Thursday, December 22, 2005

Season's Greetings

We respectfully ask that you read the entire post before commenting the first time, but for your convenience we have put a jump to the comments section right here, so that you can easily find them.

We at the Balance of Power have been busy lately (as you can see from the post frequencies). We are trying to bring you a better blog. The holiday season is always a busy one and for us that is no exception. I asked the contributors here this week to talk about Christmas, Hanukah, or what ever other winter holiday they hold dear, and also I ask you, the reader, please leave your comments about the season, I know we would all like to hear them. - Matthew

Our church has an annual Christmas pageant. Rehearsals begin the Saturday morning after Thanksgiving, and each Saturday after that, with the all important Dress Rehearsal a day or two before Christmas Eve. Mary is always a high school girl, and the baby Jesus is always a newborn from the parish. Middle School girls play the Archangels (my 7th grader is Gabriel this year) and the elementary age children play smaller angels, and Shepherds. The preschoolers are sheep, complete with floppy lamby ear headdresses, and lamb costumes. The cast of Herod, the Innkeeper and his wife, and various other parts are filled out by children of the church. The script for this production is the same as it was sixty years ago, when the play was first held in our small chapel built during the Civil War.

I bring my children to each rehearsal, armed with my Dunkin' Donuts coffee, and my book. The coffee I drink, but somehow I never get around to the book. There is always another parent to talk to, or a shepherd to help with his robe, or a wayward lamb needing a bit of direction. In the midst of all this, the book lays silent and unread in the pew. The pageant is a time for community, not for the quiet isolation of reading.

The story is timeless, and best done by children. Somehow, in their innocence, the Christmas story comes alive in a way no dry retelling can do. As the little angels sing glory, and march around the church with their arms flapping, I can almost see the real angels sitting in the rafters, smiling. As the shepherds come running down the center aisle, their bath robes flowing about them, I see those herdsman of long ago, awakened by a strange light and a glorious message. And, as the three wise men present their gifts, to the obligatory tune of We Three Kings, I think of the gifts I need to bring to my wife, my children, and to the Risen King whose pageant this is.

The pageant for me represents all that's right about my church, my faith, and Christmas. In this gathering that dates back at least 60 years, we carry on a heritage that will outlive us all. And, on that Christmas Eve, with parents craning their necks to see their own child, rather lamb or shepherd, or Gabriel herself, I think of the Father craning his neck to look past the multitude of angels crowding around that manger long ago, catching a glimpse of his Child. He must have been beaming with pride on that night, knowing The Plan was reaching fulfillment at last.

It is this marvelous joy that we recreate each Christmas Eve, in that ancient tableau of the pageant.

Mark of Liberty Just In Case

Christmas time has always been more than just a "holiday" for me.

It truly is a living, breathing, giving, loving, living time that I for one, have always wanted to last all year long.

It is true that we live in a cynical world and cynical time.
The dreams of youth are stolen so quickly away leaving very little for a child to believe in, the magic, which is Christmas time. By the time they have reached our ages... we must remind ourselves of what it was that truly made Christmas such a wonderful time. We ask ourselves "Where IS peace and goodwill to men?" "Where is the love that this night bore to the world nearly 2,000 years ago?"

It is not so hard really-- the love and the peace are still there, if we can simply remove the veils from over our cynical eyes to SEE it.

They are in the quietest of places, anonymous givers of gifts, little miracles that still happen all the time.

They are in boxes going overseas to our military personnel from churches and individuals that may never even have met them before, but care all the more.

They are in turkeys and trimmings that are provided from our "kettle gifts" to the Salvation Army.

They are hanging as wishes on the "Giving" or "Angel" trees in most every store nationwide, a child's wish begging to be fulfilled by the spirit and nature of Santa Claus that dwells in all of us.

They are in the smiles that people muster as they bustle through crowded aisles in stores.

They are in the many hours of preparation that church choirs undertake to sing the songs you most love to hear.

They are in the sermons of Pastors and Priests worldwide that are being written and practiced for your benefit even now, a week before hand.

Christmas is all-encompassing if we allow it to be.

It is a wonderful season of memories of times gone by, loved ones missed, cherished babies that are soon to be born.

It is in every cutting of every sugar cookie that a mother undertakes.

It is also in her frantic list making as she plans the holiday meal.

But more then this...

The magic and wonder of Christmas is found in our ability to BELIEVE. For that indeed, is what it all hinges upon!

In this world of today, we are told that "Seeing is believing" yet the reverse is true. "Believing is seeing". That which we can conceive of in our minds, embrace with our hearts is what allows us to see the wonders of Christmas.

Who amongst us can say that we have 'nothing', when we look at a lowly stable scene? The picture of a mother, a foster father, a Child-- surrounded by hay and animals is the gauge by which we measure what we have and what we do not have; what is truly important and of value, and what is not.

Two thousand years ago, we were given an example of simplicity, of peace, of love, of giving. Can we look within ourselves and around ourselves as we fuss with ribbons and bows and boxes and shopping-- to find the remnant of that simplicity today? By believing, my friends shall we see it.

No matter what one's faith in this world, the holiday season rings the bells of unity between us all. In every culture, winter brings us to the depth of cold and dark and the lesson is FAITH and BELIEF.

Can we believe that beyond this cold--there is warmth at the hearth of our hearts? Beyond this darkness, can we believe that the light is not extinguished nor even lessened?

For Israel, they had faith that the lamp oil would not go out and they would not be overcome. For the Christian, they have faith that the light of the Wonder Child of Christmas has not dimmed but burns all the more brightly even to today. For the Pagan, they have faith that the winter will yield to spring again and new growth on earth will begin again, in the cycle of life.

Christmas is the season of FAITH.

May we all have more then we had only a day ago, but less today then we shall have tomorrow.

Nariel of Ancient Eyes for Current Times

Christmas to me has always been a special time of year, as I figure it is for most people. I found early on however that Santa was not the main point of it all, and the importance of the nativity became redily apparent. Given my name, I was curious about the bible and most especially the book that bore my name (Matthew), the first few chapters tell the story that I came to revere.

The Birth of Jesus Christ
Matthew1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us).

24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. ...

The Visit of the Wise Men
Matthew 2:1 Now after
Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise
men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the
Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him." 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him,
“In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

6 "And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel."

7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him." 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they
offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

It was a time of peril and of hope. A time that very much reflects today, and I dare say the whole of human existance. Christmas is a time to find hope where there appears to be none, a time to be reborn, and start anew.

As well, it is a time for family and friends to come together and enjoy one another.

May your winter holiday, what ever it is, bring you health, happiness, and love. May we soon, see peace on Earth, and may we all show goodwill towards our fellow man.

Matthew of Liberty Just In Case
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