Christmas Is Upon Us, And Hanukkah, Too! *Weekend Open Thread*

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At long last, Christmas is here (Sunday). The buildup is part of the magic of it all, the songs, the anticipation, the gift buying, the card-sending, the tree decorating, lights in the yard, as well as the evergreen decorations around the house, the baking of yummy delicious Christmas treats, family coming together, and more make up the wonderful parts of Christmas time as we prepare for the birth of the Messiah (for Christians). Yes, it is a magical time indeed.

Hanukkah is here too, for that matter, as Hanukkah begins at Sundown on Saturday night (Christmas Eve). Hanukkah is actually one  of the lesser Jewish holidays. It’s close proximity to Christmas elevates it. Still, it represents quite the miracle – the oil lasting eight days as symbolized by the Menorah. To celebrate that miracle, the Maccabeats have a a great tune about Hanukkah:

It’s a toe tapper, isn’t it? And educational to boot! I wish our Jewish family and friends a very Happy Hanukkah.

As I have mentioned here before, I grew up high church Episcopalian, meaning we had all the “smells and bells” that many Catholics have. My father was the organist and choir director at every church we attended growing up as well. Not only did we get to enjoy his practicing every Sunday morning before church, but my mom and I both sang in the choir. The big Christmas service for us, as it is for many of the Faithful now, was Midnight Mass. There was something so beautiful and mystical having this service at night, with the evergreens in all of the windows, and candles everywhere. The service was so profound on so many levels, as it incorporated both the mystery of creation as well as the sheer joy of the occasion.

One Carol my mom and dad sang together, with the choir singing the refrain, was this lovely piece with Mary and Joseph talking to each other:

Such a lovely, calming, soothing Carol, isn’t it? Most appropriate for the birth of the Baby Jesus, I think.

But that wasn’t the only service we attended. My mother, who was born in Winston-Salem, NC,  grew up a Moravian, a Protestant denomination which began over 600 years ago in Moravia:

…The name Moravian identifies the fact that this historic church had its origin in ancient Bohemia and Moravia in what is the present-day Czech Republic. In the mid-ninth century these countries converted to Christianity chiefly through the influence of two Greek Orthodox missionaries, Cyril and Methodius. They translated the Bible into the common language and introduced a national church ritual. In the centuries that followed, Bohemia and Moravia gradually fell under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Rome, but some of the Czech people protested.

The foremost of Czech reformers, John Hus (1369-1415) was a professor of philosophy and rector of the University in Prague. The Bethlehem Chapel in Prague, where Hus preached, became a rallying place for the Czech reformation. Gaining support from students and the common people, he led a protest movement against many practices of the Roman Catholic clergy and hierarchy. Hus was accused of heresy, underwent a long trial at the Council of Constance, and was burned at the stake on July 6, 1415.

[…]

The reformation spirit did not die with Hus. The Moravian Church, or Unitas Fratrum (Unity of Brethren), as it has been officially known since 1457, arose as followers of Hus gathered in the village of Kunvald, about 100 miles east of Prague, in eastern Bohemia, and organized the church. This was 60 years before Martin Luther began his reformation and 100 years before the establishment of the Anglican Church. […] (Click here to read the rest.)

Moravians have a service called the Lovefeast. They would hold on every Christmas Eve at The Little Church On The Lane, a lovely Moravian church in Charlotte, NC. We would go there first with my grandmother (Mom’s mother) before we went to Midnight Mass. It is a lovely service, and includes Moravian Love feast buns* and coffee, made a certain way, as well as beeswax candles. (*Dewey’s Bakery in Winston-Salem is THE place to get all things Moravian. Their Lovefeast buns, and Sugar cake, along with wafer thin ginger snaps and so much more.) All of those things combined for a child was sheer delight, especially because it meant time with my Granny, whom I adored.

What, you might ask, is a Lovefeast? It has a long and storied history:

Lovefeasts originated in the first gathering of Christians after Pentecost…The lovefeast of Apostolic times was resuscitated in its original simplicity by the Moravian Church in 1727. ..

[…]

The lovefeast is primarily a song service, opened with prayer. Often there is no address; the hymns in the ode, or order of service, furnish the subject matter for devotional thoughts. If many visitors are present, the presiding minister often says a few words, explaining the purpose of the service, just before the congregation partakes of the bun and coffee, or whatever is served. On special occasions an address may be added, giving opportunity to remind the congregation of the history of the anniversary or the deeper import of the day. […] (Click here to read the rest.)

If you want to get an idea of what a Lovefeast service is like, you can watch the following video:

I agree with the Chaplain above – the Lovefeast is a great way to kick off Christmas. Good coffee, delicious Lovefeast buns, beeswax candles, and singing of Carols is a good beginning indeed.

Christmas, and Hanukkah, are indeed beautiful, mysterious, magical times, but the Holidays can also be difficult for those who are alone or who may be estranged from their families. During this season of Love and Peace, if you are able to open your hearts and homes to those who would otherwise be alone and lonely, please consider doing so.

No doubt about it, this is one of my favorite times of the year. And the music of Christmas is a huge part of that. I am sure you all have favorite Carols or Hymns, and I invite you to share them in the Comments.

One last thing: there really are twelve days of Christmas. It isn’t just a song . It begins with Christmas, not ends with it. The reason there are twelve days is that is how long it took the three Wise Men to arrive to pay homage to  Jesus. So no need to rush to take down that tree. You can enjoy it for a while longer!

Finally this Christmas, I will leave you with this stirring Caril and call, “O Come, All Ye Faithful” from Westminster Abbey:

 

Merry Christmas to all!

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35 Responses to “Christmas Is Upon Us, And Hanukkah, Too! *Weekend Open Thread*”

  1. Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

    As Obama twisted the knife in Israel’s back, on the Eve of Hanukkah, no less, members from BOTH sides of the aisle are speaking out: http://thehill.com/policy/defense/311712-obama-faces-widespread-backlash-after-abstaining-from-un-israel-vote

    • piper Says:

      He never misses an opportunity to denigrate and stab our friends in the back. He is one sorry and sad person who I’ll be happy to leave the WH.

  2. kenoshamarge Says:

    The sights and sounds of the season are a feast for all our senses. Thank you for sharing so many with us.

    I too love Midnight Mass. It has always touched me deeply. And on clear nights, when we left church, I always looked to the east for a sight of a bright star and gazed in wonder and wondered what it must have been like to see that special star over 2000 years ago.

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      Thank you, Marge. And I agree completely abt Midnight Mass. There is something truly special, moving, mystical, and spiritual about it…

      Love the idea of looking to the East, too!

  3. helenk3 Says:

    Rev Amy . Marge
    thank you for your work here.
    Merry Christmas to all here

  4. helenk3 Says:

  5. kenoshamarge Says:

    Christianity’s Recognition Of Mary’s Virginity Offers Women Peace, Not Shame

    During Advent and Christmas, Christians look to the Virgin Mary in a special way as we prepare for the birth of Jesus at Christmas. This year is no different. Ruth Everhart wrote in the Washington Post last week about her struggle of processing her rape and the purity of Mary in Christian teaching.

    As a victim of sexual assault, I can understand her struggle, but her theology and understanding behind traditions in the Christian church are incorrect and therefore lead to a misguided view of Our Lady. (If the reader or anyone the reader knows is going through a healing process, I suggest reading Dawn Eden’s “My Peace I Give You” and “Remembering God’s Mercy.” Both of these are breakthrough resources for healing sexual wounds through the eyes of faith.)

    Christianity breaks with many ancient cultures in its deep respect for women, which is what drew many women to the early church and continues to draw women today. Everhart’s statement links her own tragic experience of rape with Mary’s at the Incarnation, yet it is clear from the book of Luke that Mary wasn’t raped or forced in any way.

    The angel Gabriel was sent by God the father to Mary to ask her to be the mother of God. She asked him how this would come to pass and, after pondering Gabriel’s answer, she responded, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). That’s definitely consent to God’s plan.

    http://thefederalist.com/2016/12/23/christianitys-recognition-marys-virginity-offers-women-peace-not-shame/

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      Thank you for sharing this timely piece, Marge. It makes clear the distinction and the problem with projections, even though I have much compassion for the WaPo writer.

      Thanks!

      Sent from AOL Mobile Mail

  6. kenoshamarge Says:

  7. piper Says:

    Amy, Marge, Helen and all the other readers of this site. Merry Christmas and may the new year be full of goodness and happiness.

    http://merrychristmasimages4u.com/merry-christmas-greetings-cards.html

    • kenoshamarge Says:

      Merry Christmas and the Happiest of New Years to you too Piper. The wonderful people here are one of the blessings I count each day.

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      Thanks so much, piper – much appreciated! A very Merry Christmas and New Year to you!

      And Marge, you are so right – we are blessed to have great folks coming by here!

  8. kenoshamarge Says:

  9. kenoshamarge Says:

    Packers beat Minnesota – 38 to 25!

    • kenoshamarge Says:

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      So happy for you! We caught a good bit of the game while at lunch, and then in the car as we ran errands. I was thinking of you the whole time!

      • kenoshamarge Says:

        I’m just glad they’re back to playing some decent football. That four game losing streak in the middle of the season was embarrassing – and so unexpected. Now Rogers has got his game back and the defense, while still not playing as good as they should, are at least respectable.

        • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

          I bet you are! I am glad they got themselves out of their funk. Seems they are on the road to the Post-Season now!

  10. helenk3 Says:

  11. kenoshamarge Says:

    Good Morning and Merry Christmas everyone!

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      Merry Christmas, dear friend! 🙂

      And I have this for you:

      • kenoshamarge Says:

        Merry Christmas back you my dear friend.

        Thank you for my favorite Celtic Woman carol.

        I did my walking to it yesterday on my treadmill. I put my Celtic Woman Christmas disc in and walked to such beautiful music. But every now and then I hit “skip” until I got to Carol of the Bells and my heart was filled with such peace.

        • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

          Truly my pleasure, Marge! It is such a gift to have music that makes your soul soar, isn’t it? So glad you have found it!

          Suzy surprised me this morning with tickets to the Moscow Russian Ballet’s performance of “The Nutcracker” here on Friday night! This will be the second time I have seen it in person. Nothing like Russians dancing to the music of a Russian composer. I cannot WAIT: http://www.nutcracker.com

        • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

          Indeed – it was very thoughtful. I have wanted to go for some time. The only other time i saw The Nutcracker was a couple of years ago in Atlanta, though they took some license with the dance. It was still very good, but not the classical one. I look forward to seeing it classically done by such an amazing ballet troupe. 🙂

  12. kenoshamarge Says:

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