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Christmas Eve is Mysterious, Magical, and Majestic

Christmas creeps up on us gradually, gains momentum, and ends with the most glorious message of all.

It begins very subtly. You may see a clerk unpacking angels in August. By Labor Day a few candles and wreaths might be spotted in the back of the store. Before Halloween some of the Christmas displays are already vying for your attention next to the pumpkins and screeching ghosts in the big box discount stores. Thanksgiving is almost nonexistent with the brilliantly lit trees and ho-ho-hoing Santas pushing Tom Turkey out of the picture.

The day after Thanksgiving, or Black Friday as the merchants are now calling it, opens the Christmas season with a bang. The race is on! Retailers are fighting to see who can get the first shopping dollars by opening earlier and earlier on Thanksgiving Day. Shoppers begin a marathon of shopping that will last for the next four weeks. In between mad dashes to the mall, people are sandwiching in holiday parties, cleaning and decorating the house, baking traditional cookies and candies, attending concerts, and wrapping packages. In addition, many are preparing for trips to be with family.

The whole month of December is a huge whirlwind. That is why Christmas Eve is my favorite night of the year. It is the moment we stop and remember what all the hectic activity is all about. All the work is done (if not, then just leave it and try better next year). The decorations are completed, the baking done, the gifts wrapped and under the tree. I enjoy the stillness of the night. The world feels at peace waiting in anticipation for the joyful gatherings of the next day. It is also a time to stop the madness and remember what the season is all about.

It is the birth of a pure and innocent child who would one day bring hope and light to a weary world. It is the time to sing Joy to the World for the Lord is come with joyful hearts. It is a time of lights and enlightenment. It is a time of family, friends, and love. It is a time to reflect in prayerful meditation the birth of our Lord.

The power of this night even stopped a war. In 1914, during World War I, the German troops put out a few Christmas trees decorated with candles and began singing Christmas carols. The British echoed the carols in their own language. Then the two sides began putting out signs saying they would stop shooting if the other side would. Word spread up and down the front lines and gradually the two sides ventured out from their trenches. They met in the middle and exchanged gifts of food, tobacco, and alcohol. The first order of business was to bury the dead then they got together and passed Christmas day playing football.

When the commanding officers heard of the impromptu truce they ordered the troops to begin shooting. Although the truce was short lived it all began because of the birth of a small child one Silent and Holy Night. A child who was sent by God with the power to perform miracles—even the miracle to end wars.

Christmas Eve is the night of mystery and magic, love and laughter, peace and prayer. My wish for you, my friend, is that you may feel the majesty of the night and carry that with you throughout the coming year.

 

WHY CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?

 I imagine God is sitting on his/her throne in heaven scratching his head and saying, “What on earth are my people doing?!” Through the ages atrocities have been committed in the name of religion but now the world seems to get crazier by the minute.                                 

Some of the happenings would be funny if they weren’t true. But, sadly, it has become the norm for people to run around grandstanding trying to grab headlines by doing stunts one would expect to see in a reality show—all in the name of religion. They are pushing the limits of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and tolerance to the breaking point. I am referring to the church in Topeka, Kansas that pickets military funerals and the one in Florida that burned the Quran. Their actions are merely publicity stunts.

I’m not sure what they hope to gain from these actions besides seeing their names and faces in the papers and on the news. For that reason I will not refer to these two fanatical groups by name. If they hope to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, these are not techniques he would use to gain followers.  Three members of the Kansas Church were in the Columbus, Ohio area yesterday after being invited to speak at an area high school. They then held a demonstration outside another area high school where they carried offensive signs and dressed in fake bloodied American flags and tied American flags around their ankles so the flags dragged on the ground as they walked.

Their actions are offensive and nauseating. What is even more aggravating is the gleeful smirk on their faces. They are getting exactly what they want—media attention—not for their cause but for themselves. That is why I congratulate NBC4i for their refusal to provide video of the demonstrations. Just because our constitution guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press, does not mean the press has to cover their actions.

The Quran burning church in Florida attracted only thirty people to their demonstration. If they had attracted huge crowds I think it is safe to assume they would be conducting burnings every weekend. Again, they have the freedom to perform such an act but do they have the right to put our military and service people in harm’s way—the very people who are willing to sacrifice their lives for a few crazies who are out to make a point.

Interestingly, the people from the Kansas church saw that a no-show has its merits. Last month Ohio Wesleyan University scheduled a demonstration and showing of the documentary The Anatomy of Hate about the workings of the Kansas church best known for picketing military funerals under the assertion that God kills soldiers because America tolerates homosexuality.

Expecting members of the church to attend and create a disturbance, the college young people made signs that read “One Love” and “All you need is love.” They were joined by civil-rights groups and members of churches from throughout the state who had heard about the plans.

However, there was no demonstration because the Kansas people did not show up thus giving the media nothing to cover and therefore negating coverage of the day.

According to the church’s web site, the group blames America’s sins for its tragedies. They contend that the dead miners in West Virginia are in hell, Catholic and Jewish schools are run by perverts, and God is to be thanked for dead soldiers.

The group won a victory in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that its protests are free speech. A man who sued after they picketed his Marine son’s funeral in Maryland was ordered to pay their court costs.

It is now up to the Supreme Court to decide this case. Some of our most precious freedoms are the right to free speech, the right for public assembly, and freedom of the press and we must guard these at any cost—even if it means putting up with crazies such as these. But, we also have the freedom of choice to turn off the TV and the press has the freedom not to give them coverage.

It appears the best way to shut up these people  is to do what our mothers told us to do to the bullies in grade school—just ignore them.

http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2011/05/11/protesters-challenge-churchs-views.html?sid=101

http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2010/04/08/protesters-dont-show-peace-prevails.html?sid=101

CLERGY PONDERS MEANING OF BIN LADEN’S DEATH

Osama bin Laden is dead. May he NOT rest in peace. The man who inflicted pain, sorrow, and misery upon thousands in the name of God no longer exists.

As people of faith how should we react to bin Laden’s death? It is certainly hard to mourn the demise of such an evil man. But is it right to celebrate the death of such a person? Crowds of people gathered at ground zero and in front of the White House cheering, waving American flags, and chanting USA. Although these demonstrations seem to be in poor taste, it is hard to condemn these people for feeling relief at the death of our enemy and pride in our country.

What does his death mean? Will we be safer with bin Laden out of the picture? Only time will tell. We don’t know the inner workings of Al Qaeda but this must be a setback to them as they scramble to reorganize. Let us hope the setback is more than temporary. To the thousands who lost loved ones due to bin Laden this should bring closure to them. They can feel a bit of satisfaction that the head of the snake is gone. There will be no more venomous strikes from this snake.

But is it ever acceptable to take another life and rejoice? Several religious leaders around the world have weighed in on this lately. All seem to agree that human life is precious but there are times justice needs to be served. Imam Hassan al-Qazwini, leader of one of the country’s largest mosques in a Detroit suburb said, “There is no doubt that this man was a thug. He was a murderer. His hands were stained by the blood of thousands of innocent people—Muslims and non-Muslims alike….We’re happy to see the man who caused so much pain for Muslims in this country is gone…finally.” He also explained Muslims are discouraged from showing jubilation over death, but cheering the news of bin Laden’s demise marks an occasion where “justice was served.”

Rev. Stephen Mimnaugh of Manhattan’s St. Francis of Assisi church said, “Justice may have been served, but we Catholics never rejoice in the death of a human being.” The Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader and winner of the Nobel Peace prize, said that although bin Laden might have deserved compassion and even forgiveness as a human being, it is sometimes necessary to take counter-measures. “Forgiveness doesn’t mean forget what happened.”

Paul Miller, director of the Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center in Berlin, Ohio, said that although bin Laden’s killing clashes with their ethic of valuing every person as a son or daughter of God, they also believe that God allows a government to do what is necessary to protect its people.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said the Bible makes a distinction between individual Christians, who should pray for and forgive their enemies, and the state which has a different responsibility. “God says they are to punish the evildoers.” He continued that the moral symmetry of the universe demands that a person who has perpetrated the terrible crimes against humanity that he has deserves to be executed. Land said, “And I look upon what happened to him not as a killing, not as an assassination, but an execution for crimes he freely admitted to and bragged about.”

Congregation Neve Shalom’s rabbi, Gerald Zelizer, said in an interview that according to the Talmud, a central Jewish text, if someone is trying to kill you, “you are obligated — not permitted — to kill that person before he kills you.”

In his Saturday morning sermon, Zelizer reminded congregants that the day bin Laden was killed was also Holocaust Remembrance Day. He suggested that the phrase often used in reference to Hitler might also be appropriate for bin Laden: “May his name be blotted out and his memory forgotten.”

Bin Laden is gone—let us rejoice that justice has been done. I propose we celebrate by following Rabbi Zelizer’s suggestion that we eradicate his name from all of history. That is the best punishment for an egomaniac.

http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/national_world/stories/2011/05/09/message-from-clergy-mixed-on-bin-laden.html

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42948897/ns/us_news-life/