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Yours portly is going High Protestant this week. Readers can thank Audre Myers for that one—she sent me the manuscript for her church’s new chant, “Venite, exultemus Domino,” at some point in the last few weeks, and I’ve been playing around with it on the piano.
Once again, it’s nowhere near Christmas Eve—it’s Christmas Eve Eve Eve this year, and I’m sure the Catholics and High Protestants have some special, esoteric name for 22 December, but I don’t know what it is. Regardless, I always enjoy looking back at my original “Christmas Eve” post from 2019.
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?
That scratches the same itch as Halloween for me—another “Eve”—that connection with our Creator, a Being far beyond our comprehension, and a whole other world just beyond our meager vision. It’s all the more remarkable to consider that that very same God sent His Son as a mere baby to bring a fallen world salvation. Rather than an aloof, indifferent God, or the disinterested Clockmaker God of the Deists, we have a God who loves us enough that He sent His only Son to die for our sins.
It’s another Exam Week, a welcome respite after two weeks of madness. Proctoring exams is a pain, but it’s the kind of tedious pain that we’re all used to enduring from time to time. Fortunately, it’s basically two hours of boredom at a time, followed by frantic grading. The sooner that’s done, the sooner Christmas Break can truly begin.
I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about how pressure creates diamonds. I was incredibly, almost superhumanly productive in the two weeks after Thanksgiving because I had to be. I was putting in twelve-to-sixteen-hour days to get everything done, and while I was exhausted, I felt like a champion.
Then this last Saturday I had an endless day before me, and accomplished almost nothing. Part of that was recovering from the craziness of the week before; part of it was woman problems (the greatest drain on energy and resources); part of it was the lack of anything to do. I understand why retirees die within six months if they don’t find something productive to do—I was starting to think that all my endeavors meant nothing (maybe they do mean nothing, but as a Christian I know they do; if they didn’t mean anything, it’s all the more reason to keep myself moving so I don’t have time to dwell on The Darkness).
Anyway, that pressure can create Beauty. All this pressure has had me thinking about Neo’s comment on my post “You’ll Get Everything and Not Like It“: “I always remember that our soldiers in France in 1944 had a saying, ‘The road home goes through Berlin’. Berlin is on all of our ways home.” That’s the end of a very long and poignant comment, but those two sentences say it all.
Good old Ponty is under-the-weather and was unable to submit his #5 pick for Best Movies of All Time, so I’m reaching into the archives to pull out some Christmas merriment this Monday morning.
I decided to look back at a post about “Away in a Manger,” a Christmas carol that has become one of my favorites (maybe Ponty and I should do a countdown of the Top Ten Best Christmas Carols, but I have a feeling it’d get pretty redundant pretty quickly). My Middle School Music Ensemble played this piece on the Christmas Concert, but we put it in 4/4 time and gave it a groovy bass line (the same riff from the Poison cover of the Loggins and Messina tune “Your Mama Don’t Dance“).
It was a fun twist on the original, but even though the Poison riff version was my idea, I prefer the original in its sweet, lilting 3/4—the perfect time signature for a peaceful lullaby.
Regardless of how it’s played—or which of its many variants are sung—it’s a beautiful little song about the Birth of Jesus.
Today is the day of our big Christmas Concert at school. It’s both my favorite and least favorite day of the year, because while the concert is incredibly fun, it’s also incredibly stressful. It’s worth it, though, to see the kids singing and playing and having a good time.
As I’ve grown older, fatter, and achier, I’ve scaled back a bit of the theatricality and bombast of the Christmas Concert to something a bit more manageable. Gone are the days of singing while standing on a piano (I did that once, years ago). I also strive to make the concert focused on the kids (well, and Jesus).
Still, it’s a lot to pull together, with not only my two classes (the middle and high school ensembles) but also two choirs, three dance classes, and six Foreign Language classes. I’ve completely eliminated solos (outside of soloists on songs within these classes) to streamline it as much as possible.
I’ll be doing a full write-up one Saturday (possibly tomorrow) covering it, but for today, just pray for yours portly. I’m confident it will be a good concert, I just gotsta get through it!
Being one of three brothers who came of age in the 1990s—the golden age of watching ribald, edited-for-television comedies on basic cable—I was constantly exposed to humorous quips and one-liners from hilarious movies. One perennial favorite was the raunchy (again, edited for television) comedy classic Caddyshack (1980), about a bunch of blue-collar kids working at a tony country club’s golf course (and Bill Murray trying to blow up a gopher).
My brothers and I still reference one brief but oft-quoted scene:
Judge Smails irate handling of his ingrate nephew is a classic, and something I have probably said to a student. My older brother loves saying it to my younger brother’s kids, who, while not rotten, and definitely spoiled (a good bit by their Uncle Portly).
My older nephew, is nearly six, likes to invert the phrase, shouting at his other uncle, “You’ll get everything and not like it.” It’s one of his many (unintentionally?) Zen utterances.
I was contemplating this amusing bit of familial banter on the way to work yesterday. My sweet little nephew is right—we Westerners do have everything—and we’re miserable!
Well, here it is—Election Day 2022. The much-vaunted midterms have arrived, and it looks like it’s going to be a pretty good day for Republicans.
I’ll admit, I’ve been tuned out from and burned out on politics of late, and while I’m optimistic about today’s results for Republicans, I’m a tad disillusioned with the state of electoral politics generally. Will a “red wave” result in some meaningful reform this time around, or will GOP Establishment types wrangle the feisty upstarts and neutralize the MAGA Wing?
I’m not a “doomer” by any stretch—I sincerely hope for the latter, and I think it is the future of the Republican Party, if the GOP hopes to survive as a viable political party. History, however, is not an encouraging indicator.
That said, a sweeping Republican victory is, by any measure, vastly preferable to a sweeping Democratic one. At worst, I know a Republican House and Senate won’t screw things up further, and may make some marginal improvements; but a Democratic House and Senate, at worst, will double-down on the current insanity of lawlessness and moral relativism.
It’s the so-called “spooky season” again, which naturally turns my mind to things not seen. Lately, I’ve been pondering the pre-modern mind, and how differently pre-moderns saw the world. It’s hard for us to wrap our minds around it. What must it have been like to fear God—naturally (as in, without the scientistic arrogance we moderns seem inculcated into at an early age)? To suspect mercurial forces at play in every tree or lonely bog?
There’s so much we don’t know; so much we can’t see (even if it’s caught on video). Ironically, for all of our assuredness about how the world works, we find ourselves in an age of constant epistemological confusion, one in which we seem incapable of knowing what is True or not.
Heady contemplations, indeed. The possible existence of Bigfoot or any other number of odd creatures, corporeal or otherwise, is not insignificant: if supernatural beings exist, God Exists (or, more probably, because God Exists, there are all manner of spirits and angels and the like at work, just beyond our perception).