Sunday, December 26, 2004

The Meeting

Today is Boxing Day in England, Canada, and several other countries. The origins of this national holiday are not certain, but the holiday might have started from an old custom of wealthy estate-owners giving small gifts or money, wrapped in boxes, to their servants and those who worked for them. Servants were needed on Christmas to help with their masters' holiday events, so they often were given a rest the next day. St. Stephen is honored today for being the first Christian martyr, having been stoned to death for blasphemy.

The Meeting by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Meeting After so long an absence
At last we meet again:
Does the meeting give us pleasure,
Or does it give us pain?

The tree of life has been shaken,
And but few of us linger now,
Like the Prophet's two or three berries
In the top of the uttermost bough.

We cordially greet each other
In the old, familiar tone;
And we think, though we do not say it,
How old and gray he is grown!

We speak of a Merry Christmas
And many a Happy New Year
But each in his heart is thinking
Of those that are not here.

We speak of friends and their fortunes,
And of what they did and said,
Till the dead alone seem living,
And the living alone seem dead.

And at last we hardly distinguish
Between the ghosts and the guests;
And a mist and shadow of sadness
Steals over our merriest jests.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Ben and Dora

On Christmas Eve 1900, 17 year old Dora Mae Langley married 28 year old widower Benjamin Franklin Franz. Dora Mae was the daughter of "H.C." (Henry Cornelius), and Fanny Newton Langley, prosperous farmers in New Bloomfield, Missouri. Ben was the daughter of William and Schletta Morse Franz, refugee emigrants from "Germany" (a country in the making) living in O'Fallon, Missouri. Ben worked for the Atcheson, Topica & Santa Fe Railroad. They came from very differant backgrounds. Her father had served in the Confederate Army, his in the Union. She a farmer's daughter, he a city man with a young son, Willie, from his first marriage.
They had three children. Their first child, Georgia Lorraine, died as a toddler. Their second child, Gerald Allen, and my mother, Dorothy Juanita. All three children were born on the Kiowa Indian Reservation in Oklahoma where Ben was working as a railroad station master.
I wish I could say that Ben and Dora were deleriously happy. I can't. I wish I could say their marriage was happy. It wasn't. But I like to think that there was a time when they loved each other, when the hopes of a new marriage, a new life and a new century lay brightly before them. A time before bitterness and recriminations poisined their relationship. Ben died just four months before their 50th Wedding Anniversary. Dora Mae died nine years later.
I wish I had a great message to go with their story. I don't. Perhaps as you read this your heart will speak to you of love and hope or of dreams gone awry. If it does, please share them with me.

May this Christmas find you full of joy and hope and peace!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

'Twas in the Moon of Wintertime

Isn't it odd that at Christmas we celebrate the birth of a Palestinian Jew, in Roman occupied territory. Our traditions grow out of old Europe and often reflect our pre-Christian, Pagan, ancestors. This Christmas carol dates from the 16th and 17th centuries, and was written by a French missionary to the First Peoples of eastern Canada and New York. He was later killed by the peoples he was preaching to and has been canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. I believe he as a good man who meant well.

'Twas in the moon of wintertime,
when all the birds had fled,
that mighty Gitchi Manitousent angel choirs instead;
Before their light the stars grew dim,
and wondering hunters heard the hymn:
Jesus Emmanuel, Jesus is born,in excelsis gloria.

Within a lodge of broken bark
the tender babe was found;
a ragged robe of rabbit skin
enwrapped his beauty round;
But as the hunter braves drew nigh,
the angel song rang loud and high:
Jesus Emmanuel, Jesus is born,in excelsis gloria.

The earliest moon of wintertime is not so round and fair
as was the ring of glory on the helpless infant there.
The chiefs from far before him knelt
with gifts of fox and beaver pelt.
Jesus Emmanuel, Jesus is born,in excelsis gloria.

O children of the forest free,
O seed of Manitou,
the holy Child of earth and heaven
is born today for you.Come kneel before the radiant Child,
who brings you beauty, peace, so mild.
Jesus Emmanuel, Jesus is born,in excelsis gloria.

Music: Une Jeune Pucelle French folk melody (16th C); harm. Jonathan McNair (20th C)Words: St. Jean de Br├ębeuf (17th C); trans. Jesse Edgar Middleton (20th C)

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

In the Bleak Midwinter

I LOVE CHRISTMAS!
Now there’s nothing strange about that except that I hardly consider myself a Christian. The whole point of "The Incarnation" in traditional, mainline Christianity, is for God to become Man so He can be sacrificed for our sins (The Atonement). Well, I don’t believe in "The Atonement". One of these days I’ll explain why. I do, however, believe in "The Incarnation". I believe that in some unique, incomprehensible way Jesus was a manifestation of God made flesh. If there is a God (and I believe there is) then becoming human would be whole new experience for God, and neither God nor humanity will ever be the same.
One of the things that I love most is Christmas music. One of my favorites is by the Pre-Raphaelite poet Christina Rossetti. In her poem "In the Bleak Midwinter" we recognize our world and find a Jesus we can relate to.

IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, Whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, Whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

Words: , 1872; she wrote these words in response to a request from the magazine Scribner’s Monthly for a Christmas poem. Music: "Cranham," , 1906 http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/i/n/intbleak.htm will link you to the most common melody by Gustav Holst.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Good Yule~The Winter Solstice

The Sun is just setting...'tis the shortest day of the year 2004. And I am finally beginning to blog. Over time I will reveal more and more about myself, my families of both birth and choice. Hopefully what I have to say will interest you. I am open to questions and hope you will free to ask. Occasionally I will include pictures of the important folks in my life. Hopefully no one will be too embarrassed!
As the night settles in may you find peace and rest.