It’s Christmas time! A holiday, and holy day for many
Others faiths have different days, but atheists haven’t any
But certainly that doesn’t mean we cannot share the spirit
Someone calls “Merry Christmas!” I, for one, am glad to hear it.
For people, when they say this, aren’t “forcing their belief”
Or proselytizing, traumatizing, causing pain or grief
It’s just a greeting, woven in with larger, warmer feeling
Accept it! Smile! Return it! All the different faiths need healing.
The same with “Happy Hanukkah” or other well-meant greeting
I bounce them back as best I can, take pleasure at the meeting
I’d even answer back if I should hear “Happy Agnostica!”
(But I’ll decline and pass on celebrations with a swastika.)
The most important thing is: Let your soul be thus uplifted
By friends, and by your loved ones, for it’s by those we are gifted
To every island, every continent and every isthmus
I wish you all the best, and to you each a Merry Christmas!
===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle
I am not a Pink Floyd fan per se, though I’m familiar with and have enjoyed some of their pieces. But this is a thing of beauty, in my opinion:
Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 as interpreted by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmore. The video can be seen (and heard!) below, but the lyrics of the sonnet and some background are available at the link. You’re probably familiar with the words:
While the world has turned its thoughts to Christmas, other matters intrude: In the US, many are preoccupied by the much-hyped “fiscal cliff” and the planned increase in taxes as well as the aftermath of the the horrific shooting at the elementary school — the one in which no one had a weapon to defend themselves with. The US government’s plans to exact more taxes, and to reduce Constitutional freedoms, are much discussed.
I have obligations to Citizen Tom, voluntarily undertaken, remaining from the “Food for Thought Award” — and they include this seventh in a series on Sunday verses that have inspired my thought. In this instance, Luke 2 comes to mind, as it is both an account of the birth of of Jesus, and it begins with an announcement of government taxation:
2 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2 goes on to describe the circumstances of Jesus’ birth and early life, continuing in Luke 3 with an account of Jesus being both the Son of God and the (great^76) grandson of God with each step in the 77-part intermediate lineage identified. Matthew goes into more background, but only a partial ancestry list.
But neither Luke nor the other synoptic gospels say exactly when the birth of Jesus occurred. The date seems not to have been celebrated in the first couple of centuries, though the common supposition, “everybody knows the date came from a later pagan ritual,” appears to be wrong. The Western world’s churches have celebrated this occasion on December 25 for more than a thousand years, even though the actual date this falls on would have been adjusted with calendar tinkerings. (Compare this to Easter, which gets a lunar-based calculation that is rather mathematically involved and independent of the calendar conventions of any given time.)
While the Romans instituted (at least by 275AD or so) the use of December 25th for the holiday of “Sol Invictus” (“the Invincible Sun [god]“), Augustine of Hippo wrote around that time about December 25th as a tradition among the Donatists that dates from even earlier. And at that time, before Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in the early 300s and made it safe (or safer) to practice, Christians seemed disinclined to adopt anything pagan in their practices.
I would say, based upon my reading, that the Romans may have tried to usurp the Christian holiday, rather than the other way around. Though, obviously, many later practices were incorporated — but this seems to have begun much later, centuries in some cases.
But why December 25th at all? It appears that in the Western tradition, Jesus was conceived on March 25th, and December 25th is nine months later. Eastern churches use April 6 for the conception date, so their birth of Jesus is celebrated on January 6th. The days in between are now called “the Twelve Days of Christmas.” Did you know where that came from?
[Edit] As Mary Catelli points out in the comments below, Jesus is assumed to have died on the same day of the year as the crucifixion — something common to both Eastern and Western church traditions.
While the rest of the subject matter is not entirely on point, 1 Corinthians 5 has a good advocation for us regarding Christmas — with even a flavor of New Year’s resolutions tucked in:
7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
In any event, a Merry Christmas to you all full of sincerity and truth, and Happy Hanukkah any other holiday or special occasion that brings you happiness. Since I am something of a technical geek, I hope that this Christmas image and a bit of my own humble poetry may serve as a virtual card.
Merry Christmas to all who observe
Even any or no faith will serve
For enjoying Yuletide
Is just what you decide
May you get everything you deserve
And of other faiths and celebrations
May they please those in rapt contemplations
Of the times of the past
May your bright future last
And be ready with fast demonstrations
There were challenges during the year
But so far, we have made it to here
May I say in this letter
Let next year be better!
May it bring peace and joy without fear
===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle
This is the fourth in a series of Sunday posts related to the Food for Thought award from Citizen Tom:
Matthew 12 is telling part of the story of Jesus, and two aspects of this chapter struck me. First, it has been the source of a number of statements that are commonly associated with US presidents, and second that it also contains a reference applicable to our current one.
I was asked yesterday about the “surly bonds of Earth” reference in the post about Neil Armstrong’s death. There is indeed a story behind that and a very unusual young man.
John Gillespie McGee Jr. was born in Shanghai to a US ambassador, thus was American. His initial school was in Shanghai, “The American School” there — no doubt he was fluent in multiple languages by the time he left around age 10. As a boy in the US in the Rugby School, he became fascinated with poetry. And when war broke out in Europe, he was ready — but the US was not. In 1940, he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force, and wound up eventually in the UK flying Supermarine Spitfires protecting London from bombing attacks.
On December 8, 1941, the US joined World War II officially after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Three days later, McGee and two squad mates were diving together through an opening in the clouds near London, only to have a trainee suddenly appear in their path. In the collision, McGee’s aircraft was badly damaged, and he was unable to get out before the craft struck the ground. Witnesses suggested that he’d just gotten the canopy open. He was 19.
Weeks before, across the back of a letter to home, McGee had scrawled this text after a particularly inspiring flight:
I hope all of you in the States have a meaningful American Independence Day, and that those from other lands have a safe and warm day even if it’s just a Wednesday where you are.
For those who can stand poetry, I’ve put a piece I wrote called “Independence Journey” at the end here. In the meantime, I can’t help being somewhat amused at Google. Let me explain.
Memorial Day we gather and pay homage to our fallen
Who gave themselves completely in response to duty’s callin’
Some joined to see the world, some merely thought of education
And some were drawn by kinship with the proud that guard our nation
But trials and training molded them into a joined precision
That holds our cause in high esteem, and suffers no division
Our military crew stands tall, and ready for the battle
And ready, too, to give their all, impervious to rattle
They serve in combat, serve in peace, and make of one the other
Rebuilding schools to grant a lease of freedom to a brother
The tasks they sometimes face are grim, and few of us would choose them
And each one stands his place, and we are poorer when we lose them
But richer still are we, for still we keep Liberty’s fire
Not just for those at home — those far away know we won’t tire
And countries ‘cross the globe recall when we came to release
Oppressed ones from their bondage, and we brought a well-earned peace
Unlike the conquerors of times before, we keep no soil
Just what we need for plots to lay our soldiers freed from toil
Instead we show by doing that the freedom’s worth the cost
We mourn our dead, then lift our heads, go on without our lost
The brothers and the sisters of our noble fighting forces
Are not just guardians of Liberty, they are its sources
Indeed, we owe our troops far more than we can ever pay
But thanks to all who served, and fell—on this Memorial Day
I Wonder What the Team is Doing Tonight
(with apologies to Alan Lerner)
I know what you skeptics are thinking tonight,
As home in pajamas you ponder
All of you smiling in secret delight
You stare at our emails and wonder
The media’s leaning our way
But we still hear the blogosphere say:
May the Christmas cheer at this time of year
Lift you high and ease your loads
Of all faiths and creeds, each of us still needs
To find joy along our roads
For the folks alone, and of somber tone
May a mate you find, and be
As I’m here to say on this Christmas Day
This has meant so much to me
For the family groups and the far-off troops
May the season keep you sound
And may each return bring the love you earn
Love to cushion and surround
Perhaps our book writing is less exciting
Than other sorts of distraction
But may the coming year make your vision clear
And provide you creative traction
From right here the view of the lot of you
Is a view of worthy friends
May the holiday find its happy way
Bearing love our family sends
===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle