christmasornaments.jpg The December issue of Next-Wave is out, with features on Advent. Bob asked me if I had something in connection with my book so I quickly dashed something off, not realizing that Advent: Resisting Christmas was going to end up as a Featured Article. Maybe I’d have put in more effort! The piece deals with rediscovering Advent as a part of reacclimatizing ourselves with the historical habits and practices of the church… like the daily office. I wrote it at the end of the first week of Advent, not realizing that the issue would be another week to release, so the prayers I mention in the article as “coming up” were for the week just passed. As we prayed through last week’s prayers, I think I’m not as happy as I could be with how the evening prayers (vespers) in particular came together, but I think there are some gems for the week we’re in now. Book sales have tapered off, probably for the year — thanks to all who made a purchase, it was a real help to our bottom line for the month. I have already thought some about a revised/expanded edition, but I’m deferring too much thought on it until the new year. I’ve still got that missional book to get back to, and I’ve arranged to trade off about half my time to an ongoing project in the next few months (more about that another time).

Even as my Next-Wave piece recommends resisting Christmas in order to fully experience Advent as the big holiday approaches, we naturally begin to blend in some Christmas ideas, traditions, and preparations into the mix as December wears on. Advent began a bit later this year, so the fourth week will be exceptionally short, which leaves us starting our Christmas run-up in the third week of Advent already. This being the joy-themed week, it does seem somewhat fitting… so I’m thinking about Christmas tradition.

Matt Stone recommends An Arabic Christmas Carol (Byzantine Hymn of the Nativity). He writes,

I always enjoy experiencing the Christmas traditions of other cultures. This video features a Byzantine hymn chanted by Reader Nader Hajjar, Ottawa. I found it best just to sit back and listen, referring to the lyrics at intervals, but with my attention mostly just on the chant itself. Let yourself be drawn into the middle eastern atmosphere of this hymn and reflect on how the message of God’s birth transcends cultures.

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If you enjoy this sort of cross-cultural experience of Christmas carols, you may enjoy the version I used in my selection of God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen for my most recent entry in my weekly series, Then Sings My Soul: The Hymns of My Youth… but you’ll really want to come back this Sunday and see what I’ve got planned. If this Byzantine chant wasn’t your thing, don’t worry — the two I’m putting into the mix are much less… er, extreme in their cultural unfamiliarity. For most of us, at least. Anyway, I’m thinking about Christmas carols and traditions, some of which I’ve written about before.

For the past few years, there’s been Brad Roberts singing “The First Noel”…
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For the link to the shepherds, I’ll match this up to something I wrote back in ’99 as I was rediscovering my pen, and to which I keep returning… a reflection on what it might have been like for the shepherds that night: We All Heard It.

Every year I also think back to a favorite Christmas song of my youth by The Royal Guardsmen… not a common carol (unless you’re into Dr. Demento), but I’ve learned by now you can find almost anything online.
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Alright, I admit it: I still love this song, so full of joy and hope. It may — or should — also bring reminders of The 1914 Christmas Truce, which is one of the most beautiful pictures of Christmas peace I can imagine.

Dave Cooks the Turkey Then too, there are newer traditions and stories… far funnier than Mr. Bean’s Christmas turkey is Stuart McLean‘s story, Dave Cooks the Turkey. For some reason, my Open Letter to Stuart McLean hovers in and out of Google’s top 10 search results for “Stuart McLean” (everyone link to it an bump it up!) and one of the best-ever comments I’ve gotten on this blog is attached to that post. If you know his work, you’ll know what high praise that comment is. (If you don’t know his material, read my open letter and follow the links here, including the sample story below; the open letter does have a few Christmas allusions in it.) So Stuart writes these stories about Dave and Morley and their family. Heart-warming stories that nourish the soul, and which are funny in the extreme… to those of us inside the clique, “Dave Cooks the Turkey” is like an inside joke, and allusions to the affair in other stories will draw laughter just by the mention… you can see this in the account of the year Dave raised his own turkey.
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The story deals with Christmas traditions as well… enjoy!

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