Tag Archives: Christmas

Remember Who We Celebrate

Advent is a good time to read about the tiny child born in a manger, the humble beginnings of a remarkable life. But I am reading the omega of that story.

Let’s not pass thoughtlessly by the images in the Book of Revelation. Let’s not glaze over when we read the uncompromising declarations of Who He Is.

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord,

“who is

and who was

and who is to come, the Almighty.”

“One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.  His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire;  His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters;   He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.  And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.”

I am the First and the Last.  I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.

“Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.”

“To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,  and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever.”

And that’s only the first chapter!

The passages are visually astounding. The book is so visually strong. When we read Revelation, we feel like we’re strangers dropped off in a foreign country. That’s because we are. We are meant to feel overwhelmed, awed, small, lost. It is the place to open the eyes wide and be quiet, and to listen.

There are no grey areas in the declarations of His identity.

This Jesus-God from Revelation is the baby whose first cradle was a feeding trough. The all-powerful one is who He is now, without the disarming personas  He wore in his obedience and humility before His Father while on the earth. This One of the Book of Revelation is the One with whom we must make our peace.

There is only one response possible in heaven toward this One.

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands,  saying with a loud voice:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
To receive power and riches and wisdom,
And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

 And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying:

“Blessing and honor and glory and power
Be to Him who sits on the throne,
And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”

 Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.

Jesus of Nazareth was among us on earth as a humble wanderer, a simple teacher who yet could not be suffered to live by the powers that were. These are the things He told us:

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you

You are my friends if you do what I command.

This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

 

Let us remember Whose incarnation we are celebrating at this joyous Christmastime.

He came first as a newborn baby, as helpless and meek a creature as possible, in order to become one of us. The people of the world are at a disadvantage when we celebrate the lowly child’s birthday. It’s a comforting image; whether we regard the manger story as myth or history, we feel good about celebrating the poor underdog babe and congratulate ourselves on our insight about the disadvantaged child who would become the great teacher.

In the carol “We Three Kings,” each of the magi tells of his gift to the promised king. This verse from the third foreshadows Jesus’ life as a man:

Myrrh is mine: it’s bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom.
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding dying,
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb.

We who believe celebrate the tiny babe. And we remember that he is also the simple teacher, the willing martyr and the Resurrected One. He is the one to whom we are absolutely accountable. Ultimately we must remember the One who revealed himself to John and showed us who He is and will ever be.

He will not be disregarded by anyone. This babe is really the one with all power, the One who will be the Judge of all the earth, the one with the Keys to Hell and Death.

Kiss the Son lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him

 

 

 

 

Remember Who We Celebrate

Advent is a good time to read about the tiny child born in a manger, the humble beginnings of a remarkable life. But I am reading the omega of that story.

Let’s not pass thoughtlessly by the images in the Book of Revelation. Let’s not glaze over when we read the uncompromising declarations of Who He Is.

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord,

“who is

and who was

and who is to come, the Almighty.”

“One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.  His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire;  His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters;   He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.  And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.”

I am the First and the Last.  I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.

“Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.”

“To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,  and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever.”

And that’s only the first chapter!

The passages are visually astounding. The book is so visually strong. When we read Revelation, we feel like we’re strangers dropped off in a foreign country. That’s because we are. We are meant to feel overwhelmed, awed, small, lost. It is the place to open the eyes wide and be quiet, and to listen.

There are no grey areas in the declarations of His identity.

This Jesus-God from Revelation is the baby whose first cradle was a feeding trough. The all-powerful one is who He is now, without the disarming personas  He wore in his obedience and humility before His Father while on the earth. This One of the Book of Revelation is the One with whom we must make our peace.

There is only one response possible in heaven toward this One.

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands,  saying with a loud voice:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
To receive power and riches and wisdom,
And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

 And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying:

“Blessing and honor and glory and power
Be to Him who sits on the throne,
And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”

 Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.

Jesus of Nazareth was among us on earth as a humble wanderer, a simple teacher who yet could not be suffered to live by the powers that were. These are the things He told us:

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you

You are my friends if you do what I command.

This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

Let us remember Whose incarnation we are celebrating at this joyous Christmastime.

He came first as a newborn baby, as helpless and meek a creature as possible, in order to become one of us. The people of the world are at a disadvantage when we celebrate the lowly child’s birthday. It’s a comforting image; whether they regard the manger story as myth or history, they feel good about celebrating the poor underdog babe and congratulate themselves on their insight about the disadvantaged child who would become the great teacher.

In the carol “We Three Kings,” each of the magi tells of his gift to the promised king. This verse from the third foreshadows Jesus’ life as a man:

Myrrh is mine: it’s bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom.
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding dying,
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb.

We who believe know that we are celebrating the tiny babe, the simple teacher, the willing martyr and the Resurrected One, and the one to whom we are absolutely accountable. Ultimately we must remember the One who revealed himself to John and showed us who He is and will ever be.

Ultimately He will not be disregarded by anyone. This babe is really the one with all power, the One who will be the Judge of all the earth, the one with the Keys to Hell and Death.

Kiss the Son lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him

 

 

 

 

Christmas and Western Civilization

If we were to distill the teachings of Jesus down to the items that everyone, regardless of personal beliefs, agreed that were the essence of his message, we would have at least this one thing: that he  fundamentally regarded every single individual as intrinsically valuable regardless of societal condition. 
This is undeniably a unique concept in the world of his own time, at any time by anyone in human history before him, disregarded by most people and societies until a very long time after him, and still controversial in supposedly civilized societies. It was  unconceived by any other teacher before him, excepting that Jesus was living out the perfect fulfillment of the code that God had given to an imperfect people centuries before.
Read further to understand how significant this is, in places we never suspect…

 

Though Christmas is a religious holiday, secularists should appreciate its great contribution to Western Civilization: the lesson that all men are equal in their fundamental human dignity.

Source: Christmas and Western Civilization

Joyous Surrender: A Rhapsody in Red (and Green)

Christmas isn’t tasteful, isn’t simple, isn’t clean, isn’t elegant. Give me the tacky and the exuberant and the wild, to represent the impossibly boisterous fact that God has intruded in this world.

Source: Joyous Surrender: A Rhapsody in Red (and Green)

Marley’s Tragic Wisdom

At our house, we read A Christmas Carol every year as we approach Christmas Day.  We also read Dickens’ short story A Christmas Tree and “A Good-Humored Christmas” from The Pickwick Papers, ending with “Gabriel Grub”, a story within a story, on Christmas Eve.  It’s a full-on Dickens fest at our house in December.

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We also watch the 1951 Alistair Sim Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve. It’s one of my very favorite films.

We began this when the kids were kids and it became an integral part of our Christmas celebration. Now that the kids have jobs, it has become difficult for us all to gather for our readings.  But I “wouldn’t neglect to keep it up on any account.”

Jacob Marley’s newfound wisdom, tragically acquired after his life was over, was clearly not only that we ought to be kind to our fellow human beings, but that we must make good use of the time we are given. That clearly, the “Founder” of the celebration would have us use our powers in the service of our fellows’ needs. That our lives are wasted, useless, if we spend our efforts on ourselves.

That we might do well to look at our lives from the end toward the beginning.  Imagining hindsight from the end of my life might be very instructive.

Jacob,” he said, imploringly.  “Old Jacob Marley, tell me more.  Speak comfort to me, Jacob!”

“I have none to give,” the Ghost replied.  “It comes from other regions, Ebenezer Scrooge, and is conveyed by other ministers, to other kinds of men.  Nor can I tell you what I would.  A very little more, is all permitted to me.  I cannot rest, I cannot stay, I cannot linger anywhere.  My spirit never walked beyond our counting-house — mark me! — in life my spirit never roved beyond the narrow limits of our money-changing hole; and weary journeys lie before me!”

—————

“Oh!  captive, bound, and double-ironed,” cried the phantom, “not to know, that ages of incessant labour, by immortal creatures, for this earth must pass into eternity before the good of which it is susceptible is all developed.  Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulnessNot to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused!  Yet such was I!  Oh!  such was I!”

——————

At this time of the rolling year,” the spectre said “I suffer most.  Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode!  Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me!”

——————-

The air was filled with phantoms, wandering hither and thither in restless haste, and moaning as they went.  Every one of them wore chains like Marley’s Ghost; some few (they might be guilty governments) were linked together; none were free.  Many had been personally known to Scrooge in their lives.  He had been quite familiar with one old ghost, in a white waistcoat, with a monstrous iron safe attached to its ankle, who cried piteously at being unable to assist a wretched woman with an infant, whom it saw below, upon a door-step.  The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power for ever.

Nobody writes like Dickens.  Merry Christmas!

Rich Light Almond Cookies with Jam or Chocolate

Here’s the story of an ugly-duckling cookie. Anyway, it’s the story of a cookie that I improved.

I make seven or eight different cookies at Christmastime. One of the less popular at my house was a sprutter: a butter cookie flavored with almond usually put through a press. I never bothered with the cookie press, because I never had one. I would roll the dough into a small ball and thumbprint it, then maybe add an almond sliver on top.

When early December comes, I have to churn cookies out fast in double or triple batches until the tins are filled.  Many tins. I have to bake til I lose count. There has to be a cookie-making frenzy, and I’ve been known to make too many.

The cookies have to last from Christmas Eve until at least New Year’s Day, and preferably until the end of the week after that. The eight people who live here plus significant others plus company must be able to eat cookies at will.  I make cinnamon buns for gifts: I generally don’t give cookies as gifts because I hoard them against running out.  It’s an irrational fear, I know, but I’m not intending to deal with it yet.

The law here is that each person may eat one cookie per batch as I bake them. The rest are put away-in tins, in a cabinet, in the shed and no one may open!

Then comes the Food Season.  Starting on the evening of December 24, all restraint is utterly thrown away, cookie-wise.

I love baking, and I love everything about Christmas. The smell of baking cookies takes me right back to my Mom’s kitchen as she also baked the same cookies for all of us kids.

For me, baking is an absolutely necessary part of the Christmas season. Now I get to be the cookie baker, the sharer of comfort and cheer.

This cookie has evolved.

My sprutter were to be a bland palate-cleanser cookie–to be eaten in between servings of Double Chocolate Crinkles or Hershey’s Kiss-topped PB. A variation of the plain butter-sugar cookie. But this year I decided to try a pat of jam on the top.  And why not try a couple chocolate chips on top too? 

Something happened. The tastes of sweetness, almond, and slight saltiness blended in a fresh way when the jam was added.  They were equally as lovely when topped with the slightly bitter chocolate chip.

Here’s what happened. The last batch I made gave me a little trouble.  For some reason, the dough was too wet to roll into balls. Gradually adding bits of additional flour, I kept whipping and whipping that dough in the mixer. 

Finally I decided to make them drop cookies.  I dropped very small mounds on to the cookie sheet, then I put dabs of raspberry jam on the cookies on the first sheet, and chocolate chips on the next sheet.

What emerged was the best cookie I’ve ever made. It is light and crisp yet soft, owing, I suppose, to the extra mixing.  It is delicate, probably because it was not compressed into a ball. 

I use no special ingredients in this recipe. I buy generic or store-brand versions of all ingredients.

** I have altered the amount of flour…They are noticeably moister and creamier with 2 cups of flour. The batter should be just slightly toward too-messy-to-roll.

Rich Light Almond Cookies with Jam or Chocolate

1 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 almond extract

Mix for quite awhile. I don’t time things.
Drop very small mounds of dough onto a cookie sheet. Place two or three chocolate chips on top. Or spread a dab of jam on top.
Bake at 350 until just slightly browned at the edges. ( I don’t time things.) Lift carefully from the sheet to a cooling rack. Enjoy a couple while still warm. They’re even better that way.

I double or triple this recipe. (Remember that when you multiply a recipe, you don’t need to multiply items such as flavoring extract, like vanilla or almond, or items such as salt or baking powder.)

Pictures as soon as I bake another batch.