Friday, December 22, 2006
Longfellow's Christmas Bells
As we approach Christmas Day, I thought it appropriate to revisit a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow which later became a Christmas Carol. Longfellow’s I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day is widely sung – especially when Christmas Day falls on a Sunday. The carol’s message is pretty simple – take heart for right shall prevail and in the end there will be peace.
The phrase “Peace on earth, good will towards men” has its origins in the first Christmas. It was sung by the Heavenly Host to the Shepherds in their fields as Christ’s birth in Bethlehem was announced with splendor never seen before nor since.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.In Longfellow’s world, he had much reason to despair. As he wrote the poem on Christmas Day 1864 he was mourning the tragic death of his wife and the wounding of his son in a Civil War battle.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. -Luke 2: 8-14
No doubt this sorrow was the muse which inspired stanzas three and four – which are omitted from the modern carol:
Then from each black, accursed mouthAfter which he gave voice to his despair:
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound the carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn, the households born
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
And in despair I bowed my headThere are no doubt many in today’s America who share Longfellow’s sorrows this Christmas. Peace on earth isn’t very evident today. Nothing I write or express here will be able to change the reasons for their sorrow. I can but offer solace in the final stanza of Longfellow’s carol:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:Peace on earth is something sought after and desired by most people. I dare say it is one of the greatest blessings God desires for his children. Peace is a state which doesn’t exist without people willing to create an environment where it can thrive. Peace is something which must be defended by men and women who stand ready to defend its existence – often by the use of violent force.
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
While that may sound like a contradiction in terms, if you think about it, the statement is very true.
Perhaps that is why, when Jesus gave his Sermon on the Mount he included a reference to those whose profession it is to create and protect Peace.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. – Matthew 5:9
May your Christmas be a peaceful one – where ever it is you may be.
Here endeth the lesson.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Grinch Is Alive And Well In London
[Cue Bass Clarinet]
[Cue Thurl Ravenscroft]
From today’s Evening Standard
A primary school has been accused of spoiling Christmas for pupils after a lesson telling them that Santa Claus does not exist.You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch. You really are a heel. You're as cuddly as a cactus, You're as charming as an eel, Mr. Grinch.
Children as young as nine were told that only 'small children believe in Father Christmas'.
The blunder came after the Year 5 pupils were given seasonal worksheets containing various festive classroom exercises.You're a monster, Mr. Grinch. Your heart's an empty hole. Your brain is full of spiders, You've got garlic in your soul, Mr. Grinch.
One began by informing the children that 'many small children believe in Father Christmas'.
It then went on to explain that thousands of letters sent by these children to Santa every year are actually answered by the Post Office.
The youngsters were then asked to write a pretend letter from the Post Office to a child explaining why their requests for presents had been refused.
Last week a primary school teacher was sacked for telling her young class that Santa does not exist.You're a vile one, Mr. Grinch. You have termites in your smile. You have all the tender sweetness Of a seasick crocodile, Mr. Grinch. Given the choice between the two of you, I'd take the seasick crockodile.
The supply teacher apparently decided the pupils - some as young as nine - were too old to believe in Father Christmas.
The teacher, who has not been named, is believed to have told the class at Boldmere Junior School, in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands: "All of you are old enough to know there is no Father Christmas or fairies. If you ask your parents to tell you they will say there is no such thing.”
Mel Barefield, whose son was in the lesson, said: 'The teacher had said to them that Father Christmas wasn't real, Rudolph was a cartoon character and that Christmas trees come from Germany.'You're a foul one, Mr. Grinch. You're a nasty, wasty skunk. Your heart is full of unwashed socks, Your soul is full of gunk, Mr. Grinch. The three words that best describe you,are, and I quote: "Stink. Stank. Stunk."
A governor said: 'It's not just Father Christmas that's the problem. We also have issues with things like the Tooth Fairy.
'From now on when a child asks if Father Christmas exists the teacher should say, "I'm not sure. Go home and ask your parents"'.
Here endeth the lesson.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
2nd Lieutenant Scott B. Lundell - Husband, Father, Hero
There are many things about which I could write today – things humorous, things serious, things trivial. I will lay those things aside today to focus on something that actually matters. Thus I humbly ask for your patient attention as you might have the knowledge and/or means for which I’m searching.
There are many reasons to rejoice this holiday season. This season, however, there is a family in West Valley City, Utah who has been given cause to mourn. I’m talking about the family of the late 2nd Lieutenant Scott B. Lundell. As I have previously written, he died in a firefight on November 25th while bravely leading his men into battle against those who would do this nation great harm. The story of Lt. Lundell’s long journey home has been ably chronicled by Lowell the Hedgehog and plugged by the Powerline’s Big Trunk.
On a chain around his neck along with his dog tags was a scripture from the 6th chapter of Isaiah which read:
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!Lt. Lundell’s country called him and he answered. His first thoughts on the battlefield were no doubt for the safety of the men under his command. His last thoughts and prayers were no doubt for the family he was leaving behind.
His family, dear reader, is my concern today. Perhaps it’s because Lt. Lundell and I are about the same age and both of us have young children. Maybe its because I grew up with an Army officer for a father and part of me always wondered if he’d be called off to fight his country’s battles on a far away plain. Whatever the reason, reality will soon set in for Jeanine Lundell and her four small children.
Reality can be very harsh. The Army will do what it can to ease the burden faced by a family whose principle provider is now gone. Ditto for the Church and surrounding community. The resources of the aforementioned groups and individuals are finite and the collective American memory is exceptionally short. The needs which will be faced by the Lundell family will be anything but finite.
The Scott Lundell Memorial Fund has been established at the Mountain America Credit Union. For some unexplained reason, there is no way to make an online contribution to this account. You actually have to get your checkbook out (its that rectangular thing in the bottom of your bag) and send contributions in via snail mail. Yes, that means you have to find an envelope and stamp. Here’s the address information:
P.O. Box 9001
West Jordan, Utah 84084
Mark your check "Scott Lundell Memorial Fund."
Why should you care enough to cut a check? Here are a few reasons. In eight years, the oldest Lundell child will start college. Allowing for inflation and a 7% annual increase in average tuition and other fudge factors, a four year college education will cost approximately $71,000 in today’s dollars. Multiply that by a factor of four – I’m not sure of the exact ages of the children – and you start to see my point.
Traditionally, one of the things said to the widow (or designated family member) as the officer presents her with the flag which draped her husband’s coffin are the words “On behalf of a grateful nation…” Well, dear reader, now is the time for you to do just a little more than watch and read.
If this picture does not bring a lump to your throat and a tear to your eye, You. Are. Not. Human. No doubt you will be giving many gifts this holiday season. Maybe you’re well off, maybe you’re not. Maybe you have that account full of money you just don’t know what to do with. What ever your circumstance, remember that someplace in West Valley City there is a family without a father. The father heard his nation’s call and said Here am I, send me. He has now gone to the Mansions of the Lord. It is for us the living now to shoulder the responsibility he left behind.
Maybe you don’t have a checkbook. I know how that is. I hardly use mine anymore too. I’ll help you with that. Next week I will be in the Salt Lake City area. Click on this button
And I’ll drop that same amount (minus whatever Paypal takes out) at a Mountain America Credit Union branch office. I know it’s not much, but it is what I can do.
I would love to be able to someday knock on Jeanine Lundell’s door, hand her a check with a bunch of Zeros behind a rather large number and tell her she doesn’t have to worry about her kids going to college.
When God the Father asked the question emblazoned next to Lt. Lundell’s dog tags - Whom shall I send, there was no hesitation from Jesus when he answered Here am I, send me! When the question comes forth as to who will provide for the children of this fallen soldier, what will you answer?
Think about that.
Here endeth the lesson.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
The Annual Family Card
I apologize for the light blogging of late. I’m going to chalk it up to a very busy life coupled with a general lack of anything I really felt like writing about. Some months I’m a very prolific writer – some months I’m not. You get what you pay for and since I’m not actually getting paid for this, I do it when I feel like it.
Anyway, back to my original topic.
2006 is rapidly coming to a close and with the month of December has come the Christmas cards. I, of course, won’t get around to mailing my Christmas cards out for at least another week or so – but that’s nothing new. With these cards are sometimes included a letter giving the reader an update on the sender’s family and their accomplishments during this past year.
I don’t mean to sound like a cynic. Really, I don’t. Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. I really get into the swing of things. Having said that, I rank the Year End Letters right up there with Fruit Cake. For some strange reason, some people feel the need to make their family letter glow almost as bright as their resume. Highlights are almost always overblown and accomplishments – no matter how slight – are embellished to the point that an honorable mention in the Chess Olympics comes out looking remarkably similar to a Nobel Prize. Some people even feel the need to write such a letter the font requires a 3x magnifying glass to be read.
Little Eddie amassed nearly 1,500 rushing yards on the football field this year! “But wait,” says I. “Isn’t Little Eddie seven-years-old? You’re trying to tell me somebody actually keeps stats for Pop Warner Football?” I could go on. You get the idea.
One of these years, I’m going to put out a test letter to see if anyone actually reads, let alone believes, the stuff put out in these Year End Letters. I’m going to put out a letter that trumpets the accomplishments of my family. As for me, I’m going to announce my Presidential appointment to an obscure but important sounding blue ribbon congressional panel. Corderinho will have discovered several new species of dolphin. Corderinha will shortly be announcing break-through research which will cure diabetes, cancer, and male pattern baldness. The Ravishing Mrs. Cordeiro will announce her selection as prima ballerina for the Bolshoi.
Personally, I think it would be interesting to see a) how many people actually read the spoof letter and, b) how many people would actually believe any of it.
Now if I can just convince the Ravishing Mrs. Cordeiro to join my evil plot.