An Agnostic Christmas December 26, 2011Posted by Matt in Christianity, Christmas.
Tags: Christianity, Christmas, church of christ, experience, hopeful agnostic, Jesus, The Episcopal Church
It’s no secret to those who know me or who read this blog that I’ve undergone a period of spiritual change over the past few years. This is most visible in our change in churches, from the Church of Christ to the Episcopal Church, but for me the transformation runs far deeper than the denomination with which we associate. It goes from the morality espoused to the attitudes expressed to the very theological foundations upon which everything is built.
As I’ve said in the past, I came to the realization a long time ago that my idea of God had evolved a great deal and that the classic theistic description was no longer tenable, that I could no longer say I believed in that idea of God. Please note that this doesn’t exclude God altogether, far be it from that, but it does mean that the commonly taught descriptors of God no longer worked, so I was forced to recalibrate, to rethink my personal theology, so earlier this year I decided that the best phrase to describe my current philosophical state was “hopeful agnosticism.” Though I’m pretty unclear and questioning on the theistic version of God, I do wholeheartedly believe in something bigger than myself, working through and embodied by people throughout history. It’s a force of love and compassion, of mercy and radical forgiveness, one that permeates the fabric of reality and dwells in all people and things.
The Christmastime idea of Incarnation bothered me for a while, especially when looking critically at the evidence and coming to the conclusion that it may well be a myth meant to later bolster the claims of Jesus’s followers, because I had trouble accepting it and, truth be told, I still don’t accept it as fact, but I recognize something there in the experience of Christmas, particularly as embodied in our services at St. Timothy’s. There is something quite beautiful about the story of Christmas and, whether it happened or not doesn’t really seem to matter. What matters is the effect the story has on you. I can tell you that sitting in a pew at our church during the Christmas Eve mass is one of the most wonderful and moving experiences I’ve had, and in the end, isn’t that what really matters? Once we get past the sniping at each other over the factual nature of the account, isn’t the real meaning found in the effect it has on you?
That’s what I think at least. You can keep your reams of studies attempting to prove the unprovable, to know the unknowable. I’ll rest on the experience, the mystical knowing beyond knowing.
Posts of Christmas Past December 24, 2011Posted by Matt in Christmas.
Tags: bad poetry, Christmas, Communism, fiction, Nativity myth, Santa Claus, zombies
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Here at Words of Wisdom, I’ve been writing about Christmas for years. Some posts have been funny, some have been serious, some have turned controversial, some have caused involuntary eye-rolling, but whatever your reaction might be, the posts have long been a mainstay on the blog. Today I thought we could revisit a few of those posts of past times.
Given the recent undead craze, you may have heard all you ever wanted to about zombies. If not, check out “Twas the Night Before Christmas…with Zombies.”
Or, if zombies aren’t your style, here’s a poem from 2009 entitled “The Day After Christmas.”
If you want to know how to really stir things up in your conservative church, I’ll give you hint: make a case for the nativity story being a mythical account. Yeah, that won’t get you invited to Christmas dinner.
Back in 2008 I wrote a Christmas short story entitled “A Finger Between Friends.” At least I thought it was pretty funny.
Did you ever think there was something strange about Santa Claus, that maybe, perhaps, he wasn’t who we were always led to be believe? I did and back in 2007 I wrote Get Behind Me Santa!, an expose that showed his ties to the evils of Communism.
And there have been several more that weren’t quite as interesting. Merry Christmas, y’all!
Voice of an Angel December 14, 2011Posted by Matt in Christmas.
Tags: Christmas, school program, solo
I was not born with much in the way of music talent.
I can’t carry a tune to save my life and have never had the motivation to become proficient with an instrument.
Luckily, that inability doesn’t run in the family.
I’ve long known that our oldest daughter, Rachel, did have a naturally endowed knack for music. Going all the back to her toddler years, she has had a wonderful voice and an innate ability to sing in tune and on key. But, though I’ve known this, I had never really heard her let loose with her instrument, to truly put her heart and soul into a singing performance.
Then I saw her last night.
We had known for some time that her music teacher had chosen her for a solo part, the character of “Heather Holiday,” in the 4th grade Christmas program, but she was always reticent to sing her piece in front of me. That being the case, I must admit to being a bit concerned, wondering if she was proctrastinating (which she has been known to do) and not doing what she should, but I didn’t push very hard, just asking her in a half-joking manner if she would sing for me. She would just smile shyly and decline.
Yesterday evening we filed into the school gym and found seats among the bleachers, facing the holiday decorated set below us. My mom had driven over for the show from Arkansas and soon after the program started Mother Clelie, our curate at church, joined us as well.
Rachel was resplendent and beautiful, dressed in a homemade Christmas dress and wearing a tiara, looking much older and more mature than her nine years. The program progressed as most school programs do, with group songs and speaking parts, all of which centered around a story dealing with the holiday season. Then, about 2/3 of the way through the show, the big moment arrived. Rachel stepped to the microphone, poised and confident, took and deep breath and began to sing.
All of a sudden the clouds parted and the gate to heaven itself was opened, the voice of an angel filling the cavernous gymnasium. With mouth open wide and tears streaming down my face, I tried to hold my iPhone steady and capture these beautiful two minutes.
Needless to say, I am a proud dad.
Ten Songs That Will Make You Hate Christmas December 7, 2011Posted by Matt in Christmas, top ten.
Tags: Bad Christmas Music, Celine Dion must die, Chipmunks, Do They Know It's Christmas, Do You Hear What I Hear, Feliz Navidad, Kenny G, Manheim Steamroller, New Kids on the Block, O Holy Night, Paul McCartney, The Christmas Shoes
Sure, it’s the happiest time of year. The time when people take a few moments to think about others, the time for tinsel and garland, the time for family and gifts. But, despite the joy and mirth, there remains an underlying fact that many try to ignore, a problem that often goes notoriously unchecked.
Bad Christmas music.
People love Christmas music, it’s true, and much of it rightly should be enjoyed, whether it be in the form of religious experiences or in the general happiness of the holiday, but many times the songs of the season are annoying, overplayed, or just plain awful. This list is dedicated to those.
10. Anything by Kenny G
Why? Because Kenny G sucks. He makes me want to throw puppies into the path of a speeding semi-truck.
9. Feliz Navidad
So annoying and repetitive it will make even the most stalwart humanitarian want to join the Border Patrol.
8. New Kids on the Block – Funky, Funky Christmas
Come on, don’t be ashamed. If you’re my age you know you had this one and if you care about the eternal resting place of your soul, you repented of it long ago when you threw the cassette in the garbage.
7. Anything by Manheim Steamroller
The idea of running over their gargantuan collection of Christmas music with a steamroller makes Santa smile.
6. Do You Hear What I Hear?
It doesn’t bother me that the writer of the song was obviously on some type of hallucinogenic drug that caused him to think of talking lambs, rather it’s the stupid lyrics like “A star, a star, shining in the night, with a tail as big as a kite” that bring about my disdain.
5. Paul McCartney – Wonderful Christmastime
Paul gets a synthesizer and in a matter of minutes destroys the Beatles legacy.
4. That stupid Chipmunk Christmas song
I propose we make it open season on chipmunks anytime this annoying song is played.
3. O Holy Night
Yes, I know its sacrilege to hate O Holy Night, but I can’t stand the overwrought, awful way it is always sung. It makes me want to gouge out my eardrums with an ice pick.
2. Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas?
What a piece of crap. I like Bono fine, but when he says, “Thank God it’s them instead of you,” it makes me want to throw up.
1. The Christmas Shoes
So bad and saccharine it makes me want to put on the Christmas shoes and kick the kid’s dying mother in the head.
What about you? What would you put on the list?
Just for good measure, see if you can make it through this one.
Christmas with the Wisdoms December 29, 2010Posted by Matt in Christmas, family.
Tags: birthday, Christmas, Christmas Eve service, Episcopal Church, Eucharist, family, gifts, Santa Claus
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It’s been an eventful and exhausting five days since I last posted, so let’s take a few moments to catch up.
Our holiday spring began on Friday when we were able to attend our first ever Christmas Eve service, the Holy Eucharist at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church. The nave (that would be the auditorium for you CoCers out there and the sanctuary for you Baptists) was beautifully decorated, with two large Christmas trees adorning the front of the room, greenery draped throughout, and candles lit at each row of pews. The lights were dimmed quite low as the parishioners made their way into the building, found their seats, and took a few moments of silence to pray, reflect, or tell the kids to be quiet.
The service itself consisted of four scripture readings, one from the Messianic prophecies of Isaiah, one from the Psalms, one from Paul’s letter to Titus, and finally, following the singing of “Angels We Have Heard on High,” Luke’s account of Christ’s birth. Father Patrick then addressed us with not one, but two sermons, the first of which was geared towards the children who gathered around him at the front of the building and the second to the adults. The two mini-sermons dealt with the implications of incarnation and both were quite interesting and meaningful. After the sermon, we then participated in the recitation of the Nicene Creed, the Prayers of the People, and ended with the regular greetings in the Peace of the Lord.
Though the first part of service was complete, the main event, aka Holy Communion, was still to come. We have grown accustomed to the practices of the Eucharist over the past two months and this was similar to that which we have done before. Row by row, the parishioners trooped to the front of the nave and knelt before the altar, where Father Patrick and another member would administer the bread and wine while the musicians played a mixture of soft Christmas music. Then, following the Post-Communion Prayer, the parishioners stood and sang Silent Night, with only the soft glow of candles cutting through the darkness. It was a moving experience and one more reason why I like the church.
Once the service ended, many of the congregants retreated to the CAB for a dinner of crawfish soup, red beans and rice, wine, and host of other morsels to make our Christmas Eve a little brighter. We ate and rejoiced in each other’s company, making this a Christmas Eve to remember. By the time we left, the kids were nearly falling over with exhaustion, so it was not difficult in the least to get them in bed and asleep, awaiting the arrival Santa Claus. Santa had a late night, though, particularly since his wife had to go to work at 10:00, but with the help of egg nog and the TBS marathon of A Christmas Story, all was completed by about 2:00am.
The kids were up bright and early Christmas morning, around the time that Diana arrived at home, so we did our first round of presents then. Rachel got the Nintendo DS she wanted, Bekah got a Leapster 2 (though she was certain Santa got them mixed up because she asked him specifically for a DS! We told her that Santa wanted to make sure she could take care of a Leapster first and that maybe she would get one next year.), and JD had several cars and trucks, including a large police vehicle with noise-making buttons. We ate a nice breakfast of waffles, then headed back to St. Tim’s for our first Christmas Day service.
Where the Eve service was much more solemn and introspective, the Christmas Day service was one of great joy, one in which the kids were free to roam about the nave, and infectious laughter and fun spread quickly among the parishioners. There were a few added wrinkles to the service on this day, however, including Patrick’s blessing of the gifts, in which congregants laid their favorite gifts, which included everything from jewelry to a unicycle to the three gifts I mentioned above, in a pile on the altar and he pronounced a blessing upon them. At one point, as he led the congregation in prayer he laid his hands on the gifts, inadvertently touching JD’s police truck and filling the room with the blaring sound of a police siren. Good times. The Eucharist that day was also a bit different that usual, for this one consisted of a white chocolate bread and sparkling grape juice to make it a little more fun and kid friendly, and this time even our now-2 year old JD got to participate. At the end, everyone called out in one loud, joyous voice, “It’s a boy!”
We flew home afterwards, grabbed a bite to eat and hit the road, heading toward the next stop on our yuletide journey, Beebe. Upon our arrival, we first went to the home of Diana’s parents, where we were able to enjoy a nice dinner, some good conversation, and some gift-giving. By the time we left she was in a near-comatose state after being awake for some 30 straight hours, so we drove over to my parents’ home and she collapsed in bed. Both that night and the next one I had long conversations with my dad, mostly about our most recent church experiences. My parents are very open minded people and highly supportive of us, and they were interested to learn more about the church and the people with whom we have spent the past two months. We talked at great length about things and I tried to give the best answers I could, though my knowledge of Episcopal theology and doctrine is still in its fledgling stages.
The next morning we went to church with my parents and, though it is still definitely a Church of Christ, I must say that there was a marked improvement over what it has been in the past. I mean, they even had a Christmas message on their sign! In case you weren’t raised in CoC circles, the church has generally never acknowledged Christian holidays, preferring to treat no day as any greater than another. After worship, we headed back to the parents for a huge Christmas dinner of crown pork roast, all the trimmings, and a vast assortment of desserts, all of which I had to at least sample.
My family has always made a big deal out of Christmas and the room full of gifts given this year was no different in that regard. There was an assortment of video games, Barbie dolls, and more cars and trucks for the kids, some cookware for Diana, and for me, a Playstation 3. Now, I had been lamenting for some time to Diana that I wished I had a system conducive to playing sports games (yeah, Techmo Bowl on the old NES is fun for a while, but it does get a little old), so with her guidance, my family gave me this huge and very cool gift. I’m sure I’ll get a lot of use out of it, particularly the NCAA Football 11 that I received. I was very proud of the gift I picked out for my dad: two front row (I believe) tickets to see Leon Redbone, one of his favorite artists of all time, in concert later this month.
The next day, Monday, we had yet another big event: Jackson’s 2nd birthday party! Diana’s mother came up for the party and we had a ball celebrating our little man’s big day. I think he enjoyed the extra attention, especially since it involved a big slab of cake.
It was a great Christmas weekend and we stayed at their house until yesterday, when we finally packed up all of our things and made the journey back to our Southaven home. Today, I’m back at work, but that’s okay. I’ve got a long season of NCAA Football ahead of me…
Yes, We’re Weird… December 24, 2010Posted by Matt in Christmas.
Tags: Christmas, nerdy gifts, plush microbes, the gift of herpes, Think Geek
I think it’s safe to say that, when it comes to gift giving, we can sometimes be a little on the strange side. Diana and I generally don’t spend very much money on each other for Christmas, so we have to be creative when it comes to presents.
Diana works in a hospital lab where she identifies various pathogens and other bad stuff that invades the human body, then gives it to the doctor to aid in their diagnosis. Well, a few years ago I started a little family tradition using the website ThinkGeek, where I would buy her a plush microbe. Over the years I’ve given her the likes of E. coli (which was affectionately named Eli), swine flu, and syphillis, and for 2010 I picked out yet another gift that keeps on giving: herpes.
The package arrived yesterday and I quickly opened it, thinking of the look on her face Christmas morning when she peered expectantly into her stocking, but alas, the company sent the wrong thing. A book! Instead of the plush herpes!
So, I went ahead and told her what had happened and we had a laugh about it. Now we’re trying to figure out whether we should return the book or gift it to someone else. We’ll see.
But, I really wanted to give my wife herpes this year…
The Christmas Schedule December 24, 2010Posted by Matt in Christmas, family.
Tags: Christmas schedule
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Wow, we’ve got a busy next few days ahead of us.
6:00 Christmas Eve Eucharist at St. Timothy’s
8:00 Dinner at St. Tim’s
10:00-? Santa stuff
Early AM: Christmas morning presents
11:00 Holy Eucharist and Blessing of Gifts at St. Tim’s
Evening: Dinner and Christmas with in-laws in Beebe
10:00 Church with my parents in Beebe
12:00 Dinner and Christmas with family
Deep breath. Relax.
Jackson’s Birthday Party
Jackson’s actual birthday
Drive home exhausted
Back to work.
An Undead Christmas December 23, 2010Posted by Matt in Christmas.
Tags: A Christmas Carol, Christmas stories, It's a Wonderful Life, nativity, zombies
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A few weeks ago I published my revised version of a classic holiday poem, Twas the Night Before Christmas…With Zombies, and it caused me to think about a few things. Given the recent renewal in interest about the undead stemming from movies like 28 Days Later and The Walking Dead television series, I began to wonder why we don’t have more zombies at Christmas time. So, to remedy this obvious deficiency, I think we need to remake more classic Christmas stories with zombies.
It’s a Wonderful Life with Zombies
The zombie apocalypse came without warning in Bedford Falls and soon only a small band of survivors, led by George Bailey, remain to fight the undead hordes. Bailey is troubled as his friends and family succumb to the undead virus, though, and on Christmas Eve wishes he had never been born. That is when Clarence the angel appears and shows him the desolate land of death and destruction that would exist without him, causing him to see the error of his thinking and vowing to fight on.
A Christmas Carol with Zombies
Zombies have taken over London and the distinctions in class have never been greater – with the rich Ebenezer Scrooge barricaded alone in his home filled with all of his needs and wants and the family of Bob Cratchit scrounging about for food and narrowly escaping death at every corner. On Christmas Eve, four ghosts visit Scrooge and show how his life has been lived in folly. The visits culminate with a vision of Tiny Tim as a zombie gnawing on his mother’s head. Scrooge finally sees the error of his ways and allows the Cratchit family into his home so that they all might survive a bit longer before their imminent demise.
The Nativity with Zombies
Mary and Joseph are on the run as the undead plague takes over Nazareth, but because she is so far into her pregnancy, Joseph knows that they must find a place to rest. They duck into a manger in Bethlehem where she gives birth to the baby Jesus. An angel stands over the birthplace, destroying any of the undead who venture near. Shepherds and magi recognize the safe haven and the Savior, so they stop to rest and show their respect. The story ends with Joseph and his family escaping their hideout, using his carpentry tools as weapons to fight off the walking dead.
What Christmas stories would you add zombies to?
Oh Brother… December 16, 2010Posted by Matt in Christmas.
Tags: insanity, some people need to disappear, War on Christmas
I got an email today (don’t ask how or why) from the STAND (Staying True to America’s National Destiny) PAC and, oh man, it’s something else. It starts off like this:
Do you believe…
Christmas is a MYTH?
December 25th is just a WINTER holiday?
Beautifully decorated fir trees with ornaments are simply HOLIDAY trees?
Red and Green, the colors of Christmas, are OFFENSIVE?
Atheists and politically-correct Liberals do!
They want to remove Christmas from our society as part of their ongoing efforts to deny Christianity!
And on and on and on it goes, displaying their weird fetish of exclamation points and all caps, comparing everyone who disagrees with them, including the President, to Nazis, and interspersing plenty of long disproven email forward information.
But, hey, if you contribute “$10, $20, $50, or even $100 you can help Standpac defeat officials who want to hush Christian voices in America and eliminate Christmas celebrations!”
Just tell ‘em “Happy Holidays!” and maybe they’ll go away…
The Birth Myth Revisited December 13, 2010Posted by Matt in Christian Beliefs, Christmas.
Tags: Bible, Christmas, Jesus, mythology, nativity
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Last year I posted a series regarding the nature of mythology as it relates to the stories of the birth of Jesus. I put a good bit of effort into it and, though it caused a bit of controversy in this small corner of the blogosphere, I think it brought about some interesting discussion. In case you missed it then or if you would like to revisit the series, I’ll post the links below.