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Peace on Earth

Image via Tumblr / hymncharts.com

Image via Tumblr / hymncharts.com

Late last night there were just a handful of stores open in my area. I drove out to the all night pharmacy to pick up some last minute items for tonight’s feast. The rattle and din of the usual Christmas traffic had all died down. And I felt it. I finally felt it!

The Christmas spirit!

When I got home that magical feeling finally hit home. A quiet city. Children asleep in their beds, dreaming of new toys and, I guess in the 21st century, all the latest gizmos. Also to remember on a night like that are the poor who have no one to celebrate with. I wondered about a man at my parish who lives outside in the harsh winter cold. Was he desolate? Happy? I can’t know.

I recall one Christmas when I lived by a Salvation Army Mission in downtown Ottawa. One man who simply went by the name “Animal” yelled out loud Christmas morning,

IT’S CHRISTMAS!

That really summed it up for me. A street person, yelling out in joy, that is was Christmas morning. Animal knew what it was all about.

Merry Christmas to everyone who wishes to celebrate it!

Image via Tumblr

Image via Tumblr


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Is Spirituality for Losers?

I liked this tweet because over the years some folks have confronted me in one way or another, saying things like “What if you’re wrong and there is no afterlife? You’ll have wasted your whole life, investing yourself in something that doesn’t exist!

My response to that person was that my spirituality enriches my life, here and now. And Arti Gupta’s response to a similar kind of skepticism is, I think, appropriate for the Christmas season.

For me, Christmastime includes quiet reflection on the birth of Christ. Not that I’m against party people in Santa hats who couldn’t give a hoot about Jesus. That’s fine too. But for me, there’s so much more than mere revelry.

Image via Tumblr

Image via Tumblr


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Storefront Seer

Image via Tumblr

Image via Tumblr

I actually don’t mind the commercialization of Christmas… as long as we remember what it’s all about. Mind you, I think I’d rather just give everyone a candle instead of the usual assortment of stuff. And I’m not wild about all the concrete in my city. Sometimes my dystopian sci-fi side imagines the Earth grumbling and breaking it all up. I guess that’s what we call an Earthquake.

Anyhow, this was more an exercise in Adobe Photoshop Elements than any great political or religious statement. Saw this storefront display the other evening and had to take a pic.


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Merry Christmas!

The Flight into Egypt by Giotto di Bondone (13...

The Flight into Egypt by Giotto di Bondone (1304-06, Scrovegni Chapel, Padua). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To celebrate Christmas I worked on a tune that started out as an exercise in exotic scales. There’s an app at Reaper.fm, the digital workstation that I use, that has countless scales. Probably more than anyone could ever use. So I picked a few that sounded good, tried to blend them together, and soon after realized that it was turning into an unconventional Christmas Story (musically speaking).

Just tonight on Christmas Eve I was watching a show about the flight into Egypt. How Joseph and Mary had to flee from the paranoid King Herod, who was killing all the firstborn because he got wind from the Magi that a King had been born. After a while, sitting in front of our Christmas tree, I felt that this tune sort of captured the flight.

Unconventional, yes. But then, so was Jesus Christ, who continues to be more radical (in a good way) than any other figure to have walked this Earth.

Merry Christmas to all who wish to celebrate this hallowed holiday. The lights and gifts are great. But they’re just symbols of something far greater.

Enjoy!

–Michael Clark


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Real life Grinch repents


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Sunday Reading

English: Mary and Jesus

Mary and Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Matthew 11:2-11
New American Standard Bible (NASB)

2 Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” 4 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.”

Jesus’ Tribute to John

7 As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces! 9 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written,

‘Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You,
Who will prepare Your way before You.’

11 Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Commentary

John the Baptist was no ordinary guy. He was something of a wildman, eating locusts (grasshoppers) and an uncultivated substance that tastes like honey. He wore rough cloth made of camel’s hair. Today, he’d be like a self-sufficient hobo, living away from the city, offering salvation to sinners. Authorities would probably shoo him away to somewhere he couldn’t be seen and “bother” people. Maybe even issue a citation or arrest him if he failed to comply. And I don’t think Jesus would have won any fashion contest, either. The issue of clothing is brought up in today’s reading. Jesus notes that royalty wears fine clothes but, for the people of God, it really doesn’t matter what we wear.

Jesus proceeds to tell us that John is simply the best human being ever to walk the face of the Earth. We can assume that Jesus is excluding himself in that assessment. But here comes the clincher… Jesus adds that, although John may be the best, he can’t compare to the LEAST in the kingdom of heaven. Wow. Can you get your head around this? What Jesus is saying is that heaven is so fantastic, so altogether different from this world, that we just can’t imagine it. We may have glimpses through moments of grace. But on the whole, heaven is a completely different order than this physical universe, and all the conventional judgments that usually go with it.

So with Christmas coming, it’s great to see family, friends, and enjoy giving and receiving whatever toys may come our way. But most important, Christmas is a time to remember what it’s all about. What’s behind and above it all. What counts. What makes it possible for us to enjoy all the lesser, temporary things of this world.

And what’s that?

Well, the Lord. And for most Christian believers, Christmas is a time to remember how God came to us as Jesus Christ. Myself, I can get so caught up in the tree, the lights, and the idea of “Christmas Cheer” that it takes a while for me to get in that quiet space where I just think of a young teenage woman, Mary, giving birth to God-in-the-flesh amidst all kinds of persecution and resentment. (Remember that King Herod wanted to kill Jesus, even as an infant). But when I do get in that headspace, that’s when Christmas takes its most noble and holy form.

—MC


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Getting a bit too busy with my Christmas shopping, so…