life ever again, other than there’s a word for it. Like there’s a word for unicorn, though no one has ever seen one, except from far away & maybe it was just a trick of the light....
Up 'til now, I have always gone along with Anna Quindlen's motto that
"The meaning of life is life."
And I still concur.

However, I think my number one New Year's Resolution for 2015 will be to fall in line with Andreas and try the "life - is - like - a unicorn" approach for awhile:
"I'm never going to pretend I know
anything about Life ever again."
Reminds me of that old favorite from Judy Collins:
"I really don't know life at all."
************

Before the Cake Was Cut

~ Christmas Cake, Major ~
Gerry's Handiwork!
Thanks to my sister Peggy for the
new set of village houses, perfect for cake toppers!

Christmas Cakes, Minor ~
Some miniatures for sharing!
Thanks to our friend Katy Bunder for the
Gingerbread Tea Lights, perfect for mini - cake toppers!

~ The Full Fleet ~
Thanks to our friend Katie Field
for helping out with the baking this year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

This Old Nativity

The above Nativity Scene is a 21st Century reproduction of the 1930s favorite that my mother grew up with. It then served for a second generation, as my siblings and I loved assembling it every year. Nothing new would do! How happy we were when the re - issued version appeared on the market. Now we all have one; and Mom still has the original!

"Why couldn’t we have seen
this old Nativity while we were at it?
—the dark ajar, the rocks breaking with light,
an undisturbed, unbreathing flame,
colorless, sparkles, freely fed on straw,
and, lulled within, a family of pets,
—and looked and looked our infant sight away."

Over 2,000 Illustrations and a Complete Concordance

Thus should have been our travels:
serious, engravable.
The Seven Wonders of the World are tired
and a touch familiar, but the other scenes,
innumerable, though equally sad and still,
are foreign. Often the squatting Arab,
or group of Arabs, plotting, probably,
against our Christian Empire,
while one apart, with outstretched arm and hand
points to the Tomb, the Pit, the Sepulcher.
The branches of the date-palms look like files.
The cobbled courtyard, where the Well is dry,
is like a diagram, the brickwork conduits
are vast and obvious, the human figure
far gone in history or theology,
gone with its camel or its faithful horse.
Always the silence, the gesture, the specks of birds
suspended on invisible threads above the Site,
or the smoke rising solemnly, pulling by threads.
Granted a page alone or a page made up
of several scenes arranged in cattycornered rectangles
or circles set on stippled gray,
granted a grim lunette,
caught in the toils of an initial letter,
when dwelt upon, they all resolve themselves.
The eye drops, weighted, through the lines
the burin made, the lines that move apart
like ripples above sand,
dispersing storms, God’s spreading fingerprint,
and painfully, finally, that ignite
in watery prismatic white-and-blue.

Entering the Narrows at St. Johns
the touching bleat of goats reaching to the ship.
We glimpsed them, reddish, leaping up the cliffs
among the fog-soaked weeds and butter-and-eggs.
And at St. Peter’s the wind blew and the sun shone madly.
Rapidly, purposefully, the Collegians marched in lines,
crisscrossing the great square with black, like ants.
In Mexico the dead man lay
in a blue arcade; the dead volcanoes
glistened like Easter lilies.
The jukebox went on playing “Ay, Jalisco!”
And at Volubilis there were beautiful poppies
splitting the mosaics; the fat old guide made eyes.
In Dingle harbor a golden length of evening
the rotting hulks held up their dripping plush.
The Englishwoman poured tea, informing us
that the Duchess was going to have a baby.
And in the brothels of Marrakesh
the little pockmarked prostitutes
balanced their tea-trays on their heads
and did their belly-dances; flung themselves
naked and giggling against our knees,
asking for cigarettes. It was somewhere near there
I saw what frightened me most of all:
A holy grave, not looking particularly holy,
one of a group under a keyhole-arched stone baldaquin
open to every wind from the pink desert.
An open, gritty, marble trough, carved solid
with exhortation, yellowed
as scattered cattle-teeth;
half-filled with dust, not even the dust
of the poor prophet paynim who once lay there.
In a smart burnoose Khadour looked on amused.

Everything only connected by “and” and “and.”
Open the book. (The gilt rubs off the edges
of the pages and pollinates the fingertips.)
Open the heavy book
. Why couldn’t we have seen
this old Nativity while we were at it?
—the dark ajar, the rocks breaking with light,
an undisturbed, unbreathing flame,
colorless, sparkles, freely fed on straw,
and, lulled within, a family of pets,
—and looked and looked our infant sight away.


poem by Elizabeth Bishop (1911 – 1979)
found in her book A Cold Spring, 1955

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter's Coming

Cardinal Christmas Serenade
Charles Wysocki

“Take winter as you find him,
and he turns out to be a thoroughly honest fellow
with no nonsense in him, and tolerating none in you,
which is a great comfort in the long run.”

James Russell Lowell

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Dream of Christmas


I Believe in Father Christmas

They said there'll be snow at Christmas
They said there'll be peace on earth
But instead it just kept on raining
A veil of tears for the virgin birth
I remember one Christmas morning
A winter's light and a distant choir
And the peal of a bell and that Christmas tree smell
And their eyes full of tinsel and fire

They sold me a dream of Christmas
They sold me a silent night
And they told me a fairy story
'Till I believed in the Israelite
And I believed in father Christmas
And I looked to the sky with excited eyes
'Till I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn
And I saw him and through his disguise

I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave new year
All anguish, pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
They said there'll be snow at Christmas
They said there'll be peace on earth
Hallelujah, Noel be it heaven or hell
The Christmas we get we deserve


by Greg Lake,
with Peter John Sinfield, Serge Prokofieff • Copyright © Peermusic Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group, Music Sales Corporation

This song & more on my current post

~ "A Dream of Christmas" ~

on The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker:
A Fortnightly [every 14th & 28th] Literary Blog of
Connection & Coincidence; Custom & Ceremony

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Feast or Peace?

Winter Citrus: Therefore Let Us Keep the Feast!

Earlier this week [click or scroll down] I wrote about inadvertently replacing the word iniquity with inequity, for a surprisingly enhanced and updated reading of the Old Testament Prophet Isaiah.

Thinking futher, a few additional examples of a similar kind of unintentional but perhaps intuitive updating came to mind:

1. In the Eucharistic Prayer, I have been known to mistake the official "Therefore let us keep the feast" for the equally applicable "let us keep the peace.

2. And when reciting the Magnificat, I like to murmur "For he hath regarded the loneliness [rather than the lowliness] of his handmaiden."

These mishearings ring just as true to my ear as the originally intended phrases. Surely fear of loneliness strikes the heart of a modern maiden way more often than any concern for relative lowliness; and while feasting always has its place, the icon and repeated mantra of our formative years was peace: Think peace! Peace out! Give peace a chance!

More Peace Signs

P.S.
Peace be with you . . . and also with you!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Inequity

The Arc of Justice?
Millennium Sundial
On the John T. Myers Pedestrian Bridge
between Lafayette & West Lafayette, Indiana

[See also "Interstellar Thanksgiving"]

I had an interesting listening experience a couple of Sundays ago. During the Old Testament lesson, I kept hearing the word inequity, though the word on the page was clearly iniquity:
. . . we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. . . . thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities. . . . we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand. Be not wroth very sore, O Lord, neither remember iniquity for ever: behold, see, we beseech thee, we are all thy people.
Isaiah 64: 6 - 12 (King James Version)

Perhaps my brain was tweaking the message just a bit to make it more relevant for citizens of the 21st century. Whether we should or not, do we much bemoan our iniquities? No, not really. Inequity, on the other hand, fills the news and plagues us daily. We struggle with how to redress the racial inequity of American history, how to correct the economic inequity that leaves so many basic needs unfulfilled, and how to establish social equity among all persons and environmental equity upon the earth.

As the reading came to a close and the next hymn was announced, I was still pondering the contemporary relevance of my inadvertent rewording. Imagine my surprise, not to mention the ultimate satisfaction of connection and coincidence, when we reached the last word of the first stanza:
Hail to the Lord’s anointed, great David’s greater Son!
Hail in the time appointed, His reign on earth begun!
He comes to break oppression, to set the captive free;
To take away transgression and rule in equity.
There you have it -- equity! Thus confirming my intuition that somehow inequity was a more appropriate watchword for the day than iniquity. This hymn's emphasis on equality reminded me of two more references:

1. The message of social justice embedded in the beautiful Christmas carol "Oh Holy Night":
O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior's birth . . .

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease . . .
2. This brief but powerful reminder that if ever there is to be peace on earth, we must address inequity and close the gap between poverty and prosperity:

Who is weak, and I am not weak?
who is offended, and I burn not?


2 Corinthians 11:29 (King James Version)

Friday, December 5, 2014

Waiting for the Full Moon

An Advent Moon

And a poem for Advent:

Wait

Wait, for now.
Distrust everything if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become interesting.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again;
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. And the desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.
Wait.
Don’t go too early.
You’re tired. But everyone’s tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a little and listen:
music of hair,
music of pain,
music of looms weaving all our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear
the flute of your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.


~ by Galway Kinnell (1927 - 2014)

****************

Thanks to my literary friend Katie Field
for sending me this poem from the Writer's Almanac

***************

Click here to read some
previously posted poems
with a similar message.

****************

Seems like we've been waiting all year,
but in no time it will feel late instead of early!
"How did it get so late so soon?
It’s night before it’s afternoon.
December is here before it’s June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?

Dr. Seuss

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Littlest Angel, Brightest Star

Click to hear Johnny Whitaker sing: @ 57:15

So we learn from Chris de Burgh (see previous post) that the Star of Bethlehem might be some kind of complicated spaceship from the past or the future; but equally appealing is the possibility described in The Littlest Angel. The star could be a treasure box containing the smallest items -- two white stones, three blue eggs, a butterfly orange and a black, a feather -- insignificant in every way aside from the fact that they are dear to our hearts. The little time traveler leaves Eternity for a short visit Earth, where only mere seconds have elapsed since his departure. But days have passed in the afterlife, and he misses his wooden treasure chest:

"All these things I love best
I have kept in this old chest.
Sorted and counted hundreds of nights,
they all have have given me a thousand delights.
Who can say how much they are worth?
They are the miracles of the Earth."


Story by Charles Tazewell, Illustrated by Sergio Leone

The Littlest Angel,
"A Spaceman Came Traveling"

& more on my current post
~ "An Interstellar Thanksgiving" ~
on The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker:
A Fortnightly [every 14th & 28th] Literary Blog of
Connection & Coincidence; Custom & Ceremony