Whatever happened to Advent?

The Rev. Timothy Paul Jones kept hearing one thing when -- four weeks before Christmas -- he brought a wreath and some purple and pink candles into his Southern Baptist church near Tulsa, Okla.And all the people said: "Advent? Don't Catholics do that?"This prickly response wasn't all that unusual, in light of the history of Christmas in America, said Jones, who now teaches leadership and church ministry at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky."In the dominant American, … [Read more...]

Passover 2009, minus God

Passover is almost here, which means Jewish families are preparing once again to taste familiar tastes, ask familiar questions and hear the familiar answers that have united them through the ages.Why is matzoh the only bread at Passover? Because the Hebrews had no time to bake leavened bread as they fled Egypt. Why dip bitter herbs into chopped apples, dates, nuts and wine? Because this paste resembles the clay they used in slavery to make bricks. Why dip parsley into salt water? The parsley … [Read more...]

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...]

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...]

Santa Claus vs. St. Nicholas?

We see the headlines every two or three years during the holidays.A pastor preaches on the true meaning of Christmas, warning about sins of selfishness and materialism. Then, in a moment of candor, disaster strikes.This time the dateline was Santa Fe Springs, Calif. Local newspapers, followed by national wire services, reported that Father Ruben Rocha of St. Pius X Catholic School did something shocking during a Mass for students in kindergarten through third grade. He told the children that … [Read more...]

Oy Joy! Merry Chrismukkah

At first it seemed normal to Michelle Gompertz to be sitting in an Indian restaurant listing to Kenny G recordings of pop Christmas carols.Then she grew disoriented. This Indian restaurant was in New Deli. She was surrounded by Hindu culture, but nobody thought twice about listening to the same holiday saxophone Muzak that would be playing in American shopping malls."I knew that Christmas was everywhere. But it really hit me," said Gompertz, the daughter of a United Church of Christ pastor in … [Read more...]

Passover questions for 2004

The lobby contains what security experts call a "mantrap."Guards monitor these bomb-proof doors, along with exterior video cameras and a device that sniffs the mail. Windows are laminated with plastic, so an explosion would not send glass shards slicing into offices. Massive concrete barriers could stop a truck.Welcome to the American Jewish Committee's home in New York. This isn't mere "ethnic panic." No, "lethal anti-Semitism" is on the rise, even in places long thought to be safe, noted … [Read more...]


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