In  Sweden, Christmas means Donald Duck 

The_Spirit_of_43-Donald_Duck,_cropped_versionOdd Christmas customs department:  In Sweden, the country virtually shuts down on Christmas Eve at 3:00 p.m. so that everyone can watch a Donald Duck special from 1958.

The show consists of old cartoons from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, featuring Walt Disney’s duck, whom the Swedes call Kalle Anka.

After the jump, an excerpt and link to an account of the role Kalle Anka plays in the Swedish Christmas.

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Birth as the “moral fault line of our time”

Birth Born Newborn Baby Child Healthy Baby InfantChristmas is about birth, Kevin Williamson reminds us, which is what reminds us most of our physicality.  No wonder, he says, birth is also “the great political and moral fault line of our time.”

Consider all of the moral issues that have to do with birth, whether preventing it or negating it:  abortion, sex outside of marriage, pornography, today’s much vaunted fantasy of sex with robots.  Consider the political and ideological issues:  fears of overpopulation, health care, feminism, child poverty, education problems, child-raising controversies, embryonic stem cell research, reproductive engineering, adoption, divorce, marriage, family values.

Williamson says that our confused attitudes about birth tie into our confused attitudes about the body.  One can see in his examples the current gnostic revival, which denies the spiritual significance of the physical realm (as in being “spiritual but not religious”) and rejects the body (as in transgenderism and in the transhuman dream of downloading our minds into the internet so that we don’t need our bodies anymore).

Against the gnostic worldview, we have the Nativity–the conception, birth, and infancy of God Himself as a physical, embodied human being–and the Holy Family.
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What you do to your neighbor you do to Christ

Christian_Krohg_-_Mother_and_Child_-_Google_Art_ProjectIt still being Christmas–there are twelve days of it, remember–we can still contemplate the inexhaustible topic of God’s incarnation.  After the jump, read an excerpt from one of Luther’s Christmas sermons, which our pastor quoted in his Christmas Eve message.  The passage deals both with Christmas and vocation–that is, our calling to love and serve our neighbors in our various tasks and relationships.

To those who think that they would have shown kindness to the Christ child and His parents, unlike the residents of Bethlehem, Luther says, “Why don’t you do it now” by showing kindness to other needy children and their parents?

“What you do to your neighbor in need you do to the Lord Christ himself.”
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Happy Boxing Day!

StateLibQld_1_79331_Picnic_at_One_Tree_Hill,_Boxing_Day,_1908Today, the day after Christmas, is celebrated as “Boxing Day” in the United Kingdom and many of its Commonwealth nations, such as Australia.  We Americans need to adopt this holiday too!  After all, we too are former British colonies!

Accounts of the origin of the name vary, but it seems to have something to do with the servants getting a box of presents and other goodies on their traditional day off after a busy day on Christmas.

Traditionally, the day has been devoted to sporting events.  Horse racing and fox hunting in Great Britain.  For Australians, it is a huge day for cricket.  We Americans could use Boxing Day for our football games, so that they don’t conflict with Christmas.  The day also functions as a sort of second day of Christmas, in which the many activities of that holiday can overflow, something else we could use.

In this church year, Boxing Day is also known as St. Stephen’s Day, commemorating the first martyr.  Right after we remember Christ’s birth, we remember that there can be a cost for believing in Him. [Read more…]

“The light shines in the darkness”

How fitting that we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ around the time of the Winter Solstice, when the day is at its shortest and the night is at its longest.  At this darkest time of the year, we celebrate Christ’s coming.  Just as He comes at the darkest points of our lives.  (This is also why lights at night are key Christmas symbols.)  As St. John says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

After the jump, the Christmas story according to the Gospel of John.   Mark begins with the start of Christ’s ministry.  Matthew begins with His birth to Mary and Joseph.  Luke begins with His conception by the Virgin Mary.  John begins where Genesis begins, “In the beginning.”

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A medieval Christmas for the children

IDas_festliche_Jah_Christkindel_und_Hans_Trapp_im_Elsaßn a review of what sounds like an excellent book on Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, Nathaniel Peters quotes a 17th century theologian on what Christmas was like under Medieval and 17th century Catholicism.

He describes the processions, featuring actors dressed up like the Christ Child, St. Peter, other saints, angels, and “damned spirits,” including the terrifying Knecht Ruprecht (who became a companion of St. Nicholas).  The goal was to scare children out of their wits.  The Christ Child would berate the kids for their sins and threaten to punish them.  Then St. Peter and the saints intercede for them.  Then Jesus gives them presents.

Notice how Jesus is all about the Law, not the Gospel.  The saints are the intercessors.  But at least the children get gifts eventually.  (St. Nicholas is described as being in the company of saints who scare the children.  He has become rather more a figure of grace today, giving gifts without conditions.)

You’ve got to read Johann Gabriel Drechssler’s 1674 account after the jump. [Read more…]