Christmas 2013 came and went. My Christmas was extended a little as my kids came and visited on the 27th. It was also my second oldest daughter’s birthday so the celebrating is never quite over until the Fat Man sings (me). Maybe the one best things for children of divorced parents is the extension of Christmas and the doubling of gifts from guilt-ridden parents. As far as gifts go, it’s not a bad deal.

I worked most of the 24th, but afterwards went down to my sister in-law’s house and celebrated Christmas Eve with them. The food and spirits were good, I even unconsciously ate my sister-in law’s gluten free desert, which is always like eating the desert. But, hey she feels better so we support her new eating habits. Once again, the adults broke the rule of no gift giving to each other— which we do every year. My mother in-law, bless her heart, is the one who usually breaks down. It’s hard for mothers to not want to do something for their children no matter how old they are. Believe me, I get that. My own ma is quite unsettled unless she is doing something for her “helpless” children.

Our Christmas was fairly quiet. My 20-year-old stepson spent the morning with us and after he left, we signed up for Amazon Prime via my son’s PS3 and spent much of the afternoon catching up on our Downtown Abbey viewing. As late comers to the Downtown Abbey phenomena, we had not seen most of Season 2. We never knew how Matthew Crowley was injured nor how Bates’s wife died. Knowledge we obviously could not have lived without. Ours lives are now a little more complete. Thank you Amazon Prime.

Despite the rather ordinary and quiet Christmas season that we had, Christmas is always a special season for us. And, I think it is special to us no matter how the days go leading up to Christmas, the Spirit of Christ if given room in my heart will sooner or later catch up to me. And then I regret I did not have more of it sooner.

Curious Christmas Interlude: Duck Dynasty Controversy

On the Internet, it was an interesting Christmas season as the Duck Dynasty controversy created quite the cultural storm. I do watch Duck Dynasty but I do not watch it for any moral reason or because I have very much in common with the Robertson family. I watch this TV show because I find it amusing. I, however, do not watch Duck Dynasty religiously, but I have watched it enough to have seen most of the episodes and could have told you that Phil Robertson’s comments should not have been a surprise to anyone, including A&E. While I think Phil Robertson’s view of homosexuality was expressed in a clumsy and graphic way, which by itself was off-putting, he had that right to express it without being vilified and without losing his employment. And, since when has the media censored anything offensive as of late. If anything 2013 has set a new high or low, depending on your view point, in the obscene and vulgar without any media censorship of any type.

On the whole, I think the whole controversy was a good thing because it reaffirmed the importance of the freedom of conscience and the freedom of speech to all individuals whether they be believers or non-believers, gays or straights, black or white. It also reaffirmed how important these freedoms are to the individual’s quest for truth and happiness. The marketplace of political and religious ideas should be unfettered. Humans are more than just material beings, what they think, what they say, and how they act as a result of their thoughts are more important than what they earn and what they own. To cut off people from their beliefs, religious or not, is a disastrous proposition and it diminishes America’s uniqueness in the world

Spirit of Christ on Trial

To me the Duck Dynasty controversy underscored the need for the Spirit of Christ during Christmas. It raised questions about claims of being Christian and how to react to your adversary. It put all the quotes and poems about peace, brotherly love, and kindness during this Christmas season on trial. The issue underscored the fact that Christ expects his followers to fight their battles differently than the world does. Unlike other philosophies and religions, virtue still counts. Honesty, Patience, Kindness, Empathy, Understanding, Forgiveness, Repentance, Mercy and Love are just as important in times of peace as they are in battle. It is through these virtues that social justice and peace are attained. It is through these virtues that one maintains the integrity of one’s soul and avoids destroying or crushing the spirit of your opponent. It is the high standard that Christ sets for his followers.

Implementing these virtues in our lives, however, does not mean we suspend discernment and judgment between right and wrong. It does not mean we don’t call out sin or stand up to what is wrong, but it does mean that we do so without letting hate canker our hearts and that we do more than just recognize and call out sin, but that we take care of our neighbors, reach out to the hungry and the poor. No doubt it’s a tall order, one easier to describe than it is to execute. It goes against human nature to act this way especially when the world does not reward this type of behavior and especially when those rare individuals who have lived up to these standards are in the minority in the annals of history. This biggest test of this modern age for mankind is not to let our hearts become hardened against one another.

Music and Words During Christmas

I am a connoisseur of music and I love searching out new Christmas music during Christmas time. This year I downloaded 20 new songs. My favorite new songs this year were the following:

1. Patapan/O Come, O Come Emmanuel by Mindy Gledhill
2. What Child is This by Downhere
3. Let It Be Christmas by Alan Jackson
4. Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy by The Gypsy Hombres
5. Jesus, Oh, What a Wonderful Child by Gladys Knight
6. Fall in Love With Me on Christmas by Josh Kelly
7. Do You Hear What I Hear by the Glee Cast
8. I Wonder As I Wander by The Blenders
9. Marshmallow World by Raul Malo
10. Christmas is Just Around the Corner by Barry Manilow
11. Christmas Is…by Percy Faith

I did try to listen more to the radio stations that play Christmas songs every day all day during the Christmas season. The problem with that is that is not all versions of Christmas songs are created equally and some are downright awful. Sometimes they are bad because of the voice, sometimes they are bad because of the arrangement, or sometimes it’s just the sound or the tone fails to deliver the Christmas spirit. And it seemed like whenever someone would come into my office a lame version of a Christmas song was playing.

I have also noticed that new Christmas songs, not versions of old ones, have very little to do with Christ or even with Christmas in a general sense like family, home, carols, cheer or snow. Mostly these songs are odes to whoever their current love interest is at Christmas time set to Christmas sounding music. Some of them are pretty good in a general music sense so I still download them (see #6 on my list), but they very often are not really a celebration of Christmas. They are not the songs that usher in the special spirit of joy for Christmas Day. And there are definitely no new songs that reverence Christmas day like O Holy Night, Silent Night, or O Come, All Ye Faithful.

But it is the old classics that do not go away and it is the old songs that help deliver to us Christmas day. You can’t help but feel Christmas when you hear majestic joy and overall celebration in Isaac Watt’s lyrics and in the music of Joy to the World:

Joy to the World! The Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room,
And heav’n and nature sing;
And heav’n and nature sing;
And heav’n and heav’n and nature sing;

Joy to the World! The Savior reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While field and floods,
Rocks, hills and plains,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sin and sorrow grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders of His love.