Monday, November 30, 2009

A few words on the December cusp

I'm teaching a class on Church History. Some of you know that around this time last year through the Spring I taught a class on the Puritans. This time the class focuses on the Enlightenment through what I'm calling The Birth of the Modern (which means we're ending somewhere around Marx, Darwin, or maybe even Spurgeon. I thought about ending with a composer from the Birth of the Modern period for symmetry, but as much as I'd like to teach on them, I can hardly do a church history class on Brahms or Stravinsky.) This week's class was about the Pietist movement in 1600's Germany and also on the subject of Johann Sebastian Bach who was both The Protestant Composer and, arguably, the pinnacle of church music to date.

I started with a story about Karl Lagerfeld, because that's the kind of church history teacher I am. This is why you should come to my class. They are unconventional and fun. I would publish my notes here for interested parties and, upon reflection, perhaps in the future I can assemble my notes in a way more conducive to that end. My notes from Sunday are written in some complex and alien language that only my brain can understand. Sorry. Come to the class!

Also I've been called upon to give a devotional Advent service in two weeks. The series of four Sunday nights leading up to Christmas are each taught by someone different. This year we are covering the subject of Jesus as Prophet, Priest, King and God. I chose King and will give my message in two weeks. So, I'm keeping busy.

Laurie and I moved furniture to make room for the Tannenbaum and stumbled upon a configuration of the front room which we like so much better than what we had. We trimmed our tree and put on the Christmas albums (I had my annual "where the blue blazes is the second Projekt Christmas compilation?") Tonight I will start reading Dickens' A Christmas Carol to Laurie. Tomorrow we will begin opening the doors of our chocolate Advent calendar.
The above photograph is what it now looks like from the doorway of my office looking into the front room.

Laurie and I decorated the house. When I lived in Orange County, my Yuletide season beginning was marked by the Shakespeare Orange County Christmas Show. I don't remember a lot of Shakespeare in the actual show except for the bit where director Tom Bradac would come in dressed as a mix between Shakespeare and Santa Claus to throw candy to the children. Also a bit where one of the more venerable and hoary Shakespearean actors would read a sonnet to a young lady in the audience and end by giving her a book of Shakespeare's sonnets. The rest of the show comprised holiday songs: The Winter Wassail, Let It Snow, and a particularly heart-breaking war-time focused I'll Be Home For Christmas. It is a tradition that I miss.

Of course, one must wait to even make mention of the holiday until after the Thanksgiving meal. To break that protocol one may as well take to wearing white after Labor Day.

Our nativity set is on the little black table. In the upper right is a picture of Tony as a boy with a frame made by Tony when he was a boy.

To the lower right is Mango.

Here is the finished product of our tree. The little square you see slightly to the right is the Bob Geldolf single "Do They Know It's Christmas?" from deep in the 1980s. I think it's secretly one of Laurie and my favorite decorations. I have to wonder if what the good the artists aimed to accomplish with the proceeds from the song was offset by the environmental damage they did with hair products.

When I started this post, I didn't have anything particularly profound I meant to add to the holiday conversation. I was just going to do a quick "we are getting in a holiday way" sort of check-in post. But, I was moved very deeply by this photograph and thought it might make for a decent ending point.

We aim to have a home marked by the Fruit of the Spirit which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (although I suppose Laurie might mention that my diet habits around the holidays do not seem to fall strictly under the heading of self-control.) I was struck by this image of our rescued cat Agnes. Long time readers remember that we brought her in over the summer. She is old and asthmatic. She has divots out of her ears from fights from when she lived in the alley, and she's very bashful. She's clearly far happier and at peace than she was when she lived in the alley, but she still requires a lot of gentleness.

I had no idea Laurie even took this picture, but Agnes found a safe, secure and warm spot for the night over the holidays.

Whoever and where ever you are, I wish all of you peaceful, good and splendid holidays.


  1. Who gets to eat the chocolate when you open the door each day, or do I even have to ask? Agnes must miss some of the outdoors since her hiding place is under the tree.

  2. Agnes recognizes the scent of a real Christmas tree.

    I've often thought cats inherent their temperament and the typical temperament of a gray "touched with orange" kitty is often shy and "touch me not". We had one and it was exasperating to try to cuddle her. She would tolerate petting barely moments and then move to safe solitary territory.

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  4. As I was saying, that is exactly Agnes' disposition. But the first time I mis-spelled Agnes.