Christmas History [v34]

DECEMBER 2001

Buon Natale; God Jul; Gloedelig Jul; Bonas Festas; Joyeux Noel…
MERRY CHRISTMAS!! —

This time is like no other during the year…we decorate with lights, trees and ornaments, we play music ‘for the soul’, and we spend hours searching for just the right gift for the special people in our life. Are we in danger of gliding through this important season without really coming to grips with it’s true intent?

Actually, the problem of celebrating Christmas for the right reasons has been around for a long time. There was no ‘official’ celebration of Jesus’ birth until the fourth century. December was likely chosen for this as a way to battle pagan religions that had a winter solstice festival called “Saturnalia”—ensuring widespread observance since the people were already celebrating at that time. However, merely changing the focus didn’t change the way some people celebrated, with just as much drunken revelry, gluttony and carousing as before…and it has been happening ever since.

It seems that it’s always been a challenge to recognize Christmas in a way that lifts up its uniquely spiritual content, and to pull away from the cultural trappings that are so easily attached. So what should we do?

There are some simple acts that anyone can do. Share with those that are not as blessed as you are, maintain the highest ethical standards, and be genuinely interested in others by ‘building them up’ honestly and compassionately…show and share love in all situations. It reminds me of a story…

Just a few days before Christmas two ladies stood looking into a department store window at a large display of the manger scene with clay figures of the baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the animals.

Disgustedly, one lady said, “Look at that…the church is trying to take advantage of our benevolence and ‘horn in’ on Christmas.”

Well, there are many views people have about this ‘season.’ One view is cynically, feeling that it is the most important time of the year to make money and endorse the making of it. Another is graciousness, wishing their fellow citizens joy and peace. And the third is, of course, reverence—and awe that the God of the universe sending His Son as a way of showing His love and concern for man.

So it comes beyond logic…with a child was born who, beyond the power of anyone to account for, was the high and lofty One made low and helpless. The One who inhabits eternity comes to dwell in time. The One whom none can look upon and live is delivered in a stable under the soft, indifferent gaze of cattle. The Father of all mercies puts Himself at our mercy!

So, if we are ‘touched’ only once a year, the touching is still worth it…and maybe on some quiet morning of reflection, the ‘reason’ He came will be clear—be comforted that He will carry you and all your burdens…if you will let Him.

I wish for you the “peace that transcends all understanding”…

Mark

LIFE’S DEEP THOUGHTS (v34) for DECEMBER 2001
(NOTE: Please send your ‘thoughts’ to me at: mbesh@ameritech.net)

Thank you’s to everyone that has sent me ‘stuff’ throughout the past year…

Joy Asashon
Richard Bachman
Gene Besh
Linda Besh
Bill Bishop
Nozer Buschia
Lezlie Cates
John Gibson
Bob Hart
Jake Izatt
Jeff and Stacey Jezak
Bob Dorigo Jones
Michelle Jones
Norma Johnson
Jan Larson
Ken Larson
Donna Lenz
Sandy Lerner
Nanci Lewis
Terry Longo
Beth McMillan
Rollie Mossberg
Joe Olson
David Osborne
Tracy Pultorak
Cher’re Walters
John Waskin
Laurie Westman
Suzie Wilkinson

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IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE!
“I want to live again! I want to live again!!” George Bailey cried out as he stood on a snow-covered bridge with the dark swirling river below. With help from Angel Second Class Clarence Oddbody, George had just discovered, to his horror, what life would be like had he never been born.

Anyone who has watched the Christmas film classic “It’s A Wonderful Life” knows that Bedford Falls had become Pottersville—a place that was more akin to Sodom and Gomorrah than the ‘Currier and Ives’ Bedford Falls was. One person can make an enormous difference in the lives of others—in a community or an entire culture.

So, what if Jesus had never been born? What difference would it have made in history or in our daily lives?—A great deal.

Much of what we take for granted finds its roots in Christ and His teachings. And yet, Christianity is ridiculed as an impediment to progress, a bane, and remains today the one ‘safe’ target of contempt and prejudice.

While the ‘church’ has strayed badly at times from Christ’s teaching—for example, during the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the blight of anti-Semitism—the overwhelming impact of Christ on earth has been for good. Consider Christ’s profound influence in five areas: respect for life; the status of women; science; education; and the family

In classical Rome and Greece, unwanted babies were often taken out into the forest or the mountainside and left to be consumed by wild animals or to starve or for others to use them for their own perverted ends. Since Jesus left us, Christians have cherished life as sacred, even the life of the unborn. They have founded orphanages and nurseries.

Prior to Christian influence, widows in India were involuntarily burned on their husbands’ funeral pyres. Female infanticide was also common place in the world at that time. How ironic it is that feminists today do not give any credit to Christ—in fact, they say Christianity has oppressed women. In reality, Christianity has elevated women enormously. Had Jesus never come, Gloria Steinem may not have lived more than a few weeks.

Mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead and physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer stress that the facts show that Christianity gave birth to science because of “the medieval insistence on the rationality of God.”

Some of the greatest pioneers of science were Christians—Copernicus, Galileo, Pasteur, Kepler, Pascal, Babbage, Faraday, Kelin, Boyle, Mendel, Newton…the list goes on—in all areas of science!

Many of the previous scientists, but more importantly, the “masses” were educated by Christians—with the roots of education for the masses going back to the Reformation—especially to John Calvin. He believed that everyone should be able to read the Bible for themselves.

The greatest universities were started by Christians—indeed, most of the first 123 colleges and universities in the U.S. have Christian origins—Harvard, Yale, William and Mary, Brown, Princeton, N.Y.U., Northwestern, Dartmouth…and the list goes on.

Christianity has helped preserve the family as the basic unit of society—teaching values and to a world riddled with immorality. They also advocated the value and care of the elderly, who were previously abandoned or killed when they were determined not to be “useful” anymore.

Many other things Americans take for granted all find their roots in Christ and His teachings—charity; hospitals and medicine; literacy; free enterprise and the work ethic; the abolition of cannibalism and slavery; representative government; animal rights; helping the poor; civil liberties; inspiring the world’s greatest art; religious freedom; and the general elevation of moral standards. However, as wonderful as Christ’s impact on our world has been, it is His “transforming power” in the lives of countless individuals that is greater still. [Dr. D. James Kennedy, edited by Mark Besh]

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THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS
From 1558 to 1829, Catholics living in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly.  During this period, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” was written in England as a Catechism song for young Catholics.

The hidden meanings of the song’s gifts were intended to help children remember lessons of their faith.  The “true love” mentioned in the song refers to God.  The “me” who receives the presents symbolizes every baptized person.  The “Partridge in a pear tree” is Jesus Christ.  In the song, Jesus is symbolically presented as a mother partridge which feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless chicks.

The other symbols’ meanings are:

2 Turtle Doves – the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens – Faith, Hope and Charity
4 Calling Birds – the Four Gospels
5 Golden Rings – the first five books of the Old Testament, which give the history of man’s fall from grace.
6 Geese a-laying – the six days of Creation
7 Swans a-swimming – the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
8 Maids a-milking – the eight Beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing – nine fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords a-leaping – the Ten Commandments
11 Pipers Piping – the eleven faithful Disciples
12 Drummers Drumming – twelve points of belief in the Apostles’ Creed
[Received from Linda Besh]

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WHAT CHRISTMAS BRINGS
This night bestowed peace on the whole world;
so, let no one threaten;
this is the night of the Most Gentle One–
let no one be cruel;
this is the night of the Most Humble One–
let no one be proud.

Now is the day of joy–
let us not revenge;
now is the day of good will–
let us not be mean-spirited.
In this day of peace let us not be conquered by anger…
Today the Bountiful impoverished Himself for our sake;
so, rich one, invite the poor to your table.

Today we received a gift for which we did not ask;
so let us give alms to those who implore us and beg.
This present day cast open the Heavenly door to our prayers;
let us open our door to those who ask our forgiveness.

Now the Divine Being took upon
Himself the seal of humanity,
in order for humanity
to be adorned by the seal of Divinity
[Saint Isaac of Ninevah]

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CHRISTMAS SYNONYMS
Translate the following statements back into ‘recognizable’ English—each one is a common Christmas saying or song (answers at the end)

1. Move hither ward the entire assembly of those who are loyal in their belief
2. Listen, the celestial messengers produce harmonious sounds
3. Nocturnal time span of unbroken quietness
4. An emotion excited by the acquisition or expectation of good given to the terrestrial sphere
5. Embellish the interior passageways
6. Exalted heavenly beings to whom harkened
7. Twelve o’clock on a clement night witnessed its arrival
8. The Christmas preceding all others
9. Small municipality in Judea southeast of Jerusalem
10. Diminutive masculine master of skin-covered percussionistic cylinders
11. Omnipotent supreme being who elicits respite to ecstatic distinguished males
12. Tranquillity upon the terrestrial sphere
13. Obese personification fabricated of compressed mounds of minute crystals
14. Expectation of arrival to populated area by mythical, masculine perennial gift-giver
15. Natal Celebration devoid of color, rather albino, as a hallucinatory phenomenon for me
16. In awe of the nocturnal time span characterized by religiosity
17. Geographic state of fantasy during the season of mother nature’s dormancy
18. The first person nominative plural of a triumvirate of far eastern heads of state
19. Tintinnabulation of vacillating pendulums in inverted, metallic, resonant cups
20. In a distant location the existence of an improvised unit of newborn children’s slumber furniture
21. Proceed forth declaring upon a specific geological alpine formation
22. Jovial Yuletide desired for the second person singular or plural by us

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IS THERE A SANTA CLAUS?
Many years ago an eight-year-old American girl wrote, with her father’s help, a letter to the editor of the New York Sun in which she asked, “Is there really a Santa Claus?” An open letter in reply was published – the now famous “Answer to Virginia” It was written by a hitherto unremarkable reporter named, Frank Church,

The reply has become one of the most famous editorials ever written. It has been reprinted millions of times in more than 20 languages. So here it is again. You may like to read it to your children or grandchildren. The sentiments are as true now as they ever were.

“Virginia; your little friends were wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they are men’s or children’s are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist and you know that they abound and give to your life it’s highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childish faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus? You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.

Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not? But that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world. You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance can push aside, that curtain and view and picture the supernatural beauty and glory beyond.

Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Santa Claus! Thank God, he lives and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia — nay, ten times ten thousand years from now – he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.  [Frank Church]

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THE NATIVITY SCENE
A 7-year old child was drawing a picture of the Nativity.  The picture was very good, including Mary, Joseph and, of course, baby Jesus.

However, there was a fat man standing in the corner of the stable, that just did not seem to fit in. When the child was asked about it, she replied, “Oh, That’s Round John Virgin.”

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SEASONAL QUESTIONS
What do they call Santa’s helpers?
Subordinate Clauses

What do you call Santa Clause after he’s fallen into a fireplace?
Krisp Kringle

Who sings “Love Me Tender,” and makes Christmas toys?
Santa’s little Elvis

Which of Santa’s reindeers needs to mind his manners the most?
“Rude”olph

What did the Gingerbread Man put on his bed?
A cookie sheet

What reindeer has the cleanest antlers?
Comet

What is the cow’s holiday greeting?
Mooooory Christmas

What does Santa like to eat?
A jolly roll

Where do Santa’s reindeers like to stop for lunch?
Deery Queen

What does Santa say when he is sick?
OH OH NO!

If athletes get athlete’s foot, what do astronauts get?
Missile toe

How does Santa Claus take pictures?
With his North Pole-aroid

What do you call a cat on the beach at Christmas time?
Sandy Claus

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IMMEDIATE DOWNSIZING MEASURES EMPLOYED
The recent announcement that Donner and Blitzen have elected to take the early reindeer retirement package has triggered a good deal of concern about whether they will be replaced, and about other restructuring decisions at the North Pole.

Streamlining is due to the North Pole’s loss of dominance of the season’s gift distribution business. Home shopping channels, the Internet, and mail order catalogs have diminished Santa’s market share. He could not sit idly by and permit further erosion of the profit picture.

The reindeer downsizing was made possible through the purchase of a late model Japanese sled for the CEO’s annual trip. Improved productivity from Dasher and Dancer—who summered at the Harvard Business School—is anticipated. Reduction in reindeer will also lessen airborne environmental emissions for which the North Pole has received unfavorable press.

I am pleased to inform you that Rudolph’s role will not be disturbed. Tradition still counts for something at the North Pole. Management denies, in the strongest possible language, the earlier leak that Rudolph’s nose got that way, not from the cold, but from substance abuse.  Calling Rudolph “a lush who was into the sauce and never did pull his share of the load” was an unfortunate comment, made by one of Santa’s helpers and taken out of context at a time of year when he is known to be under executive stress.

Today’s global challenges require the North Pole to continue to look for better, more competitive steps. Effective immediately, the following economic measures are to take place in the “Twelve Days of Christmas” subsidiary:

The partridge will be retained, but the pear tree never turned out to be the cash crop forecasted. It will be replaced by a plastic hanging plant, providing considerable savings in maintenance.

The two turtle doves represent a redundancy that is simply not cost-effective. In addition, their romance during working hours could not be condoned. The positions are therefore eliminated.

The three French hens will remain intact. After all, everyone loves the French.

The four calling birds were replaced by an automated voice mail system, with a call-waiting option. An analysis is underway to determine who the birds have been calling, how often and how long they talked.

The five golden rings have been put on hold by the Board of Directors. Maintaining a portfolio based on one commodity could have negative implications for institutional investors. Diversification into other precious metals as well as a mix of T-Bills and high technology stocks appear to be in order.

The six geese-a-laying constitutes a luxury which can no longer be afforded. It has long been felt that the production rate of one egg per goose per day is an example of the decline in productivity. Three geese will be let go, and an upgrading in the selection procedure by personnel will assure management that from now on every goose it obtains will be more productive.

The seven swans-a-swimming is obviously a number chosen in better times. Their function is primarily decorative. Mechanical swans are on order. The current swans will be retrained to learn some new strokes and therefore enhance their out placement.

As you know, the eight maids-a-milking concept has been under heavy scrutiny by the EEOC. A male/female balance in the workforce is being sought. The more militant maids consider this a dead-end job with no upward mobility. Automation of the process may permit the maids to try a-mending, a-mentoring, or a-mulching.

Nine ladies dancing has always been an odd number. This function will be phased out as these individuals grow older and can no longer do the steps.

Ten Lords-a-leaping is overkill. The high cost of Lords plus the expense of international air travel prompted the Compensation Committee to suggest replacing this group with ten out-of-work Congresspersons. While leaping ability may be somewhat sacrificed, the savings are significant because we expect an oversupply of unemployed Congresspersons this year.

Eleven pipers piping and twelve drummers drumming is a simple case of the band getting too big. A substitution with a string quartet, a cutback on new music, and no uniforms will produce savings which will drop right down to the bottom line.

We can expect a substantial reduction in assorted people, fowl, animals and other expenses. Though incomplete, studies indicate that stretching deliveries over twelve days is inefficient. If we can drop ship in one day, service levels will be improved.

Regarding the lawsuit filed by the attorney’s association seeking expansion to include the legal profession (“thirteen lawyers-a-suing”), action is pending.

Lastly, it is not beyond consideration that deeper cuts may be necessary in the future to stay competitive. Should that happen, the Board will request management to scrutinize the Snow White Division to see if seven dwarfs is the most efficient number.
[Forwarded by Leonard Gresens]

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Few things last forever, especially in the new condition that they are given. The day after Christmas, pieces are missing, batteries are worn out, things are showing signs of wear.

We shop and shop and shop til we drop, but sometimes we buy things that are the wrong size, off-color, or unwanted by the recipient. Once in a while we even forget to buy for someone on our list.

The stores are crowded, playing tinny music; things are picked over, twice-dropped. People are crabby, overspent, tired, and singing “Joy to the World”.

I thought about all of this and wondered why we bother. Nothing I can give can top the gift that God gave to me; the day that He created the world, stepped off His throne and formed Adam with His hands, He knew that He would have to step out of Heaven once again and use His hands to give life to the whole world.

His gift is the right size, right color, always in style, fresh every day and no one is forgotten. It’s from His heart, not out of duty or obligation. He loves each one of us so very much. We don’t deserve Him, but He gives us His presence to dwell within us forever and forever.

So, sit down, put your feet up, open the Good Book and discover for yourself that the best gift was already given.

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The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings, but shorter tempers; wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints.  We spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy it less.  We have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences, but less time; we have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgment; more experts, but more problems; more medicine, but less wellness.  We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry too quickly, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too seldom, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.  We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values.  We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life; we’ve added years to life, not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor. We’ve conquered outer space, but not inner space. We’ve done larger things, but not better things.  We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul.  We’ve split the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less.

We plan more, but accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information to produce more copies than ever, but have less communication.  These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion; tall men, and short character; steep profits, and shallow relationships. These are the times of world peace, but domestic warfare; more leisure, but less fun; more kinds of food, but less nutrition. These are days of two incomes, but more divorce; of fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throw-away morality, one-night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer to quiet, to kill.

It is a time when there is much in the show window and nothing in the stockroom; a time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete.  [George Carlin]

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SING WE NOW OF CHRISTMAS/EMMANUEL
Sing we now of Christmas/
Sing we all Noel/
Of the Lord and Savior/
We the tidings tell/
Sing we Noel/
For Christ the King is born/
Sing we Noel/
For Christ our Lord is born/

Angels from on high/
May shepherds come and see/
He’s born in Bethlehem/
A blessed family/
Glory to God/
For Christ out King is born/
Glory to God/
For Christ our Lord is born/

Sing we now of Christmas/
Sing we all Noel/
Sing we now of Christmas/
Sing we all Noel/
Sing we all Noel/

Emmanuel, Emmanuel/
Emmanuel, Emmanuel/
Wonderful Counselor/
Lord of Life, Lord of All/
He is the prince of peace/
Mighty God, Holy One/
Emmanuel, Emmanuel

[From the “Christmastime” album by Michael W. Smith]

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Answers to the ‘translations’:

1. O Come All Ye Faithful
2. Hark the Herald Angels Sing
3. Silent Night
4. Joy to the World
5. Deck the Halls
6. Angels We Have Heard on High
7. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
8. The First Noel
9. O Little Town of Bethlehem
10. Little Drummer Boy
11. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
12. Peace on Earth
13. Frosty the Snowman
14. Santa Claus is Coming to Town
15. White Christmas
16. O Holy Night
17. Winter Wonderland
18. We Three Kings of Orient Are
19. Jingle Bells
20. Away in a Manger
21. Go Tell It on the Mountain
22. We Wish You a Merry Christmas

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DEEP THOUGHT:
“Put” means to place a thing where you want it. “Putt” means a vain attempt to do the same thing.

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Hope you enjoyed some of these insights—share them with your friends and colleagues—so we can have a larger ‘pool’ to receive from, and more to share with!

Also, remember to include your name as the “source,” if some of this wisdom is of your doing—I would like to give credit where credit is due!

“May the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
[Philippians 4:7]

Mark

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Disclaimer: All the above jokes & inspirations are obtained from various sources and copyright are used when known. Other than our name and headers, we do not own the copyright to any of the materials sent to this list. We just want to spread the ministry of God’s love and cheerfulness throughout the world.

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