“Music video by Yo-Yo Ma;Alison Krauss performing The Wexford Carol. (C) 2008 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT”
CHRISTMAS BLESSINGS TO ALL WHO ARE CELEBRATING
THE BARDO GROUP BEQUINES
Look to the light, the light in the window,
The simple lit candles that shimmer and shine.
The message is clear as simple lit candles,
The passion for freedom is yours and is mine.
– Rabbi Dan Grossman
December is a month rich in the holy days of the Abrahamic traditions. Jews celebrate Hanukkah, a commemoration of the Jewish reclamation of The Temple of Jerusalem in 164 B.C.E. Christians celebrate Advent – a period of waiting for the birth of Christ – followed by His birth, Christmas. Muslims celebrate the birth of the Prophet in November or December depending on the lunar calendar. We do not need faith to appreciate the beautiful poems, music and artwork inspired by our religions, Abrahamic or others.
Look to the Light
In 164 B.C.E., the Syrians who ruled Israel took away the Jews’ right to practice their religion. Led by Judah Maccabee the Jews rebelled and succeeded in reclaiming their sovereignty and they rededicated The Temple of Jerusalem. The history of the celebration of Hanukkah has had some interesting turns in more recent times.
There’s a story of a young Polish soldier in then General George Washington’s army who held a solitary Hanukkah celebration on a cold night in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The soldier gently placed his family’s menorah in the snow and lighted the first of eight candles for the first night of Hanukkah. The man was perhaps a bit homesick and missing his family. He must have thought about how much they’d suffered over time from religious persecution. There were tears in his eyes when General Washington found him. Washington wondered what the young man was doing and why he was crying. The soldier told his general the story of Maccabee and the other Jews. It is said that Washington was heartened by the telling and moved on to battle and victory. The menorah is on now on display at the Smithsonian Museum.
Yet another story surfaces in 1993 Billings, Montana where a family was lighting their menorah one night. As is custom, they placed the lighted menorah in the front window of their home where it was stoned by anti-Semites, as were the homes of other Jewish families that same evening. The town newspaper printed dozens of menorahs. Rev. Keith Torney, a minister of the First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, distributed them to all the Christians and the paper menorahs were placed in windows all over Billings as a sign of solidarity and of respect for the freedom to practice religion as one’s conscience dictates.
Look to the Light is a commemorative poem written by Rabbi Daniel Grossman and set to music by Meira Warshauer. Enjoy! … but if you are viewing this from an email subscription, you’ll have to link through to the web/zine to view and hear it.
The Ode of Theotokos (Song of the God Bearer)
It is only in the Gospel of Luke that we read of Mary’s recitation of this poem that harkens back to Jewish prophecy and is constructed in the traditional verse style of the times with mirroring and synonymous parallelism.
From the Book of Common Prayer
My soul doth magnify the Lord : and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded : the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth : all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me : and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him : throughout all generations.
He hath shewed strength with his arm : he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat : and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things : and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holden his servant Israel : as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed for ever.
The Prophet’s Nativity
One poem that celebrates Mawlid, the birth of the Prophet, is exceptionally sweet. It was written by the Turkish Süleyman Çelebi (also known as Süleyman Of Bursa) who died in 1429. You’ll note that in addition to honoring the Prophet Mohammad, it honors three mothers: Asiya the mother of Moses, Mary the mother of Jesus and Amina the mother of the Prophet.
Mevlûd-i Peygamberi, Hymn of the Prophet’s Nativity
Some have said that of these charming three
One was Asiya of moonlike face,
One was Lady Mary without doubt,
And the third a houri beautiful.
Then these moonfaced three drew gently near
And they greeted me with kindness here;
Then they sat around me, and they gave
The good tidings of Muhammad’s birth;
Said to me: “A son like this your son
Has not come since God has made this world,
And the Mighty One did never grant
Such a lovely son as will be yours.
You have found great happiness,
O dear, For from you that virtuous one is born!
He that comes is King of Knowledge high,
Is the mine of gnosis and tawhid*
For the love of him the sky revolves,
Men and jinn are longing for his face.
This night is the night that he, so pure
Will suffuse the worlds with radiant light!
This night, earth becomes a Paradise,
This night God shows mercy to the world.
This night those with heart are filled with joy,
This night gives the lovers a new life.
Mercy for the worlds is Mustafa,
Sinners’ intercessors: Mustafa!
– Süleyman Of Bursa
Compiled by Jamie Dedes; Photocredits: (1) © Jamie Dedes,The first illustration was created using a public domain photograph of The Magnificat (Le magnificat) by James Tissot; (2)Hanukkah Lamp, Lemberg (Lviv, Ukraine), 1867–72 from the collection of The Jewish Museum of New York under CC BY-SA 3.0; (3) Photograph of a book explaining the meaning of the phrase Jashan e Eid Milad un Nabi by Saudmujadid under CC BY-SA 4.0
Written by our own Michael Watson a few days before Christmas, here is the wisdom of the shaman writing in gratitude for the Life we share as we hold our fellow creatures and this earth as intrigral to ourselves and as we recognize the seasons of our souls. He hints at the hope and possibility in our continual rebirthing. Read and ponder. This is worth your time.
The year has turned. This evening, weather permitting, we will gather with others to celebrate the changing seasons and honor Grandfather Fire without whom we could not live. We will mark the Sun’s return, remembering the change of seasons is also within us. Here in the Northern Hemisphere the days will now lengthen as the sun begins His slow drift northward. That is the future; this morning the dark lingers. Jennie has moved through the house; lit candles mark her passage.
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This story was written by children’s author, Aaron Shepard, and was originally published in Australia’s School Magazine, April 2001. Mr. Shepard allows it to be reblogged with credit and copyright intact.
The Christmas Truce is a short story based on the true events of the famous Christmas Eve truce of 1914, which Arthur Conan Doyle wrote of as “one human episode amid all the atrocities.” The story is longer than the ones we generally post, but this is a Christmas Eve gift and offered as something we can share with the children in our lives, aged nine or up. You will find that it is a story very much in the spirit of The Bardo Group.
Parents and educators will find stories and scripts for children’s plays at Mr. Shepard’s website HERE.
Copyright © 2001, 2003 by Aaron Shepard. May be freely copied and shared for any noncommercial purpose.
The story is formated as a letter ….
Christmas Day, 1914
My dear sister Janet,
It is 2:00 in the morning and most of our men are asleep in their dugouts—yet I could not sleep myself before writing to you of the wonderful events of Christmas Eve. In truth, what happened seems almost like a fairy tale, and if I hadn’t been through it myself, I would scarce believe it. Just imagine: While you and the family sang carols before the fire there in London, I did the same with enemy soldiers here on the battlefields of France!
As I wrote before, there has been little serious fighting of late. The first battles of the war left so many dead that both sides have held back until replacements could come from home. So we have mostly stayed in our trenches and waited.
But what a terrible waiting it has been! Knowing that any moment an artillery shell might land and explode beside us in the trench, killing or maiming several men. And in daylight not daring to lift our heads above ground, for fear of a sniper’s bullet.
And the rain—it has fallen almost daily. Of course, it collects right in our trenches, where we must bail it out with pots and pans. And with the rain has come mud—a good foot or more deep. It splatters and cakes everything, and constantly sucks at our boots. One new recruit got his feet stuck in it, and then his hands too when he tried to get out.
Through all this, we couldn’t help feeling curious about the German soldiers across the way. After all, they faced the same dangers we did, and slogged about in the same muck. What’s more, their first trench was only 50 yards from ours. Between us lay No Man’s Land, bordered on both sides by barbed wire—yet they were close enough we sometimes heard their voices.
Of course, we hated them when they killed our friends. But other times, we joked about them and almost felt we had something in common. And now it seems they felt the same.
Just yesterday morning—Christmas Eve Day—we had our first good freeze. Cold as we were, we welcomed it, because at least the mud froze solid. Everything was tinged white with frost, while a bright sun shone over all. Perfect Christmas weather.
During the day, there was little shelling or rifle fire from either side. And as darkness fell on our Christmas Eve, the shooting stopped entirely. Our first complete silence in months! We hoped it might promise a peaceful holiday, but we didn’t count on it. We’d been told the Germans might attack and try to catch us off guard.
I went to the dugout to rest, and lying on my cot, I must have drifted asleep. All at once my friend John was shaking me awake, saying, “Come and see! See what the Germans are doing!” I grabbed my rifle, stumbled out into the trench, and stuck my head cautiously above the sandbags.
I never hope to see a stranger and more lovely sight. Clusters of tiny lights were shining all along the German line, left and right as far as the eye could see.
“What is it?” I asked in bewilderment, and John answered, “Christmas trees!”
And so it was. The Germans had placed Christmas trees in front of their trenches, lit by candle or lantern like beacons of good will.
And then we heard their voices raised in song.
Stille nacht, heilige nacht . . . .
This carol may not yet be familiar to us in Britain, but John knew it and translated: “Silent night, holy night.” I’ve never heard one lovelier—or more meaningful, in that quiet, clear night, its dark softened by a first-quarter moon.
When the song finished, the men in our trenches applauded. Yes, British soldiers applauding Germans! Then one of our own men started singing, and we all joined in.
The first Nowell, the angel did say . . . .
In truth, we sounded not nearly as good as the Germans, with their fine harmonies. But they responded with enthusiastic applause of their own and then began another.
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum . . . .
Then we replied.
O come all ye faithful . . . .
But this time they joined in, singing the same words in Latin.
Adeste fideles . . . .
British and German harmonizing across No Man’s Land! I would have thought nothing could be more amazing—but what came next was more so.
“English, come over!” we heard one of them shout. “You no shoot, we no shoot.”
There in the trenches, we looked at each other in bewilderment. Then one of us shouted jokingly, “You come over here.”
To our astonishment, we saw two figures rise from the trench, climb over their barbed wire, and advance unprotected across No Man’s Land. One of them called, “Send officer to talk.”
I saw one of our men lift his rifle to the ready, and no doubt others did the same—but our captain called out, “Hold your fire.” Then he climbed out and went to meet the Germans halfway. We heard them talking, and a few minutes later, the captain came back with a German cigar in his mouth!
“We’ve agreed there will be no shooting before midnight tomorrow,” he announced. “But sentries are to remain on duty, and the rest of you, stay alert.”
Across the way, we could make out groups of two or three men starting out of trenches and coming toward us. Then some of us were climbing out too, and in minutes more, there we were in No Man’s Land, over a hundred soldiers and officers of each side, shaking hands with men we’d been trying to kill just hours earlier!
Before long a bonfire was built, and around it we mingled—British khaki and German grey. I must say, the Germans were the better dressed, with fresh uniforms for the holiday.
Only a couple of our men knew German, but more of the Germans knew English. I asked one of them why that was.
“Because many have worked in England!” he said. “Before all this, I was a waiter at the Hotel Cecil. Perhaps I waited on your table!”
“Perhaps you did!” I said, laughing.
He told me he had a girlfriend in London and that the war had interrupted their plans for marriage. I told him, “Don’t worry. We’ll have you beat by Easter, then you can come back and marry the girl.”
He laughed at that. Then he asked if I’d send her a postcard he’d give me later, and I promised I would.
Another German had been a porter at Victoria Station. He showed me a picture of his family back in Munich. His eldest sister was so lovely, I said I should like to meet her someday. He beamed and said he would like that very much and gave me his family’s address.
Even those who could not converse could still exchange gifts—our cigarettes for their cigars, our tea for their coffee, our corned beef for their sausage. Badges and buttons from uniforms changed owners, and one of our lads walked off with the infamous spiked helmet! I myself traded a jackknife for a leather equipment belt—a fine souvenir to show when I get home.
Newspapers too changed hands, and the Germans howled with laughter at ours. They assured us that France was finished and Russia nearly beaten too. We told them that was nonsense, and one of them said, “Well, you believe your newspapers and we’ll believe ours.”
Clearly they are lied to—yet after meeting these men, I wonder how truthful our own newspapers have been. These are not the “savage barbarians” we’ve read so much about. They are men with homes and families, hopes and fears, principles and, yes, love of country. In other words, men like ourselves. Why are we led to believe otherwise?
As it grew late, a few more songs were traded around the fire, and then all joined in for—I am not lying to you—“Auld Lang Syne.” Then we parted with promises to meet again tomorrow, and even some talk of a football match.
I was just starting back to the trenches when an older German clutched my arm. “My God,” he said, “why cannot we have peace and all go home?”
I told him gently, “That you must ask your emperor.”
He looked at me then, searchingly. “Perhaps, my friend. But also we must ask our hearts.”
And so, dear sister, tell me, has there ever been such a Christmas Eve in all history? And what does it all mean, this impossible befriending of enemies?
For the fighting here, of course, it means regrettably little. Decent fellows those soldiers may be, but they follow orders and we do the same. Besides, we are here to stop their army and send it home, and never could we shirk that duty.
Still, one cannot help imagine what would happen if the spirit shown here were caught by the nations of the world. Of course, disputes must always arise. But what if our leaders were to offer well wishes in place of warnings? Songs in place of slurs? Presents in place of reprisals? Would not all war end at once?
All nations say they want peace. Yet on this Christmas morning, I wonder if we want it quite enough.
Your loving brother,
1914 – The Khaki Chum’s Christmas Truce – 1999 – 85 Years – Lest We Forget.
white rose in winter
miracles we don’t expect
our God comes to earth
silent star-filled night
newborn hope envelopes earth
flurries of pure joy.
christmas eve arrives
children with eyes wide-open
stars and midnight blue
– Victoria C. Slotto
The title of this poem comes from a stunning Christmas album by Enya.
© 2013, poem, Victoria C. Slotto, All rights reserved
VICTORIA C. SLOTTO (Victoria C. Slotto, Author: Fiction, Poetry and Writing Prompts) ~ is an accomplished writer and poet. Winter is Past, published by Lucky Bat Books in 2012, is Victoria’s first novel. A second novel is in process. On Amazon and hot-off-the-press nonfiction is Beating the Odds: Support for Persons with Early Stage Dementia. Victoria’s ebooks (poetry and nonfiction) are free to Amazon Prime Members. Link HERE for Victoria’s Amazon page.
Editor’s note: Congratulations, Victoria, on that the long awaited publication of print copies of Jacaranda Rain, Collected Poems, 2012, Beautifully done.
Originally published in Rethink Church. Published here with permission.
IT’S ALMOST CHRISTMAS!!! I hear this echoing in my head from years past—from my children’s years, from my own cries, and from my crazy Aunt Nancy (I love you!) who still calls me at zero-dark-thirty to wish me a Merry Christmas.
What I also remember is making lists of what I have bought for the in-laws to make sure everybody got the same quantity and the same monetary value. Making lists for my children so one was not valued in presents more than the other. And stressing out over finding that “perfect gift” for my oldest son who seemed to be unable to express desire for anything. ANYTHING. That is stressful.
But maybe he had the right idea all along! He was unattached to things.
Non-attachment to things of this world is a value greatly revered by the world’s great traditions. What if we slowed down, let non-attachment suffuse the Christmas* season, and began again? What would that mean? What would it look like in our lives?
What if we emptied our lives of the values of materialism, comparison to others, and over-abundance and instead filled it up with the values of spiritualism, self-inventory, and enough? What if we took a journey of emptying rather than filling?
The dichotomy is pretty stark. Empty vs. full. Nobody really wants to run around on empty or having nothing. But there is a trick. By slowing down our lives and refocusing our lives, we can begin again with an attitude pointed towards spiritualism, self-inventory, and being satisfied with enough. Adopting these three counter-cultural traits, creates freedom for new things to happen.
Simplifying creates room for more!
More what? More interior room to listen to that which calls you. More room to see those around you. More room to understand great joy. And more room to feel the world’s great grief. After listening, seeing, understanding, and feeling, there is one more thing—by simplifying, there is more room to offer great love in action to a hurting world.
By emptying, we create room. By making room, the possibility of personal transformation is created. By being transformed, the possibility of action is created. By committing acts of love, mercy, and justice, the possibility of world renovation is created.
And before long, we who were emptied have been filled with love.
Chaplain Terri Stewart
*Christmas season in the secular sense of the word as that time from the day after Thanksgiving to January 1.
©2013, essay, Terry Stewart, All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ Jeff Weese via Wikipedia and under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license
REV. TERRI STEWART is The Bardo Group Sunday chaplain, senior content editor, and site co-administrator. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual.
Her online presence is “Cloaked Monk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.cloakedmonk.com, www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk. To reach her for conversation, send a note to email@example.com
Today begins the first day of our Terri Stewart’s Advent event. There are many bloggers participating in this event. Each day of the Christian celebration of Advent will be sponsored by a different blogger who will post appropriately on his or her site. Their posts will also go up on Terri’s site and the kick-off is on Into the Bardo today.
If you follow Into the Bardo regularly, you know that we share work here that is not necessarily religious but is reflective of diverse cultures and spiritual paths and representative of universal human values, however differently they might be expressed. This is a space where we hope you’ll delight in learning how much you have in common with “other” peoples.
We acknowledge that there are enormous theological differences and historical resentments that carve wedges among and within the traditions, but we believe that ultimately self-preservation, common sense, and human solidarity will empower connections and collaboration and overcome division and disorder. We work for the tipping point when compromise – an admittedly imperfect peace – will overcome war and respect for life will topple resentment. That may not happen in our time, but it has to start somewhere and sometime and this is our modest contribution toward an end for which diverse people the world over are working.
For those who are not Christian, Advent is the period of time leading up to the Nativity of Christ (Christmas). It is celebrated somewhat differently by different Christian sects and by Roman and Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox churches. I think the details of the celebrations are less important than the scriptural quote for the day …
1 Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? 2 You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.
Indeed, where do the conflicts and disputes originate: in the cravings that make us restless within ourselves, in coveting things or situations we don’t have (and may not really need), and in not using right means for just ends? These are appropriate considerations as we approach the annual celebration of the “Prince of Peace,” a celebration which is in the end a call for compassion and understanding.
May our compassion have legs.
PEACE ON EARTH
The tipping point:
GOOD WILL FROM AND TOWARD WOMEN
AND MEN EVERYWHERE!
Follow the entire Advent season
with Terri Stewart HERE.
… If you are so inclined, we would be grateful to have this post reblogged. Thank you! …
– Jamie Dedes
© 2013, essay, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ Pramzan via Wikipedia under CC A-SA 3.0 Unported 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic, 1.0 Generic license
JAMIE DEDES ~ Poetry remains a gift in disability and medical retirement. It’s a compact thing that I can still manage. I am the founder and host of Into the Bardo, a spirited international collaborative of word-play, music, art and photography where our core team members function independently and yet with a remarkable synergy. They do everything. They are the stars. I have simply created a space in which to share.
For the past five years I’ve blogged at The Poet by Day, the journey in poem, formerly titled Musing by Moonlight (hence the url). Poetry is my spiritual practice.
On this occasion, hearing the call of a bird,
he closed his eyes …and the Infinite
passed into him
from all sides, so intimately that he
believed he could
feel the stars, which had in the
meantime appeared …
gently resting within his breast
Rainer Maria Rilke
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
MAY THE TRUE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS
– WHICH IS PEACE –
BE WITH ALL SENTIENT BEINGS
Photo credit ~ morgueFile
Video uploaded to YouTube by JadeMusic54
CHRISTMAS WITH GRANDMA
I remember my first Christmas adventure with Grandma.
I was just a kid. I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her. On the way, my big sister dropped the bomb: “There is no Santa Claus,” she jeered. “Even dummies know that!”
My Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her “world-famous” cinnamon buns. I knew they were world-famous, because Grandma said so. It had to be true.
Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me.
“No Santa Claus?” she snorted…”Ridiculous! Don’t you believe it! That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad!!
Now, put on your coat, and let’s go.”
“Go? Go where Grandma”, I asked. I hadn’t even finished my second world-famous cinnamon bun.
“Where” turned out to be Kirby’s General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything.
As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days.
“Take this money,” she said, “and buy something for someone who needs it. I’ll wait for you in the car.” Then she turned and walked out of Kirby’s.
I was only eight years old. I’d often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself.
The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping. For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten-dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for.
I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors, the kids at school, and the people who went to my church. I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock’s grade-two class.
Bobby Decker didn’t have a coat. I knew that because he never went out to recess during the winter. His mother always wrote a note telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all we kids knew that Bobby Decker didn’t have a cough; he didn’t have a good coat.
I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobby Decker a coat! I settled on red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that.
“Is this a Christmas present for someone?” The lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten dollars down.
“Yes ma’am,” I replied shyly. “It’s for Bobby.” The nice lady smiled at me, as I told her about how Bobby really needed a good winter coat. I didn’t get any change, but she put the coat in a bag, smiled again, and wished me a Merry Christmas.
That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat (a little tag fell out of the coat, and Grandma tucked it in her Bible) in Christmas paper and ribbons and wrote, “To Bobby, From Santa Claus” on it.
Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to Bobby Decker’s house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially, one of Santa’s helpers.
Grandma parked down the street from Bobby’s house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk. Then Grandma gave me a nudge. “All right, Santa Claus,” she whispered, “get going.”
I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his door and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma.
Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobby.
Fifty years haven’t dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my Grandma, in Bobby Decker’s bushes.
That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were: ridiculous. Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team.
I still have the Bible, with the coat tag tucked inside: $19.95.
May you always have LOVE to share, HEALTH to spare and FRIENDS that care…
And may you always believe in the magic of Santa Claus!
Give back – what you can, where you can, whenever you can.
We don’t know the origin of this story or who wrote, but we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. Our thanks to Linda F. for passing it on to us and to the anonymous author.
Photo credit ~ morgueFile