Lazy Sunday CXLV: Christmas Cheer

Here’s hoping everyone had a wonderful Christmas!  Today it’s all about church and after-Christmas sales.

Technically, we’re still in the glorious Christmas season.  That whole “twelve days of Christmas” isn’t just to flesh out a tedious novelty song; Christians used to (and many still do) celebrate Christmas for twelve days, marking the major events of Christ’s young life.  Really, Christmas ends on Epiphany, on 6 January.  It commemorates the Wise Men’s’ visit to the Christ Child, which represents Christ’s manifestation to the Gentiles.

Granted, I probably won’t be writing about Christmas on 6 January 2022 (we’ll see!), but I’m not opposed to squeezing in some more Christmas fun.

To that end, here are some three recent Christmas classics:

Merry Christmas!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

TBT: The Desperate Search for Meaning IV: Vanity

In the spirit of yesterday’s post, which also dealt with a passage from Ecclesiastes, I thought I’d dust off an old post from my The Desperate Search for Meaning Series, which I completed back in 2019.  A double-shot of Ecclesiastes, and the long-winded (but condensed here) wisdom of Pastor Monday is always a nice treat.

With that very brief introduction, here is October 2019’s “The Desperate Search for Meaning IV: Vanity“:

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The Passing Seasons of Life

My pastor delivered an interesting sermon this past Sunday (23 May 2021) entitled “Recognizing the Passing Seasons of Life.”  The sermon pulled from the famous passage from Ecclesiastes 3, explaining that “To everything there is a season” and there is “a time for every purpose under heaven.”

I’ve always loved Ecclesiastes and its central insight that without God, everything is meaningless.  The perpetual turning of the seasons—the cycle of birth, preparation, harvest, and death—is similarly meaningless—an endless cycle—without God.

Pastor Monday took a slightly different approach, one that is still very important:  we so often abuse, misuse, or waste the time we have.  The season of preparation—planning ahead, planting our seeds, tending to them, etc.—is frequently squandered; as a result, the harvest is lacking.  We all want the harvest without the preparation, but a harvest that lacks preparation is no harvest at all—or a harvest of dust.

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Memorable Monday: Away in a Manger

Yesterday marked the first December church service of the year, so I was finally able to whip out some Christmas carols for morning service.  My pastor’s personal favorite carol is “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” so that was our first congregational singing.  But he requested an interesting pick for the second singing:  “Away in a Manger.”

“Away in a Manger” is not always top-of-mind for me when it comes to Christmas carols, but it possesses the same sweet simplicity (and triple feel) of “Silent Night.”  It’s also very easy to play, which makes it nice to crack open when practice time is short (“Hark!,” by contrast, is a bit more complicated, especially with its profusion of secondary dominants and moving to minor in the last couple of phrases).  The melody is very sweet, and easily harmonized in thirds.

I’ll be writing about more Christmas carols this season.  I hit most of the high-profile ones last year, so it’s going to be fun to dig into some of the more obscure carols over the coming weeks.  But to ease into Monday, I figured I’d look back to last year’s post on “Away in a Manger” [note:  I’ve cut out the lengthy preamble about the pending impeachment at the beginning of the original post, so as to focus exclusively on the hymn itself]:

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Red-Pilled Bible Study

Last night I attended a men’s monthly Bible study at a church in Lamar.  My neighbors had been inviting me for a couple of months, but when that mythical third Monday would roll around, I’d always have some outstanding obligation (mainly rehearsal for the Spooktacular).  Since I’m running for Town Council again in January, I figured it would be good to feed my soul and my political ambitions simultaneously (they also brought sub sandwiches, so I was pretty well-fed holistically by the time I left).

The evening was spiritually, culturally, and politically encouraging.  These men were fired up for Jesus, our country, and Trump, in that order.  After everybody caught up a bit and after some introductions (I was the new guy at the meeting), the conversation gradually turned to politics, starting (I believe) with the necessity for a border wall, and Biden’s hare-brained pledge to tear it down.

From there, it was a free-ranging discussion, including vigorous airings of grievances; laments for the state of our nation; pledges to resist excessive government mandates; and repeated admonitions to trust in God.  Our Scripture reading was Psalm 138.  The Psalm is a reminder that God is in control, and will support us in our hour of need.  Here’s verse 7, from the New King James Version:

7Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me;
You will stretch out Your hand
Against the wrath of my enemies,
And Your right hand will save me.

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TBT: The Joy of Hymnals

It being October, I tend to focus on the spookiness of the season.  I love Halloween, ghost stories, and scary movies, but it’s important not to get too bogged down in the chills.

So as I was going through posts from October 2019, I stumbled upon one of my old favorites:  “The Joy of Hymnals.”  My small church roped me into playing piano for Sunday morning services maybe two years ago, and it quickly rekindled an old love of hymns and hymnals.

Hymnals are my favorite items to find in old second-hand shops and antique stores (the latter of which often selling them at an egregious markup).  It’s fun to see which hymns do—and, more importantly, don’t—show up in any given hymnal.  I particularly like slender volumes, the kind that were meant for carrying from service to service or camp meeting to camp meeting, and which tend to possess hymns from the canon, if such a thing exists, of hymnody.

I even recorded and released a very lo-fi EP, The Lo-Fi Hymnal, which consists of crude recordings of my Sunday morning playing.  That short collection also includes a PDF version of today’s TBT feature.

Here is “The Joy of Hymnals“:

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Christmas Eve

It’s hard to believe it, but Christmas is nearly here!  As a child, the anticipation seemed too much to bear, and the calendar from Halloween to Christmas seemed to stretch into endless, soggy days.

Christmas Eve is always the most magical, mystical part of Christmas time.  Popular depictions of Jesus’ Birth take place, presumably, on Christmas Eve—the angels bursting into the black, silent night above Bethlehem.  The whole event is supernatural—the Virgin Birth, the Star guiding the way to the manger, the angels appearing to the shepherds and singing.  Tradition has it that even the animals in the manger talked at the moment of Christ’s birth (at exactly midnight, of course).  If the rocks can cry out, singing praises to Him, why not some donkeys?

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The Joy of Christmas Carols

Christmas puts me in a musical mood. For one, I’m somewhat contractually-obligated to put on a Christmas concert, which will consume most of my free time this week, so I’d better embrace the Christmas spirit—or else. But it’s not hard to get excited about the iconic music of the season.

(Also, Milo Yiannopoulos—the actual Milo—shared my post about his views on Romantic music, which helped make it the most trafficked post of the year so far. That was incredibly gracious of him to do, and it’s further boosted my excitement for playing and writing about music.)

As I wrote in an earlier blog post on hymnals, I’ve gradually taken over piano playing at my little Free Will Baptist church. We sing many of the traditional hymns that were written and popularized in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as well as some earlier selections. Shape-note hymns are often hard to play, with big intervalic leaps in the melodies and surprisingly complex harmonies.

Take that melodic variety and harmonic complexity and multiply it by a factor of ten, and you’ve got Christmas carols.

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Happy Halloween!

It’s Halloween!  All the build-up, all the ghost stories, it’s finally here!

Last night I took the opportunity to carve my one of the two pumpkins I picked up earlier in the month ($4 a pop!).  He’s the cheeky little guy pictured above, and in the photo collage below (I’m getting fancy with the production values in this post).

His brother was stolen off my front porch Wednesday night.  I’d just gotten in bed and switched off the lights when I heard some tires squealing.  Thinking it was one of my neighbor’s buddies hydroplaning on the wet street, I didn’t think much of it, until my neighbor began shouting for me minutes later!

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