Christmas Roundup: The Polar Express, the Magi in art, the historical “Santa,” and more

“Jesus, Jacob, and The Polar Express by Greg Lucas: This dad reflects on his twenty-year-old autistic son’s emotional experience of Santa and wonders whether maybe the eager anticipation he feels waiting for Santa, and then the pure joy of finally seeing him (at the end of the movie, or the front of the line), indicates a deeper yearning, and is preparing him to experience a deeper joy—for and in Jesus.

“The Magi: Legend, Art, and Cult”: The Museum Schnütgen in Cologne is running an exhibition through January 25 that brings together ivories, sculptures, paintings, and manuscript illuminations from throughout Europe depicting the Three Wise Men. Learn the iconography associated with them, from their earliest appearance in art in the third century.

Left panel of a French diptych, ca. 1360. Tempera on wood, 50 x 31 cm. Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence.

Left panel of a French diptych, ca. 1360. Tempera on wood, 50 x 31 cm. Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence.

“Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” exegesis by W. David O. Taylor: Drawing on a sermon he gave as part of a series on the hymns of Advent and Christmas, Taylor analyzes the poetic structure and theological message of “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus,” while also providing information about its author, Charles Wesley, and his place in the history of Christian hymnody.

Looking for a way to teach your kids about the real Saint Nicholas? Why not try the 2009 VeggieTales movie Saint Nicholas: A Story of Joyful Giving. (To acquaint yourself with his story beforehand, see my blog post from last year, “The Real Saint Nick.”)

 

Have you seen the video of this “O Holy Night” flash mob from last year? Vocalist Mark Joseph along with fifty or so of his fellow Berklee students performed inside Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. I love living in a city with such musical talent!

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Tee Time: Birthday Boy

Jesus Christmas sweaterIn lieu of a T-shirt this week, here’s a sweater featuring Christmas’s #1 birthday boy. Sorry, it’s out of stock. Maybe tipsyelves.com will bring it back in time for next year’s ugly-sweater holiday parties.

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The Christmas Truce of 1914

This December marks the centennial of the famous ceasefire along the Western Front during World War I. On Christmas Eve, 1914, along the four-hundred-mile frontline, enemy soldiers spontaneously emerged from their trenches, arms laid aside, to celebrate Christ’s birth together. They sang carols, exchanged gifts (jams and candies, cigarettes, newspapers), kicked around a soccer ball, and shared photos of loved ones. They also buried each other’s dead and prayed communally over the bodies, led by chaplains. Some even exchanged home addresses and promised to visit after the war.

One soldier described it in a letter home as “the Wonderful Day.” Another soldier, Pvt. Karl Muhlegg, wrote, “Never was I as keenly aware of the insanity of war.”

>> Read more firsthand accounts. <<

Though temporary truces are not unique in military history (they have been recorded since as far back as the Trojan War), never have they been carried out on such a large scale, and accompanied by such fraternization, as that of the Christmas Truce of 1914. Remarkably, this truce grew out of no single initiative but sprang up independently in many of the camps, against the orders of higher-ups. In most places it lasted from Christmas Eve through Boxing Day (December 26), though in some it lasted into January. It is estimated that some 100,000 men took part.

Inspired by this event, French filmmaker Christian Carion wrote and directed a dramatized film version of it, called Joyeux Nöel, which was nominated in 2006 for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. The film focuses on three different regiments—one Scottish, one French, and one German—and their interactions with one another during that first Christmas on the front.   Continue reading

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Vintage Jesus, Part 11: Why Did Jesus’s Mom Need to Be a Virgin?

This twelve-part series outlines the “Vintage Jesus” sermons of Mark Driscoll. See part 1 here.

For a more succinct answer to this question, I refer you to the article “The Glory of His Virgin Birth” by David Mathis.

 

“I would like to ask him [Jesus] if he was indeed virgin-born. The answer to that question would define history for me.”—Larry King, in response to what one question he would ask Jesus

“The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus by the Supreme Being as His father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.”—Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to John Adams

0:55: Interview with Rabbi Mark Glickman

10:00: The virgin birth of Jesus is the second most controversial and debated miracle in all of human history.

12:09: What Scripture says

12:19: Genesis 3:15: The Lord God said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

This verse is known as the Protoevangelium (“first gospel”), because it is the first promise of redemption in the Bible. It alludes only vaguely to the virgin birth, in that it speaks of the woman’s offspring rather than the man’s, which is unusual in a patriarchal society, where genealogies are traced through the male line. Paul follows suit in Galatians 4:4, where he mentions that Jesus was “born of a woman” rather than giving the name of the father.

15:30: Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”  Continue reading

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Two Songs for Advent

This is the first week of Advent, a span of time during which Christians anticipate the coming of Christ. As Richard John Neuhaus puts it in the book God with Us,

Throughout Advent, Christians prepare their hearts not only for the celebration of Christmas, but also for the many ways that Christ breaks into the world—past, present, and future. We prepare for the celebration of the anniversary of God’s first coming into the world; we prepare for the many ways in which he comes to us now; and we look forward to his future coming in glory at the end of time.

In this time of waiting, here are two songs to help lead you in thought, prayer, and expectation.

“Hark! ’Tis the Watchman’s Cry.” Text: Anonymous. First published in The Revival magazine in 1859. Music: Arranged by Paul van der Bijl and Jason Reed. Performed by Chicago Metro Presbytery Music, from Proclaim the Bridegroom Near.

Paul van der Bijl, Director of Worship and Music at Covenant Presbyterian Church of Chicago and coproducer of the aforementioned album, writes,

The Church has been singing the texts of some of these Advent and Christmastide songs for centuries. They capture the sojourn of God’s people in particularly poignant and haunting ways. It’s a beautiful and sometimes maddening paradox to live in the piercing light of the Incarnation and yet at times feel so helplessly lost and defeated. Advent and Christmastide is the story we live right now. We wait again expectantly for the return of the King in power . . . and as we wait, we sing these pilgrim songs. When we return to these songs every year we are slowly formed into a people that are no longer overwhelmed by the darkness around us: Our hope is confident, our love is selfless, our joy is contagious, and our peace enduring.

“Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.” Text: An ancient Greek chant based on Habakkuk 2:20, translated by Gerard Moultrie. Music: French medieval folk melody. Performed by Bifrost Arts, from Salvation Is Created.

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Tee Time: Surfing Jesus

Surfing JesusFound at etsy.com.

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Exulting in God this Thanksgiving

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

—Psalm 9:1-2

Praise the Lord

Linocut by Kreg Yingst, from Psalms in Linocuts: Book 1.

What wonderful deeds has He performed in your life this past year?

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