Archive for December, 2012

Why He Came…a slave’s view (Emmanuel – God with Us)

Jesus baby jesus protects

So, I’ve been overwhelmed with sorrow the last couple of weeks.  A week ago it was a renewed anger, disgust and just anguish over sex trafficking and slavery in general.  After last Friday, when the Sandy Hook disaster happened an hour from me (though the whole world feels close and noone can truly comprehend the sorrow of the families involved), I’ve lowered into my sadness.

I think sadness can be good.  Anger too.  They serve a purpose.  They remind us that the world isn’t what God intended and they honor God with our anger and our tears.  Gifts of mercy come out of it – prayer and action too, but I felt stuck this time.

Each year at Christmas time, I feel like Christmas came too soon and that I didn’t get my act together to reflect and do the waiting/hoping/cleaning of my heart that I desire to do for the arrival of Christ.  However, each Christmas, I am reminded that it is all of that…and so much more, that Christ came for.  He came for the dirty, the dark, the sadness, the years of waiting, the confused, the broken.  His arrival was announced first to the dirty, lonely shepherds.  I knew that.  I expected I’d find myself there again this Christmas, but admit I wanted a different story a little – a different twist on my pathetic-ness perhaps.

Yesterday, I watched Amistad.  My kids are learning about the Civil War and Abolition.  Though at least I recalled enough about the movie to not have them watch it (thank goodness I saw the ratings too), but I decided to watch it.  Again, I was broken by it.  Like Amazing Grace – it is a movie about the court system, about abolition and the horrors of the trans-atlantic slave trade.  However, the explanation of what happens to the slaves on the ships is more graphic – which is horrible, but real.  It was more horrible, knowing such treatment of humans has not ended.  However, one scene in the movie blessed me more than I could have ever imagined.  One of the slaves was trying to understand the pictures in a Bible he was given by an abolitionist.  A couple of the photos (from that Bible) are above.  The scene is written below: http://youtu.be/uFmFX5nug4w 

Yamba: [looking at a Bible]
Joseph Cinque: You don’t have to pretend to be interested in that. Nobody’s watching but me.
Yamba: I’m not pretending. I’m beginning to understand it.
[outside, a priest blesses himself]
Yamba: Their people have suffered more than ours. Their lives were full of suffering.
[turns to a picture of the newborn Jesus Christ]
Yamba: Then he was born, and everything changed.
Joseph Cinque: Who is he?
Yamba: I don’t know, but everywhere he goes he is followed by the sun.
[turns to a picture of Jesus healing a man]
Yamba: Here he is healing people with his hands…
[shows Jesus defending Mary Magdalene]
Yamba: protecting them…
[shows Jesus and the children]
Yamba: being given children…
Joseph Cinque: [sees Jesus walking on water] What’s this?
Yamba: He could also walk across the sea. But then something happened. He was captured, accused of some sort of crime.
[shows Jesus with Pontius Pilate]
Yamba: Here he is with his hands tied.
Joseph Cinque: He must have done something.
Yamba: Why? What did we do? Whatever it was, it was serious enough to kill him for it. Do you want to see how they killed him?
[shows the crucifixion of Jesus]
Joseph Cinque: This is just a story, Yamba.
Yamba: But look, that’s not the end of it.
[shows the disciples taking Jesus’ body down]
Yamba: His people took his body down from this… thing… this…
[signs the cross in the air]
Yamba: They took him into a cave. They wrapped him in a cloth, like we do.
[shows the Resurrection of Jesus]
Yamba: They thought he was dead, but he appeared before his people again and spoke to them. Then, finally, he rose into the sky.
[shows the Ascension of Jesus]
Yamba: [the priest prays in the background]
Yamba: This is where the soul goes when you die.
[shows a picture of Heaven in the clouds]
Yamba: This is where we’re going when they kill us. It doesn’t look so bad…

AND THEN HE WAS BORN…AND EVERYTHING CHANGED….EVERYWHERE HE GOES HE IS FOLLOWED BY THE SUN.

Again…my hope for this life, for death, is in Him.  Again…I am reminded that EVERYTHING CHANGES at Christmas for there, He came for us.

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Who is St. Nicholas?

Many times we stretch in Christian circles to either include or exclude Santa from Christmas.  However, a look into the history of St. Nicholas indeed reveals a man that loved the Lord.  However, as we look into his character and what is life was, he would likely be dishonored by the position his legend now has in the world as he stood and suffered himself against heresy and lived against overabundance. Considering that many call him Kris Kringle, we can see how much Christmas has been over taken by his image since that term, Kris Kringle, is actually originally and Austrian/German word for “the gift giver” – referring to the Christ Child, NOT Santa. How sad that we have allowed a misunderstanding of who “Father Christmas” is to be our gift giver this season. I am not telling anyone whether or not you should your kids there is a Santa Claus (that is each family’s decision and is none of my business), but I found it fascinating to learn more about who he was (weeding through fact and legend), as well as how “Santa” came to be. Perhaps once we know all this, we can each best decide what to do with St. Nicholas – use him as a role model or make him Santa.

“The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to the those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.”

“Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals—murderers, thieves and robbers. After his release, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic, called manna, formed in his grave. This liquid substance, said to have healing powers, fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day, December 6th (December 19 on the Julian Calendar).”

“Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas’ life and deeds. These accounts help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need.”

“Miraculous folklore and legend surround the mysterious St. Nicholas. Among the more popular legends of St. Nicholas is the rescue of three poverty-stricken girls destined for prostitution. These girls were poor and did not have the dowry for marriage. St. Nicholas saved them from a life of shame, by providing marriage dowries of gold. They then were able to get properly married.”

“Next, according to legend, Santa magically appears in the Netherlands around the seventeenth century. During this time, Sinter Klaas (a.k.a. Santa Claus) was officially born. Dutch children began the tradition of placing their shoes by the fireplace on December 5, for the mystic fourth century Bishop, Saint Nicholas. (Note: In the Dutch language Saint Nicholas is “Sint Nikolass,” which was shortened to “Sinter Klaas,” of which the anglicized form is “Santa Claus.”) The next morning, the gleeful Dutch children quickly awoke to gifts and goodies in their shoes, left by Sinter Klaas. Like today’s Santa, Sinter Klaas,  miraculously, traveled from housetop to housetop, and entered through the chimney.”

“As early as 1163 it was observed in Utrecht, the Netherlands. During the same time span, the 12th century, French nuns began leaving candy and gifts outside the doors of children in need. The St. Nicholas Day children’s gift-giving custom spread through the Low Countries, Germany, Austria, France, Switzerland and England. It took root across most of northern and central Europe, as far east as Romania. Henry Machyn described the 1550s London feast day processions, led by people dressed as St. Nicholas, that “went abroad in most parts of London singing after the old fashion,” and were “received among good people into their houses, and had much good cheere as ever they had in many places.”15th century Swiss writer Hospinian wrote:

‘it was the custom for parents, on the vigil of St Nicholas, to convey secretly presents of various kinds to their little sons and daughters who were taught to believe that they owed them to the kindness of St Nicholas and his train, who, going up and down among the towns and villages, came in at the windows, though they were shut, and distributed them. This custom originated from the legendary account of that saint having given portions to three daughters of a poor citizen whose necessities had driven him to an intention of prostituting them.'”

The custom in 16th century Germany, as described by Thomas Naogeorgus:

“Saint Nicholas money used to give
To maidens secretly,
Who, that he still may use
His wonted liberalitie
The mothers all their children on the eve
Do cause to fast
And when they every one at night
In senselesse sleepe are cast
Both Apples, Nuttes, and peares they bring,
And other things besides
As caps, and shooes and petticotes,
Which secretly they hide,
And in the morning found, they say
That this Saint Nicholas brought.

“Our next stop on the Santa highway is the year 1626 in the New World called America. Searching for the “American dream,” Dutch settlers sailed from the Netherlands and established the Dutch colony called New Amsterdam (today called New York). The Dutch colonists quickly settled into America, bringing their customs, and of course, their beloved Sinter Klaas.”

“In December 1809, American essayist Washington Irving published a popular satire of the Dutch founding of New York titled A Knickerbocker History of New York. More than any other event, it was Irving’s Knickerbocker History that is credited for creating our modern day Santa Claus. The following history-making words from The Knickerbocker History became the public inauguration of Santa Claus. Who could have possibly imagined the significance these simple words would soon have?”

“And the sage Oloffe dreamed a dream,–and lo, the good St. Nicholas came riding over the tops of the trees, in that self-same wagon wherein he brings his yearly presents to the children. . . And when St. Nicholas had smoked his pipe, he twisted it in his hatband, and laying his finger beside his nose, gave the astonished Van Kortlandt a very significant look; then, mounting his wagon, he returned over the treetops and disappeared.”(Irving, Washington. Knickerbocker’s History of New York, New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1928, p. 50)

“Next stop on our investigative journey for Santa, surprisingly, comes from the pen of a New York theology professor named Dr. Clement Clarke Moore. In 1822, inspired by Irving’s popular, Knickerbocker History’s portrayal of jolly St. Nicholas, Dr. Moore quietly wrote a trivial poem titled, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” for his own children as a simple Christmas present. Dr. Moore had no intention of publishing his poem, but in 1823 it was published anonymously, by a friend, in the Troy Sentinel. Moore’s extremely popular poem was the spark that lit the Santa Claus wildfire. Santa quickly began flying through America. Dr. Moore’s poem was later renamed the famous, “Twas’ The Night Before Christmas.””

“The finishing touches for Santa occurred around 1863 from the artistic hands of cartoonist Thomas Nast. Inspired by Moore’s popular poem, Nast illustrated scores of Santa pictures in Harper’s Weekly and the world was officially baptized with the face of Santa Claus. Nast’s early Santa was burly, stern, gnome-like, and covered with drab fur, much unlike today’s colorful and jolly fellow. But make no mistake – it was Santa.”

1931:” Haddon Sundblom, illustrator forThe Coca-Cola ™ company drew a series of Santa images in their Christmas advertisements until 1964. The company holds the trademark for the Coca-Cola Santa design. Christmas ads including Santa continue to the present day.”

1949: “Johnny Marks wrote the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Rudolph was relocated to the North Pole where he was initially rejected by the other reindeer who wouldn’t let him play in their reindeer games because of his strange looking nose”

Thus we have our players.

Awesome poem comparing our Santa Claus to St. Nicholas: http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/compare-santa-st-nicholas/ (I got info from many sites, which all mostly said the same thing…mostly supporting St. Nicholas Center)

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