This was the year we decided to introduce our kids to the hilarity of A Christmas Story. Our youngest fell asleep, and there were bits of explaining to do with our oldest so she’d get some of the jokes… the ones we wanted her to! ;^) It is of course the story of a childhood Christmas, but told from the perspective of an adult reflecting — and naturally that’s the only way it works. I thought about the late Darren McGavin’s portrayal of The Old Man in the movie. Let’s say he had, er, a crusty exterior. Not quite the model of an exemplary parent given the particular medium of his artistry. Yet there’s something soft about him, deep down. The story arc of the entire movie makes two things fairly clear. First, The Old Man and his sons are relationally distant, and you wonder in fact whether The Old Man knows or sees at all what’s going on with his boys, so easily distracted is he by the newspaper, sports conversations, puzzles, or “major awards.” Second, the unwavering focus on a certain Christmas present that was simply not going to happen, for fear of the loss of an eye.
Happy Christmas to all who’ve visited and/or left a comment here in the past year. Thank-you from me and the ten penguins for your virtual friendship, your support, and for just plain stopping by.
Help us remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and worship of the wise men.
Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world. Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting. Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.
May the Christmas morning make us happy to be thy children, and Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
I’m making a big departure for this week’s selection in my series Then Sings My Soul: The Hymns of My Youth. I’ve been doing carols for Advent and Christmas connected to my Johannine Advent book and synchroblog, and this week the carol selected in the book wins out over the requirement that it be of my youth. I’ve selected The Huron Carol, and though it predates me by more than a few years, it was never part of my youth; I only discovered the carol as an adult. Most Canadians now will know it from Tom Jackson‘s Huron Carole series of Christmas benefits.
I was surprised to not find Tom Jackson signing this on YouTube. I found a French version recorded in an igloo in Quebec, but the sound wasn’t very good.
I’m in a bit of a reflective space at the moment. They say (whoever “they” are) that the only constant is change, and perhaps “they” are right. (I think it was Paul Reiser who suggested that “they” is some kind of consortium responsible for pretty much everything, and is headed up by “the guy.”) The nature of change is an interesting beast. I’ve begun reading William Duggan’s new book, Strategic Intuition: The Creative Spark in Human Achievement, published by Columbia Business School. It’s a review copy that I’m supposed to talk about on my other (business) blog, but I’m quite certain I’ll be saying more about it here as well. I’m what, 20 pages in? Already it’s proving to be an excellent work, filled with insight. So far: Copernicus, a contemporary of Martin Luther, the scientific method, and the nature of breakthroughs. Scientific method says that you posit a theory, then test it. If you prove your theory, you have an achievement. Rather notably, the actual method of scientific revolution is basically the opposite: you have an achievement, and then you (or someone after you) forms a theory to explain it.
Sometimes it’s hard not to mangle with Christmas traditions… all in fun, of course. I’m very intrigued by this Advent calendar, for example. My kids are incessantly singing some schoolyard hack of “Jingle Bells,” and every time I hear “The Christmas Song” I’m reminded of a Christmas years ago when a friend who is known for writing his own versions of popular songs recorded a new outgoing message on their answering machine. I forget how the opening lines went, but his jingle ended like this:
if you hear this, we are not at home —
or we may be call-screening too…
so although it’s been said,
many times, many ways:
“Leave a message, we’ll call you.”
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).
As the third week of Advent begins, we have a new theme, and a differently-coloured candle to signify it… the pink candle symbolizes Joy. In my ongoing series, Then Sings My Soul: The Hymns of My Youth, we continue through the Advent edition with the Christmas carol I’ve selected for this week: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen. I’m quite sure that in my youth I must have thought the carol was telling a group of merry fellows to settle down and rest, in the “Silent Night” fashion… but there’s a comma, you see. The song is instructing gentlemen — and let’s include the ladies — to be comforted and take heart… for remember, “Christ our saviour was born on Christmas Day!”
We, on the other hand, have gone with the standard artificial variety this year. It bears some discussion each year — I really prefer to have a real tree, but at the prices they’re starting to command it seems less and less sane. A bargain can still be had, but we tend to average every other year between the real and the fake tree. Our artificial tree is only 5′, but since the “right” height for a tree is when you have to trim the top a little so that you can get the angel onto it without hitting the ceiling, so we always put the tree up on a box to make it taller — I can’t stand for the tree not to reach near the ceiling. ;^)