Monday, December 25, 2006

All on a Christmas Morning

The title is, of course, from a Christmas carol. I cannot promise news of everything happening on a Christmas morning, esepcially as it is quiet here.

Services at church last evening went quite splendidly. (See below for the complete list of musical selections.) There was a festive air about and an atmosphere of love and joy. I am proud to have added to the scene (for I am the Director of Music).

It occurs to me how starkly such an event contrasts with the goings-on in most of political Washington and other places in the world. Such sentiments are often seen as impossible goals, "soft", even crazy. Yet such is the true meaning of the Christ Child, who did quite upset the reigning purveyors of cynicism of his day, the Herods and the Pharisees. Today, the sneering cynics are represented by the Cheneys, the Kissingers, men who believe God did not create a good world, but rather a bad world. They are like Scrooge, who says in Dickens "A Christmas Carol" words to the effect that one must steel oneself against a world which was becoming increasingly cold and uncaring. The battle of coming days will be deciding which vision of the world is correct.



Hymns and Carols

O -- O Come, All Ye Faithful ADESTE FIDELIS

Hark! the Herald Angels Sing MENDELSSOHN

Angels We Have Heard on High GLORIA

Away in a Manger CRADLE SONG

O Little Town of Bethlehem ST. LOUIS

P -- Silent Night! Holy Night! STILLE NACHT



Prel. Noel on the Flutes -- Louis Claude D'Aquin

Anthem. La Jornada -- Venezuelan Carol, Arr. Bruce Trinkley
Chancel Choir

Handbell Carol. Mary Had a Baby -- African-American Spiritual, Arr. Anna Laura Page
Handbell Choir

Handbell Carol. Watchman, Tell Us of the Night -- Arr. S. Ullom-Berns after a tune of Joseph Parry

Offer. Carols Around -- Carl Nygard
Chancel Choir

Postl. In Dulci Jubilo (In Sweet Joy) -- Johann Sebastian Bach

Sunday, December 24, 2006

In the Bleak Midwinter

It is now after ten o'clock and the evening wastes away, quickly turning to long night. All seems still. The birds have quitted their chirping. The leaves have stopped dancing in the dull winter sunlight and people have retired to the warmth of their homes, awaiting the dawn of Christmas Day. (And let me mention swiftly the poor who have no place to call home, yet, too, are part of God's great earth.)

I am always touched by the Christina Rosetti poem, "In the Bleak Midwinter." I quote two verses here for they are lovely in their simplicity, picturesque and deep.
The peom has been memorably set to music by Gustav Holst and Harold Darke.




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

...

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.

-- Christina Rosetti, 1872 (Luke 2:8-14)

Peace, Prince of

In a book index we might find an entry entitle "Peace, Prince of". Certainly peace is that much-sought-after commodity, eagerly desired yet elusive. We hear every year at this time tales of a bringer of peace, of a One who came into the world to stop wars and madness.

We hear this and yet we do not believe -- or if we do believe, it is accompanied by a sad, sinking feeling that we might articulate as something like, "It was a nice concept but the execution was a little lacking."

Around the world many are working for peace. In our country there is an organized and growing anti-war movement. These people hope and pray, that in our time, peace may yet come, that the promise of long ago will yet be fulfilled.

And who is to say they are wrong? Who will stand up and declare these ordinary-extraordinary people misguided, soft-headed, deluded?

The heavenly angels, so says Luke, praised God and sang: "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to men who enjoy his favour." (Luke 2: 14). Does this then mean that if we are not at peace we do not enjoy God's favor? So would seem to be the case.

There are many aspects to the matter of peace and, this not being a sermon, I must resist the temptation to pursue the topic, especially since my knowledge in this area is somewhat limited.

For now, I hold up this question: If the leaders of the world have not yet found peace what are we to surmise about their relationship with the Supreme Being or with Reality? In spite of grandiose claims to the contrary what can we say about our leader who so righteously claims divine guidance?

I will be back with more later.


Lord, give us faith and strength the road to build,
To see the promise of the day fulfilled,
When war shall be no more and strife shall cease
Upon the highway of the Prince of Peace.


-- Laura S. Copenhaver

"Blogging" Christmas

It is my honor to log a few thoughts, impressions, and events this blessed holiday. So far, this web log has been essentially secular. Since I am a Christian inquirer, however, I feel it appropriate and necessary to attempt to be fair to the meaning of this day.

Today is the fourth Sunday of advent. Lest we forget that we are still in a season of preparation, I offer the following from the book of Isaiah in the Holy Bible. Let us see whether this is true of us:

The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light;
on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone.
You have made their gladness greater,
you have made their joy increase;
they rejoice in your presence
as men rejoice at harvest time,
as men are happy when they are dividing the spoils.

(Isaiah 9:1-2)

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Soul

These weeks are busy ones as I prepare for Christmas, both at home and at church.

While substituting in a public school this week, I taught a lesson on December holidays to a music class. I found a beautiful German medieval song in my collection and shared it with the classes. In the song there is a reference to the soul. As this is not a usual concept for elementary children, I asked if anyone could tell me what the soul is. One first grade girl, quite precocious, gave an answer adults would not and could not give. "The soul," she explained, "is the place in your body where you put the good thoughts." I doubt a theologian could do much better. Certainly in terms of simplicity and brevity I don't think this child's definition can be topped. It puts together body and spirit and also good will. That surely is the purpose of this time of year.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Honorable Cynthia McKinney, Patriot

Occasionally in American history a Patriot steps forward to tell the truth no matter what the cost. Such a Patriot is the Honorable Cynthia McKinney, Unites States Representative from Georgia. Her case for the impeachment of George W. Bush deserves to be heard.

As I have written here before, an impeachment begins with an inquiry. Surely, America can do no less than conduct an inquiry into whether an impeachment should be passed on to the Senate. (And we may note here that an impeachment is rather similar to an indictment in a court of law, although not with the same rules of evidence. Thus, it is only a bill of charges, which the Senate must then act upon.) With the matter of the impeachment of President William Clinton as precedent, it seems inconsistent not to at least begin an impeachment inquiry of
G. W. Bush. If evidence of impeachable acts falls short, so be it. But if evidence indicates "high crimes and misdemeanors", then let the case proceed.

Is this not what our Constitution calls for? And if we should choose not to support this Constitution, which one shall we support?







http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/120906A.shtml

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Bush v. Gore, the Sixth Anniversary

Today marks six years since a fascist-dominated U.S. Supreme Court effectively stopped a vote re-count in Florida following the disputed 2000 voting in Florida. This egregious decision, derided and heavily criticized at the time by law professors across the country, installed George Walker Bush as President even though he lost the popular vote by over a half million votes. And it installed him without legitimacy in the Electoral College as later investigations by the well-known author and journalist, Greg Palast, showed. It also installed him with an outrageous decision claiming equal protection guarantees under the Constitution had been violated, then proclaimed that this reasoning was never to be used again in just this way -- only this once. Such a decision would have been considered laughable by legal experts except for the fact of its serious consequences.

Then came the perfidy of more vote fraud in 2004, as Republican operatives initiated program after program to tamp down the Democratic vote, with disastrous results in Ohio and elsewhere.

Thus, in a real sense, the last six years have been an exercise in illegitimacy. All the pandering of Bush by the media, all the frothy support by Republican zealots, all the sickening deference paid by Democrats -- all this has been ever so unnecessary and erroneous. For no President can hope to govern effectively without the support of the American people. We now know this as the Iraq War effort comes apart at the seams, and as a long-suffering populace is weighed down by ever-increasing personal debt and made half-mad with job insecurity.

I have not forgotten the evil which was perpetrated on the night of December 12, 2000, by five alleged jurists of the Supreme Court. So many people both here and abroad have suffered mightily. It is time to bring the suffering to an end. May this be in a near time.

Friday, December 08, 2006

A New Foment

A review of impeachment discussions on line today reveals a divergence of opinion about just what to do. Many on the political left in the United States are advocating impeachment of G. W. Bush. However, some, such as David Corn of The Nation have written persuasive pieces against such an effort. There are arguments on both sides and the matter deserves careful thought.

Under Congressional rules any effort to impeach a President or other federal official requires an impeachment inquiry. Before any impeachment resolution can be voted on, then, the matter must be thoroughly investigated then voted out of the Justice Committee. (The new chairman, John Conyers, has shown a certain qualified friendliness to the possibility of impeachment.) Only then does the full House of Representatives vote. If the full House votes to impeach the matter is sent to the Senate for trial.

I believe that events will take their course, as they did with Nixon. The difficulty now is a supine media, one under corporate domination, and lacking the will to aggressively question the Bush administration, although this has been changing somewhat of late. In this kind of environment it is up to we, the people, to drive the process, if we so desire.

We should let the various investigations begin next year. Most importantly, there must be action to rein in corporate power, including media power. The Newspaper Protection Act of 1969 must be repealed or substantially altered. Then, actions must be taken to re-finance the national debt and shore up a tottering world financial system.

It is hard to see how all this will happen with someone like G. W. Bush in office, unless, as is now happening, certain persons associated with the elder Bush are brought in to restore common sense within the White House. Although not a guaranteed fix, such new, old blood could help put the country back on a track toward thoughtful diplomacy if nothing else.

Thus, the utter importance of the investigative, oversight function of Congress. If the truth about the Bush administration can be brought to light, the people will begin to feel better. A populace which has trust in its government is infinitely more likely to be a productive populace. Let us support the brave men and women in the new Congress who will wield the power of oversight.

Friday, December 01, 2006

A World Financial Collapse?

Information is reaching me that the world financial system is essentially in tatters. The fact that you may not be aware of this is testament to a corrupt media, one tied to corporate interests.

The main culprit in terms of the financial system are what are known as derivatives and hedge funds. These financial mechanisms are little more than casinos, offering users a fancy method of wagering on the future value of commodities. To say that these financial instruments do not represent real money seems obvious and yet this fact has escaped the attention of many.

There is much more to be said about this subject and I certainly do not claim to be an expert. However, those who do have a strong background in finance are warning of a collapse. Even Robert Rubin has spoken recently of a serious weakness in the world economy.

The solution seems to be a prohibition of such dangerous forms of wagering and of placing the banking system into foreclosure. This does not mean a permanent closing of the banks, but rather, as under Franklin Roosevelt, a planned bank holiday allowing for the reining in of a run-away speculative market. (And let us remember that banks are now permitted to offer various kinds of stock and other monetary instruments.)

Such a program should also go along with a revitalization of the Civilian Conservation Corps (legislation for which is still on the books). Our people need good-paying, steady jobs -- jobs with real meaning and pay, not hamburger-flipping jobs.

Some will say this will cost too much money. I say we cannot afford not to take this kind of action. Please contact your legislator and request his or her support for such actions, now so urgently needed.

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