Christmas

Eliot’s Journey of the Magi and Our Discomfort with Choosing Another Way in 2015

Eliot’s Journey of the Magi and Our Discomfort with Choosing Another Way in 2015

Journey of the Magi

T.S. Eliot

‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had…

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Lucinda Williams and All the Forgettable Epiphanies

Lucinda Williams and All the Forgettable Epiphanies

Tuesday was the Feast of the Epiphany, the day in which we celebrate the Christ child revealed to the Magi, the rulers of the East, the Word of God made plain to the Gentiles. It brings to a close the twelve days of Christmas, and what a way to do it–with the showcasing of God’s Son to the whole pagan world, not just the choicest cuts.

And what was Lucinda Williams doing? Besides preparing for a short tour along the Gulf of Mexico, she was mourning the death of her father, Miller Williams, the acclaimed poet whose lyrics actually open the…

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“You Descended from the Stars”: Christmas and Salvation from the Stars

“You Descended from the Stars”: Christmas and Salvation from the Stars

Another great post from Michael Nicholson, looking at the far reaches of the stars and the farther reaches of God through the lens of sci-fi film. Enjoy!

You descended from the stars,
O king of heaven,
and came to a cave,
in the frosty cold.

~ Tu scendi dalle stelle, 18th cent. Italian Christmas carol

In the first golden age of science fiction film, in the 1950s, the standard, nearly universal paradigm for depicting alien visitors from the solar system and the stars was that they were implacably hostile to humanity. The classic film in this genre was the original War of the Worlds (1953),…

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Conceiving Advent Differently

Conceiving Advent Differently

As I stumble through the door of the fourth baby shower or “sprinkle” I have attended in the last two months, wobbling atop a pair of rarely worn pumps, my eyes dart immediately to the buffet. I survey the landscape and breathe a sigh of relief: there are mimosas. And pimento cheese. Praise Jesus. Five minutes later, I am balancing a champagne flute in one hand, a blue paper plate in the other (It’s a boy, duh), and am trying to use my pinky finger to transfer a Ritz cracker to my mouth when the grandmother-of-the-honoree pauses her dialogue about…

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Another Week Ends: Exotic Magi, Histories of Christmas, More Elves on Shelves, Rand Reviews Children’s Movies, and More Messes of Help

Another Week Ends: Exotic Magi, Histories of Christmas, More Elves on Shelves, Rand Reviews Children’s Movies, and More Messes of Help

Housekeeping thing: a few copies of A Mess of Help sent out had lots of 5s in their tables of contents. Let us know if you got one of those, and we’ll send a new one.

1. As we’re getting into the Christmas spirit, The Economist makes a surprising contribution with a survey of the Magi’s reception history. Apparently the men were likely astrologers/sages of some sort, but people found kings more appealing. In medieval times, some strange theologians talk about massive royal retinues encamped outside Bethlehem, etc. And in other strains of the tradition, they were bumbling traveler types, something in between the…

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Waiting for a Baby: Pregnant at Christmas

Waiting for a Baby: Pregnant at Christmas

This is the second time in my life I have been pregnant during Christmas. With the first, I was only a few short weeks into the process and so mostly just doe-eyed, exhausted, and power-eating Chick-fil-a. This go-round though, I’m at 18 weeks and still running for the toilet every time I eat anything with sugar, change a diaper, or drink liquid with too much vigor.

Nausea aside, being pregnant during “The Season” sheds so much light on “The Reason.” The season leading up to Christmas, what we call Advent, is a season of waiting and anticipation. Easter is probably supposed…

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Gifts Beyond Reciprocity

Gifts Beyond Reciprocity

I may not be the only one for whom an element of Law has infiltrated the yearly ritual of gift-giving. On the giver side, I spent an undue amount of time and energy trying to find things adequately utilitarian yet also personal, valuable but not profligate, suited to the taste of various people. And on the recipient side, I feel like I’m growing progressively more choosey: partly as a function of growing older, with ever-more specific tastes, and partly as a function of the Internet (numerous sub-forums are involved in my selection of even a minor thing for myself). The…

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Come Down to the Manger and See the Little Stranger

Come Down to the Manger and See the Little Stranger

There’s one particularly ‘seasonal’ portion of A Mess of Help, and here it is (minus the copious footnotes). Longtime readers may recognize portions, but this is the published and much-expanded version, which comes in the book’s final chapter, track nine of “Sing Mockingbird Sing: The Alpha and Omega of Annotated Playlists”. Enjoy:

I am quite proud of my office. It has taken a decade or two, but I finally feel like I’ve collected a suitable constellation of mementos to display. There’s the foldout from the ET: Picture Book record, which has Michael Jackson posing for what appears to be a school…

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Bracing Ourselves for #bestchristmasever

Bracing Ourselves for #bestchristmasever

In my 32 years on the planet, I’ve had all kinds of Christmases. There was the Almost Jewish Christmas (thanks, college boyfriend), the Just Gave Birth 3 Weeks Ago Christmas (thanks, husband), and my personal favorite, the We’re too Broke to Go Home for Christmas Christmas. I’ve had many Dr. Phil Christmases (but, really, who hasn’t?). And there’s been a few Merry ones sprinkled in between. Every year, Christmas comes upon me with waves of the urge to do, to fix, and to reboot the season. Every year, I long to make Christmas as happy as I’m told it should…

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What Happened at the Debut of Handel’s Messiah

Priceless anecdote from the beginning of The Smithsonian’s rundown of “The Glorious History of Handel’s Messiah”, published in 2009, ht PNW:

George Frideric Handel’s Messiah was originally an Easter offering. It burst onto the stage of Musick Hall in Dublin on April 13, 1742. The audience swelled to a record 700, as ladies had heeded pleas by management to wear dresses “without Hoops” in order to make “Room for more company.” Handel’s superstar status was not the only draw; many also came to glimpse the contralto, Susannah Cibber, then embroiled in a scandalous divorce.

The men and women in attendance sat mesmerized from the moment the tenor followed the mournful string overture with his piercing opening line: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.” Soloists alternated with wave upon wave of chorus, until, near the midway point, Cibber intoned: “He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” So moved was the [Anglican clergyman] Rev. Patrick Delany that he leapt to his feet and cried out: “Woman, for this be all thy sins forgiven thee!”

A Mockingbird Gift Guide (2014 Edition)

A Mockingbird Gift Guide (2014 Edition)

Last year’s gift guide was so popular that we’ve decided to make it an annual tradition. Apologies in advance for once again not straying too far from our books/movies/music wheelhouse.

For Those About to Host a Christmas Party: A Very Love and Mercy Christmas by Sam Bush and Kathryn Caine

For Your Friend Who Is Always Complaining About How Bad the Sermons Are at Their Church: Sermons of Grace by John Zahl

For Anyone Looking to Spice Up Their Office or Bring Their Inner Child to Work: An assortment of Funko’s “Reaction Figures”. Recommendations include Chunk from The Goonies, Zoe from Firefly, Kane…

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An Imaginative Festival of Lessons and Carols

An Imaginative Festival of Lessons and Carols

A yearly Christmas pleasure is King’s College at Cambridge’s famous Festival of Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve, nine lessons and nine carols with a beautiful choir and traditional music. For those who just can’t wait, here’s a bit of the rationale of the King’s College service, followed by an Mbird-friendly, fresh and down-to-earth spinoff to tide you over:

The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols was first held on Christmas Eve 1918. It was planned by Eric Milner-White, who, at the age of thirty-four, had just been appointed Dean of King’s after experience as an army chaplain which had convinced him that…

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