Friday, February 23, 2018
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Get Ready for Easter: Remember to Take Time to Take a Time Out First

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Lent begins March 1.
Lent encourages us to look within ourselves to see how we have confused popular cultural values with Christian faith.

We need Lent!

From the very earliest times, Christians took time out before Easter to reflect on their faith, cultivate it, and prepare for a most joyous celebration of Easter.

Remembering that Jesus took 40 days off to prepare for the beginning of his ministry,
the church sets aside these 40 days prior to Easter for us to get ready.

This is a time for us to explore the mysteries of the universe, looking beneath the surface – within ourselves — examining our own motives and desires, and ascertaining exactly what our commitment is: to what, to whom, and what it means.

At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus went out into the desert for 40 days.
For 40 days he lived without food or, presumably water.
For 40 days he confronted his demons.
For 40 days he prayed.
For 40 days he communed with his God.

Suffice it to say, upon completion of his 40 days in the desert, Jesus had a clearer picture of his purpose in life,
of his reason for being,
of his God-given mission.
And he embarked on his course of demonstrating the reign of love on earth.

Traditionally, the church has set aside these 40 days prior to Easter as a time for personal reflection toward discovery of our purpose and renewed commitment to our faith.

Many cultures make a lot over the fasting nature of these 40 days.
Carnival is celebrated in many parts of the world the day before Lent begins as the last chance to eat meat for 40 days!
In this country Mardi Gras is celebrated in New Orleans on “fat Tuesday” – the day before the 40 day fast begins.

Today, we see these 40 days as an opportunity to attend to the parts of our lives that we often neglect.  We are challenged to open ourselves in new ways to the Spirit’s transforming power.

Because Presbyterians rebelled against all things Catholic, Lent was never celebrated in most Presbyterian churches until  recent years.  But, Lent is such a rich time.
It is an excellent opportunity for us to really focus on things that matter.

Lent is meant to remind us that the days are getting longer –
Spring is right around the corner.
Signs of life are preparing to bud right in front of our eyes.
And,  we need to prepare ourselves to see these signs!

We need Lent!
Lent encourages us to look within ourselves to see how we have confused popular cultural values with Christian faith.
Through a sustained focus on the life and ministry of Jesus, Lent can help us resist the pressures of this culture.
Lent can remind us that we are called to continue his ministry:  “As the Father has sent me, so I send you”  (John 20:21).
Consequently, Lent prepares us for an Easter that is more than bunnies and eggs,
an Easter that begins a whole new reality – a whole new world.

From the beginning, part and parcel of the Lenten observance has been alms giving.
The purpose of fasting is not so much a bodily discipline as it is a sharing discipline.  Becoming aware of the needs of others, and responding to them with generous gifts of our time and talents and money are particularly transforming.

During this season, many of our Presbyterian Churches will be emphasizing our One Great Hour of Sharing as a concrete way of self-sacrifice for the needs of others.
The discipline of a daily gift to the One Great Hour of Sharing jar is a concrete way of focusing our thoughts on our individual purpose for living.
It becomes an expression of the faith we proclaim.

Get Ready for Lent: 100’s of Resources for You to Use

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Links to hundreds of web pages filled with resources for study, reflection, worship/liturgical preparation, lovingly and thoughtfully compiled by  Jenee Woodward.  
 
This page should be the preacher’s first stop on the road to worship preparation and planning, as well as the first stop for anyone wishing to find resources for a particular day, season, or scripture.
 
 

Get Ready for Lent: 40 Acts of Generosity

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Lent begins February 14 this year!

This year, do Lent differently,
do Lent courageously,
do Lent generously.

Stretch your faith and change your community.
One day at a time.
One act at a time.

Try the 40 Acts challenge on for size: for yourself, your family, you congregation.

Get Ready for Lent: Alternative Worship Resources

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Nearly 50 Links and articles collected by Simple Living – the folks formerly known as Alternatives and Alternatives for Simple Living, publishers of the Alternative Christmas Catalogue, Whose Birthday Is It Anyway?, And various publications promoting alternative celebrating.

Check it out.  There are resources for personal and corporate worship, devotions, family and group celebrations, Holy Week  and Easter observances.

http://bit.ly/2llcTH6

A 40-Day Guide for Lent and Easter

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These brief sayings include  lectionary readings (Sundays and Holy Week), old sayings, facts & statistics, Old & New Testament, modern prophets & other voices, bumper stickers & billboards.

Discuss and meditate on each one, even the familiar ones. How does it relate to our lives in this season?

1- Ash Wednesday. Read and reflect on Psalm 51: 1-17; Matt. 6:1-6, 16-21.

2- The world’s 225 richest people have a combined wealth of over $1 trillion, equal to the annual income of the poorest 47% of the world’s people (2.5 billion). –Ministry of Money

3- The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little. –II Corinthians 8:15.

4- Fight prime time… read a book. –bumper sticker

† 1st Sunday in Lent. Read and reflect on Luke 4:1-13.

5- Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without. –Shaker aphorism

6- There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less. –G.K. Chesterton

7- In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations. –from the Great Law of the Iroquois Confederation

8- And Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to till it and keep it. (“to work it and take care of it.”) –Genesis 2:15

9- The only ones among you who will be truly happy are those who have sought and found how to serve. –Albert Schweitzer

10- Let’s take care of our bodies and the Earth. Support organic farmers. –bumper sticker

† 2nd Sunday in Lent. Read and reflect on Luke 13:31-35.

11- Americans alone have used up more of the Earth’s mineral resources since 1940, than all previous peoples put together. –Sustainable Communities from Vision to Action

12- Someday our grandchildren will very likely look back at the individual, selfish control of the wealth of the world, by a small elite, the same way we view slavery today. –Corinne Mclaughlin and Gordon Davidson

13- If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. –Archbishop Desmond Tutu

14- For the love of money is root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. –1 Timothy 6:6-10.

15- About 1.3 billion people still live on less than $1 a day, and almost 3 billion on less than $2 a day. –Ministry of Money

The world’s richest 20% of people consume 86% of all the stuff and services produced by the global economy; the poorest 20% consume just 1.3%. –Believing Cassandra

16- Promote and use solar and wind power. Plug into renewable energy. –bumper sticker

The major problems in the world are the result of the differences between the way nature works and the way people think. –Gregory Bateson

† 3rd Sunday in Lent. Read and reflect on Luke 13:1-9.

17- Advertising serves not so much to advertise products as to promote consumption as a way of life… an unappeasable appetite. –Christopher Lasch

18- We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

19- We read the Gospel as if we had no money, and we spend our money as if we know nothing of the Gospel. –John Haughey, S.J.

20- The Lord of hosts is exalted by justice. –Isaiah 5:1

21- The wealthiest three people in the world have more riches than the 48 poorest countries. – Peaceworks

22- Paper from paper, not from trees. –bumper sticker
Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away. –John Muir

† 4th Sunday in Lent. Read and reflect on Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32.

23- All things are possible once enough human beings realize that everything is at stake. –Norman Cousins

24- As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world… as in being able to remake ourselves. –Gandhi

25- An authentic spirituality does not cater to culture; it calls culture to accountability. –Joan Chittister, OSB

26- No one can serve two masters… You cannot serve God and wealth. –Matthew 6:24 (also Luke 16:13)

27- Studies of US households found that the income needed to fulfill “growing consumption aspirations” doubled between 1986 and 1994. –Ministry of Money
Too many of us still raise children guided by the idea that each generation has the right to more material comforts than the one before. –Doris Janzen Longacre

28- My other car is a bicycle. –bumper sticker

† 5th Sunday in Lent. Read and reflect on John 12:1-8.

29- What we really need is to realize how little we really need. –Ashleigh Brilliant
Where there is too much… something is missing. –Jewish proverb

30- We are rich in proportion to the number of things which we can afford to let alone. –Thoreau

31- The plain fact is that we are starving people, not deliberately in the sense that we want them to die, but willfully in the sense that we prefer their death to our own inconvenience. –Victor Gollancz

32- Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? –Ezekiel 34:18

33- Let us measure the success of America not by its number of billionaires but by the number who are not
hungry, or homeless, or in need of medical attention. –Journey into Freedom

34- Insatiable is NOT sustainable. –bumper sticker

† 6th Sunday in Lent (Palm/Passion Sunday). Read and reflect on Luke 19:28-40.

35 † Read and reflect on John 12:1-11.

36 † Read and reflect on John 12:20-36.

37 † Read John 13:21-32 aloud over dinner tonight.

38 † Maundy Thursday. Read John 13:1-17, 31b-35,

39 † Good Friday. Read John 18:1-19:42.

40 † Easter Eve. Participate in an Easter Vigil.

! Resurrection of the Lord/Easter Sunday. Read and reflect on Luke 24:1-12.

Easter Evening. Read and reflect on Luke 24:13-49.

This article Spirit of Simplicity: for Lent or Anytime ©2000, Alternatives for Simple Living
NB: article no longer available from this source..

11 Ways to Appropriately Celebrate Lent – according to Jesus

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1.   Make certain you do not perform your religious duties in public so that people will see what you do.        (Matthew 6:1)

2.  Wash your face and comb your hair. (Matthew 6:17b)

3.   Do not put on a sad face. (Matthew 6:16)

4.   When you pray, go to your room, close the door. (Matthew 6:6)

5.   When you pray, do not use a lot of meaningless words. (Matthew 6:7)

6.   When you give something to a needy person, do not make a big show of it. (Matthew 6:2)

7.   When you help a needy person, do it in such a way that even your closest friend will not know about it.        (Matthew 6:3)

8.   Your heart will always be where your treasure is.  (Matthew 6:21)

9.   Do not worry about tomorrow.   (Matthew 6:34)

10. Can any of you live a bit longer by worrying about it?   (Matthew 6:27)

11. Be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what God requires of you.
(Matthew 6:33)

10 Tips for a Simpler More Meaningful Easter

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1. Plan ahead. Instead of going on auto-pilot, hold a family meeting to decide what the group really wants to do and who’s going to do what. Observe Lent for 40 days before Easter, possibly with a study/action/prayer guide or calendar.

2. Focus on relationships with family, friends and other people, and with God, rather that on “stuff.” Spend your time, energy and money nurturing people, not things.

3. For a symbol of Easter, look to Jesus’ resurrection. Bunnies, eggs and candy have been taken over by commerce. Do they tell the story you want to tell? Let’s tell the real stories of our faith and values. Reserve fertility rites for the first day of Spring, March 21st; Earth Day, April 22nd or May Day, May 1st.

4. Avoid debt and gluttony. Refuse to be pressured by advertising to over spend or over eat. Build community with a meal of mostly locally produced food – planned, prepared and cleaned up by the whole family.

5. Avoid stress. Give to yourself. Don’t assume that things have to be the same way they’ve always been. Make changes slowly but persistently. Don’t try to change everything and everybody all at once. The resistance may make you feel defeated and lonely.

6. If you need to give gifts, give appropriate ones. Get to know the recipient. Give what they want to receive, not what you want to buy. Give children one thing they really want, rather than many gifts. Set a price ceiling. Put gifts out shortly before
opening them. Then take turns opening them, not all at once, so that each gift can be admired and each giver thanked.

7. Give alternative gifts. Give at least 25% of what you spend to the needy… individuals or groups locally, nationally or internationally.

8. Give of yourself, not just “stuff” – a coupon book for future services (such as baby-sitting or an “enchanted evening”) or something baked, sewn, handmade, composed, etc. Consider more time for volunteering rather than entertainment. If you need to give cards, make your own.

9. If you need to buy gifts and clothing, buy those from developing countries at alternative gift markets, not from commercial importers, so that the artisans receive a fair price for their work. Avoid mass produced knickknacks, novelties and toys. Fancy,
expensive clothes are signs of status, not respect for God. In church they show an inappropriate blend of culture and faith. Decline to compliment people for their finery. Avoid the “ritual display of plenty” characteristic of the Easter fashion parades prevalent earlier in the century.

10. Choose simplicity of decoration over extravagance, for example, one modest, well-placed display instead of dozens of lilies in church or home. Avoid plastic and imported flowers and trimming.

NB: This article originally appeared in a publication by Alternatives for Simple Living in 1999. The publication is no longer available.

Lent and Easter

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Easter is the most important event for Christians the world over.

Easter is of such importance that the Church has set aside 40 days for folks to prepare themselves and get ready for a proper celebration on April 16, 2017.

This season is called Lent and begins with Ash Wednesday, March 1 this year.

We at NewCelebrations believe that this year could be the most meaningful Easter you, your family, and your congregation have ever had.
NewCelebrations will be providing resources offered to stimulate your thinking.

The Day of the Kings – El Dia de los Reyes

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Perhaps you might find something here to contribute to your celebrations at this time of year:
In Spain and many parts of the world, it is not the Baby Jesus, Santa Claus or St. Nicholas who brings gifts on Christmas Day, but rather the Three Kings, whose generosity is put to the test on January 6, the day of the Epiphany. Children, families, and entire cities throughout the country celebrate this major Spanish Christmas tradition.

With festive lights livening up the streets, Nativity scenes set up in various locations, and holiday tunes setting the holiday atmosphere, Spaniards celebrate the arrival of the Kings with a joyful parade called the Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos. The kings ride upon horses or elaborate floats and throw goodies down to the children lining the streets. This is also traditionally the big opportunity for children to ask the Kings for presents.

That evening, before an early night in bed, children leave out their shoes in a spot where the Kings are sure to see them. The religious monarchs, just like Santa Claus, certainly love their sweets, so Spanish children often set out goodies to entice the Kings as well as hay to feed their camels.

When morning arrives, children delightedly discover that the Kings nibbled the sweets, the camels ate the hay, and by their shoes there are wrapped presents just waiting to be torn into.

The magical night comes to a close with another Spanish Christmas tradition: a typical breakfast of Roscón de Reyes, a ring-shaped cake decorated with fruits symbolizing the precious gems that adorned the royal trio’s lavish clothing.

Thanks to enforex for this succinct description.

 See also,  https://www.inside-mexico.com/ya-vienen-los-reyes-magos/

Call for Epiphany Resources

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While I am aware that Epiphany celebrations are bigger than Christmas celebrations for much of the world, there is a paucity of descriptions of exactly how this season could be (or is) celebrated in the United States. Please send me descriptions of how you have celebrated Epiphany and/or the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Celebrating the Epiphany of Emmanuel

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Epiphany is one of the three oldest festival days of the
Christian Church. It commemorates, according to tradition, “the
first manifestation of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.”

Epiphany, January 6 is also known as “Little Christmas,” or
“Three Kings Day.” In some cultures, the gifts (which represent
the gifts given by the Magi to Jesus, or the gift of Jesus) are
given on this day, rather than on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
For some, this is a day of special feasting with elaborate
traditional foods.

In the churches of the Eastern Orthodox tradition, the
recognition of Christ’s divinity occurs first at his baptism by
John in the Jordan River. For these churches this was the
breakthrough moment, the occasion on which it was recognized that
this man was in fact the Son of God.
In churches of the West the evening preceding Epiphany is called
Twelfth Night. Hence, the twelve days of Christmas.

In About.com, Charles Henderson writes:
Personally, I like the idea that Christmas is actually a season
which stretches out from December 25 all the way through to the
New Year, culminating in Epiphany. This simple fact allows one
to separate the secular and commercial Christmas from the more
reflective period in which the actual significance of Jesus
Christ can be contemplated. A period of twelve days allows an
appropriate amount of time in which to probe to a deeper level
of understanding. Thus, Epiphany may redeem Christmas, and this
time of the year can indeed by an occasion for illumination and
discovery, a breakthrough moment in which those things that are
most real (and thus most divine) in human life come shining
through.

Traditionally, the word epiphany means “a showing forth” or
“manifestation.” In common usage it sometimes refers to a sudden
recognition of something that was there all along, but for which
there was only a vague intuition. Often the new recognition can
be seen to have a cosmic dimension and can certainly be life-
changing.
This cosmic aspect of a seemingly insignificant event is well-
represented by the Epiphany day story of the Magi who followed a
star in search of a new-born king whom they finally discovered in
a very unlikely Jewish home.

During Advent we often heard the word Emmanuel and the phrase
“God with us” as a way to describe the birth of Jesus Christ.
Epiphany is a time for discovering what this phrase truly means.

Check out Charles Henderson at About.com .

12 Days of Christmas Gift Litigation (because you need to smile)

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Intercepted E-mail:
Last year this series of messages was intercepted, I thought you might be
interested. This serves as a warning to all who tend to go overboard with lavish
gifts designed to impress — thinking that is the reason for the season.

FM: Miss Sara Truelove
December 26
Dearest Bill:
I went to the door today and the postman delivered a partridge in a pear tree.
What a wonderful thoughtful gift! I couldn’t have been more surprised.
With deepest Love and Devotion,
Sara
………………………………………………………..

FM: Miss Sara Truelove
December 27
Dearest Bill:
Today the postman brought your most wonderful gift. Just imagine – two turtle
doves! I’m delighted at your very sweet gift. They are just adorable. I will have
to get a cage for them.
With deepest Love,
Sara
………………………………………………………..

FM: Miss Sara Truelove
December 28
Dearest Bill:
Oh! Your third gift arrived! You really went too far, I think. I don’t deserve such
generosity – three French hens. They are just lovely, but I must protest –
you’ve been way too kind.
Love,
Sara
……………………………………………………….

FM:Miss Sara Truelove
December 29
Dearest Bill:
Today the postman delivered four calling birds. Now, really, they’re quite nice,
but now I have 10 birds and nowhere to put any more….so please, no more birds!!
But, thanks.
Affectionately,
Sara
………………………………………………………..

FM:Miss Sara Truelove
December 30
Dearest Bill:
What a surprise! Another present….and not a bird this time! Wow!
Today the postman delivered five golden rings, one for each
finger. You’re just too extravagant, but I love it!
Frankly, all those birds squawking were beginning to get on my nerves,
but the rings are wonderful…and so quiet!!
All my love,
Sara
………………………………………………………..

FM: Miss Sara Truelove
December 31
Dear Bill:
When I opened the door there were actually six geese a-laying on my front steps.
So you’re back to the birds again, huh? Those geese are huge!
And it was bird poop that they were laying… complete with a large count of
coloform bacteria. Where will I ever keep them? The neighbors are complaining.
The police came by with a formal complaint, and I can’t sleep through all the
racket. I guess I have my own noise-makers for the new years eve celebration
tonight.
Please stop. NO MORE BIRDS!!
Cordially,
Sara
………………………………………………………..

FM: Miss Sara Truelove
January 1
Bill:
Happy New Year…to some people. It hasn’t been so happy with me.
What’s with you and those dumb birds? Seven swans a-swimming.
What kind of practical joke is this? There’s bird guana all over the house
and they never stop squawking. I could not sleep all night and I’m a nervous wreck.
You have gone too far, bird brain.
STOP SENDING BIRDS. NO MORE BIRDS!! GOT IT?
Sincerely,
Sara
………………………………………………………..

FM: Miss Sara Truelove
January 2
OK, WISE GUY:
I think I prefer the birds over this. What am I going to do with eight maids
a-milking? It’s not enough with all those birds and eight maids a-milking,
but they had to bring their cows. Have you ever smelled a yard full of cow
patties? Their piles are all over the lawn, and I can’t move in my own house.
Leave me alone.
NO MORE OF YOUR “GIFTS”.
Sara
………………………………………………………..

FM: Miss Sara Truelove
January 3
Hey, Vacuum-for-a-brain:
What are you? Some kind of freak? Now there’s nine ladies dancing…
right in the smelly you-know-what and tracking it all over my house.
The way they’ve been bickering with the milk maids, I hesitate to even call
them ladies.
You’ll get yours, buddy.
Sara
………………………………………………………..

FM: Miss Sara Truelove
January 4
You rotten piece of cow patty:
What’s with the ten lords a-leaping? I have threatened to break their legs
so that they can never leap again. All 23 of the birds are dead.
They’ve been trampled to death by the leapers, the dancers, and the cows.
At least, I don’t have to worry about them any more.
However, the cows are mooing all night having gotten diarrhea.
My living room is a sewer! The City Commissioner has subpoenaed me
to give cause why my house shouldn’t be condemned.
I’m filing a complaint to the police about you!
One who means it.
………………………………………………………..

FM: Miss Sara Truelove
January 5
Listen, brainless:
Now there’s eleven pipers piping. And they never stop piping…
except when they’re chasing those maids or dancing girls.
The cows are getting very upset and are sounding worse than the birds
ever did.
What am I going to do?
There is a petition going around to evict me from the neighborhood.
I hope you’re satisfied, you rotten, vicious swine.
Your sworn enemy,
Sara
………………………………………………………..

FM: Law Offices
Sue, Pillage, and Plunder
January 6
Dear Sir:
This is to acknowledge your latest gift of twelve drummers drumming
which you have seen fit to inflict on our client, Miss Sara Truelove.
The damage, of course, was total.
She was found beating her head against the wall to the beat of the
twelve drums. If you should attempt to reach Miss Truelove
at Happy Glen Sanitarium, the attendants have instructions to shoot you
on sight.
With this letter please find attached a warrant for your arrest.
Cordially,
Law Firm of Sue, Pillage, and Plunder

Prescription for Joy:

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Smile,

Breathe Deeply,

Relax, Enjoy, Be at

Peace, Trust, Be Trustworthy,

Bend, Plant a Geranium, Stick it

in your Hat, Have Patience, Love

Yourself, Love Others, Sing and Dance,

Make Music, Slow Down, stay Balanced,

Laugh Heartily, Have Compassion, Count your

Blessings, Bless Others, Have Fun, Read a Good

Book, Write Your Story, Nourish your Body, Mind

and Spirit, Stretch, Experiment, Learn a Lesson, Grow

and Change, Be aware of your Thoughts, Have Good Ones,

Choose Happiness, Smell the Flowers, Be of Service, Give

a Gift, Be a Blessing, Really See, Listen, Feel, Touch, Snuggle,

Be Still, Appreciate Solitude, Commune with God, Walk in

Nature, Live in the Moment, Giggle, Release Judgments, Let

Go, Move Forward, Touch, Hug, Be with a Child, Be a Child, Be

Adventurous, Take a Chance, Be Happy, Grin, Embrace your Journey,

Have a Vision, Be a Friend, Make a Friend, Stay in Touch,

Celebrate,

Be Grateful,

Cherish Life.

© 1997 Lynn Durham 603-926-9700
Mind/body/spirit health programs
relaxation – stress hardiness – joy
399 High St., Hampton, NH 03842 USA,

www.lynndurham.com

12 Days of Christmas Gift Price Index 2017

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A partridge in a pear tree and all the other 11 gifts would set you back $34,558.65 this year.

That’s slightly more expensive than last year, according to PNC’s annual index of the 12 Days of Christmas.

For 34 years, PNC has set out to calculate the costs of every item in the carol to create a Christmas Price Index. It’s more frivolous, but not that different from the government’s consumer price index that tracks the costs of everyday items. PNC’s sources include retailers, poultries, and dance companies.

The CPI (from PNC) increased by 0.6% year-on-year, led by higher costs for pear trees and increased demand for gold rings. Indeed, the precious metal has had a good year like many other financial assets, gaining about 11%.

In addition, the index was driven up by higher wages for 10 Lords-a-leaping. PNC recorded a 2% increase to $5,618.90 for this gig. Perhaps all the clamor for higher minimum wages and a tightening labor market helped.

Some workers, however, saw no compensation growth, much like the federal minimum wage, which has stayed unchanged since 2009. They included the eight maids-a-milking and nine ladies dancing.

PNC also calculates a core-CPI. They exclude unpredictable swan prices instead of food and energy costs like the Department of Labor does. The core index rose 0.9% and would cost about $21,000 excluding swans-a-swimming.

The chart below shows how the “12 Days of Christmas” gifts have evolved over the years.

A full infographic is available over at PNC »

How The Great Guest Came

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[Editor’s Note: This is how Emmanuel comes to us, don’t miss it this year!]

Before the cathedral in grandeur rose
At Ingelburg where the Danube goes;
Before its forest of silver spire
Went airily up to the clouds and fires;
Before the oak had ready a beam,
While yet the arch was stone and dream —
There where the altar was later laid,
Conrad the cobbler, plied his trade.

It happened one day at the year’s white end —
Two neighbors called in on their old-time friend;
And they found the shop, so meager and mean,
Made gay with a hundred boughs of green.
Conrad was stitching with face ashine,
But suddenly stopped as he twitched a twine:
“Old friends, good news! At dawn today,
As the cocks were scaring the night away,
The Lord appeared in a dream to me,
And said, `I am coming your Guest to be!’
So I’ve been busy with feet astir,
Strewing the floor with branches of fir.
The wall is washed and the shelf is shined,
And over the rafter the holly twined.
He comes today, and the table is spread
With milk and honey and wheaten bread.”

His friends went home; and his face grew still
As he watched for the shadow across the sill.
He lived all the moments o’er and o’er,
When the Lord should enter the lowly door —
The knock, the call, the latch pulled up,
The lighted face, the offered cup.
He would wash the feet where the spikes had been,
He would kiss the hands where the nails went in,
And then at the last would sit with Him
And break the bread as the day grew dim.

While the cobbler mused there passed his pane
A beggar drenched by the driving rain.
He called him in from the stony street
And gave him shoes for his bruised feet.
The beggar went and there came a crone,
Her face with wrinkles of sorrow sown.
A bundle of faggots bowed her back,
And she was spent with the wrench and rack.
He gave her his loaf and steadied her load
As she took her way on the weary road.

Then to his door came a little child,
Lost and afraid in the world so wild,
In the big, dark world. Catching it up,
He gave it the milk in the waiting cup,
And led it home to its mother’s arms,
Out of the reach of the world’s alarms.

The day went down in the crimson west
And with it the hope of the blessed Guest,
And Conrad sighed as the world turned gray:
“Why is it, Lord, that your feet delay?
Did you forget that this was the day?”

Then soft in the silence a Voice he heard:
“Lift up your heart, for I have kept my word.
Three times I came to your friendly door;
Three times my shadow was on your floor.
I was the beggar with the bruised feet;
I was the woman you gave to eat;
I was the child on the homeless street!”

By Edwin Markham
(19th century poet)

The Magic’s In You

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[‘Twas the Night Before Christmas]

The Holidays were approaching
My blood pressure was up.
No one was happy,
Not even the pup.

I felt pressured and frantic;
Had not started the baking.
Worst of all was the state
Of the things I was making.

I need gifts by the dozen
To find, wrap and label.
That doesn’t included mailings
Or decorating or table.

My breathing got rapid,
My pulse started pounding;
I stopped for a minute,
A small voice was sounding.

“Be aware of your needs,
Start to feel all your feelings;
Nurture yourself and eat well,
You need balance for healing.”

“Accept what is Present,
Let go of the Past;
You’re important as well,
Don’t put yourself last.”

Look over your duties,
Keep what’s important to you;
Tamper with traditions
In the celebrating you do.

Look carefully with Love,
Gratitude’s a must.
If you look at what’s missing,
Then your attitude – adjust.

Reach out to others,
Be supportive and kind.
The Peace in your Soul
Will bring Peace of Mind.

Use your Heart as a guide,
And just stop to listen.
Awake, Breathe, Create,
The Magic will glisten.

Love’s not in the package,
The lights or the toy,
It’s in Peace and in Kindness,
Smile – You’ll find JOY!

Happy Holidays! Wishing you Peace, Love and Joy, Lynn Durham

© 1997 All rights reserved. Lynn Durham, writer, speaker, well being coach. Programs on Stress Hardiness, Relaxation, Optimism and JOY in the journey. If you have a story, poem, or idea about a heartwarming tale or creative way to celebrate the holidays etc., please send to Lynn for possible inclusion in her book – Holiday Magic, Being Santa Claus for Yourself and JOY to Your World.

Lynn Durham, RN, Call for a mind body spirit program on stress hardiness, relaxation or joy.

399 High Street, Hampton, NH 03842, USA 603-926-9700 www.lynndurham.com

 

Family Resources for an Alternative Christmas

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Christmas in history: Mingling cultural traditions

Despite the fact that the Gospel of Luke links the date of Jesus’ birth to a census in Palestine decreed by Caesar Augustus (Luke 2:1), nothing is known of the time of year of his birth. The first evidence of speculation about the date is in the third century when Clement of Alexandria suggested May 20. The earliest mention of observance on December 25 is in the Philocalian Calendar, representing Roman practice in the year 336. At about the same time, the Eastern church began to observe the Nativity on January 6, the feast of Epiphany. By the middle of the fifth century, however, most Eastern churches had adopted December 25.

As with other Christian holy days, the date of Christmas appears to have been set to provide an alternative to one or more popular pagan festivals. December 25 was originally the date of the feast to the sun god, Mithras. The cult of Mithras had spread from Persia into the Roman world in the first century, and by the third century was Christianity’s main rival. December 25 also came at the end of the feast of Saturnalia, an ancient Roman festival commemorating the golden age of Saturn. Both of these festivals may well have been related to even earlier festivals marking the winter solstice.

Although Christmas was intended as an alternative to pagan festivals, the practices of those festivals were often simply incorporated into the Christian celebration. As Christianity spread through central and northern Europe, the accretions from local religions continued. As early as the fifth century, a small minority of Christian leaders expressed alarm at the growing pagan character of Christmas, a cause for concern that continued through the Middle Ages.

Christmas celebrations were not only enlarged by absorbing elements from local religions but from other Christian traditions as well, for example, St. Nicholas. The association of Christmas with St. Nicholas came about in the Middle Ages, especially in northern Europe. Little is known about his history except that he was Bishop of Myra in Asia Minor in the fourth century. Of the many stories about this saint, one of the most popular tells about his generosity in giving gifts anonymously to the poor. He became the patron saint of numerous countries, cities and groups, and especially of children. Because of this special relationship, tradition developed that he gave gifts to children on the eve of his feast day, December 6.

During the Reformation of the 16th century, many reformers wanted Christmas dropped as a Christian celebration. In their view, not only was there no biblical sanction for Christmas, but its popular practices still looked too much like the old Saturnalia festivals. In their general resistance to things Catholic, they also wanted St. Nicholas banished. For a few years in 17th-century England, the Puritan-dominated parliament outlawed the feast of Christmas. At the same time, Puritans in Massachusetts passed similar legislation. Between the 16th and 18th centuries the widespread antipathy to Christmas as a holy day – especially by Puritans, Quakers, Baptists, and Presbyterians – had important consequences, consequences which those religious groups could not have imagined.

Resistance to attaching religious significance to Christmas encouraged its growth as a secular holiday. For example, St. Nicholas was replaced by a more secular figure known as Christmas Man, Father Christmas, and Papa Noël. The Dutch, reluctant to give up St. Nicholas, brought Sinterklass (St. Nicholas) with them when they came to America and honored him on December 6. In the 17th century, when the Dutch lost control of New Amsterdam to the English, Sinterklass was gradually anglicized into Santa Claus and acquired many of the accoutrements of Christmas Man – the workshop at the North Pole and the sleigh with reindeer. By the 19th century, when the formerly-resistant Protestant groups began to celebrate Christmas, it was not only a religious holy day but a well-established secular holiday as well.

The 20th century: Commercializing Christmas  

Through the 20th century in Europe and North America, the popular celebration of Christmas remains an amalgam of Christian and non-Christian traditions. The lack of clarity about the celebration’s purpose has remained, accentuating a new factor in the 20th century: the commercialization of Christmas.

More than just a mixture of diverse traditions, Christmas is now big business. While the Christian calendar calls for a solemn four- or five-week preparation to celebrate the birth of Christ, the “Christmas economy” overshadows even Halloween, with Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. serving as little more than a prelude to the greatest shopping weekend of the year. In 1939, President Roosevelt moved the date of Thanksgiving back to the third Thursday of November to expand the Christmas shopping season. With the survival of many businesses dependent on Christmas profits and half of the annual advertising dollar spent on Christmas-related advertising, it is not surprising that for some shoppers Christmas spending is regarded as a patriotic duty.

The commercialization of Christmas did not occur in a social vacuum. It is part of our society in which consumption for its own sake – regardless of need – is legitimated and encouraged. Without reluctance, consumerism exploits religious beliefs and deep emotions to persuade people to buy. Advertising’s behavior modification specialists demonstrate that the strains of “Joy to the World” trumpeting throughout the shopping malls in December produce greater profits, and that “Silent Night, Holy Night” is even better. Using Christmas as a religion-sanctioned occasion for extravagant spending, businesses hope that the practice of spending billions of dollars on Christmas gifts in North America is simply practice for greater spending throughout the rest of the year.

While it may be good for the economy in the short run, commercialized Christmas also has its costs. Preparations for observing the birth of one whose coming is “good news to the poor,” are often displaced by the more financially attractive preparations to observe the coming of Santa Claus. Extravagant Christmas spending means fewer dollars available for those ministries and agencies addressing critical social and environmental problems. And the loss is more than dollars. The sense of exploitation that many feel at Christmas, the depression that comes when Christmas does not deliver the happiness popular hype promises, and the guilt from being willing participants in a religious fraud, all rob Christmas of its power to renew the human spirit.

Perhaps the greatest cost of commercialization at Christmas is paid by the poor. In our society, the poor experience Christmas as a cruel hoax. Our pervasive cultural Christmas ideology is not Christology – celebrating Christ’s coming as “good news to the poor” – but what we might call “Santology.”

The creed of Santa Claus theology is the well-known song, Santa Claus is Coming to Town. According to this creed, Santa is omniscient; like God, Santa knows all about us. There is also a day of judgment. It comes once a year when “good” children (and adults!) are rewarded with good things, while the “bad” (i.e., the poor) get coals and switches. The truth is, of course, that gifts are not distributed based on who has been “good or bad” or “naughty or nice,” but on what people can afford or get credit to buy. But that’s not what our culture teaches children.

What it teaches is bad for both poor and non-poor children. Poor children are told that they don’t receive gifts because they are bad, while the non-poor are taught that they receive gifts because they are good. Both notions, equally reprehensible, are part of this culture’s Santa Claus theology.

Commercial Christmas, its underpinnings of Santa Claus firmly in place, continues its spiraling growth. It seems evident that its cultural pervasiveness makes future change little less than a distant dream. It is also true that many Christians and congregations accept the distortion of their holy day without challenge. The reason, one suspects, is not so much an insensitivity to the issues, but rather a feeling of impotence – not knowing what to do or how to do it. Aware that slogans such as “putting Christ back in Christmas,” and ideas about “Christmas basket charity” are simplistic, many Christians opt to do nothing. The commercialization of Christmas is something everybody talks about, but nobody does anything about.

(– Reprinted from To Celebrate: Reshaping Holidays and Rites of Passage, 1987)

But, you can do something about it!!!
Explore all the pages in this section,
check out the “How To Resources” page,
and explore the “Gift Catalog” for concrete suggestions for having the  very best Christmas ever!

Christmas With More Meaning and Less Money

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You asked for ideas about celebrating Christmas with lots of spirit and little cash.
Choosing to simplify Christmas can be enriching, no matter why you’ve arrived at that choice.
Don’t be concerned that your children will suffer just because money is tight this year.
What’s important to them is that you’re all happy together.
Remember that for children what’s important is the process, not the finished product.
You “can” create a storybook Christmas for yourselves and your kids if you model it after the Waltons or Little House on the Prairie, rather than TV ads showing “perfect” family gatherings.
In fact, why not give them the gift of family-activity nights, instead of mindless TV watching?
Plan to watch only the Christmas specials you KNOW will help increase the gratitude and wonder.
You want them to feel this season.
Let everyone be involved in the planning and the doing.
Here are some starter ideas:

SPIRIT:
1.  Putting magic into holidays takes a flight of fancy, not a spending spree. Creating Christmas spirit is like believing in fairies: it takes some we WILL-thinking, instead of we WON’T (as in we won’t have, we can’t afford, etc). For thousands of years people made their own fun. You can do it, too. .

2.  Use what you have: your imagination and knowledge, combined with the resources at hand or within this year’s budget. You know some Christmas songs. Teach them to your children. Gather family and friends, hold a practice session, then go caroling at a nursing home, hospital, shelter and/or around your neighborhood. You’ll feel great!

If your children are old enough, tell them stories about your favorite childhood Christmas.
Make up one.
Check a few books out from your library and read a new story every night for a week.
Your librarian will help you choose the best ones.

Get the whole family outside together as often as possible.
Nature reminds us of our place in the world, fills us with a wonder appropriate to the season and helps restore our souls- and it’s free!
Take a family walk, have a sledding party, hold a marshmallow roast.
Eat and/or read stories by candlelight every night during the holidays.
Your kids will never forget this experience.
If they’re all wound up, candlelight has a magical, soothing effect.
Whining, argumentative children start whispering and getting this dreamy look about them.
If you have a fireplace, build a fire and turn the lights out.
Sing or tell stories.
Pop popcorn.
Drink cocoa.
Bundle up together.

PRESENTS:
1.  No matter what the budget, think in terms of giving something of lasting value. Don’t wimp out with “joke” gifts or things that fit the budget but that’s all.
No cheap plastic.
It’s within your power to give a gift that’s suitable for all ages and appreciated by all.
Write a letter to each of the people you’d like to remember listing ten things you love about them.
If you have children, help them write a letter to each family member.
An extended family can do this instead of drawing names this year.
This is a gift of your time, effort and love, and it will be kept and remembered for a lifetime.
If you’re creative, make each person a card on which to record your list.
Sit around the tree on Christmas morning and read the letters out loud. Even if there are no other gifts under the tree, even if there’s no tree, this Christmas will be full of love.
And isn’t that what it’s all about??

2.  Toys of lasting value are especially important for children. You want a toy that’s built to last for years, does what it’s supposed to do, can be used by children of various ages and can be used in many different way.
Some examples:
A real rubber playground ball (at least 10″ in diameter) . Vinyl balls don’t bounce true, thwarting a child’s efforts to become skillful.
A real baby doll that feels good in a child’s arms.
A book worthy of being read over and over. (Ask a librarian for recommendations. Read the book in the library or check the best possibilities out. Buy when you’re sure.)
A dump truck that can haul loads and passengers, instead of a specialized vehicle that only does one thing like a backhoe.
A real teddybear that can sit and is the right size for the child. (We adults often err by thinking big is better, and especially for an attachment toy, it’s not.) Give more value to toys by adding accessories that generate imaginative play: a hat and cargo suggestions for the truck driver,
a bed for the doll (more important than clothes for pretend).
Toys don’t have to be new, just clean (this means bleached, especially for the in-the-mouth-set.) and safe.
Spend time before you spend money.
The library has books on the most loved toys for each age group.
If you can, visit the best small, independent toy store in your area and watch.
What keeps the kids’ interest?
What attracts kids, no matter what their ages?

For years of fun, create a dress up box. Find a stout box. (Remember the box itself is a great toy. Preschoolers will use it as a car, a boat, a train. It can be a stove, if you turn it over and draw “burners” on the bottom. If you can afford it, cover it inside and out with contact paper. It’ll look great and last for years.) Check your closets for dress-up potential. Visit a few garage sales and/or thrift stores. Possibilities: hats of all kinds, (cowboy, crown, “princess”, sailor, baseball, fireperson, hard hat, space helmet) lace curtains (worn as veils, trains, headdresses, skirts) scarves, vests, full petticoats and full skirts with elastic waists cut to fit, capes, props such as wands, flashlights, lunchboxes, swords, shields, ballet and tap shoes. Watch for Halloween costumes and snap up the ones that encourage pretend play.

A make-it box in which you put arts and craft materials will also be used for years, by all ages, for all things. Make one for each child or make a family box, depending on the budget. Find a stout box with a separate top and bottom (like a shirt box, only bigger and heavier) or one that has a hinged lid . It has to be big enough to hold the size of paper you come up with. (For preschoolers, 18″ x 24″ is better than 8″ x 11″). Find a small cigar size box to hold markers, crayons, pencils, scissors, etc. This can go into the big box, or be stored separately. Decoration depends on budget and materials at hand. Cover with contact paper, inside and out. Or cover the outside with brown grocery sack paper and decorate in your own style. Put each child’s name on the outside. Fill it with age-appropriate “making and doing” materials.
(Preschoolers need big, fat kindergarten crayons and markers, and small, blunt-tip brand name scissors. that work. as they should.) Put in what you can afford/find:
markers, crayons, colored pencils, a glue-stick, scissors, tape, construction paper, cardboard, fun foam, odds and ends of yarn, braid, rick-rack, fabrics, buttons, wrapping paper, foil , shelf paper scraps, wallpaper samples, cardboard rolls from toilet paper, glitter, beads, gift wrap and paper towels, egg cartons, round oatmeal boxes, foam trays that come with fruit or bakery products *(not* meat packages) and paper plates. Add large plastic needles available at craft stores for crewel work and use the foam trays to teach your child to make designs using yarn. The nice thing about foam and cardboard trays and paper plates is that pictures, designs and collages become instant ready-to-hang, self-framed “art”. Get in the habit of considering your recyclable for their “making” potential year-round. The cotton from pill bottles makes wonderful 3-D clouds to a landscape, or texture to a collage. Plastic bottles become funnels and scoops for the sandbox., bathtub, garden and beach. (The kids can also spread the cotton along your bushes and fences this spring for nesting birds.) Spend a little time at your library with a crafts for children book to get more ideas. Stock up on papers, paints, markers, etc. at next year’s back-to-school sales. Garage sales and thrift stores are always great sources of cheap crafting materials.

DECORATIONS
1.  Use what you have.
Bring home what you find on walks: mistletoe, holly, any branches with berries, beautiful leaves may be left in some parts of the country, pinecones, nuts.
Make ornaments of as many as you can by adding ribbon or string or what-have-you. Spread peanut butter on the pinecones and hang them on trees and bushes in your yard for the birds. Roll them in birdseed if you have it.
Make garlands by stringing what you have on hand or can afford: cereal, cranberries, popcorn.
Again, check the library for ideas.
Ask your frugal friends for their best ideas.
Ask your folks what they did in lean times. Take a leaf from your “simple” friends and use natural and recycled materials.
Wrap presents in grocery bag brown paper and tie with twine. Potato print or splatter paint a design.

2.  If a tree is out of the question, make a game out of hiding presents (homemade and/or under a designated dollar figure ) until Christmas morning, when they can be retrieved from their concealment and presented with much fanfare . Stealth and surprises add fun and drama.

3.  Let there be light! Bring out every candle you own and light it. If you have a Christmas tree, give it lots of attention and admiration. Decorate it with ceremony.

As the Grinch found, celebrating the season in style doesn’t take tinsel and trappings. Lights, a little food, some music and a family to DO it all with (instead of just watching people on TV do things), and voila! Christmas!!
____________________

I’m the happy mom of two and grandmother of four. I’ve had time to learn that our best Christmases were when we gave our children the gift of our time and attention. When we focused on what the kids really wanted (calm, unhurried, happy parents) and unplugged the Christmas machine, we had peace on earth. (It turned out to be my ego, my desire to do it all, that was the biggest problem.) Relax. Have a HAPPY Christmas.

by Louise Wulf   [email protected]
The Dollar Stretcher  www.stretcher.com/stories/961216a.cfm

Ten Tips for a Simpler, More Meaningful Christmas

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1.  Plan ahead. Instead of going on auto-pilot the day after Thanksgiving, hold a family meeting to decide what the group really wants to do and who’s going to do what.

2.  If you need a symbol for giving (in addition to Jesus and the Magi), learn about St. Nicholas. Santa Claus has been completely taken over by commerce.

3.  Avoid debt. Refuse to be pressured by advertising to overspend.

4.  Avoid stress. Give to yourself. Don’t assume that things have to be the same way they’ve always been.

5.  Draw names rather than everyone giving something to everyone else in your giving circle. Set a ceiling for each recipient. Give children ONE thing they really want, rather than so many gifts. If need be, pool funds.

6.  Give appropriate gifts. Get to know the recipient. Give what they want to receive, not what you want to buy.

7.  Give alternative gifts. Give 25% of what you spent last year to the needy… individuals or groups locally, nationally or internationally.

Practice Fair Trade. Buy crafts and clothing from developing countries at alternative gift markets, not from commercial importers, so that artisans receive more for their work.

Give of yourself, not just “stuff” – a coupon book for future services (such as baby-sitting or an “enchanted evening”);
something baked, sewn, handmade, composed, etc.;
or a family service project, such as working together at a soup kitchen.

8.  Celebrate Advent for four weeks before Christmas. Use the booklet “Whose Birthday Is It, Anyway?” or some other appropriate guide.

9.  Put the gifts under the tree shortly before opening them. Then take turns opening them around the tree, not all at once, so that each gift can be admired and each giver thanked. Read to each other, tell stories, play “The Christmas Game,” leave the TV off.

10.  Make changes slowly but persistently. Don’t try to change everything and everybody all at once. The resistance will make you feel defeated and lonely.

Post on the Refrigerator & Bulletin Boards. Share with Friends & Relatives. Copy in Newsletters.

For more help and a free catalog of ideas, contact http://simplelivingworks.org/.

©1997 http://simplelivingworks.org/. Used by permission.

THE CHRISTMAS PLEDGE

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Believing in the beauty and simplicity of Christmas, I commit myself to the following:

1.  To remember those people who truly need my gifts.

2.  To express my love for family and friends in more direct ways than presents.

3.  To rededicate myself to the spiritual growth of my family.

4.  To examine my holiday activities in light of the true spirit of Christmas.

5.  To initiate one act of peacemaking within my circle of family and friends.

-from Unplug the Christmas Machine , by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli

 

Advent Calendars

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Advent begins Sunday, December 3, 2017. There are many Advent Calendars to help prepare for the coming of Christmas. One of my favorites is Follow The Star, prepared by the Campus ministry folks Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Presbyterian Mission Agency, and the Episcopal Church.
An online directed meditation fresh each day. Check it out.

 

Each day during Advent, Seminaries that Change the World features an online justice-centered seasonal devotion and profile a student or program from one of the seminaries. 

Check it out.

 

This year, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is producing an online Advent Devotional Calendar.  Check it out.

 

 

 

Busted Halo is a unique media resource that utilizes a relevant and accessible voice to help people understand the Catholic faith, put it into practice in their everyday lives, and share it with others.

Our vision is for a more joyful and meaningful experience of Catholicism that positively impacts people’s lives. At Busted Halo, we aim to bring the joy of the Gospel to all people in innovative and creative ways. Through articles, video, podcasts, radio, and social media, we aspire to help Catholics embrace their faith more fully.

Check out  their online Advent Calendar.

The coaches at Noomii have prepared an online advent calendar featuring an Act Of Kindness each day of Advent.  Check it out.

 

 

All of us humans sometimes need to be reminded to be kinder, gentler humans. Christmas Kindness started as a way to take back Christmas- and we still need that. And the world still needs more goodness put into it… so here we go.  Most of the activities this year focus on things we can do for others by being intentional with our words and our attitudes. Here is  A RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS ADVENT CALENDAR. Check it out.

 

A free printable Random Acts of Christmas Kindness advent calendar has been prepared by Megan at Coffee Cups and Crayons and she offers it you as  a free download.  Check it out.

Another version of a Random Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar can be downloaded here:  check it out.

And another version of Random Acts of Kindness during Advent can be downloaded here:  check it out.

 

 

The Church of Scotland presents an on-line Advent calendar.  Every day this Advent we journey with the different characters in the Nativity story through videos, reflections and prayers. Click on the Advent windows to view. Check it out.

 

 

The Pittsburg Seminary (Presbyterian Church, USA) is proiding an email edition of Advent devotionals prepared by staff and students.  Check it out.

The Beginning of Advent Poem

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‘Twas The Beginning of Advent
 By Todd Jenkins

‘Twas the beginning of Advent and all through the Church
Our hope was all dying– we’d given up on the search.
It wasn’t so much that Christ wasn’t invited,
But after 2,000 plus years we were no longer excited.

Oh, we knew what was coming– no doubt about that.
And that was the trouble– it was all “old hat.”
November brought the first of an unending series of pains
With carefully orchestrated advertising campaigns.

There were gadgets and dolls and all sorts of toys.
Enough to seduce even the most devout girls and boys.
Unfortunately, it seemed, no one was completely exempt
From this seasonal virus that did all of us tempt.

The priests and prophets and certainly the kings
Were all so consumed with the desire for “things!”
It was rare, if at all, that you’d hear of the reason
For the origin of this whole holy-day season.

A baby, it seems, once had been born
In the mid-east somewhere on that first holy-day morn.
But what does that mean for folks like us,
Who’ve lost ourselves in the hoopla and fuss?

Can we re-learn the art of wondering and waiting,
Of hoping and praying, and anticipating?
Can we let go of all the things and the stuff?
Can we open our hands and our hearts long enough?

Can we open our eyes and open our ears?
Can we find him again after all of these years?
Will this year be different from all the rest?
Will we be able to offer him all of our best?

So many questions, unanswered thus far,
As wisemen seeking the home of the star.
Where do we begin– how do we start
To make for the child a place in our heart?

Perhaps we begin by letting go
Of our limits on hope, and of the stuff that we know.
Let go of the shopping, of the chaos and fuss,
Let go of the searching, let Christmas find us.

We open our hearts, our hands and our eyes,
To see the king coming in our own neighbors’ cries.
We look without seeking what we think we’ve earned,
But rather we’re looking for relationships spurned.

With him he brings wholeness and newness of life
For brother and sister, for husband and wife.
The Christ-child comes not by our skill,
But rather he comes by his own Father’s will.

We can’t make him come with parties and bright trees,
But only by getting down on our knees.
He’ll come if we wait amidst our affliction,
Coming in spite of, not by our restriction.

His coming will happen– of this there’s no doubt.
The question is whether we’ll be in or out.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock.”
Do you have the courage to peer through the lock?

A basket on your porch, a child in your reach.
A baby to love, to feed and to teach.
He’ll grow in wisdom as God’s only Son.
How far will we follow this radical one?

He’ll lead us to challenge the way that things are.
He’ll lead us to follow a single bright star.
But that will come later if we’re still around.
The question for now: Is the child to be found?

Can we block out commercials, the hype and the malls?
Can we find solitude in our holy halls?
Can we keep alert, keep hope, stay awake?
Can we receive the child for ours and God’s sake?

From on high with the caroling host as he sees us,
He yearns to read on our lips the prayer: Come Lord Jesus!
As Advent begins all these questions make plea.
The only true answer: We will see, we will see.

J. Todd Jenkins
Intentional Pastor
First Presbyterian Church
Fayetteville, Tennessee

Give Chickens This Christmas

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For over 50 years, The Heifer Project has been making the world a better place.  They make it easy for you to give a meaningful gift this Christmas that will have  a huge effect on a family and the village in which they live.  Make a gift in the name of a loved one, Heifer will provide a gift card to explain what you have done in the name of your loved one.

Check it out:   http://www.heifer.org

A Time to Prepare for Christmas

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Traditionally, the Church has set aside four weeks prior to Christmas as a time to prepare.  We call this time Advent.

While most of our culture does take several weeks to prepare for Christmas, most of our preparations have little to do with why we Christians celebrate Christmas in the first place.  And, the day after Christmas, it’s all over . . . and our life goes on as usual.

But, Christmas is so important to the Christmas faith. It helps to explain our relationship with each other, the world around us, and the cosmic God of  all creation.

The real message of Christmas is seldom seen, and seldom understood.

But, some do see.  Some do understand.  And each year more and more people come to see and understand.  And, some provide resources so the rest of us can see and understand.

Warning!  The use of some of these recources can change your life . . . the life of others around you . . . and the life of others you may never meet!

I have seen it happen time and time again.

There are alternative ways to observe this season and prepare for Christmas.  This Christmas could be your best ever.

I am hopeful.

Check out the Advent Conspiracy