Christmas Celebration Journal: Tuesday, January 3, 2017

In a way similar to the journals I created for my students to use during Advent, I’ll be creating and posting Christmas Celebration Journals for my students to use in class during the remaining days of the Christmas season.

After our class opening prayer, I dim the lights, put on quiet music and walk my students through a brief, prayerful, centering activity. I continue to play the music and invite them to reflect on these journal pages (what they write is for them only) and/or to gaze at the art in prayerful contemplation.

I’ll offer the journals here in two forms – a PDF to “download and go” and as a Google Slides (in case you want to modify it)

And I’ll try to use both traditional and contemporary art:

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Lectionary Gospel – The Feast of the Epiphany – January 3, 2016

Happy New Year!

I planned to post more frequently during our Christmas Break, but that did not come to pass. I had an enjoyable couple of weeks reading, sleeping in, getting my 10,000+ steps a day on my new Fitbit, and generally relaxing. With school resuming tomorrow, I am back to posting at least a few times each week.

First, here’s the gospel for the Roman Catholic celebration of Epiphany – a few days in advance of the Byzantine Catholic and Orthodox celebrations of it.

PDF

Google Slides

Disclaimer – Since I don’t seek to profit from these files, I don’t cite the source for each of the images found through a Google Search

Merry Christmas – Fear Not! Peace! Hope! Joy!

Yes, this blog has been silent for quite a few days. I fell behind in assessing and publishing my sophomore students’ blog posts (for both their midterm and before it) and vowed to not post on my blog until I completed theirs. I tied the bow on their posts a few minutes ago, so it’s time for my Christmas wishes.

While it’s the season of peace, hope and joy, there’s been a lot of fear going around this year – even during the month of Advent. As a reminder about why a follower of Christ shouldn’t fear, here’s the beginning of Bishop Robert Barron’s reflection for today, Christmas Eve:

The first Christmas homily ever given was spoken on the Judean hills surrounding the little town of Bethlehem: the annunciation of the angel to the shepherds on Christmas night.
The first thing the angel said was “Fear not!” How that phrase echoes up and down the Scriptures! When a being from a higher dimension breaks into our world, he typically says, “Do not be afraid.” Paul Tillich, the great Protestant theologian, commented that fear is the fundamental problem, that fear undergirds most forms of human dysfunction. Because we are afraid, we crouch protectively around ourselves; because we’re afraid, we lash out at each other in violence. If Christmas means that God is with us, that God is one of us, that God has come close, then we no longer have to be afraid.
How can we experience peace during a time of conflict, strife and “terror?” Taking a different view of our home helps me to rest in faith about the peace of creation which was “In the beginning” and to which Christ is returning us.
I feel moved and inspired by the stunning image of the earth rising from the moon which NASA released today (pictured above). Please take a moment to visit the link as there’s more to the image than I could capture above.
As for hope, I’m inspired by this story which was making the rounds on the internet this week. I quote it here in full from Time:
A group of Kenyans traveling by bus refused Islamist terrorists demands that they identify themselves as either Christian or Muslim in an act of defiance that reportedly saved lives.

According to BBC, militants boarded a bus in a small border town and requested the passengers divide themselves up by religion. The passengers refused, the BBC reports eyewitnesses say, telling the terrorists to “kill them together or leave them alone.”

Officials are looking into whether the militant group al-Shabab is responsible for the attack. Two people were reported to have been killed in the attack, but officials say the militants ultimately left after the passengers banded together.

Also today President Obama and Vice President Biden released on Spotify their “Holiday Playlists” While listening to President Obama’s, I discovered this wonderful song of hope by the legendary Stevie Wonder, which was originally released way back in 1967.

Here’s the lyrics, composed during another time of fear, anger and uncertainty:

Someday at Christmas men won’t be boys
Playing with bombs like kids play with toys
One warm December our hearts will see
A world where men are free

Someday at Christmas there’ll be no wars
When we have learned what Christmas is for
When we have found what life’s really worth
There’ll be peace on earth

Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmastime

Someday at Christmas we’ll see a Man
No hungry children, no empty hand
One happy morning people will share
Our world where people care

Someday at Christmas there’ll be no tears
All men are equal and no men have fears
One shinning moment my heart ran away
From our world today

Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmastime

Someday at Christmas man will not fail
Hate will be gone love will prevail
Someday a new world that we can start
With hope in every heart

And for the joy….so much to be joyful for today. But for me (huge listener of Spotify), here’s my top reason — I CAN FINALLY STREAM THE BEATLES!!!

I hope your Advent of waiting was fruitful and rich.

May your days of Christmas (the season continues until January 10th) be blessed and full of much faith, peace, hope and joy!

Friday FunLink – Surprising “Here Comes Santa Claus” Lyrics

I’m proctoring the last final of our first semester (even though the semester doesn’t actually end until Jan. 15th). It’s not mine, so I can sit and watch rather than run room to room answering questions (like I did on Wed). I can grade my midterm essays or I can post here. For now, I’ll procrastinate and choose the later option.

Yesterday, I wrote about one of the most religious seasonal songs – “O Come, O Come Emanuel.” Today, as we’re exactly a week away from Christmas, I think it’s okay to blog about a Christmas (rather than an Advent) carol.

I discovered these surprising lyrics a few years ago when I was doing some research for a graduate school paper. Wanting to see if there are any religious messages/themes in the more secular carols (ones with Santa, reindeer, etc.), I did a Google search.

We’re all familiar with the first and maybe second verses of carols, like “Here Comes Santa Claus”:

Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus
Right down Santa Claus Lane
Vixen, Blitzen, all his reindeer
Pulling on the reins
Bells are ringing, children singing
All is merry and bright
Hang your stockings and say a prayer
‘Cause Santa Claus comes tonight
Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus
Riding down Santa Claus Lane
He’s got a bag that’s filled with toys
For boys and girls again
Hear those sleigh bells jingle jangle
Oh, what a beautiful sight
Jump in bed and cover up your head
‘Cause Santa Claus comes tonight
Note that there’s an exhortation to “say your prayers” in the first verse. Compare this to the classic poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (with the indelible first line: “Twas the Night Before Christmas”) in which prayer or devotion is nowhere to be found.
Most versions of Gene Autry’s “Here Comes Santa Claus” end with these two verses. But the song gets more religious (and more interesting) in the next verse:
Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus,
Right down Santa Claus lane
He doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor
He loves you just the same
Santa Claus knows we’re all Gods children
That makes everything right
So fill your hearts with Christmas cheer
‘Cause Santa Claus comes tonight!
Wow – Santa is unconditionally loving!?!  What about “He [Santa] knows if you’ve been bad or good / So be good for goodness sake!” “He loves you just the same / Santa Claus knows we’re all Gods children” is quite the contrast to the veiled threats in other secular carols. It’s a common trope that God is not Santa Claus (see here and here and here):
Santa and God
But, what if the opposite is actually true – Santa Claus is like God in his unconditional love and generosity for and to all of “Gods children.”
But wait, it gets better…. Here’s the fourth (and final) verse:
Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus,
Right down Santa Claus lane
He’ll come around when the chimes ring out
That it’s Christmas morn again
Peace on earth will come to all
If we just follow the light
So lets give thanks to the lord above
That Santa Claus comes tonight!
Now we’re singing about peace and gratitude. What is more central to the gospel than these attitudes? And we’re urged to not just give thanks, but to “give thanks to the lord above.” Not too far from the great doxology: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow!”
I also like how the connection is made between “peace on earth” coming “if we just follow the light.” While “light” is surely a central theme of this time of year (in the Northern Hemisphere) in which the solar year is waning, this verse pushes the sentiment closer to:
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
So, what do we do with this secular carol with not just religious but downright christological sentiments? How about including this in a church Christmas concert or cantata. Juxtapose it with a traditional religious hymn to excite the kiddos and educate the adults.
Until then, sing along to the full, joyful, hopeful lyrics:

Advent Prayer Resources and Calendars

It’s the second day of Advent 2016 (yes, it is now The Year of Grace 2016) and here’s some resources that I’m using with my students and in my own personal prayer:

Advent in Two Minutes:

Busted Halo Advent Calendar (pictured above)

USCCB Resources

#adventword – A Global Advent Calendar – This is a cool site leveraging social media to gather images of an Advent “word of the day.”

Sign-up for Bishop Robert Barron’s  daily Advent reflections

And a video from him as well:

Loyola Press has an engaging Arts & Faith set of Advent Resources while the home page for all of their Advent resources is here.

How about iOS and Android Apps to either create or access Advent calendars and other resources? Learn about these here and here.

Finally, for videos and other resources, from a more general Christian perspective, check out Advent Conspiracy

Have a blessed and meaningful Advent season!