As the father of two boys with another little one on the way, the holidays seem like more of a blur than usual. Gifts, decorating, traditions, family and friends are remarkably enjoyable but hardly helpful for organizing thoughts. Yet, the smallest things are sometimes just what we need to remind us of the redemptive message of Christmas.
While I was roasting pecans for holiday gifts and wrangling the boys one evening, I had music playing in the background. I paused for a minute when I heard Johnny Cash's hauntingly introspective voice carry the lyrics of Trent Reznor's "Hurt."
I could hear the Man in Black asking himself the question, "What have I become?" The song reminded me of the importance of taking account of who we are, where we have been and where we are going. For so many of us, the challenge is not simply the mad dash through the holidays; it is finding perspective in the fast pace of our entire lives. more >>
Supporters of an imprisoned pastor in China were reportedly beaten by hired thugs on Christmas Eve in the country's Henan Province, the pastor's wife told reporters Tuesday.
Wang Fengrui, wife of imprisoned Pastor Zhang Shaojie, told the Associated Press that over a dozen hired thugs reportedly beat human rights lawyers and churchgoers as they left her home in Henan on Christmas Eve. The woman's husband, Pastor Zhang Shaojie, has been imprisoned by Chinese authorities since mid-November. Zhang is the leader of a government-approved Christian church and was arrested last month under the vague charges of obstructing government justice.
"About 20 or so people had staked out the house overnight with lights and bonfires, and they used violence to prevent some of us from leaving, grabbing their clothes, taking their possessions such as bank cards and beating them," the pastor's lawyer, Xia Jun, said in a recent interview with the Associated Press regarding the Christmas Eve attack. The churchgoers and lawyers had reportedly planned a prayer meeting for the pastor at his wife's home for Monday night, but when they were prevented by authorities, they gathered at the home on Tuesday night instead, which is when they were attacked by the thugs. more >>
When thinking about the exact location of the birth of Jesus Christ, for most Christians in the United States if not Western civilization, a familiar image comes to mind. Surrounded by farm animals, the Christ child is laid within a manger, a stable that was likely made of wood with hay on the ground. Traditional images of said manger, the displays erected outside of churches, on public property or at home, generally involve a simple wooden structure as the setting.
However, in some Christian traditions the setting for the manger is not a wooden building, but rather a rockier less man-made locale.
Churches, like the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, state that Jesus was born in a cave, as they were used by shepherds of the time to shelter animals from hostile weather. more >>
A Connecticut man known for his massive holiday display of Christmas lights on his 82-acre property was found shot dead in his home late last week.
John Chakalos, 87, had become famous for decorating his large estate in Chesterfield, N.H., in 6 million Christmas lights every year for the holidays for the past 50 years. People reportedly travel from an hour away to view the elaborate decorations that include an entire Victorian village, Nativity scene, and a giant Santa. The Chakalos family allows visitors to drive through their estate to view the decorations as long as they donate money or food to the local Joan's Food Pantry.
Chakalos was reportedly found in his other home, located in Windsor, Conn., on Friday by one of his daughters. The man reportedly sustained a gunshot wound to the head, and police responded to a call regarding the man's death at 8:25 a.m Friday. Windsor police have opened a homicide case in response to Chakalos' death, based on how the body was positioned when it was found in the home and the fact that no weapon was recovered. more >>
Israel has allowed 26,000 Palestinian Christians to enter the country in honor of Christmas.
Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories, Israel Defense Force Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, announced that the government would ease travel restrictions on Palestinians to allow its Christians to celebrate their holiday a "fitting way."
Twenty-one thousand Christians from the West Bank and 5,000 Christians from the Gaza Strip have been given clearance by the Israeli army, which controls the inflow and outflow of Bethlehem, to enter the city. more >>
A recently released YouTube video shows atheists and Christians sparring in Daley Plaza, Chicago, shortly before a Christian group unfurls a banner that reads "A is for Angels" in front of an eight-foot tall, lit up "A," a symbol erected by the Freedom From Religion Foundation meant to stand for "atheist" or "agnostic."
The atheist organization's symbol had been approved by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to sit in the city's Daley Plaza along with other holiday symbols, such as a giant Christmas tree, a menorah and a life-size nativity scene. In response, members of the Remember America Foundation, a Christian group, unveiled its own "A" banner last week at the city's annual German-American holiday market, Christkindlmarket Chicago.
Remember America Foundation Chairman William Kelly is shown in a YouTube video speaking at Daley Plaza as his group unveils the "A is for Angels" banner over the FFRF display. Kelly explains to those present at the protest last week that he doesn't believe Daley Plaza is the proper place for an atheist display, and therefore his group is trying to make the "A" symbol a positive one by changing its meaning from "atheists" to "angels." more >>