|by Rev. Chad O'Shea
Recipe for Christmas Joy -2006
"Pagan is Not a Four-Letter Word"
~ by Evan Williams
|by Gabrielle Thompson:||
Eight Gifts That Cost Not a Cent
Conscious Gift Giving ~ choices to enlighten
"Gold, Common Sense and Fur "~ humor
A Christmas Tradition -2006
Be A Santa Angel
Teddy Bear Christmas
"A Tiny Tim Tale"|
~ by Dick Penick, M.D.
And the angel said unto them,
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 Savior,
which is Christ the Lord.
Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace, good will toward all.
Dealing with our culture's crass commercialism at this season isn't always easy. "Jesus is the reason for the season"... but Santa Claus rules! In a household with young children, it's not easy to unplug from the Santa machine. Besides it's fun to give (and receive) presents, make and eat Christmas goodies, and generally party. Oh, every year I vow to do less, but somehow I always get caught up in the fervor that surrounds us. What to do?
The billboard on Hendersonville Road was the ultimate expression of Christmas commercialism. An ad for a local jewelry store, it said "Dreaming of a Gold Christmas?" I thought, "Whatever happened to peace, love, goodwill, and white with snow?"
But then I thought how the store owner and employees were people just like me, glad to get their monthly paycheck to support their families, and dependent on the economic boost of the holidays to keep their business thriving. The billboard was just "playing the game" in our retail world... and suddenly it went from being "crass" to "clever." I thought of how all the people buying gifts were doing it to express their love.
Yes, there's always another side to every story. And my attitude turned from disgust to compassion when I looked beyond the billboard and saw the people behind the story. And my heart softened... and anytime that happens, I know I'm celebrating Jesus' birth.
So this year, I'm not going to worry about the outer expressions. We all want to celebrate, and that's OK. So what if we overindulge a bit... tidings of great joy call for a big party! I think we're smart enough to mix the sacred and secular, to also remember the deeper meanings and quiet joy of this holy-day. It's all God, anyway.
The important part of Christmas happens on the inside... "what is it you do if you love only people who" don't commercialize Christmas? Just another opportunity for me to practice keeping my heart open... another chance to practice what Jesus was born to teach us.
So I'm going to do my best to see the Spirit of Christmas that's hidden in all the gift-giving, in every face, in every heart, in this dance we call Christmas. Jesus is born, and we're having a party!
© 1997 Lois J. Henrickson (Lytingale)
MY LAST CHRISTMAS
Tom Kartak - 10/21/94Tom was the Director of the Asheville Community Theater for several years. A Unity member who relocated to the Pacific Northwest, Tom passed away on 12/6/94. His gentle, joyous spirit is missed.
Outside my window, the leaves are orange and gold; the warmth of Indian summer teases me to come and play. Yet it’s time to start writing about Christmas. Bah, humbug... I’m not in the “Christmas spirit” yet!
What is this thing we call the Christmas spirit? Our holidays are a time of parties and pageants, brightly colored wrappings on gifts, visits to and from Santa Claus, feasting and food drives, and lights in the dark of winter’s chill. In essence, Christmas is a time of celebration and of giving... and I 'm wondering why we wait ‘till December to celebrate and to give!
As sentient beings, we are blessed - and cursed - with thinking minds that remember and forget. We experience something (or are taught about it) and store it in memory, and then forget to experience the present. We learn to remember scarcity, and forget to give. We remember yesterdays’ pains and sorrows and disappointments, and forget to celebrate the gift of today.
The birth of Jesus reminds us to focus on different memories. We remember our oneness, and we feel privileged to give. We remember the beauty and innocence of the newborn, and we forget to be afraid. We remember the teachings of Jesus, and we forget envy and greed and anger and petty preferences. We remember to see God in all things, and we forget our little miseries and remember to celebrate the gift of life and the many blessings we have.
During the holidays of December, we can be encouraged and reminded by all the trappings to remember the spiritual side of Christmas... or we can forget the reason for the season and see only the rampant commercialism. Once again, we choose where to focus the power of our attention, what to remember and what to forget. We choose whether to make our holidays into holy days... or just holly days.
Every day of our life has the potential to be a holy-day celebration, a dance filled with the Christmas spirit, and an expression of the spirit of Christ. God has given each of us a beautiful gift - do we say “Bah, humbug” or “Happy Holy Days!” to every brand new day?
© 1996 Lois J. Henrickson (Lytingale)
A shining star above,
Came a gift so rare to the weary world,
A miracle of love.
There was a golden glow 'round the cradle;
It was the light of God's own joy!
While the angels sing of a new-born King,
A little baby boy.
There crept a tiny lamb,
Crying "Where, oh where, has my mother gone?
I don't know who I am."
"You're not alone, Your Father is with you.
You are the child of God's own joy!"
Came the answer wise from the shining eyes
Of the little baby boy.
Spoke from a cow so mild,
"I will care for you and will mother you,
As if you were my child.
For we are born of one great Father,
Blessed by the light of God's own joy.
Sing your praise today to a new-born way --
The little baby boy."
We've wandered very far.
We are crying still in our loneliness,
Forgetting who we are.
We can remember the gift of our Father,
And be a part of God's own joy,
When we learn to share all the ways we care
Like the little baby boy.
--The song "The Little Baby Boy" by Lois J. Henrickson (Lytingale)
© 1981 Lois J. Henrickson (Lytingale) ~ all rights reserved.
Meditation for Christmas: Loving Yourself
Settle down in a comfortable position and release any tension you might feel; perhaps around the eyes...in the neck and shoulders...the thighs or in your feet. Feel it and then just let it go. You might want to count breaths from one to ten.
Now, imagine that you are in Bethlehem on the first Christmas. Visualize yourself following the Christmas star and seeing the wise men. See yourself standing in the stable, gazing down on the newborn Christ child lying in the manger. Lying in perfect love, perfect peace. It is so easy to love Jesus but so hard to love ourselves. Feel your love for the baby Jesus overflowing from your heart and filling your chest with warmth and peace. Feel the warm flow spreading into your arms and hands, and gently flowing down through your legs to your feet. Feel the love floating like a soft cloud up into the thoughts of your mind bringing comfort and peace. And now your heart is so full you feel it opening in love. Look directly into your own heart and there you will see another child. A child which, like Jesus, came into this world in perfect love, perfect peace. This is your inner child, your true self.
Now reach into your heart and gently place your child in the manger next to Jesus. For a few moments just look at the two babies side by side in the manger. Look at the baby Jesus. Look at your inner child. And as you lovingly observe the two babies, you can see and know the truth: that your inner child is beautiful, just like Jesus; innocent and pure and loving just like the Christ child. Kind and accepting and peaceful just like the baby Jesus. It becomes so obvious. You are a miracle of creation also, worthy, deserving of love, a perfect being.
And now lovingly return your child to that place of love within you, to your own open heart. Feel your inner child there in the warmth and comfort of your heart. Safe now, surrounded by the power of your love. No need to be afraid, no need to hide. Now safe in love. Now secure in peace. For now you love your inner child, you love yourself, just as you love the baby Jesus.
Recipe for Christmas Joy
Here's a few ideas for helping raise consciousness with your gifts this year:
Donations in honor of the recipient to:
...guidelines for growth
...ways to grow
...thoughtful expressions of personal service
How to Photograph Holiday Lights
'Tis the season of lights - from Christmas trees to Hanukah candles to decorative house lighting to "Italian" tree lighting. According to the New York Institute of Photography (NYI), your pictures can capture the magic of this lighting if you apply just one simple professional "trick." For example, how can your pictures capture the colorful glow of the lights on a Christmas tree? The "trick" is to turn off your camera's strobe (flash)! Otherwise the bright strobe light will overwhelm the subtle tree lights in your picture. Turn off your strobe whenever you want to capture any subtle light source - from Christmas trees to Menorah candles to decorative house lighting.
Certain things follow from this: When you turn off your strobe, you won't have enough light for split-second exposure. Your automatic camera will compensate by opening the shutter for a longer time - maybe a second or longer. Let your camera's built-in meter decide automatically.
But a very long exposure will become blurry if either the camera moves or the tree-lights move, or both. To minimize this risk, NYI recommends two further steps: First, use fast film - for example, ISO 800 to cut down the duration of the exposure. Second, steady your camera. Handholding just won't do. Use a tripod if possible. If not, place the camera on a solid surface, such as a tabletop, or brace it against a wall.
Give your love for Christmas...
Put him in the Hug Pen...
Take a Teddy out every Sunday,
hug him & send him your love during the service,
then return him to the Hug Pen...
On the Saturday before Christmas, the Teddy Bears
--filled with the loving vibrations of our Unity family --
will be delivered by adult, teens, and kids from Unity to needy children for a...
Beary Merry Christmas!
Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever.
A thousand years from now, Virginia,
nay ten times ten thousand years from now,
he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood."
~ Francis P. Church, Editorial in the New York Sun (Sept.1897)
It's just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past 10 years or so.
It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas -- oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it -- overspending, the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and dusting powder for Grandma -- the gifts given in desperation because you couldn't think of anything else. Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.
Our son Kevin (age 12 that year) was wrestling at the junior level at his school; and shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church, mostly black. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes.
As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler's ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford. Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn't acknowledge defeat. Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, "I wish just one of them could have won," he said. "They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them."
Mike loved kids -- all kids -- and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball and lacrosse. That's when the idea for his present came. That afternoon, I went to a sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years.
Each Christmas, I followed the tradition - one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to two elderly brothers whose home had burned down just before Christmas, and so on.
The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents. As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure.
The story doesn't end there. You see, we lost Mike last year due to cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, it was joined by three more. Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown, and someday will expand even further as our grandchildren stand around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelope... Mike's spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us.
May we all remember the Christmas spirit this year and always.
~anonymous, from an email (If you know the author, email us!)
My husband and I had been happily (most of the time) married for five years but hadn't been blessed with a baby. I decided to do some serious praying and promised God that if he would give us a child, I would be a perfect mother, love it with all my heart and raise it with his word as my guide.
God answered my prayers and blessed us with a son. The next year God blessed us with another son. The following year, he blessed us with yet another son. The next year we were blessed with a daughter. My husband thought we'd been blessed right into poverty. We now had 4 children, and the oldest was only 4 years old. I learned never to ask God for anything unless I meant it. As a minister once told me, "If you pray for rain, make sure you carry an umbrella."
I read a few verses of the Bible to the children each day. I was off to a good start. God had entrusted me with four children & I didn't want to disappoint him.
In spite of changing over 25,000 diapers, never eating a hot meal or sleeping for more than 30 minutes at a time, I still thank God daily for my children. While I couldn't keep my promise to be a perfect mother - I didn't even come close - I did keep my promise to teach them about God. I knew I was missing the mark just a little when I told my daughter we were going to church to "worship," and she wanted to bring a bar of soap along to "wash up" Jesus.
My proudest moment came in the Christmas pageant. My daughter was playing Mary, two sons were shepherds. my youngest son was a wise man. It was their moment to shine.
My 5-year-old shepherd had practiced his line, "We found the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes." But he was nervous and said, "The baby was wrapped in wrinkled clothes."
My 4-year-old "Mary" said, "That's not 'wrinkled clothes,' silly. That's dirty, rotten clothes." A wrestling match broke out between Mary and the shepherd and was stopped by an angel, who bent her halo and lost her left wing.
I slouched a little lower in my seat when Mary dropped the doll representing Baby Jesus, and it bounced down the aisle crying, "Mama-mama." Mary grabbed the doll, wrapped it back up and held it tightly as the wise men arrived.
My other son stepped forward wearing a bathrobe and a paper crown, knelt at the manger and announced, "We are the three wise men, and we are bringing gifts of gold, common sense and fur." The congregation dissolved into laughter, and the pageant got a standing ovation.
"I've never enjoyed a Christmas program as much as this one," Father Brian laughed, wiping tears from his eyes. "For the rest of my life, I'll never hear the Christmas story without thinking of gold, common sense and fur."
"My children are my pride and my joy and my greatest blessing," I said as I dug through my purse for an aspirin. ~author unknown
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Mills River, NC 28759
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