Christmas

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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Brand-New Book and an Advent Sermon by John Zahl

Brand-New Book and an Advent Sermon by John Zahl

We’re happy to announce another Mbird-friendly book out now: friend and Mbird contributor John Zahl‘s new sermon collection from Grace Church, Charleston, titled Sermons of Grace! We can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s available for purchase on Amazon here. The sermon below is the book’s opener and a great beginning to Advent, first given on Dec 1, 2013.

Prepare the way of the Lord… (Matthew 3:3)

John the Baptist’s words this morning are unequivocal: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.” It is undeniable that “preparation” is one of the main themes of Advent.

The readings in Advent contain an eschatological emphasis, which means that they deal with…

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A Black Friday Bonhoeffer Sequel: Redemption by Christ(mas List)

A Black Friday Bonhoeffer Sequel: Redemption by Christ(mas List)

As I write this, Thanksgiving is almost upon us. I feel as though I am standing on a precipice of sorts, waiting to be pushed over into the rush of the season. I’ve already received my Black Friday Preview Sale emails. I’ve added BUY BREAKFAST CASSEROLES to my calendar for December 23rd. And on top of all of the other “ambitions” I have for the season, I am determined to give my family gifts they actually want.

Last year gift-giving was kind of a bust at Casa Condon. I was working full time and pregnant. So I just got online and…

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The Hill and Wood Lets a Good Thing Grow

With an icy breeze blowing through the East Coast, what say we warm up with a glimpse at the charming video for “Let a Good Thing Grow”, the main single off The Hill and Wood’s excellent, new Opener EP. Everyone is giving birth to something, indeed:

LET A GOOD THING GROW from Charlotte Hornsby on Vimeo.

The rest of the EP is just as breath-taking and exquisitely crafted, packed with beautiful harmonies and gorgeously unwinding melodies. Even after 100-plus listens, “Oil Spill” still gives goose bumps. And the second half of “The First Time” may be the most rapturous music these two have committed to tape (which is saying something).

Full disclosure: The Hill and Wood is led by the ueber-talented Sam Bush, a name you may have seen on here before. Fortunately for us, Sam has also just recorded a side project with bluegrass singer Kathryn Caine, A Very Love and Mercy Christmas. I know it’s too early to bust out the carols, but when you do, this is our pick of the season.

Christmas in July: In Celebration of the Copycats and Original Cover of All Things

Christmas in July: In Celebration of the Copycats and Original Cover of All Things

When you watch a movie that’s a re-make of an older movie (which was also probably adapted from a musical adaptation of a novel) – do you ever mope and wonder if anything out there is original anymore? Is there really nothing new under the sun? I like to be cynical and sleep bitterly in this camp from time to time, sure that our collective imaginations are being mercilessly wiped away by some Never Ending Story-esque of a Nothing. “This is all that’s left of Fantasia!?” But then I consider the very concept of originality and I start to chuckle…

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