“God was man in Palestine. . .”

I didn’t even realize that the late John Betjeman, England’s long-time poet laureate, was a Christian, but he was, as I’m learning.  His poem “Christmas” is stunning, a warm survey of all of the decoration and shopping and nostalgia surrounding the season, building up to this:

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.

Read the whole poem and listen to it in a recording after the jump. [Read more…]

Christmas carols on the Incarnation

Sean Morris posts on how the classic Christmas carols draw on the Nicene Creed as they confess that the baby Jesus is God incarnate.  See his examples after the jump.  What are some others? [Read more…]

Merry Christmas vs. Happy Christmas

Matthew Schmitz explains the difference between “merry Christmas” and “happy Christmas” and why the former is a more fitting greeting.  See what he says after the jump, along with what I say. [Read more…]

From eucharistic hymn to Christmas carol

“Let all mortal flesh keep silence” is a hymn about Holy Communion.  But now it keeps showing up as a Christmas carol!  That’s how it’s presented in Christmas concerts, holiday recordings, and on many of the renditions on Youtube.  But it is “an ancient chant of Eucharistic devotion.”

I can see how it would shift over to the Christmas canon.  It has a beautiful, otherworldly melody of the same sort associated with Christmas music.  It talks about how “Christ our God to earth descendeth” and that He was “born of Mary.”  But the point is that “He will give to all the faithful/His own self for heavenly food,” “in the body and the blood.”

But this is quite fitting to associate Holy Communion with Christmas and vice versa.  What other Communion hymns could work as Christmas hymns?  What other Christmas songs could work as Communion songs?

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He will come like crying in the night

You will note that I have mostly resisted the temptation to conflate Advent with the Christmas season, but I will start with the Christmas posts now that we are in the week before the Nativity of Our Lord.  But to salute Advent, I offer you, after the jump, a fine poem on the subject by Rowan Williams, the previous Archbishop of Canterbury.

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Spycraft and Christmas presents

Target has hired former CIA operative Jonna Mendez as an online “Kid’s Gift Detective” to help parents shop for their children and hide the presents. She was the “chief of disguise” with the agency, working in the Office of Technical Service, which she describes as having something like the function of Q in the James Bond movies.  Her husband, Antonio, was the CIA agent in Iran played by Ben Affleck in the movie Argo.

I was not aware that children are particularly secretive when it comes to what they want for Christmas, to the point that parents need cloak and dagger tradecraft to get them to reveal that information.  I guess the common element in being a spy and shopping for Christmas presents is a lot of sneaking around.  See some of the tactics she recommends after the jump. [Read more…]