Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Tag

Snow Globe Memories   7 comments

What is your fondest holiday memory?

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I can’t answer that with a single instance and I have a good reason for that – a couple of them, actually. More about that in a moment.

My mother was born Christmas Day. So was her father. Christmas was not my mother’s favorite holiday because it meant she never had a birthday. When you share your birthday with a deity, you don’t rate – go figure. No birthday parties and no presents. When she was little, her older sister allowed her to share her birthday in September.

When she met my father, she was in her late 30s and this man decided he could move a major holiday for the woman he loved. So we would always have “Christmas” (opening presents) on Christmas Eve and that left Christmas Day for a party. Fairbanks had a lot of bachelor men in those days, so Dad, a chef, would always invite a bunch of them over to celebrate Mom’s birthday.

I have a lot of pleasant memories from those times, but I think the one that gets me the most is a year when weather delayed my dad coming home from a remote location and Mom went to bed without opening gifts. So I sat up. I couldn’t have been more than seven because we moved out of that house the summer I was seven, but I remember sitting up on the window seat in the living room, kind of behind the Christmas tree. The tree lights were on, but if I sat back against the window trim, the drapery let me see out the window without reflections. It was a snow-globe world out there – big wet flakes drifting down from the chiaroscuro sky. And, then a long way off, a man in a tan car coat and heavy winter boots walked along the pristine street shrouded in unbroken snow and my dad walked in the door. He saw the unopened presents and he said “Be patient, monkin.” He made Mom get up and we opened the presents and then just as the last one was done, he pulled out her birthday present and said “It’s one minute past. Open it.” I think he gave her the jade earrings I now regularly wear, the ones she was wearing when the 1967 Flood destroyed almost everything they owned the following summer.

My other fondest memories are holding my newborns in my arms on Christmas Eves and Days. Both of my children were born days before Christmas, five years and 364 days apart. They were neither born early enough to play Baby Jesus in the church pageant, but I always thought I knew what Mary felt like that Christmas morn. And because they were born so close to Christmas, my mother made me extra sensitive to their birthday needs. This year will be the first year in 26 years that neither of my children will spend their birthday with us – though our son is planning to be here the following day for his sister’s birthday. She’s traveling, so hopefully we’ll get a call. And Kiernan will be home for Christmas Eve and this time with a date, so new fondest memories are in the making.

Posted December 24, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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Merry Christmas   Leave a comment

Image result for image of ChristmasDecember 25, 2017 – Just say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays to your readers. Make it heartfelt and personal.

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So, it’s Christmas morning and we’re sleeping in because my family celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve. My mother and her father were both delivered by reindeer, meaning born Christmas Day. It sucks to have share a birthday with Jesus Christ. He hogs all the attention with the Savior of the World thing. So my father decided that he loved my mother enough to reschedule a major holiday — at least in our household. My brother and I have continued the tradition because it allows him to spend Christmas with his grandchildren. Brad and I and our kids like being a little idiosyncratic and so ….. It means we never shop for Christmas presents on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day is usually a restful day of leftovers, board games and watching celebrities try to look cold while covering the Rose Bowl Parade.

I hope you all are having a lovely day. So in honor of this day, I’m posting my favorite Christmas song and then my mother’s two favorite Christmas songs — or were they birthday songs?

Merry Christmas! Or if you celebrate some other “holy day” insert your preferred greeting. Know that I appreciate everyone of my readers and hope you’re having a lovely Christmas season.

Posted December 25, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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Getting Along During the Holidays   Leave a comment

A friend of mine did an article similar and I decided to do one from my own perspective.

Image result for image of modern winter holiday celebration

It’s Christmas again and also Hanukkah and Solstice and there are about two dozen people celebrating Kwanzaa and, so, it is so easy for this time of year to become more about tyranny than celebration. You’ve got people who will argue about whether it is right for the majority culture to impose its celebration on everyone else. Isn’t it hurtful that Jews have to see Jesus who was used as an excuse by the Nazis to kill six million of them. We’re told that Jesus is the symbol of oppression for blacks and so they also should be sheltered from Christian beliefs. I used to live next door to some actual pagans who would build a bonfire in their driveway at certain times of the year – the winter solstice being one. They would walk around it, throwing salt over their shoulders and chanting incantations. Maybe they were insulted by our celebration of Christmas. But it’s okay for Jews to celebrate Hanukkah, blacks to celebrate Kwanzaa and pagans to celebrate the solstice … except, the atheists want nobody to celebrate anything religious, so let’s just all gather around Santa and drink a toddy or twelve in celebration of the days getting longer. Then evangelical Christians respond that Santa is an idol and they don’t want to participate in that, so ….

Yeah, we all go nuts at Christmas.

I have an antidote for our mid-winter insanity.

STOP!

I am a Christian, so I will celebrate Christmas. A recent study says that 64% of Americans prefer to use the greeting “Merry Christmas” and about half of those resent efforts to force everyone to say “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings”. In other words, most Americans are not upset to see Nativity scenes or Santa. As a devout evangelical Christian, I do not object to Hanukkah even if I rarely participate in it. My friend Ron tells me that, as a Jew, he isn’t upset about Christmas. I’ve met only one Jew, a university professor who had lived in Israel, who said they resented Christmas. I’ve met many more Rons than Professor Bs. I went to a Kwanzaa celebration back in college (for an article I was writing), but 30 years on, I know only one black person who has celebrated Kwanzaa and she tells me it’s not really a thing anymore. It died with black nationalism and she doesn’t think “a celebration of separatism” should return. That’s her view.

Alaskans are all solstice admirers to a certain extent. We have 2 1/2 hours of sunlight right now. We celebrate the 30-seconds extra we get today if only by reading the “hours of daylight” stat in the newspaper and smiling. Brad and I are going to a friend’s property tonight to burn a big brush pile and drink hot chocolate. It’s part of a land clearing project our friend is doing preparatory to building a house. Since most of his guests are evangelical Christians, you can’t rightfully call it a religious celebration, but our friend did pick this day, knowing what it means, wanting to celebrate the return of the light.

I live 12 miles from the City of North Pole, Alaska, where you can shop at Santa’s Workshop and see a 30-foot tall statue of Santa from the main highway. The city street lights are painted to look like candy canes and all the streets have very Christmas-y names. Trust me, there are evangelicals living in North Pole who resent the Santa worship, but they’re outnumbered so they just grumble and live with it.

Atheists can resent all the various celebrations and their religious connotations all they want, but that’s the reality we live in. The Scrooges don’t get a veto on everyone else’s celebrations.

And, you know what? We shouldn’t. Why can’t we all just get along? I will celebrate my way, you can celebrate your way. I can say “Merry Christmas” and you can respond to me with “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings” and nobody should need to get upset about that.

Image result for image of messianic jewish christmasWhy must we tyrannize one another during a time of celebration? Well, I think it speaks rather loudly to our society at this point in time. We have somehow lost the ability to live and let live (a very libertarian theme). That used to be very American, but we’ve gradually reached a point where some of us no longer tolerate the differences of others if those differences are not politically correct. We SAY everybody has a right to their own beliefs, but then we treat people who espouse beliefs we don’t like with derision on social media and sometime even in public. Those who shout the mantra “How dare you tell anyone else how to live!” feel quite comfortable with telling people who hold opinions we don’t like how they should live. And then we wonder why those people resist and refuse to participate in the societal zeitgeist of the month. Why can’t they just accept our better way of doing things? Don’t they know “we” are so much more enlightened than they are?

STOP!

I do believe myself to be more enlightened than a lot of other people on a variety of subjects. I will happily tell you about it on this blog. I will talk with you in person if you’re willing. But I feel no need to force you to believe as I do or to conduct your life as I do. What you do that doesn’t pick my pocket or break my leg is none of my business. What I do that doesn’t pick your pocket or break your leg is none of yours.

See how easy that was?

Merry Christmas!

Scandal for the Ages   1 comment

I almost made it through the season without encountering any Jesus resistance and that would have been such a nice accomplishment. Unfortunately, I had two incidents since Thanksgiving and the second one, last night, just made me feel the need to respond without yelling at someone in a parking lot.

Image result for image of nativityThe first, which is a repeat, is the neighbor who brings a petition around every year to ask people to protest another neighbor who puts out a lighted Nativity scene every Christmas. It is large and lighted, but they turn it off at 10 pm and it isn’t even on my block, so … “it neither picks my pocket or breaks my leg.” I never sign the petition and I think not many others do because the homeowner is still putting the Nativity scene out. If I ever see someone outside of the house when I’m out walking, I’ll ask them, but … “it neither picks my pocket or breaks my leg”, so I don’t really care.

Then last night in the grocery store parking lot (dang the unusually warm weather that made this possible) a group of people were accosting shoppers and trying to talk them out of the whole idea of Christmas. I was trying to buy ingredients for a birthday dinner. Get out of my way, please!

There is something about Christmas that provokes dissent from people who don’t want Christian symbols displayed where they can see them, particularly not on public property or … (gasp) … sung by children in public schools. While I find the overlording of their beliefs on those of us who do not agree annoying, I don’t think it rises to the level of a “hate” crime against Christians … despite the fact that, if it were directed at people of color, it would indeed be considered a “hate” crime. Some conservative commentators disagree with me, but I will point out that there are many parts of the world (Syria, Iran, Sudan, China, and others) Christians really are being persecuted and sometimes even killed for their beliefs. What is going on in America’s symbolic opposition to Christianity is something different.

Can we be honest about Christ and Christianity for a moment, please?

Jesus Christ was and remains a controversial figure. The natural reaction to Christ is to reject Him. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to us. He said people would reject Him — and reject us because of our association with Him.  In fact, when Jesus was taken to the Temple as an infant, Simeon prophesied that He would be a center of contention. Later Jesus predicted His own death and told His followers they must expect persecution too.

Let’s remember, His bitterest enemies weren’t atheists. They were the most religious men of His age, the Pharisees, who considered His claims blasphemous.

Our mistake in modern Western culture is to boil the gospel down to preaching on the need to be nice. Jesus wasn’t all that nice, folks. While He performed miracles of love and mercy, He also warned of eternal damnation, attacked and insulted the Pharisees, and could rebuke even people who adored Him in words that would make most of us today cringe if it weren’t in the Bible. At every step of His ministry, He made enemies and brought His crucifixion closer.

To many in His day, Jesus was a threat and He remains one today in many circles. We honor Him more by acknowledging His explosive presence than by making Him a mere symbol of nice manners. The Romans used crucifixion only against people they considered to be dangerous and society-disrupting. People weren’t crucified for being nice.

Jesus understood what He was doing when He said “I and the Father are one” and “Nobody comes to the Father except through Me.” Nobody had ever made such claims before. It enraged pious Pharisees and baffled His own disciples at the same time. After feeding thousands with the miraculous loaves and fishes, He announced that He Himself was “the bread of life” and unless you ate His flesh and drank His blood, you have no life in you.

That audacious teaching was too much. It cost Him many of His disciples on the spot. He didn’t try to coax them back by explaining that He was only speaking figuratively. There was nothing figurative about His language. He was foretelling the Lord’s Supper.

At virtually every step of His ministry, Jesus accompanied His words with miracles. Remarkably, His enemies disputed the words rather than the miracles. There was no doubt about the wonders He performed. He often performed them in front of large crowds. It was the meaning of His miracles that was controversial.

The blind saw, the deaf heard, cripples walked, lepers were healed. Where did He get the power to do these things? From God or the devil? He used the miracles to certify His power to forgive sins, the claim His critics first found outrageous.

His claims still reverberate. The Gospels attest the total coherence of His mission, the perfect harmony between His words and His deeds, even the careful order of His progressive self-disclosure. Few historians of any note argue that Jesus didn’t exist in history or even that the Resurrection didn’t happen. Too many people saw Jesus after He resurrected for it to be hoax. The honest historians admit that while the less honest ones try to develop theories of explanation that make no sense.

Jesus’ modern enemies, many of them claiming to be Christians, don’t try to disprove the miracles either. They simply assume He never performed them. Some of them assume He never spoke many of the words the Gospels record Him as saying.

I’ve never been able to get my mind around that skepticism. I believed it only until I actually read the gospels. The poet Tennyson remarked that Christ’s greatest miracle was His personality. Could anyone else — the four authors of the Gospels, for example — have made Him up, and put such resonant words in His mouth?

Such a strong and unique personality could only meet with a powerful resistance. This is why Christians shouldn’t resent the natural resistance of those who refuse to celebrate Jesus’ birth. Yeah, they’re attempting to prove Christ didn’t exist or has no power over them. Yet, in their own confused way, those people are upholding Jesus’ very testimony that He would be a scandal to those who thought themselves wise. Their resistance would prove how foolish they really were.

So, in a way, the anti-Christians are acting as servants of God.

Posted December 21, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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Deck the Halls!   4 comments

Ah, Christmas! The Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve season is bright shiny lights, twinkling tinsel, parties and feasts and gift buying galore.

When our children were little we had Thanksgiving, followed by an anniversary, St. Lucia’s Day, two birthdays, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. One year, I counted 27 different celebratory get-togethers that one or more of the family attended.

Nuts, right?

Image result for image of autumn inspired christmas decorationsSo  how did we de-lunacize our holiday experience?

November 13, 2017 – As the holidays begin rolling in, what do you do to prepare your house, yourself and your family for the hectic days ahead?

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Something had to give and it started giving that year.

I now buy Christmas gifts in September or even earlier. I avoid Black Friday altogether and, right there, take a lot of stress out of my life.

My favorite season is autumn, so I decorate my house for the season with autumnal colors – leaf swags, floral arrangements, a basket of fake gourds, the emergency lanterns that have a practical artistry. From Labor Day through Thanksgiving, our house is a veritable fall scene — and it will be again after New Years.

I make a huge meal for Thanksgiving and on the Friday, we swap out the autumn decorations for Christmas decor while eating leftovers. We put up and decorate the natural-look fake tree (don’t laugh, they don’t burn your house down so easily). We swap the swags, wreaths and floral arrangements and I pose my St. Nicholas figurine collection on the radiator shelf under the front window. A former supervisor used to give me one of these every Christmas and so I have a historical retrospective of St. Nicholas’ evolution from Turkish monk struggling through snows with a backpack to  a jolly Santa delivering a sleigh full of toys. We also put out a Nativity scene. Our 18-year-old son is going on 15 years of picking where the Wise Men start their journey (they weren’t at the stable there when Jesus was born). They’ll move closer as Christmas approaches and reach their final destination on Boxing Day (December 26 for Americans). We’ll take the decorations down New Years Day.

We really don’t do much with the outside of the house because Fairbanks has true winter and it’s usually been deep winter for a month by Thanksgiving. Before our crab apple tree got so large, Brad would throw a light-net over it, but about three years ago, the tree suddenly got too tall to do that without a huge ladder, so we agreed to stop. We’ve talked about doing a plywood cutout Nativity scene, but we haven’t planned it yet.

Saturday after Thanksgiving, I’ll pull everything out of the fridge so I can clean the thing top to bottom. Brad will scrub the counter and clean up the broiler pans and other serving items to be ready for Christmas. And, then … nowadays, we sort of relax.  We still have the anniversary and two birthdays but the kids do their own planning now and we don’t sweat it. Maybe we’ll go to a Christmas party or the local production of the Nutcracker. We might participate in our church’s pageant. They’re always looking for narrators and last year, I helped with writing the narrative.

My brother will probably come over for Christmas Eve. Our mother was born on Christmas Day, so we have traditionally celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve since as far back as I can remember. If he comes to our house, we’ll eat leftovers for Christmas Day. If we go to his house, I’ll make Christmas dinner. But, as with Thanksgiving, I don’t really sweat the meal. Turkeys are easy and I was raised in a restaurant. My parents taught me all sorts of cool tricks for making a big meal come out all at the same time without stressing myself out. Christmas Day is a time of relaxation and introspection for us … a spiritually focused day.

Mainly, how we prepare ourselves for the season is by reminding ourselves that we don’t have to get sucked into all the insanity of high expectations and frenetic activity. We concentrate on home and hearth and we have pared down activities to only those needed for the family or church.

 

Posted November 13, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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Christmas   3 comments

Blog Hop Topic – What your favorite Christmas present ever received? What’s the Christmas present you never got and wished you did?

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I actually have two favorite Christmas presents and I couldn’t choose between them, so here goes.

Image result for image of a girl's christmas wrapped presentOn December 21, 1992, Bri came fighting into the world. She had a hard time coming because she was a pretty good-sized baby coming out of a small mom, but she was fine and healthy and filled our days up with her bright presence from the very moment that she came home.

We celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve because my mother (and her father) were born on Christmas Day. Yeah … mysterious and curious, huh?

We took our little bundle of joy to my brother’s house that first Chrismas Eve. And every  year since she was born (until she “ran away” to join the gypsy bluegrass musician circuit), we’d been busy with birthday parties in the week before Christmas.

Bri is a big personality. She fills up any room she’s in and did pretty much since she was born. She outshines the tree. She sings and dances and presents you with incredible art projects. She’s an ongoing comedy act as well. She’s been a wonderful addition for every day of the year, but she came at Christmas, so she is my favorite Christmas present.

Except ….

Image result for image of a boy's wrapped christmas presentOn December 20, 1998, Kiernan came quietly into this world. (Yeah, there might be something weirdly genetic going on here). He was born in a hot tub, underwater, with far less stress and much more calm. Same midwife! He also went to my brother’s house on Christmas Eve, guarded by his fiercely loyal big sister, who ended up saving his life about four times before he was 10. Boys can be calm and collected and still be a danger to themselves.

Kiernan is more of an old soul (I don’t believe in the system behind that). He’s calm, collected, placid. If he witnessed the world blowing up, he’d take a deep breath and say “We should clean that up” and go get a bucket and rags to get started. For most of his life, he has watched his sister’s variety show with amusement. These days he’s the central event. He’s a little reluctant in that role, preferring to be backstage, but he’s taken to rock climbing like a star, determined to be as good at his sport as his sister was at dance or is now at musicianship. He became a legal adult this year and admitted it is way more responsibility that he wants it to be.

Two very different Christmas presents equally loved by their admiring parents. So how would I choose between the two?

Posted December 26, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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My Favorite Christmas Song   2 comments

Oh Come, O Come, Emmanuel. I could not find an adult choir version of this. Sung by the a full voice choir … oh, my. It lifts my spirit to God.

Posted December 25, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity, Uncategorized

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