Gently fighting for Christmas

Merry Christmas.No, honest, as in "the 12 days of" you know what between Dec. 25 and Jan. 5.If you doubt the accuracy of this statement, you can head over to the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. There you will find an interactive calendar that bravely documents the fact that, according to centuries of Christian tradition, the quiet season called Advent has just ended and the 12-day Christmas season has just begun.So cease stripping the decorations off your tree and … [Read more...]

Religion ’07: Huck’s Christmas story

It was a simple commercial, with Mike Huckabee posed in front of a set of scandalously empty white bookshelves that, when framed just right beside a Christmas tree, formed a glowing cross behind the candidate.And, lo, the former Southern Baptist pastor told the voters: "Are you about worn out by all the television commercials you've been seeing, mostly about politics? I don't blame you. At this time of year, sometimes it's nice to pull aside from all of that and just remember that what really … [Read more...]

The 30-something days of Xmas

There was a time when Christians did not celebrate a season that could be called the 30-something days of Christmas.In the year of our Lord 1939, the National Retail Dry Goods Association asked President Franklin D. Roosevelt to move Thanksgiving to the next-to-last Thursday in November. This was strategic, since President Abraham Lincoln had proclaimed the last Thursday of the month as the official holiday. This meant that Thanksgiving was occasionally delayed until a fifth Thursday -- a cruel … [Read more...]

Let Hanukkah be Hanukkah

The candelabra should have eight candles in a straight line with a separate holder -- usually high and in the middle -- for the "servant" candle that is used to light the others.The purpose of Hanukkah menorahs is to publicize the miracle at the heart of the "Festival of Lights," when tradition says a one-day supply of pure oil burned for eight days after Jewish rebels liberated the temple from their Greek oppressors. Thus, most families place their menorahs in front windows facing a street.So … [Read more...]

Walking in Joseph’s sandals

Anyone who has looked at Christmas cards knows where to find Joseph in a typical manger scene.Just look for the humble, gray-haired man standing near the edge of the heavenly glow that surrounds Mary and the Christ child. In ancient Nativity icons, St. Joseph the Betrothed usually appears huddled in the foreground while Satan, in disguise, tempts him to doubt and despair.Joseph is a major character in this drama, yet he remains a mystery. While filming the movie called "The Nativity Story," … [Read more...]

Using the ‘Passion Playbook’

The players in studio power offices call it the "Passion Playbook."At least, that's what the Variety -- holy writ in Hollywood -- calls the slate of commandments that insiders are supposed to be following in order to reach the $612 million audience that backed "The Passion of the Christ." Or was it the $744 million audience that embraced "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe"?Whether or not a savvy consultant has produced an actual "Passion Playbook" doesn't matter. … [Read more...]

First column on Christmas wars 2006

Another year of Christmas warfare has come and gone and Rutherford Institute President John W. Whitehead is already having mischievous thoughts about 2006.There's no reason to think these Christmas clashes will stop anytime soon, especially not in an election year. But if Americans are going to keep fighting about Christmas, Whitehead thinks their civic leaders should at least create some constructive debates at the grassroots level where they'll do some good.What they could do in 2006, he said, … [Read more...]

Have yourself a megachurch Christmas

During the last five days before Christmas, at least 55,000 people were planning to attend the eight multi-media worship services at Willow Creek Community Church.The leaders of this famous megachurch outside Chicago can be precise about this number because that is how many people had, at mid-week, visited and claimed seats in the 7,200-seat auditorium. A few solo seats remained."We don't sell the tickets, of course," said spokesperson Cally Parkinson. "Most people really like … [Read more...]