The Ambiance of the Season

The Ambiance of the Season cover

Ah… the ambiance of a warm, crackling fireplace at Christmas! Stockings are hung by the chimney with care, hoping St. Nicholas will soon be there. But, if you live in a Scandinavian or a European country, do not hang those stockings too low for they will go up in flames! You see, one of the oldest traditions of Christmas is the burning of a Yule log, and it’s not just any old piece of wood.

Enjoy “The Christmas Song” by Mary J. Blige!

In the 12th century, Norway kicked off the pagan custom of burning a Yule log on the day of Solstice. Norsemen believed the giant ball of fire, known as the sun, rolled away from the earth. Technically though, it was only the shortest and darkest day of the year, but their superstitions ran rampant. So they cut down an entire tree and dragged it into their homes. Yes, the whole tree! Families shoved the largest end of the tree into the fire while the other end of the tree laid in the middle of the room. As the Christmas season progressed, they continued to push it slowly into the flames while singing, dancing, and feasting on holiday goodies. It was a celebration of the sun’s rebirth, so it was important those flames never ceased before the twelfth day of Christmas; it was bad luck.

Victorian Yule Log Christmas card c 1870

Through the centuries, this tradition of prosperity spread as far west as Ireland, as far south as Greece, and as far north as Siberia. Each country individualized the Yule log custom. In France, folks stored any remaining pieces of the cherry tree log at the end of the twelve days, inside their home to protect against lightning strikes. The UK appears to be cleaner about their holiday mess. They dry out an oak tree and strip the bark off before it comes inside to burn. Some Europeans scatter the ashes of the flames inside their home to ward off evil spirits, and others spread them around their plants to encourage blooming. In Holland, the Yule log is stored under a bed in the home as a safety against bad luck.

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Yule Winter Solstice Celebration

Moving away to a modern civilization known as North America, is there a doubt we commercialized the Yule log? Walk into Hobby Lobby or any craft store, and you will spend a lot of money on Yule log centerpieces or the supplies to make one. But like the French, I think it’s much yummier to whip up a rich, chocolate Yule log, Bûche de Noël, dripping in chocolate icing and filled with cream. I would much rather sit in front of the fireplace, celebrating the ambiance of the season, eating this sponge cake. How about you?

The Ambiance of the Season pic 3

 

Let us remember, as Christians, the yule we celebrate today is the reality that God became man in order to bring the man to God. Happy Holidays!

Please join us again on Sunday for another “Everything Christmas Blog”!


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It’s A Christmas Sing-A-Long!

It's A Christmas Sing-A-Long cover

My friends, today, we are warming up the vocal chords and putting on our thinking caps. This is a challenge, of sorts, to discover how well you know Christmas music! Please listen carefully to the three songs below:

Can you label which of these tunes are a Christmas carol, a hymn or a Christmas song? Let’s try to distinguish the differences among these three styles of music and then we’ll check your answers.

 

HYMNS
Hymns, known as “chordal music” by professional musicians, are interchangeable melodies; they use different lyrics on specific tunes. But, they stand out from other music because they are religious in nature. Most of these formal poems are taken from the Book of Psalms and sung by congregations. Their words give praise, adoration or prayer addressed to God. The main focus is placed on positive and uplifting lyrics, not the music. The first Christmas hymn may be traced to 4th century Rome. It was called, “Jesus Refulsit Omnium” (“Jesus, Light of All the Nations”), written by St. Hilary of Poitier. Listen to this song below:

 

CHRISTMAS CAROLS
Carols, a French word meaning “circle dance,” is always accompanied by instruments. Their lyrics can be religious or non-religious, so some carols may also be considered a Christmas song or a hymn. (Are you second-guessing your choice above??) As a standard, Christmas carols are songs of religious topics, such as Jesus or the nativity scene, but without the sacred context. Lyrics tend to harmonize around Christmas themes or the winter season and are normally sung before the holiday. Carols will always celebrate the joy of Christmas and the birth of Jesus Christ. As a result, wassailers (or Christmas carolers) select them to bring happiness to your home’s doorstep.

The oldest Christmas carol dates to Rome in the 4th century. Listen to this song named, “The Holly and the Ivy”:

For a little trivia, can you guess the most popular Christmas carol ever written? Its age goes all the way back to 1816, and it has a remarkable 733 copyrighted recordings since 1978. If you believe you know the answer, click below to see if you are correct:

 

CHRISTMAS SONGS
The most popular music of the holidays, today, is known as Christmas songs. They are not overtly religious, but instead, they express verses of personal experiences at Christmastime or related things of the holiday. The music is very upbeat and secular in nature.

Once again, let’s play the trivia game! What is the best-selling Christmas/holiday song in the United States, and also the best-selling single of all time, with estimated sales of over 50 million copies worldwide? If you think you know the answer, click below:

 

Let us review the correct answers for the Christmas music heard at the beginning of this blog:

1) The Little Drummer Boy is a Christmas carol because it sings of the nativity scene with some religious undertones. It definitely celebrates the joy of Christmas and the coming birth of Jesus.

2) Oh, Come All Ye Faithful is a hymn as it gives praise and adoration to the Lord. It has uplifting and joyful verses.

3) It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas is a favorite Christmas song. It relates to all things Christmas with little alluding to religious events.

Now, since we are experts in differentiating a Christmas carol, song, and hymn, let’s turn up the volume on the radio and praise the Lord’s name to your favorite tunes. Regardless of the category the songs belong to, it is time to celebrate Christmas and the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ! Happy singing!

Please be sure to join us again on Sunday, December 2nd for another “Everything Christmas Blog”!


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A Christmas Celestial Event

A Christmas Celestial Event cover

A perfect scene… a star like none other, sitting above a stable in the peaceful night and it’s announcing the birth of a holy Messiah. The Gospel of Matthew was the only book in the Bible which described “The Star of Bethlehem” occurrence:

A Christmas Celestial Event verse

What did the wise men witness in the sky that night? Was it real? Was it a star, a comet, or something else? The magi were skilled astrologers and scholars, so their fixation was not in the stars, but on large astronomical events which they believed would predict something happening. But why were they the only men to witness and describe a star guiding them? If they were well trained then why didn’t they understand what they saw in the sky?

Many astrologers of 2,000 years ago, the Chinese, Korean, and Babylonians, documented the heavens because they placed predictions based on events. The writings recorded then, are in a constant review by our astronomers today, and theories abound. But, one thing is for sure, no answer or explanation for this divine incident is clear. Here are the details I discovered, and you may come to your own conclusion.

Enjoy the beautiful song, “Star of Bethlehem”:

I know little of astronomy, but for certain, stars do not move relative to themselves. Planets continuously shift through the solar system. Based on this, how, then, did the sacred star move, leading the magi to Bethlehem? One theory suggests a heliacal rising. The planets Jupiter and Venus lapped each other while moving through the background stars. If the sun caught up to one of the planets, the planet would disappear until the sun moved far enough away from it. Then it would reappear shockingly bright in the sky, just before sunrise. Historical records show this exact occurrence on April 17 of 6 BC to December 19 of 6 BC. But, this natural alignment of planets, sun, and earth would not create a long, extended tail to the ground such as the one described by the magi.

A Christmas Celestial Event Pic 1

A heliacal rising

A second theory suggests a comet. This seems to be the most logical explanation because it can hang over a city or land mass as did Halley’s Comet on March 8, 1986. Historical astronomy records revealed a tailed comet in the timeframe of the magi’s travels, and it lasted for seventy days. However, from Jerusalem’s vantage point, the comet would have been in the southern sky with the head close to the horizon and the tail pointing upward. The magi described the “Star of Bethlehem” as one they never seen before and comets were frequent visitors in their galaxy. So, as scholarly astrologers, why couldn’t the magi tell the difference between a comet and a star? Apparently, something confused their decision.

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Image of Halley’s Comet

A final theory suggests the birth of a star, known as a nova. It certainly matched the biblical description. Once again, Chinese historical records reveal a new star was born in the northern constellation of Aquila in 4 BC. During the time the three wise men traveled from Jerusalem, the star would have lit their sky south into Bethlehem and not in the west. This explains why no one else witnessed this bright star. However, the star did not move, and it certainly didn’t stand over the city of Bethlehem; nor would it have stayed bright for the one to two years they took to find Jesus.

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Image of Supernova

Revealing all the facts described in this blog, I will stand on my own theory. The Star of Bethlehem was an incredible act of God and one created for a unique purpose. God can use natural law to carry out His will because He is not bound by the laws He created for this world. When you think of the whole miraculous event of Jesus’s birth, a special star is not beyond His scope. What do you think?

Please join us again on Tuesday, November 13th for another, Everything Christmas Blog!


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