Getting the kids a Wii for Christmas seemed innocuous enough. This observation, of course, is filled with foreboding. Some friends recently purchased a 47″ flat-panel television and graciously gave us their old 32″ conventional television. It’s a nice RCA which required only the purchase of a remote. Naturally, this goes well with the Wii that the kids don’t yet know about… but they’ve already been using the big TV with the $20 unit we got them a few years ago to play Ms. Pac-Man, Rally-X, Galaga, and a few other classic arcade games. The plan was to finish up the basement rec room so the kids could play on the Wii or watch movies down there, leaving the main floor free and quiet for us in the evenings now that the kids are too old to bundle off to bed at 7:00PM.
During Advent this year I’m breaking with Advent convention and posting Christmas carols as part of my regular Sunday series, Then Sings My Soul: The Hymns of My Youth. This follows instead the habit of the church of my youth, where we did not observe Advent but instead added an increasing amount of Christmas fare as the holiday approached. One of the carols we sang, of course, was an Isaac Watts carol not to be confused with another song of the same title by Three Dog Night. In this case, the tune was adapted and arranged by Lowell Mason with inspiration from an older melody believed to have originated from Handel due to similarities in his Messiah.
The carol is a favourite to many, having a natural tendency to extra volume when sung en mass.
Joy to the World
The Christmas season has become the beginning of my “reading year.” Over the Christmas holiday, I try to find, make, or steal time to do some reading — usually fiction, often something on the lighter side. Not always though: sometimes a well-written easy-reading nonfiction book does the trick just fine. This practice forces me to take time away from the computer and break the normal patterns of daily life at a time when there’s a lot of additional activities and festivities going on, so a little extra disruption can be a good thing as well. The mental break is a fantastic exercise as well, and a good rest for me. It also renews a reading-habit, and if I am able to build up a little “reading-momentum,” I tend to blast through a few titles during January as well.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent for 2008, and we mark the first day of a new year in the liturgical calendar. Last year during this season, I added to my series Then Sings My Soul: The Hymns of My Youth by drawing in the Advent-themed hymns that fit into my Advent blogging program. This year I don’t have a formal blogging program planned for Advent, so I’ll be adding Christmas carols to the list. The church I grew up in did not mark Advent or observe the liturgical calendar at all, so there were simply Christmas carols for the weeks leading up to Christmas. This week’s entry was written by Phillips Brooks in 1867. There are alternate tunes for the carol, but the original and probably most familiar is the one by Lewis Redner, who was Brooks’ organist at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The tune came to him on Christmas Eve, and was first sung the next day.
Last year I wrote a piece for Next-Wave on the theme of Advent. We talked a lot about Advent themes last year as I completed my book, That You Might Believe: Praying Advent with the Gospel of John. I’m not sure yet if there are any synchroblogs planned for Advent this year, but I thought I would start taking up the topic a little eary so it doesn’t catch me off-guard like it so often does. Usually the season sneaks up on me before I know it, but this year I’m trying to think ahead. Unless you’re celebrating by the Celtic calendar, of course. In this vein, I thought I’d reprint last year’s Next-Wave article.
I remember well the days of my youth when the Christmas catalogues would arrive from Sears, Eaton’s, and The Bay. Pouring over those catalogues and circling our most-desired items was a cherished tradition during the run-up to Christmas, when visions of cars and trucks and G.I. Joe and helicopters and spaceships and chocolate and “Christmas oranges” would dance through our heads before a background of tinsel and baubles and bubble-lights hung from a sparkly tree. And in case anyone’s wondering, the 1904 catalogue was a bit before my time ;^) …the ones I recall were much glossier than this.
Another Sunday, another entry in my series, Then Sings My Soul: The Hymns of My Youth. As we’re still in the Christmas season, this week’s selection is “What Child is This,” a Christmas carol written by William Chatterton Dix in 1865 and set to the tune of the 16th century traditional song Greensleeves. As great as the lyrics are, a big part of me still tends to find some of the greatest beauty for the carol in the melody from Greensleeves. It’s the melody, I think, that makes the carol seem a lot older than it really is… and I’m no help to counter that since for the audio this week I’ve selected “Greensleeves” being played on the lute to accompany the lyrics.
What Child is This?
For the record, there are twelve days to the Christmastide season… let the feasting continue! We should know this from the famous Christmas carol, yet these days most of us may just scratch our heads as to what, when, and why the twelve days are. It turns out that the 12 days song actually has some relation to a variety of theological themes. Coming to the point thought, we’ve moved out of the Advent season and into the Christmas season. In my Advent book, I have included an extra set of daily offices for use during the Christmas season… kind of a bonus for those who made the purchase. Although the Advent synchroblog has ended, the daily office and the celebration of Christmas go on. The extra office is designed to keep the Christmas themes present in our minds throughout the season. In the book, I introduced it this way: