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.

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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”).

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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?

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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.

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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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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?

Birth of the Christmas Greeting Card Pic 1

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.

Birth of the Christmas Greeting Card Pic 2

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.

Birth of the Christmas Greeting Card Pic 5

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.

The Littlest Feet of Christmas Pic 3

 

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.

The Littlest Feet of Christmas Pic 1

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.

The Littlest Feet of Christmas Pic 2

 

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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