Archives for the month of: December, 2015

New Year a Good Start

Today is the last day of the year. Tomorrow we turn the calendar over to January 1, 2016. As we approach a new year many people resolve to do certain things in the coming year to improve the quality of their lives and the lives of others.

New Year 4

I do not make New Year’s Resolutions. Make no mistake, I understand that there are many things that warrant change in my daily actions and attitudes. Nevertheless, I don’t go through the exercise of listing them intentionally upon the advent of a new year.

New Year 2

It has been said if you aim at nothing, you will probably hit it. I agree that identifiable, measurable, and achievable goals are good. I do periodically assess my lifestyle and attempt to make adjustments. However, rather than make specific resolutions at the beginning of the calendar year, needed changes may be recognized and addressed at any time.

New Year Better Man

For example, a few years ago I realized that  I needed to make some changes as I got older and my lifestyle became more sedentary. I am relatively healthy and active but I have slowed down. My metabolism, which has been my best friend all my life, has slowed down also. Thus, I do not have a weight problem but I am developing a waist problem.

Although I am fairly active, I am not a physical fitness fanatic (that is putting it mildly). I knew that I would not follow through long term on any drastic changes. So, I started with small but significant changes to my diet. Because I have a real weakness for anything sweet, and especially ice cream. I decided that I would eat sweets only on weekends. I also started eating a light but somewhat healthy breakfast, something that I had not done consistently since I was a kid, and I determined to reduce my intake of soft drinks and mid-day snacks. Small but significant changes.

New Year Endless Possibilities

The beginning of a new year provides impetus for us to think about changes that we need to make. It prompts us to reevaluate the practices of our daily life. Somewhere I read an article on the fundamentals of journalism but I cannot remember any of the content and I cannot recall where I saw it. However, I do remember three principles that I believe apply equally to all of life: Honesty, Integrity, Accountability.

I will address each of these in subsequent writings but for now I leave them for your consideration. Whether you are making New Years Resolutions or simply thinking about how you order your life, these three principles provide a framework for some serious self examination and goal setting.

New Year 1

Happy New Year!

 

Jamie Jenkins

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*It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth
To touch their harps of gold!
Peace on the earth, good will to men,
From heaven’s all gracious King!
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.

Christmas shepherds

Still through the cloven skies they come
With peaceful wings unfurled
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hovering wing.
And ever o’er its Babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.

Christmas nativity

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

Christmas 2

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world hath suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love song which they bring:
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When, with the ever-circling years,
Shall come the Age of Gold;
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And all the world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

Merry Christmas!

christmas 4

I’d Miilad Said Oua Sana Saida (Arabic)

Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan (Mandarin)
Prejeme Vam Vesele Vanoce a stastny Novy Rok (Czech)
Gladelig Jul (Danish)
Vrolijk Kerstfeest en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar (Dutch)
Joyeux Noel (French)
Froehliche Weihnachten (German)
Mo’adim Lesimkha. Chena tova (Hebrew)
Bada Din Mubarak Ho (Hindi)
Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah (Iraqi)
Nollaig Shona Dhuit (Irish)
Buon Natale or Buone Feste Natalizie (Italian)
Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto (Japanese)
Sung Tan Chuk Ha (Korean)
Merry Keshmish (Navajo)
Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia (Polish)
Portuguese – Feliz Natal

Pozdrevlyayu s prazdnikom Rozhdestva i s Novim Godom (Russian)
Feliz Navidad (Spanish)

Krismasi Njema (Swahili)
Noeliniz Ve Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun (Turkish)
Srozhdestvom Kristovym (Ukrainian)
Chung Mung Giang Sinh (Vietnamese)

Jamie Jenkins
*Edmund H. Sears wrote these words at the re­quest of his friend, W. P. Lunt, a min­is­ter in Quin­cy, Mass­a­chu­setts. The hymn was first sung at the 1849 Sun­day School Christ­mas cel­e­bra­tion.

*Text: Edmund H. Sears, 1810-1876

It’s beginning to look and sound a lot like Christmas and nothing characterizes that statement more than the concert I attended last Sunday night. An eighty-five voice choir and a thirty-five piece orchestra under the direction of Scott Atchison presented The Many Moods of Christmas concert in the beautiful sanctuary of the Peachtree Road United Methodist Church.Many Moods 1

The Many Moods of Christmas is based on the 1963 program of eighteen Christmas carols conducted by Robert Shaw, grouped into four suites. The carols were arranged for chorus and orchestra by famed Broadway orchestrator Robert Russel Bennett. It was performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Robert Shaw Chorale. That recording more than 50 years ago is still a very popular favorite- and nobody does it better than the choir and orchestra at this church in Atlanta.

 

Many Moods 2

The concert begins with selections from Handel’s Messiah, an oratorio composed in 1741. It has become one of the best-known and most frequently performed choral works in Western music. The program continues with one of John Rutter’s most well-known works, Gloria in excelsis Deo. The splendid evening of music concludes with a medley of old favorite Christmas carols.

Many Moods 3

Plan to join me and hundreds of others next year when the tradition continues. If you are already in the Christmas spirit, this concert will cause you to soar to greater heights. If you are in the doldrums during December, the beauty of the music and the setting will lift your spirits. I promise.

You will “experience the wonder and joy of the Advent season” just like the publicity suggests.

After the concert, I started thinking about the many moods of Christmas. The secular and the sacred traditions. The cultural practices and family rituals. The music that ranges from the ridiculous (I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, Have a Holly Jolly Christmas) to the sublime (Silent Night, O Holy Night). The parties and food. The wrapping and exchanging of gifts. The trips to the mall to have a picture sitting on Santa’s lap. Travels to be with family.Many Moods 5

Christmas is indeed “the most wonderful time of the year. The hap-happiest season of all.”

Many Moods 4

All of this merry making and joy began as a way to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Savior of the world. The festivities have expanded to include many things that have no direct connection to that event long ago in the austere environment of a cow stall in Bethlehem. Nevertheless, that event changed the world. Regardless of how we celebrate the occasion today it is a reminder of the announcement of the angels to the shepherds, “Behold, I bring you good news of great joy. For unto you is born this day… a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” And we sing robustly “Joy to the world, the Lord is Come.”

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Merry Christmas!

Jamie Jenkins

Jimmy Carter

For nearly 50 years Law Day was one of the traditions of the University of Georgia. Randall Balmer, journalist for the Hartford Courant, described it as “an occasion to honor student achievements as well as to invite distinguished guests, ranging from Supreme Court justices and attorneys general to cabinet members and politicians of national stature.”  The last Law Day was on March 31, 2000.

The featured speaker of Law Day in 1974 was Edward M. Kennedy, the senior senator from Massachusetts. A couple of hours after Kennedy’s keynote address, Jimmy Carter, the governor of  Georgia, addressed the group. His lecture on justice upstaged Sen. Kennedy who at that time was considered the front-runner for the 1976 Democratic presidential nomination

Carter attributed his sense of justice to two main sources, Reinhold Niebuhr and Bob Dylan. He said it was Dylan’s song, “I Ain’t Gonna Work on Maggie’s Farm No More,” that led him to begin to focus on the needs of ordinary people like the tenant farmers he had known in south Georgia.

Bob Dylan

Carter lamented that “the powerful and the influential in our society shape the laws and have a great influence on the legislature or the Congress.” He criticized their “commitment to the status quo” that preserves the “privileged position in society.” He concluded his remarks by saying that “the course of human events, even the greatest historical events, are not determined by the leaders of a nation or a state, like Presidents or governors or senators. They are controlled by the combined wisdom and courage and commitment and discernment and unselfishness and compassion and love and idealism of the common ordinary people.”

God has always demonstrated a concern for ordinary people. Jesus announced his calling was to “preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners,  recovery of sight to the blind, liberate the oppressed…”

God has often chosen ordinary people to carry on the work of redemption and reconciliation in the world. Just look at the people He chose to be his closest associates. Ordinary people.

Advent 12

Last Sunday was the Second Sunday of Advent. The lectionary scripture was the announcement of the angel Gabriel to Mary that she had been chosen to be the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:26-38). Ave Maria is the musical setting of the Latin text which was originally published in 1853.

Mary was young in a world where age was venerated. She was poor in a world that belonged to the rich. She was a woman in a world where gender equity was not even an afterthought. In every sense she was an ordinary individual. But Gabriel said, “You are highly favored. The Lord is with you.”

We see ordinary people throughout the Advent Season as we prepare to celebrate the birthday of our Savior. John  the Baptist came as a “voice in the wilderness” calling for people to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. Eugene Peterson’s The Message says, “His message was simple and austere, like his desert surroundings.”

Shepherd

As we come nearer to Christmas Day we meet an anonymous inn keeper who provided a place away from the chaos of the moment for Mary to give birth to Jesus. Then we encounter the shepherds. As they “watched their flocks by night” God revealed to them that a child born in their nearby town was the Savior of the world, the Messiah. These ordinary people were perhaps the first to see the Christ Child.

Poh Fang Chia, writing in Our Daily Bread said, “Today, God is still calling ordinary people to do His work and assuring us that He will be with us as we do. Because we are ordinary people being used by God, it’s obvious that the power comes from God and not from us.” The devotional for July 8, 2015 ends with a prayer that is appropriate as we make our way through Advent. “Lord, I am just an ordinary person, but You are an all-powerful God. I want to serve You. Please show me how and give me the strength.”

Jamie Jenkins

 

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The season of Advent began last Sunday. It is a season that the Church has dedicated to preparing for the celebration of Christmas. The difference between Advent and Christmas is a small but important one. It’s no surprise that right after Thanksgiving we want to ask, “When can we sing Christmas songs?” But the question we must ask is: Are you ready to receive the one and only that God is sending our way?

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Advent is a time to reflect and prepare for Christmas similarly to how Lent is in preparation for Easter. It is uncertain as to when exactly the celebration of Advent was introduced in the Christian church. It is believed that at some time in the fifth century it began as a six-week fast leading to Christmas. In the sixth century it was reduced to its current length of four Sundays and weeks before Christmas Day and the fasting was no longer observed.

Rev. Mark S. Roberts, a Presbyterian minister, reflected on Advent in the following manner: “In our secular American celebration of Christmas, the Christmas season (or holiday season, ugh) begins in the weeks prior to Christmas Day. Generally, this season starts in early December, though retailers have a bad habit of beginning Christmas in November (or even October)… So Advent overlaps with what is usually thought of in American culture as the Christmas season. But its beginning and ending are well defined, and its themes are quite a bit different from what is commonly associated with secular Christmas celebrations.”

Rev. Roberts goes on to say there are two primary reasons why Advent is important to him. He found “that observing Advent enriched my celebration of Christmas. Taking four weeks to focus on the hope of Christ’s coming made me much more joyful when I finally got to celebrate it. The more I got in touch with my need for a Savior, the more I rejoiced at the Savior’s birth.”

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In addition he found “in Advent a solution to the age-old problem of secular Christmas vs. spiritual Christmas… We (Christians) recognize that Christmas is, most of all, a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus. It’s a holiday that focuses on the meaning of the Incarnation. Yet, given the secular traditions of Christmas, we spend most of our time preparing, not for a celebration of the birth of Jesus, but for fulfilling the demands of the season.” Buying and wrapping presents, attending and hosting parties, traveling to visit relatives, sending out Christmas cards, and if you have younger children “spending hours trying to assemble gifts that come with sketchy instructions written by someone for whom English is, at best, a third language.”

The website, http://www.adventconspiracy.org, asks, “Can Christmas still change the world? The Christmas story is a story of love, hope, redemption and  relationship. So what happened? How did it turn into stuff, stress, and debt?” Then it suggests four ways to change the way we celebrate Christmas.

ADVENT 1

Worship Fully

It starts with Jesus. It ends with Jesus. This is the holistic approach God had in mind for Christmas. It’s a season where we are called to put down our burdens and lift a song up to our God. It’s a season where love wins, peace reigns, and a king is celebrated with each breath. It’s the party of the year. Entering the story of advent means entering this season with an overwhelming passion to worship Jesus to the fullest.

ADVENT 2Spend Less

Quick question for you: What was the one gift you remember getting for Christmas last year? Next question: What about the fourth gift? Do you remember that one? Truth is many of us don’t because it wasn’t something we necessarily wanted or needed. Spending Less isn’t a call to stop giving gifts; it’s a call to stop spending money on gifts we won’t remember in less than a year. America spends around $600 billion dollars during the Christmas season, and much of that it joyless and goes right onto a credit card. By spending wisely on gifts we free ourselves from the anxiety associated with debt so we can take in the season with a full heart.ADVENT 3

Give More

I know what you’re thinking. “Wait, didn’t you just say I should spend less, and yet here you are telling me to give more? What gives?” The most powerful, memorable gift you can give to someone else is yourself. And nobody modeled this more than Jesus. So what does this look like for you? Tickets to a ball game or the theater? A movie night? The main point is simple: When it comes to spending time with those you love, it’s all about quality, not quantity.

ADVENT 4

Love All

It all boils down to love. Love from a savior. Love to a neighbor in need. By spending just a little less on gifts we free up our resources to love as Jesus loves by giving to those who really need help. … It’s not that there’s something wrong with the shopping mall—it’s that the better story is about loving all.

It is not enough to say no to the way Christmas is celebrated by many. We need to say yes to a different way of celebrating.

Jamie Jenkins