Category Archives: Christmas

Where I’ve Been & the Christian Genocide Resolution

Port Huron, 1939 USGS section
Port Huron, from 1939 USGS quad map.

Hello and happy Tuesday!  I haven’t posted in a while (which isn’t terribly unusual, I know), and knowing full well that my mind has been elsewhere, I wanted to give a “why.”  As I’ve posted about before, we moved from Southern California back to my home state of Michigan, and more specifically, to Port Huron.  We decided on this location because of all the water (and we happily concur that the St. Clair area’s nick name of Blue Water is justified), because we could afford to buy a low-cost house, and because–on paper, at least–it looked like there were enough jobs to keep us going.

(We originally wanted to move to Grand Rapids, which is the only region in Michigan really recovered from the last “recession,” but couldn’t get help with buying a low-cost home at a distance . . . realtors have replaced the lowest place holder of the employed in my mind now, with lawyers bumped up one.)

While the job front turned out to be less rosy than we anticipated, I have enjoyed getting back into my older career choice involving historical resources.  I used to work in cultural resources management–prehistory, then history–until consulting jobs became too far away from my family (as you might imagine, permanent employment in this field is rare and you have to be willing to move to wherever you can get it).

Now that we live in a place with obvious history and historic structures, my passion for investigating those things has been rekindled.   And finding that the city is a very mixed bag of preservation and anit-preservation sentiment (the state is having an anti-preservation infection now, too), which is reflected in how much a regular person can find out about it here, I decided to make a web page about it, with the hope that others would like it and benefit from it and a group would form.  I’ve spent a ton of my time getting up to speed on the history in Port Huron, catching up on preservation laws and such, and building the site:  Port Huron Area History & Preservation Association.

St Joseph Church, Port Huron
One of the historic churches in Port Huron, St. Joseph’s.

The city, being one of the older and busier ones in historic Michigan, has quite a few grand old churches, too.  And, I never ended up posting about something that we, as Christians, were excited to find here:  nativity scenes out in public areas at Christmas time.  How refreshing!  There weren’t a huge number of them, but they did pop up, and one felt that you might hear a “Merry Christmas!” come your way and not just a “happy holidays.”  I did run across an internet post somewhere by a lady who had lived here and moved to Tennessee, where there was even more openness and  joy displayed over Christmas, not just “the holidays.”  She was critical of Port Huron, but it is better here than where we used to live.

On a very different note, the US house of representatives voted 383-0 (!) in favor of calling what ISIS is doing to Christians in Iraq and Syria “genocide.”  Other countries in the world that seem to be less sympathetic towards Christians have already declared that Christian genocide has been happening.  Why is the US behind in doing so?  Obama and his administration, that’s why.  It’s strange how this administration can use the arguments of the persecutors to justify a “not genocide” stance when others know from either experience of research that the actions behind those arguments are covers for murderous intent, for the actual genocide going on.  Read about it at House Votes to Declare ISIS’s Actions ‘Genocide’: What’s Next? , House Passes Resolution Calling ISIS’ Mass Slaughter of Christians a ‘Genocide’, and at other online news outlets.

“The facts are well documented in our nearly 300-page report on this matter, and we must remember that for the State Department to issue declaration of genocide, the standard required is merely probable cause, which any prosecutor could find on any of ISIS’s Facebook pages.”  S. Smith, 03-15-16

 

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The Christmas Spirit: “What Men Live By” by Leo Tolstoy

The 1885 short story, What Men Live By by Leo Tolstoy (Russian, 1828-1910), in times past was much more well-known and even acted out as Christmas-time plays.  I have a wonderfully illustrated little hard cover copy from 1954, published by the Peter Pauper Press (PPP), but the entire text can be read online at The Literature Network (What Men Live By).  Below, I provide a synopsis of the story with some Christian and biblical commentary, although Tolstoy himself prefaced it himself with passages from 1 John (here are two of the six):

“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love
the brethren. He that loveth not abideth in death.” 3:14

“Whoso hath the world’s goods, and beholdeth his brother in need,
and shutteth up his compassion from him, how doth the love of God
abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither
with the tongue; but in deed and truth.” 3:17-18

Continue reading The Christmas Spirit: “What Men Live By” by Leo Tolstoy

Prophecies fulfilled, others set in motion, at Jesus’ birth

Christmas gift box icon on old paper background and pattern
A slightly altered version of a saying floating around the internet.

Christmas is such a secular holiday anymore that a person is made to feel like they’re offending someone if they unselfishly wish someone a “merry Christmas.”  Instead, it’s all about having “happy holidays” or enjoying “the season” (my Christmas cards for this year say that . . . but what “season”?  Winter?  The season of blessing retailers with books in the black?).  It’s gotten so strange that some claim that you don’t need Christ in Christmas.  That makes sense . . . nowhere.  I’m surprised that calling it simply “the giving season” hasn’t caught on, akin to the calling of Thanksgiving “turkey day.”

I’m not complaining so much as noting the secular trend, in full swing now, to eliminate Christianity from public life.  Christmas, however, gives us the opportunity to enlighten people about God’s word, possibly more than any other holiday.  When it comes to Easter, people need to accept the New Testament witness regarding Christ’s resurrection.  With Christ’s birth, however, there are prophecies from the Old Testament (or Tanakh) that are pretty clear, and, there is no good reason to think the prophecies weren’t written centuries before Jesus was born.  These prophecies are from the books of Isaiah and Micah.

First, and no doubt very familiar, is Isaiah 7:14.  With verse 13 for context:  “Then Isaiah said, ‘Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also?  Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.'”  This prophecy is announced as fulfilled in Matthew 1:22-23.  Here it is in context (Matthew 1:20b-23):

“an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).”

Some critics like to point out that the word “virgin” is not specifically used in Isaiah, but, in the historical and cultural context, a young unmarried woman (a translation of the word used) meant the same thing as “virgin.”  It’s an odd criticism in any case, since, what else would God have meant?  Would an unchaste girl getting pregnant be any kind of sign from God?

Another criticism, and one without merit, is that the book of Isaiah may have been altered later.  There is no end to such criticisms of the Bible generally.  However, Isaiah is consistently viewed as ancient by scholars, even if some moderns like to imagine that it was written by two or three authors during three periods (the youngest being from about 400 BC).  More importantly, the birth prophecy is in the early part of the book, universally believed to be written in the 700s by Isaiah.  Regarding complete authenticity of the writings, a confirmation came via a Dead Sea Scroll of the entire book of Isaiah.  This scroll is from about 150-125 BC.  Having confidence in the authenticity and the ancientness of Isaiah, we can enjoy the related prophecies in Isaiah 9 (1b-2, 6-7):

“. . . in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful[,] Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.”

There is another prophecy, from Micah 5 (2 & 4), that is quoted in Matthew and is therefore considered fulfilled.  As written in Matthew 2:6:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.”

The book of Micah was written about the same time as Isaiah was.  There are more prophecies regarding Jesus Christ, of course, some fulfilled and some yet to be.  You can view some of them in a linked list at Prophecies Jesus Fulfilled.

Wishing you a warm and love-filled Christmas, I also leave you with a couple of songs for you to enjoy:

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear  (simple and traditional; Bruce Crockburn)

Oh Holy Night (Josh Groban)

Sources:  (1)  NIV Archaeological Study Bible (Zondervan 2005), pp 1055, 1115, 1477.   (2) Rational Steps to Belief in Christ

Youcef Nadarkhani Re-Arrested on Christmas Day

Youcef Nadarkhani Re-Arrested by Iranian Authorities on Christmas Day.

This is just flat-out persecution, Iran thumbing their nose at Christians and any country that is associated with Christianity.  Iran also went against it’s own agreement and arrested Saeed Abedini, an American Iranian, earlier this year (https://withchristianeyes.wordpress.com/2012/12/26/dragonborn-dlc-playability-and-the-skaal-religion/).  Come on, everyone, write to your representatives and ask them to do something about iran.

Christian (Christmas) Poems X: Shaw, Auden, Eliot

657685 sotck.xchng juliafMARY’S SONG

By LUCI SHAW

Blue homespun and the bend of my breast
keep warm this small hot naked star
fallen to my arms.  (Rest . . .
you who have had so far
to come.)  Now nearness satisfies
the body of God sweetly.  Quiet he lies
whose vigour hurled
a universe.  He sleeps
whose eyelids have not closed before.
His breath (so slight it seems
no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps
to sprout a world.
Charmed by dove’s voices, the whisper of straw,
he dreams,
hearing no music from his other spheres.
Breath, mouth, ears, eyes
he is curtailed
who overflowed all skies,
all years.
Older than eternity, now he
is new.  Now native to earth as I am, nailed
to my poor planet, caught that I might be free,
blind in my womb to know my darkness ended,
brought to this birth
for me to be new-born,
and for him to see me mended
I must see him torn.

In The Poetic Bible, C Duriez ed. (Hendrickson Pub.s 2001), 113.

___________

AT THE MANGER MARY SINGS

By W.H. AUDEN

O shut your bright eyes that mine must endanger
With their watchfulness; protected by its shade
Escape from my care: what can you discover
From my tender look but how to be afraid?
Love can but confirm the more it would deny.
Close your bright eye.

Sleep. What have you learned from the womb that bore you
But an anxiety your Father cannot feel?
Sleep. What will the flesh that I gave do for you,
Or my mother love, but tempt you from his will?
Why was I chosen to teach his Son to weep?
Little One, sleep.

Dream. In human dreams earth ascends to Heaven
Where no one need pray nor ever feel alone.
In your first few hours of life here, O have you
Chosen already what death must be your own?
How soon will you start on the Sorrowful Way?
Dream while you may.

In The Poetic Bible, C Duriez ed. (Hendrickson Pub.s 2001), 112.

___________

JOURNEY OF THE MAGI

By T.S. ELIOT

‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kiking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

In The One Year Book of Poetry, P Comfort and D Partner, compilers (Tyndale House Pub.s 1999), December 28 & 29.