The Compass Heading

The Compass Heading cover

Occasionally, a real case of humanitarianism surfaces through the cracks of disbelief at Christmas. I verify this World War story surfaced through President Reagan in 1985, and all facts are verified as accurate. I would love to share it with you in this “Everything Christmas Blog.”

Enjoy the song, “Let There Be Peace on Earth”:

As WWI was winding down, Generals swore there’d never be another war truce at Christmas observed (such as the historical event of the Germans and Americans uniting on Christmas Day). Bloody beyond belief, “The Battle of the Bulge” brings home horrible memories… except for a chosen few.

The Compass Heading pic 3

Battle of the Bulge

Snow was on the ground, and bitter temps plummeted on Christmas Eve. A wounded and lost soldier in the woods stumbled upon a cottage in Huertgen Forest, near the Belgian border. Inside the dimly lit cabin, a mother and her son heard a knock on the door. She was hoping it was her husband coming home for Christmas Eve dinner. Instead, the intruder was a lost American soldier, not even old enough to vote. Startled, Elizabeth carefully examined his condition. He begged for food and a moment to thaw. He was just a mere child shot by the Nazis.

The Compass Heading pic 2

Huertgen Forest, near the Belgian border.

A little twelve-year-old Fritz sympathetically watched his mother care for the enemy, Ralph Blank, who could have easily killed them. Neither spoke the other’s language but conversed just the same. As she tended to his injuries, the best she could, another knock broke the silence. Hoping it might be the love of her life this time, Fritz ran to see. But the tone of the voice behind the door told his mom it wasn’t his father either.

Pushing Fritz away from the chill, four Germans coerced her into letting them inside the home. But before she opened the door, she had to be honest and tell them she had a request which might get her murdered. The German corporal responded, “It is the Holy Night, and there will be no shooting here.” They left their guns outside and were then welcomed in to have dinner with her other uninvited guest.

Two of the German soldiers were only sixteen-years-old, and the corporal was twenty-three years of age. One was an intern at med school, and he dressed the wounds of the young, bleeding American. With the help of some broken French, the German soldiers explained their positioning to Ralph. Elizabeth told Fritz to go get Hermann, the chicken, for this very rare occasion of friendship at wartime.

The Compass Heading pic

 

So, picture this….. a little cabin, deep in the woods, buried in snow with five combatants. Also present was a distraught mother with a twelve-year-old son, and no husband to defend her! But the squeamish soldiers became comfortable sitting together around the fire.

Ralph told the German soldiers he was lost, pointing in the assumed direction. One soldier reached into his pocket and gave him a compass and a map. He told Ralph which direction to go to get back to his line. Then everyone gave thanks to God for this rare occasion.

At the end of the evening, everyone graciously thanked their host – a wonderful woman. She welcomed them regardless of their beliefs of war. She kindly fed them and sent them off. Shaking hands and wishing each other a Merry Christmas, all the soldiers were back to wartime. Just one quick hug and a salute, and they parted ways before they enemy caught them.

Fifty years passed and Fritz Vincken now lived in Honolulu, Hawaii. He tells he and his mother’s touching story to friends every holiday. But one year, an old vet in a nursing home in Frederick, Maryland described the very same incident. As fate revealed, the television show, Unsolved Mysteries, put this American soldier and German child together, once again, in 1995. Ralph Blank, still had the compass and map from the German soldier. They had lots to get caught up on! Ralph told Fritz, “Your mother saved my life.” This reunion was the high point of Fritz’s life.

The Compass Heading Ralph and Fritz reunion

Ralph Blank and Fritz Vincken reunion

Fritz passed away on December 8, 2002, almost 58 years to the day of the Christmas truce. He was forever grateful for his mother’s recognition. She so bravely deserved it. The lesson to learn from this touching true story is you’ll never know how, or when, your generosity will touch someone. Remember, we are all God’s children, no matter the language or circumstance.

The Compass Heading prayer

Be sure to join us again on Thursday, December 20th, for another Everything Christmas Blog!

www.danabicksauthor.com


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Sledding in the Streets

Sledding in the Streets cover

As the cold snow wistfully falls, I dream of romantic horse-drawn carriage rides through Central Park in New York City. Thick, soft blankets and some steaming, hot chocolate add to the ambiance. The horses appear happy trotting down the paved walkway sparkling in Christmas lights. But, some of these animals are better suited for a faster track, like sledding in the streets. For example, the ever-popular horse racing in the 1800s. The Massachusetts resident, James Pierpont wrote about the sport in his tune, “One-Horse Open-Sleigh,” later known as Jingle Bells in 1850.

Sledding in the Streets pic 2

Portrait of James Lord Pierpont, courtesy of New England Historical Society

Enjoy James Pierpont’s tune, “Jingle Bells”, sung by Bing Crosby

As this story tells, he wrote it in the Simpson’s Tavern, a boarding house, on the only piano in town. An unproven detail is he wrote his winter song for his father’s Sunday School class for Thanksgiving. It was so popular enthusiasts sung it again at Christmas time. One of Pierpont’s friends called the melody, “a merry little jingle.”

The earliest recorded versions of the song played on music boxes but it didn’t become prevalent until the phonograph record era. Among all the recordings, it was Bing Crosby with The Andrews Sisters who made the tune most popular. Their 1943 recording is the one most often heard today during the Christmas season in the United States.

Pierpont’s song inspiration was the annual one-horse open-sleigh races on Salem and Pleasant Streets between Medford and Malden Square. What were these competitions? In the 19th century, harness racing was extremely popular in towns. Straight, snow packed roads made great racing lanes as men hitched their best horses for the matches. Local newspapers from the 1800s and early 1900s included the latest sleigh racing reports, winner’s names and the breeding of the best horses. For many, this sport was a cold-weather pastime, much like sledding and skiing. Horse necks, tied with large bells, helped avoid collisions at intersections (thus the inspiration for the title, “Jingle Bells”).

Sledding in the Streets pic 1

Image of a one-horse open-sleigh courtesy of Toronto Public Library

 

The sleigh described in “Jingle Bells” is known as a “cutter”—a two-person vehicle designed for a single horse in harness. The bobtailed mare, referenced in the song, covered a mile in two minutes and 40 seconds. Fast one! They bobbed tails of these horses to avoid entanglement in the tack.

As for sleigh racing, it dwindled in popularity each year after introducing the automobile.

~~~~~~~

Horses are one of the most fascinating creatures created by God! In the Bible, they were sources of transportation, symbols of army strength, royal gifts, pagan worship, and badges of wealth, character and prophecies. To ride a horse in biblical times implied war, so men usually rode donkeys, mules, camels, and ox-driven carts. They were rarely used for agricultural purposes.

Proverbs 21:31
The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord.

Sledding in the Streets pic 3

People imported and exported horses daily so chariot cities were built to stable them. Archaeologists have uncovered the ancient city of Megiddo, which was one of King Solomon’s chariot cities. Massive stone hitching posts still may be observed at the location.

1 Kings 10: 28-29
Solomon’s horses were brought out of Egypt, and the king’s merchants received them in droves, each at a price. A chariot could be brought out of Egypt for 600 shekels of silver, and a horse for 150. And so to all the kings of the Hittites and of Syria they were exported by the king’s merchants.”

1 Kings 4:26
“Solomon also had 40,000 stalls for his chariots and 12,000 horsemen”.

But for the notoriety horses are famous for, God wants us to understand this about horses. He created them for their strength and power but not as a replacement for His power in your life. As horses are stubborn and independent, so the Lord encourages you to lean on Him at all times, for His guidance. Just as in the Bible, it can symbolize destruction or victory in His holy name! Have a blessed Christmas!

Join us again on Thursday, December 13th for another Everything Christmas Blog!


Give the gift that keeps on giving!

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The Humble Mother of a Christmas Savior

The Humble Mother of a Christmas Savior cover

Welcome to Part Two of a three-part Special Edition of Everything Christmas Blogs. As Christians, it is important to know about Jesus. For example, how many details do you actually know about His family? Though most information is minimal, try to use your imagination, along with the details and facts of the Bible, to understand this holy dynasty. Today, we will learn of Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus Christ. Enjoy!

Enjoy this gorgeous Christmas song, “Mary, Did You Know?” sung by Clay Aiken:

 

Nothing is more glorious or miraculous than giving birth to a child. Who will the baby resemble and what will they become in adulthood? But, can you ever imagine going to sleep a virgin and waking up to discover a baby growing in your womb? And then, to compound the mystery, you are told the child will be a Savior to all mankind! What?? How does this happen? God’s power over man is astounding, if not scary. It proves we, ultimately, have no control over our lives. His miraculous deeds exceed earthly desires, so let us praise His name!

This is the true account of Jesus’s mother, Mary, a poor Jewish girl who lived in Nazareth. Her honorable family was descendants of King David, but they were not any different from others who struggled to live daily in the thriving, small town. Mary’s parents raised her with strong convictions and a deep love for the Lord. She was carefully trained in the Scriptures and so highly favored by God to be the mother of His Son.

Mary’s story begins in the Bible at the tender age of twelve to fourteen where she lived with her parents but betrothed to Joseph. (This is young to be engaged but the lifespan of the generations in biblical days were short.) One day, the angel, Gabriel, came to visit her and said:

Luke 1:28-33

“….Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

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Put yourself in Mary’s place. What would your reaction be to such a claim? I think it would terrify me, as it did Mary, for she was still a virgin. Though she didn’t understand, she humbled herself before the Lord. Her faith and trust in God would see her through the explanation to Joseph and the birth of the child. What a remarkable young girl!

Mary paid a visit to her older cousin, Elizabeth and her husband, Zechariah in a small town of Judea. Would they believe her story? They were preparing for the delivery of their first child. As the Bible tells, when Mary arrived, Elizabeth dropped to her knees and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!” God used Elizabeth to confirm to Mary that she would be the mother of the Son of God. She knew nothing was impossible for God. But, Elizabeth understood, too, an unmarried mother in their culture could be stoned or put to death. It would place shame on the tribe in their township. So, she let Mary stay with her until their son, John the Baptist, was born three months later.

The Humble Mother of a Christmas Savior Pic 2

 

Upon Mary’s return trip home, many thoughts afflicted her. How would she explain her pregnancy to Joseph and her parents? They would accuse her of something she did not do. This young woman of such character was about to be put to the ultimate test.

When Mary relayed her story to Joseph, he appeared extremely upset and hurt. She knew he didn’t believe her. What would she do now, and where would she go to stay safe in Nazareth? The Bible does not detail her parent’s reaction, but one can only imagine. Mary’s stress level must have been unbearable.

The next day, Joseph arrived at Mary’s home to pick her up and take her to his house. He loved her! A visit from an angel to him the night before confirmed her pregnancy. (Read Joseph’s history in the first part of this Special Edition – www.danabicksauthor.com/blog/a-real-father-christmas). He protected her and her character, and still wanted to marry even though the townspeople gossiped and shadowed her reputation. Is being a servant of God ever easy?

Near the end of Mary’s pregnancy, she and Joseph trudged an eighty-mile path to Bethlehem. Caesar required the citizens to enroll in a tax census but there was a hidden agenda. He knew a child was to be born who held the name “Savior.” The only way to find out who was carrying the miracle was to demand all citizens report to him in person. So, not only was Mary very pregnant, tired, and concerned of Caesar’s request, she endured a trip which must have been physically painful. Little to eat and little to drink, Joseph, and Mary climbed the many mountains, probably making many short stops along the way for her to rest.

The Humble Mother of a Christmas Savior Pic 3

As they approached Bethlehem, Mary began the early stages of labor. The city was full of people, and no place was available for them to stay the night. Joseph found a stall for animals and made a bed of straw for her to lie upon and be comfortable. In a strange town, with no relatives to help, a young Mary gives birth to her first child. She must have been terrified, and perhaps, even a little sad she could not share their joy with family members. But God’s celebration of His son was her drive to remain strong and steadfast. What an extraordinary, uncomplaining mother!

The Humble Mother of a Christmas Savior Pic 4

 

Mary, the humble mother of our Savior, Jesus Christ, was an incredible girl. She served God at any cost and was an obedient follower. How many women, today, can hold a candle to her? She was a nurturer, entirely devoted to her son’s health and spiritual well-being. But, as like all servants of the Lord, there’s great suffering too, especially being the mother of a Messiah. She was a holy woman of rare strength, confirming the human nature of Jesus Christ.

I think it’s proper to remember Mary on Christmas. She taught us to reach out and take a gift, accept God’s blessings, with a faithful and sincere heart. This is the reason for the season, my friends.

www.danabicksauthor.com

Please join us for the final part of this three-part Special Edition of “Everything Christmas Blogs” on Sunday, December 9th.


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A Real, Father Christmas

A Real, Father Christmas cover

This is part one of a three-part Special Edition of Everything Christmas Blogs. As Christians, it is important to know about Jesus. For example, how many details do you actually know about His family? Though most information is minimal, try to use your imagination, along with the details and facts of the Bible, to understand this holy dynasty. Today, we will learn of Joseph, the carpenter, legal father of Jesus Christ. Enjoy!

 

Jesus’s father, Joseph, was a real father Christmas – he personified a great example of fatherhood. A direct descendant of King David, his birthdate is circa 1782 BC, according to the Gregorian calendar method. In the book of Matthew, Joseph was one of eleven children, but only one of two natural-born children to Jacob and Rachel. Rachel could not conceive until late in life. Joseph was her first child and the most favored by Jacob.

Joseph lived in Nazareth, a tiny town of 400 residents, just twelve miles southwest of the Sea of Galilee. The meager, peasant families, all of whom were Jewish, barely survived farming the rocky, hilly terrain. But he became a skilled carpenter and later a well-respected contractor. He passed his family’s inherited talents on to his son, Jesus.

A Real, Father Christmas pic 1

Biblical Nazareth

A faithful and devout man to Judaism, Joseph raised his family under the same practices and beliefs. As the story of Mary and Joseph unravels in Matthew 1:1-18, this compelling man was of middle age when he met Mary. In biblical days, the parents of young girls arranged marriages. Because the age span of humans was short (35-45 years), girls wed at twelve to fourteen years old. It is unclear in the Bible if a marriage arrangement was the situation with Joseph and Mary because their story began when they were betrothed.

So, to describe Joseph’s personality and strength of character, let me set the scene of events. He was an honorable man who loved his soon-to-be-wife, Mary, very much. One day, Mary solemnly approached him and told him she was pregnant. His first instinct could have been anger and rejection. An acceptable response, in those days, would be to send her off to be stoned and ridiculed by the masses because she was pregnant with another’s child. Instead, his faith in God led him to believe her story of an immaculate conception.

A Real, Father Christmas pic 2

Joseph lovingly took her under his wing, setting aside his own needs for Mary’s protection. Men in this culture were not inclined to bend to a woman’s needs, but he set the bar very high. He traveled many miles with Mary until he found a safe and quiet place for her to give birth. But his starring role was about to begin.

Mary gave birth to our Savior, and Joseph was overcome with emotion. He named the baby Jesus (meaning Savior). Biologically, Joseph was not the father, but in every way, this man was a proud, surrogate patriarch. He raised Jesus in the Jewish religion and taught him a spiritual life. His role as a protective father ensured the survival of the child. This was evident when a second angel relayed another message:

A Real, Father Christmas verse

 

Again, Joseph traveled by night with Mary and Jesus, from Egypt back to Nazareth. He humbly and quietly saved Jesus’s life and established a residence for his family. Joseph certainly proved his willingness to be obedient to God’s direction and guidance.

A Real, Father Christmas pic 3

Though an exact date of Joseph’s death is not available, we can surmise it occurred sometime between the beginning of Jesus’s ministry and His crucifixion; Jesus made arrangements for John the Baptist to take care of His mother after His death. This was indicative Joseph was not alive.

What a silent hero Joseph was and a real role model for Christians today! He took his son, God Almighty, and taught him to pray and how to work. This is a man who was forced to live, initially, a life of purity within his marriage to Mary. Sacrificing the ability to have any kind of normal life came with many struggles and much criticism, but Joseph overcame them all. Few examples of these godly traits were seen in biblical days and even less so in today’s generations. Is it any wonder Jesus was a sinless man with such endearing and loving qualities?

Joseph was a gentle and wonderful man. Thank you, to this real, Father Christmas for living and teaching us the example of true love.

Enjoy this video called, “Joseph’s Hands”:

 

To be continued…. please join us on Thursday for Part Two of Everything Christmas Blogs!


Give the gift of a miracle!

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Slow Down and Light the Candles

Slow Down and Light the Candles cover

My childhood and young adult years were informative times in the Lutheran church. But, as strong as my family’s practice was in this religious conviction, I cannot remember a time we celebrated Advent. Christmas always revolved around being good for Santa or decorating a tree and our home, or other festive activities. Never once did we slow down and light the candles of an Advent wreath. Perhaps this concept is foreign to you, too, but the German Lutherans started the holy season of Advent in the 4th century. This was my family’s background! I cannot understand why my early years at church did not create a celebration for this special time of the year.

As I researched for this blog, I discovered Advent traditions are usually a personal choice for each church to decide, if or when it is celebrated at all. Well, now I understand why I didn’t learn about it as a child. This serious time of fasting, reading of scriptures and hearing a sermon related to Jesus’s birth just wasn’t critical enough to exploit to a listening parish. Gulp! As a non-Lutheran, Christian informative, I want to impart upon you today, the meaning of Advent because it is so essential to our beliefs.

Let’s listen to this beautiful Advent tune, “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel” sung by Enya:

Christians should embrace the four Sundays, or four weeks leading up to Christmas Day. It’s a time to prepare our hearts; the second coming of Christ and Jesus’s birth. The beginning of this liturgical year includes Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. When candles are lit, and twinkling lights appear this time of the year, it reminds us Jesus overcame darkness for our salvation. He is the reason for the season!

Slow Down and Light the Candles pic 1

 

Hundreds of years ago, the Advent evergreen wreath became a tradition in many churches and homes. Each week, one of five candles is lit to symbolize our preparation of the coming of the Lord. Today, in fact, marks the first Sunday of Advent. A burning purple candle (other colors may be used too) is representing the expectation of God’s return as He so promised us. Next Sunday, a second candle will symbolize hope; the third Sunday’s candle is for the joy of our Savior’s impending birth and God’s love; and the fourth Sunday’s candle, burning on Christmas Day, signifies the purity of Jesus’s birth. The large Christ candle in the middle of the wreath will be lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day reminding us Jesus is the light of the world.

Many symbols of Advent exist today, but the most common are:
• The Chrismon tree decorated in white and gold ornaments, indicative of Christ’s majesty and purity, is used in many churches at Christmas.

Slow Down and Light the Candles pic 2

Chrismon tree

• The Jesse tree or Advent tree is decorated each week with handmade ornaments or objects representing Old Testament events from creation to the Birth of Jesus. It was named after the bible scripture Isaiah 11:1: “A shoot will spring forth from the stump of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots.”

Slow Down and Light the Candles pic 3

Advent Calendars which typically begin on December 1st and go through December 24th. Most calendars have little paper doors over each date. When opened, there may be an image, Bible verse, or even a piece of chocolate. This custom dates back to the mid-19th century when German Protestants made chalk marks on doors to count the days leading up to Christmas.

Slow Down and Light the Candles pic 4

Trumpets were used by God throughout the Bible. They symbolize the truths God would have us learn and were used in biblical days to indicate to Israel the advent of seasons of worship.

• A six-pointed star, known as the Star of David, is hung on the second Saturday of Advent. Though a Jewish symbol, many churches use it during Christmas because it serves as a reminder Jesus was born Jewish and is a descendant of King David, whose kingdom was to be eternal.

Slow Down and Light the Candles pic 5

The Star of David

• The fleur-de-lis represents purity as in the Virgin Mary. Its three points, also symbolize the Trinity and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Slow Down and Light the Candles pic 6

 

My Christian friends, if you have not introduced Advent into your home, it’s a great time to do so. Christmas isn’t just about Santa Claus and gifts. Slow down and light the candles for Jesus! Remember the reason for the season – Jesus Christ taking on human flesh. God bless each and every one of you!   www.danabicksauthor.com

Slow Down and Light the Candles verse

Next week will be a SPECIAL EDITION of Everything Christmas Blogs! You will not want to miss these incredible stories! We will see you on Tuesday!


Give the gift which keeps on giving!

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Breaking Bread

Breaking Bread cover

It was early morning, and I smelled the aroma of pumpkin and turkey as I walked into the kitchen. Loaves of bread were cooling on the counter. The beginning of the holy season was here. It was a time to give thanks to all those who made the year a little easier for us; dear friends and family, and most of all, for the multitude of blessings from our Lord.

Enjoy this beautiful Thanksgiving rendition of “What I’m Thankful For”:

Shorts and T-shirts changed to football and wrapping gifts. Trees lost their summer foliage, and the wet, black bark stood somberly, against shades of gray. Embers in the fireplace were still aglow from the prior night. The house shifted into a winter wonderland.

We started the day off right – sipping coffee in bed along with the morning news, and then the Thanksgiving parades. Later, my wife scurried about the kitchen donning an old-fashioned apron. The family will be here soon – my favorite time of the year!
The bread rose, moist and golden brown; perfect for a holiday tradition. I lovingly watched her focus on perfection. Cradling the loaves onto an empty shelf, she closed the refrigerator door and spun to her right. A smile flashed across her face. “Jesus is in our kitchen!”

Gasping in His glory, my wife turned to the counter and reached for the last loaf. She handed it to Him gently and then pulled out a chair. He smiled and reclined, gesturing me to do the same. Breaking bread and sipping the wine from our crystal goblets, we spoke of our blessings for this communion of three!

Breaking Bread verse

Jesus appeared on this holiday with never a word. He was the brightest of bright shining at our table – the sacrament of life. And as He arrived, so He left; only a broken twig laid upon the dinner table where we broke bread. Tears streamed down my wife’s face as she took His napkin and wiped her cheek. I’m sure He is in heaven smiling and preparing a special place for her.

Breaking Bread pic 2

We set the table in silver and gold and plugged in the charger plates. A centerpiece of memories – holly, and pinecones adorned the table. I lit the candles as the doorbell rang; the holidays were in full swing! My wife, smiling ear to ear, carried out an extra chair for us from the bedroom. She greeted the kids with a great big smile and a huge hug as well! We celebrated that joyous Thanksgiving with love in hearts for each other and our wondrous Father, Jesus Christ.

Will you invite Him to your Thanksgiving meal this year? May you and your family have a blessed holiday and spread the cheer!

Please join us again on Sunday, November 25th for another “Everything Christmas Blog”!


Give a gift which keeps on giving!

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Losing Sight of Christmas

Losing Sight of Christmas cover

Enjoy “The Christmas Shoes” by Newsong 2000!


The muddy slush piles up against curbs and trampled footprints scatter about on the snow-covered sidewalks. Storefronts capitalize on impending Christmas shopping with festive, decorated windows. Full of alluring ideas that tax the mind where wallets won’t permit, it’s hard to swallow. But, love consumes our hearts, so we become obsessed with not wanting to forget a single person. We shop online and by foot comparing prices, then wait in long lines. Frustrations mount as, sometimes, we end up paying for overnight delivery because we ran out of time.

Losing Sight of Christmas pic 1

Are we losing sight of Christmas? We join together bearing gifts for one another to commemorate Jesus’s birthday on the 25th day of December. But where did the idea of excessive gift-giving come from, anyway? It’s not how this holiday began because there was a time when celebrating this day was a taboo.

 

Origin of the Christmas Holiday
Jesus’s birth was categorized as a pagan holiday. It is their belief He never existed as a man, only as a spiritual entity. Then, in the 1600s, Rome became the birthplace of Christmas as we know it; so, it’s a fairly new celebration. But, as history reveals, Protestants (the Puritans) in America hated this holiday and banned it in 1644. They believed it was an insult to God to honor a day associated with ancient paganism. The Puritans also considered Christmas trees and decorations unholy rituals as well as traditional foods such as mincemeat pies and pudding.

Losing Sight of Christmas Pic 2

Pagan Christmas image courtesy of Huffington Post

 

Commercialism of Christmas
So, how did Christmas ever come to the point of being the ultimate gift-giving experience instead of the rejoicing of a holy birth? Perhaps the commercialization of Santa Claus bearing bags of gifts started the dreaded Christmas creep. New York City’s annual American International Toy Fair is held in February, and the stores purchase and scheme for the following holiday. Isn’t that a little much?

Losing Sight of Christmas Pic 3

Do you know a whopping 18% of gifts given to others are never used by the recipient? To make matters worse, we spend the next six months paying off the debt we incurred because it was ‘the thought that mattered.’ Scroogenomics author, Joel Waldfogel, summed it up well – “if the spending we engage in doesn’t produce any satisfaction, then it’s hardly a measure of well-being.” Why are we allowing the commercialism of Christmas to affect our purses and create greediness?

 

Make Your Christmas Count!
I think this Christmas we should, instead, get involved with our communities. Spend money, if you must, giving to those less fortunate. There are orphanages, Senior Citizen centers, hospitals, and homeless people who would appreciate your gift. Take your children with you and let them feel the happiness of another person smiling over an unexpected present. After all, as a Christian, God expects us to help others in need.

Losing Sight of Christmas Pic 4

Image courtesy of YouTube

Overloading our own kids and others with presents is not the reason for the season! Limit your immediate family gifts to three and make them count. The birth of Jesus should be our celebration. Attend a local church service and enjoy the sensations of the joyous season. Jesus was born to save us – let that be enough for you this year.
God bless and Merry Christmas!

Losing Sight of Christmas Pic 5

Please join us on Thursday, November 22nd for another “Everything Christmas Blog”!


Give the gift that keeps on giving! Order your book of grace, love, and understanding today!

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Circle of Eternal Life

Circle of Eternal Life cover

Several years ago, I visited Williamsburg, Virginia at Christmastime. I walked the streets of this historical town, and it amazed me how preservationists kept the buildings true to the colonial period of the 18th-century city. If you never visited America’s roots during the holidays, it should go on your bucket list.

Enjoy the music of the Galway Christmas Singers, “Deck the Halls”!

Part of the charm of Williamsburg was the authentic decorations used to recreate a true Christmas era. The most magnificent was the elaborate wreaths hanging on every door. I’m sure they are made by professional designers now, but what a site to see! Every item used to decorate them are from sources in nearby areas, such as shells from the nearby James River, coffee beans, dried native plants, drumsticks, fruit, and straw. I returned home with a camera disk filled with pictures of these beauties.

 

Williamsburg wreath 3

Williamsburg, VA Christmas wreaths

I’m always amazed at the creativeness of people! How do they come up with their ideas and what was their initial inspiration? Artistic talents seem to be evident in wreaths as far back as the Persian empire. I wonder how they figured out making a round circle of dried plants delivered a beautiful headband? It seemed to work because soon after, the Greeks, in 776 BC, constructed round wreaths of olive leaves worn by the winners of the Olympic Games. Yet others wore laurel or oak leaf headpieces to designate a person’s status and rank in society.

Circle of Eternal Life Pic 2

Olympic Games laurel headbands circa 776

Soldiers in the Roman Empire inserted the first bits of decorations into wreaths using fresh holly. They thought this plant had magical powers so using it kept evil spirits away from their homes. The trend of receiving good luck from wreaths moved forward into Europe as the wheat circles, now hanging on doors, brought good luck to their harvests. It was a sure sign of growth and accomplishment for the Europeans.

During the Renaissance period, in England, wreaths symbolized political and religious alliances. The Lutherans initially created the Advent wreath in Germany. They used evergreens, signifying everlasting life through Jesus, and large, circular shapes implying a God with no beginning and no end.

“O God, by whose Word all things are sanctified, pour forth Your blessing upon this wreath and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ and may receive from You abundant graces. We ask this through Christ our Lord.”
~~St. Jerome Catholic Church~~

The country of Poland created wreaths of grain plants, fruit, and nuts for their Harvest Festival called Dozynki. When the construction of this “circle of eternal life” was complete, they walked to a church to be blessed by a priest. God now sanctified their harvest for the new season.

Circle of Eternal Life Pic 3

Poland’s Dozynki wreath celebration. Image courtesy of Polish Heritage Awareness Society.

And so, wreaths for holidays became a household inspiration and custom. Today, the wreath is used in many celebrations, but most important at Christmas. For Christians, it is the preparation of the coming of Christ. Will you hang one on your door this year?

There is always a welcome invitation at our doorstep. We believe in God and the Immaculate Conception, so we honor Him by displaying a wreath of goodwill. God bless all who take the time to read and share our posts.

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We wish you all the best holiday season from the bottom of our hearts. Merry Christmas and a very blessed New Year! ~~Dana and Anne

www.danabicksauthor.com

Join us in another “Everything Christmas Blogs” on Sunday, November 18th!


Give the gift which keeps on giving!

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Birth of the Christmas Greeting Card

Birth of the Christmas Greeting Card cover

It’s the mid-1800s in the United Kingdom, and Sir Henry Cole had a remarkable idea to share “Good Tidings” among his friends. His friend, John Horsley, was the artist who designed that very first Christmas greeting card for him. He designed approximately one thousand cards to be given to special friends and family. The very first creation by him was not liked by many because it showed a child being given a glass of wine. But the idea progressed despite an even bigger problem – how he would get them to all his recipients?

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Image of John Horsley’s first Christmas postcard

Though delivering a package was costly, and the poor could never afford such an expense, Sir Henry created a “Penny Post” in town for folks to drop off their cards, thus, the creation of the post office. So, for about a Penny stamp, “Robin Postmen” (in tribute to the bird) distributed their mail for the holidays, even on Christmas day. As this tradition spread in 1860, Christmas cards were mass produced, and the postage dropped to a half-penny.

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Courtesy of United States Catalogue

The original cards were colorful with pictures of children caroling or nativity scenes. Some cards were decorated with snow scenes and red robin birds. This tradition expanded to America in 1849 as adopted by Louis Prang. He was a German immigrant that grew up in the printing business. He started the fad of Christmas cards in the United States.

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Louis Prang, courtesy of New York Historical Society

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The first known ‘personalized’ Christmas Card was sent in 1891 by the famous sharpshooter, Annie Oakley.

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First known Victorian Christmas card

In 1915, a poor, high school dropout named Joyce C. Hall gathered postcards and sold them to drugstores, bookstores and gift shops in Kansas City, Missouri. He soon realized what a lucrative business Christmas postcards was, so he purchased an engraving firm and mass produced the greeting cards in our country. This man was the founding father of the infamous company we’ve learned to count on for the holiday season – the original creator of Hallmark cards!

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I find it very interesting that the Christmas card industry gave birth to the post office. Who would have thought, much less in the UK?

Enjoy the song, “An Old Christmas Card”:

I hope as we pray for peace and joy this holiday season, God fills your heart with good tidings and cheer! Today, it doesn’t cost a cent to share those feelings with others. Have a wonderful love-filled Christmas!

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

 


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The Littlest Feet of Christmas

The Littlest Feet of Christmas cover

Enjoy this Christmas tune, The Friendly Beasts, sung by Evan Wickham!

 

Our African Grey parrot will celebrate twenty-seven Christmases with us this year; our Cockatoo, seven years. With a lifespan of 60-75 years, we have many more holidays to sing Christmas songs together. But I’m sure this exotic species did not exist in biblical days, especially at the manger of Jesus. In today’s Everything Christmas Blog, let’s learn some interesting facts about the nativity animals. Though these animals existed when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, scriptures do not support placing them at this holy site.

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DONKEY
An animal portrayed at the nativity is the donkey, named then a Jack Donkey. However, it is doubtful Mary rode 80 miles into Bethlehem on one, being nine months pregnant. Her safety was better in a caravan. But, it carried Jesus through the streets to the hill of Calvary which ultimately led to its shroud of mystery. It is spoken when Jesus sat on his back, a cross appeared in the hairs of this sacred animal. Did you know these cross markings, after 2,000 years, still remain on its back? This is a true, forever sign, that God’s love carries a reward for everything we see – the Messiah.

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CAMELS
Today’s manger scene also highlights camels arriving with the Three Wise Men to adore the Christ Child. However, after close evaluation of Bible verses, this, too, is incorrect. The magi traveled to Nazareth where Joseph and Mary then lived in a house. The Three Kings’ arrival time is unclear, but it was before Jesus’s second birthday and after Christ’s presentation in the Temple:

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:11

SHEEP
Shepherds raised Fat-tailed sheep, used as sacrificial animals in Bethlehem, in the days of Jesus’s natal. This special species was the first to learn of Jesus’s coming, but were they actually at the stable? It is improbable. When the angels appeared before the shepherds to announce a birth, they were scared and shocked, but instinctively, they knew to find the holy site. Surely, they did not travel with their flocks of sheep to view a baby, especially when they did not know exactly where they were headed. Winter is the breeding season for sheep, and it was vital they remained in the fields. Shepherds sold them to the people of Bethlehem for money in the spring. However, if Mary gave birth in a stable (which is not clarified in the Bible either), there is a likelihood sheep could have been living in part of the stall.

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Animals, though not found in the scripture’s documentation of the birth site, still seem to play a prominent role in our Christmas traditions today. I surmise we will never know the truth of their presence at the nativity until we meet Jesus face-to-face. But until then, let’s fast-forward time to celebrate our own precious animals this Christmas! Feed them special foods, give them hugs, and buy them a gift to make them feel part of your family. After all, they too, are a gift from God!

Be sure to join us on Thursday for the next, Everything Christmas Blog!

 


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