Christmas MMVII


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The Nativity by Petrus Christus, c. 1445.
Photo taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nativity_of_Jesus

Growing up Baptist, “Christmas” was just the one day (25 December), and after that, thoughts of getting ready for Easter come into play. Having been a part of the life of the Episcopal Church for almost six years, I have fully and gladly accepted the tradition of Christmas being the “twelve days of Christmas” and not just the one. In traditional Roman, Anglican, and Eastern traditions as well as Coptic and Ethiopian traditions, Christmas begins on 25 December and does not end until 6 January, it being the Feast of the Epiphany.

After a joyous Christmas Eve of singing umpteen services at Palmer Church, my little brother, his new wife, my little sister, my stepmom, and Dad coming to the last of them, we went to a hotel where we all (save little brother and wife who returned home) stayed at the Hilton Post Oak. On Christmas Day, we all went to little brother’s/wife’s place and spent the day eating, watching movies, and eating some more. It was very relaxing and was very special in that my older brother and his wife and kids stopped by for a couple of hours. It was the first time in years my siblings and I had physically been in the same room together at the same time, and it meant a lot to me they were all there. I hasten to add there are no estrangements: being apart from one another - some with others and others with some, but not all together at once - is the way things have worked out in the past few years. Hopefully, it will not be the last such get-together for a good while.

We stayed at the hotel the nights of the 24th and 25th. Stepmom and sis went home to New York (though stepmom is in Austin right now) on the 26th.

This month has been my busiest musical December ever. It was made so by the Houston Chamber Choir doing its usual Christmas “potpourri” program with traditional anthems and hymns, plus two performances of Handel’s Messiah (complete) with the Mercury Baroque ensemble. Additionally, I and three other Chamber Choir members, as honorary employees for the duration of their service, helped out with the Chase Bank of Texas Employee Holiday Choir - a tradition dating back to 1947. Of course, there was Bach Choir doing parts 1-3 of J. S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio as well as Lessons and Carols with Palmer Memorial Episcopal. Additionally, I was privileged to help out in the choir of Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church with its Lessons and Carols service. A busy December, to be sure, but a happy one.

Christmas is about the birth of something new, the birth of something bigger than all of us, bigger than the world, bigger than the universe: everything I’ve been singing about all month long - except ol’ Kris Kringle and a certain reindeer with that odd nose of his. My prayer for 2008 is that this Christmas will herald a birth of a better me and that 2008 will see that better me in action.

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I’ve read somewhere that Christmas is not just a religious holiday, but is a cultural one as well. For that, I think, we have to thank the legend of Santa Claus giving way for the commercialization of the holidays by way of keeping alive the tradition of gift-giving. We have also to thank the ancient Christians who decided to put the holiday on a pagan holiday date of 25 December, which gave the Christian celebration an aesthetic (Christmas trees, etc.) it otherwise would not have had.

Thank God for the shopping: it helps keep businesses going and the economy moving (not always a bad thing, mind you). But of course, the wise person will bear in mind the “reason for the season”.

As I have said before, Linus said it best.

Merry Christmas!

Jeff


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