Saturday, December 31, 2005

Ring Out, Wild Bells

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkenss of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

-- Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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Let's Start The New Year Right

One minute to midnight
One minute to go
One minute to say good-bye
Before we say hello

Let's start the new year right
Twelve o'clock tonight
When they dim the light
Let's begin
Kissing the old year out
Kissing the new year in

Let's watch the old year die
With a fond good-bye
And our hopes as high
As a kite

How can our love go wrong
If we start the new year right?

Irving Berlin

Here's to a happy, safe, peaceful, prosperous, and Bush/Cheney-free 2006!

Happy New Year, everyone!

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NYC NonNekkid Bloggers' Bash

NYC NonNekkid Bloggers' Bash took place last evening, on the Eve of New Year's Eve (AKA: Eve Eve).




This punch starts a party quickly, but becomes less potent as the evening proceeds. Feed guests late (eleven or twelve) and you'll send them home sober, and no hangovers the next morning! Been using this recipe for parties for thirty years ~~ and not one bad party, grin.

First Guest was Agatha, right on time, arriving with a lovely bottle of wine, later added to the punch. Then a long long time till Sylvie arrived. Then another pause till Subway and democat arrived, both with guitars! (note ~~ democat brought her new 12 string guitar. I've never been right next to one played solo before in my life, and the experience is awesome!)

After the later arrivals had their first glass of punch, dinner was served, buffet style around 11:30.


Potato skins
Ginger chicken wings
Spinach mushroom salad
Pasta lox salad

Subway played Feliz Navidad, and other activist songs, and democat folk and rock. Prolly my favorite song of the evening?

Sung by democat ~~

The Dutchman's not the kind of man
To keep his thumb jammed in the dam
That holds his dreams in
But that's a secret only Margaret knows

When Amsterdam is golden in the morning
Margaret brings him breakfast
She believes him
He thinks the tulips bloom beneath the snow
He's mad as he can be but Margaret only sees that sometimes
Sometimes she sees her unborn children in his eyes

Let us go to the banks of the ocean
Where the walls rise above the Zuiderzee
Long ago, I used to be a young man
And dear Margaret remembers that for me

The Dutchman still wears wooden shoes
His cap and coat are patched with love
That Margaret sewed in
Sometimes he thinks he's still in Rotterdam
He watches tugboats down canals
And calls out to them when he thinks he knows the Captain
'till Margaret comes to take him home again
Through unforgiving streets
That trip him though she holds his arm
Sometimes he thinks that he's alone and calls her name


The windmills whirl the winter in
She winds his muffler tighter,
They sit in the kitchen
Some tea with whiskey keeps away the dew
He sees her for a moment, calls her name
She makes the bed up humming some old love song
She learned it when the tune was very new
He hums a line or two, they hum together in the night
The Dutchman falls asleep and Margaret blows the candle out.


( )

This song is just gorgeous, and had a couple of us in tears.

Conversation, of course, after catching up with each other's lives, was mostly political: a true LIBLAB gathering, lol! Gathered in one room in the East Village were: a school teacher, an actor, a dollmaker, an anthropologist, a street musician and a folk singer. And every man Jack bright, informed, and politically astute.

At one point, I looked around and was just overwhelmed to the core of my soul by the level of intelligence, creativity, dedication, energy, and love in the room. It speaks volumes to the worth of Howard Dean that he has gathered such people together in support of him and his idears.

Subway was the first to leave at about 1:30, the others a little after two.

The hosts did a quick clean up, and then just sat back and traded favorite moments of the evening. Turned in at three thirty, tired and content.

A great ending for a tough year.


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Friday, December 30, 2005

Grassroots Retreat in Upstate, NY

My Vote is My Voice (MViMV) will be sponsoring a Grassroots Retreat in Lake George, NY on February 3rd-5th, 2006. The theme of the weekend will be Balancing Life (time, money, sanity, etc) With Activism, but other topics of discussion will certainly be welcome.

Single occupancy - $100 per person includes:
Lodging for Friday and Saturday night
6 meals: Friday Dinner through Sunday Lunch
Ride to/from Albany, NY Airport if needed

Double occupancy - $75 per person includes:
Lodging for Friday and Saturday night (1 Queen bed)
6 meals: Friday Dinner through Sunday Lunch
Ride to/from Albany, NY Airport if needed

Because the atmosphere for the weekend is meant to be relaxing, and not overwhelming, space at the retreat is limited to 14 people. Please purchase your ticket ASAP through PayPal to

For additional information, or if you would prefer to send a check, please email

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Health Care For All

Teri Mills is a longtime Democracy For America community member. Her guest column on health care appears on Blog for America on Fridays and she blogs at

America's resolution for the New Year should be health care for all. It's time for the United States to join every other industrialized and civilized country in the world and provide publicly financed, universal health care for its citizens and their families. Our "sick care" system is second to none. We boast some of the finest hospitals and clinics in the world. Many branches of government are connected and are dedicated to finding answers to leading killers including heart disease, cancer, strokes and diabetes.

Yet for all the good things happening in the United States with health care, there are many equally troubling facts. Newsday reports a Florida study that found children who enter a hospital without insurance are more than twice as likely to die as children with insurance. While the United States spends more than any other nation on health - $5,600 for every American - our system has the highest medically-related error rates.

The New York Times found that a third of American patients spend more than $1,000 a year out of pocket, and 68 percent of those who declared bankruptcy because of medical bills had insurance. Health Affairs, a publication from the Center for American Progress claims the United States has a lower life expectancy than 20 other countries, near epidemics of preventable conditions, and a rising infant mortality rate.

Achieving health care for all will not be easy. However, we may end up having no choice but to do just that. Eventually, health care will be so high priced that only the very rich in this country will be able to afford the luxury of seeing a doctor. When large manufacturers such as GM decide to cut thousands from their workforce, after agreeing to have their workers pay more out of pocket for their health insurance, alarm bells should start ringing inside every head in Congress. Perhaps a telephone should ring instead. A phone campaign may be just what is needed to demand legislation in 2006 to achieve health care for all.

Teri Mills, RN, MS, ANP
Democracy for Oregon

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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Chicago-land blogger party

When I saw on HEP blog that Denise and donna-in-evanston were working on a getting together, I knew it was something I could manage to put in my schedule. A two hour drive was not going to stop me from getting together with the real live people that I have spent hours with in a virtual reality.

With map-quest and a Chicago area map I headed out to Evanston. I was counting on vacation time to keep the traffic down. Driving in the dark made reading signs difficult (maybe those bifocals aren't too far off). Because I didn't make one wrong turn, the trip last exactly 2 hours.

Refusing to take more than one trip from the car to the house, I dragged my overnight bag and carried a stack of plates filled with bean dip and veggies. The chips, which were balance on top, fell off twice but I didn't have to go back to my car that night.

Donna and her husband live in an attractive condo. It is one of those great city type places. The building is narrow and long with 4 flights. The hard wood floors with open stairs and the real fire in the fireplace gave her home an warm. welcoming feeling when I entered.

Donna greeted me at the door with a big hug. For those of you who haven't met Donna, she is a petite woman with shortly cut hair. She has a strong determination in her eyes that makes you not notice her size right away. She calls herself the "radical militant" librarian, which is a fun, yet accurate, description of her.

The party had already started. DF IL Lali and her husband "Ian from Illinois" with their 3 dark haired children were sitting on the wrap around sofas. Kent and Janet Wilson from Donna's meetup steering committee, had also arrive. Thankful/Laurie arrived shortly after me.

Donna's husband, Bill, welcomed me and relieved me of my food, coat and suitcase. Donna, he is a keeper! Bill is a tall handsome man with a gentle smile. He always knew right where to be when there was help needed. Donna describes her husband as apolitical. I know my husband, Bob and he would identify with each other when they relay stories of living with "activist" wives.

Phase one of the party consisted of eating my broken chips and talking Chicago area politics. Wine and drinks helped too. It is always interesting listening about Chicago-land politics because their issues are so different from my red-rural experience. They are having fun supporting candidates at all levels and have the challenge of dealing with established Democrats. I am lucky to find one Democratic candidate to work for let alone have established Democrats even care about what we are doing.

All this time we are wondering where Denise, Renee and Demetrius were. Donna would run up and check the blog now and then. Eventually she reported that Denise was too sick to drive but there was still no word from R&D.

Phase two: We moved down one level to her kitchen/family room. I was looking forward to Donna's turkey chili after reading about it on her morning post and I was not disappointed. Lali and her family had to leave for a concert so they missed out on a delicious meal.

Political talk shifted to dogs. Donna has an adorable aussie collie who smiles when she is happy (!?! ) and would contently lay her nose on Donna's lap. I asked for help on how to discipline my bratty 6 month-old Shih Tsu. Donna brought out a book, Marley and Me, the world's worst dog. It is a great book and if you have a bad dog, it will make your feel understood.

The food-fest continued with Laurie's cookies and delicious fudge. As we sat around the table, Bill uncorked the champagne. Donna toasted to 2006 and for "quick trials and long sentences." Sounds good to me, and may there be many.

I still had faith that Renee and Demetrius would show up. I have seen their late hours on the blog and 10:30 PM was nothing to them. A phone call relayed not only R&D would make it, but they went way out of their way to pick up Denise too!

More descriptions for those who have not met Renee, Demetrius or Denise: Renee "looks" like she blogs. When you meet her she has the energy of a comforting mother. She has a big smile and a gentle voice. Demetrius is a solid man with a quiet humor that makes you not want to miss what he has to say. Denise is definitely a Chicago transplant that now lives in California. The first words out of her mouth brought laughter to my heart. There is a distinctive accent that only a lifetime of living on the south side of Chicago would produce. I have a special affection for this talk because my favorite sister-in-law is from this area.

Conversation moved on to "blog people." If you don't come to the party you run the risk of being talked about. We discussed how Tara "doesn't get it" but that we have made lifetime friends from people we have met there. We all felt as sense of grief over a loss. Donna expressed that she sometimes just feels burned out with politics and that she misses working hard for a great candidate. We all felt a yearning to have Howard Dean back at the helm.

If this were a crushie party (and I have been to a few great ones), pictures and ooing and aahhing would have been the next event.

Laurie updated us on her children and Denise told about her friend's recent loss. Two hours and several fudge squares later, our blogging party ended. I was grateful to Donna for letting me spent the night.

Before everyone left, Bill took a picture of our group sitting around the table. What an unlikely bunch brought together; a couple with young children from Ohio, a Californian with Chicago in her heart, a mother of young adult children, an activist librarian, and a liberal woman from the country.

Thank YOU Howard Dean. Look out America.

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Open Thread

Thank you Jessica for checking in at the bottom of the last thread. Hope the whole family is feeling better soon. Demetrius and I and the kids and pets will be heading back home today, but I thought I'd put up a fresh thread before leaving.

Karen in MI passed along this link that is worth checking out.

Kos-Eye View

The creator of the left's favorite political blog, The Daily Kos, handicaps the 2006 elections and shares his advice for the Democratic Party.

Looks like the seasonal default Gravatar is going to be out of season pretty soon. Thoughts on a new one, or should we just go without?

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Son of Deaniac, Passenger Escape Serious Injury in Williamstown Crash

Long time DFA and HEP community member listener reports that her son, Jonah, was injured in a Williamstown, MA car crash last night. Though multiple emergency services responded to the accident, and though Jonah and his passenger were treated at North Adams Regional Medical Center, neither of them was seriously hurt. Listener is now back home with her wounded chick. ♥The Schulte Family♥

It has been over twenty-four hours since Jessica, a dedicated and indefatigable Deaniac, took her two-year-old daughter to the hospital for treatment of dehydration. Our love and prayers go out to the Falker Family.

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Making a difference

This morning I would like to share some sites with you that some of you may already know about, but others may not--and maybe you would like to know more. What they have in common is the commitment to making a positive difference in the world.

Humanity's Team

The New Spirituality that we at Humanity's Team seek to embody is not a new religion. Nor is it a rejection or abandonment of present spiritual beliefs. It's simply an expansion of all our present theologies; an updating of them; a refreshing of them, rendering all of our current sacred teachings even more relevant to our present day and time. In that expansion, in that updating, in that refreshing are extraordinary new possibilities.

Oxfam International
Oxfam International is a confederation of 12 organizations working together with over 3,000 partners in more than 100 countries to find lasting solutions to poverty, suffering and injustice.

With many of the causes of poverty global in nature, the 12 affiliate members of Oxfam International believe they can achieve greater impact through their collective efforts.

Heifer International
With Heifer's proven approach - almost 60 years in the making - to helping people obtain a sustainable source of food and income.

Cornerstones guide our efforts to end world hunger and care for the earth.

Long-Term Solutions emphasizing community involvement distinguish our work from that of global relief organizations.

"Passing on the Gift" means recipients agree to share the offspring of gift animals with others in need, making them equal partners with Heifer in the fight to end world hunger.

Do you have any positive links you would like to share?

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Some diaries/posts of interest

I composed this brief diary this morning before I saw that Jessica had a new diary about Pine Ridge Reservation up.

We're going to be visiting with Demetrius' family today--in a house (believe it or not) without internet connection. (Hope springs eternal that one day we will at least get Mom an email account one day.) So before heading out there, I've found some posts/diaries you might find of interest...

From Howard Dean:

Did George Bush Break the Law?
Dean on GOP's Misplaced Budget Priorities

From Oliver Willis, regarding Hillary:
Fool me twice...

From Media Matters:
Top 12 media myths and falsehoods on the Bush administration's spying scandal

From Booman Tribune:
All Anti-Alito, All The Time!

We ask your prayers, gentle thoughts, positive vibes/energy for listener's son who broke his collarbone in an auto accident today, and also for Jessica's daughter who is in the hospital being treated for dehydration. And, of course, for their concerned families.

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Howard Empowered Friends of Pine Ridge

Many of us contributed to the Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation this holiday season. Thanks to Catreona and Susan letting us know about this project, FOPRR collected about 2,500 holiday gifts for their least fortunate children, plus help for many of the reservation's community facilitities and residents who desperatly needed it.

The need on the reservation is year round, and I was going to wait a month or so before posting another project of their's, but there's a great opportunity on their website to contribute/recycle something that many people would just throw away this week:

Oyate Teca Project, the reservation's youth center, is asking people to donate their used holiday cards so the kids can use them next year to make gift tags, ornaments, small boxes, gift bags, cards, etc.

They are also asking for hole punches, scissors, construction paper, and glue.

The address to send donations is on the FOPRR website:

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Monday, December 26, 2005

New Year's resolutions for Bush

First of all, I'll get this part out of the way first. I don't do New Year's resolutions. There are certainly times that I privately commit to do more of something or less of something, but I don't tie that to something as arbitrary (to me) as a date on the calendar. And I definitely am not into announcing resolutions publicly. But I certainly do understand that other people see the new year as a good, symbolic time to commit to making a positive change.

But whether you are one of those people who likes to make New Year's resolutions or now, I bet this is a question a lot of us can sink our teeth into. I saw this story when I opened up the AOL home page on my parents' computer.

Nobody is perfect, and our president has had a less-than-perfect political year. But a new year offers fresh opportunities. Check out some suggested resolutions and offer your own.

View the story, and weigh in here if you like. Or just leave your comment about suggested resolutions in the comments below. Or just talk about whatever's on your mind, like we usually do.

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Happy Holiday

Today is the first day of Kwanzaa, but since I know next to nothing about that holiday, I'm not going to attempt to post anything about that. But if you do have something to share--a link, a story, reflection, or tradition, please do so in the comments. Today is also the huge day after Christmas return day, post-Christmas sale day, or, as I like to think of it, the day that Renee stays as far as humanly possible away from shopping malls.

Every now and then I check out the Flying Spaghetti Monster web site, and I had wondered what the "official" FSM winter celebration might be called. Today I found the answer:

A note about the FSM Holiday season. People keep asking me what the FSM winter holiday is called - Ramendan, Pastamas, etc. Clever (not really), but no. Our winter holiday is named "Holiday", and stretches most of December and January. Consider how much our religion has spread over the last couple years; how many schools and businesses refer not to the "Christmas season", but to the pastafarian "Holiday season" instead? - Strong evidence of our rapid growth. A special thanks goes to Walmart, who rejected the Christian phrase "Merry Christmas" in favor of the Pastafarian greeting "Happy Holidays". We appreciate your support.

Finally, I know I posted a lot of comments about all the cookie baking I was trying to get done, so I thought I'd share a picture with you before they are all gone.

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False centrism and losing connection to the grassroots

Before turning in for the night, I thought we could use a new thread, so I'm going to post a bit of floridagal's Kos diary, with a link to the rest.

I have been very concerned lately about some of the top down involvement in local politics. I will just mention two specific instances briefly. One is the IL 6 race with Cegelis and Duckworth. That has been discussed a lot here heatedly.

The other is really worse in a way, because the Florida state party chairman, Karen Thurman, is involved with the DCCC's Rahm Emanuel in drafting a very wealthy Republican to run in Florida's District 16. There are two very qualified Democrats in the race already, why not fund them? Why have meetings with a registered Republican instead of supporting the ones in the race? I have been getting some stuff ready for a diary on this issue, but first I decided to reread some sections of Howard Dean's book.

I have thought a lot about what Howard Dean's feelings on this top down type of power play might be. He can't really say it now, you know. In his position as chair, I guess he must be careful. But actually he made some references obliquely to circumstances like this in his book last year called You Have the Power.

Click here for the rest. And check out the graphic link to Cegelis' campaign web site, on the right side of this page.

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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Who Is That Child?

Originally posted on The Underground Railroad.

Now that everyone has opened their own gifts and given gifts to friends and family, let us now look at the first three men to bear gifts in celebration of the birth of Jesus.

"Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him."

The wise men came from the east to Jerusalem on a quest for that child. They could have said, "If such a king be born, we shall hear of him shortly in our own country, and there will be time enough then to pay our homage to him." But they were so anxious to be better acquainted with Him that they took a long journey to seek after Him. Their question was, "Where is he that is born king of the Jews?" They do not ask whether there were such a one born - they knew who that child was, and spoke it with boldness. They wanted to know where he was born. The magi called Jesus the King of the Jews, because that is what the Messiah was expected to be: Protector and Ruler of all of Abraham's seed, the household of faith. He is born a King.

But Herod was troubled. Herod's thinking was that there could be only one king in Judea, and he was it, so who was that child? Any opposition must be neutralized. He knew Jewish history, being an Edomite, a descendant of Esau. He knew of the Maccabees and their rebellion centuries earlier. He knew of the Zealots and their desire to rid Israel of the Roman occupation. He knew of the messianic prophesies which said that One would come and deliver Israel, and how the people longed for this messiah. Herod did not receive news of the child as Good News. However, you would think that Jerusalem should have greatly rejoiced to hear that her King was here; yet the Bible says that all of Jerusalem was troubled with Herod, apparently afraid that this would involve them in war, or restrain their lusts - they desired no king but Herod; not even the Messiah himself.

I'm sure that we can relate.

Americans despise restraint. Freedom and liberty are to Americans what Grace and Mercy are to Christians - can't live without them and wouldn't want to try. Americans shout, "Give me liberty or give me death!" while God says to Christians, "My grace is sufficient for you." Most every church has two flags, one hanging on each side of the pulpit: the American flag and the Christian flag. To which kingdom do you pledge allegiance? "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness..." "No man can serve two masters: either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other." "Choose this day whom you will serve..." We must render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, but we must render unto God that which is God's.

Herod had obtained his kingdom by great crimes, by shedding much blood. He was therefore easily alarmed by any remarkable appearances, and the fact that this star appeared - and that it was regarded as proof that a King of the Jews was born - scared him. Besides, it was a common expectation that the Messiah was about to appear, and Herod feared that his reign was about to come to an abrupt end. Herod therefore began to inquire about how he might secure his own safety and the permanency of his government.

Herod, at this point, was an old man and had reigned thirty-five years - this child was but newly born, and not likely to start anything considerable for many years - yet Herod was jealous of him. People often cannot bear to think of successors, much less think of rivals. Ask anyone about who will chair their committee after them and see how they reply. Most people can't conceive of anyone replacing them, let alone the think of being ousted from "their" position. Nothing less than the blood of this child would satisfy Herod. Apparently, it never occurred to Herod that, if this child should indeed be the Messiah, then in opposing him, or making any attempts upon his life, he would be fighting against God Himself - an exercise in futility if ever there was one, nothing which could be more dangerous. He'd just have to find out the hard way that his arms were too short to box with God. Passion got the best of his reason and conscience. How many times have our passions got the best of our reason, the best of our conscience? It's not that we lost our minds - we still think - but we lose our will to do that which would be pleasing to God. Look at Herod.

See how cunningly he laid the project in v. 7-8. He privately called the wise men in order to talk with them about this matter. He would not openly air his own fears and jealousies; it would be to his disgrace to let the wise men know them, and dangerous to let the people know them. Herod learned from the wise men the time when the star appeared, that he might take his measures accordingly; and then implores them to inquire further, asking them to return with a report. All this might have looked suspicious if he had not covered it with a show of religion: "that I may come and worship him also." I have found that the greatest wickedness often conceals itself under a mask of piety. Absalom cloaked his rebellious project with a religious vow. Hitler slaughtered the Jews under the veil of being religious. Bush invaded Iraq under the pretense of "fighting evil-doers." People often think rationally while losing the ability to think reasonably. We can learn three things from this text:

First, people with ill intentions often cloak their designs with the pretense of piety - they attempt to deceive those who are pursuing Jesus and make them believe that they have the same intentions. There was a song a few years ago that said, "They smile in your face. All the time they want to take your place. The back-stabbers. Back-stabbers!" That's biblical. People will pat you on the back just to see where the knife should go. Ask Jesus. He'll tell you that your friend, the one you trust with your money, will kiss you just to help your enemies destroy you. Like the writer of Ecclesiastes said, "Ain't nothing new under the sun." (Oscar translation)

We also find that wicked people often pimp the pious to pursue their personal plans. Men like Herod will stop at nothing to achieve their ends. They endeavor to deceive the simple, to lure the unsuspecting, and to beguile the weak in order to accomplish their own purposes. In politics, there are those who care nothing about God and cringe at the name of Jesus, yet they would have the majority of Christians in America to believe that the only way to be a good Christian and a responsible American is to support their party - even though their policies defy the very teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "You are blessed of my Father, for I was hungry and you fed me," but that party opposes the very concept of society feeding the poor - they say that some charity will do it, so collectively we as a people need not be about the business of feeding the poor, i.e. no food stamps. Jesus said, "I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink," but they oppose handouts, as in no welfare - except corporate welfare (tax cuts). Jesus said, "I was a stranger and you invited me in," yet that party has people chanting, "America for Americans only." Jesus said, "I was sick and you visited me," yet that party says that health care is only for those who can afford it. Those people will actually try to pass their party off as the only party for Christians, and too many Christians go for it - hook, line, sinker, rod, reel and a little knuckle too.

The Grand Ole Party.

Democrats aren't much better - it is very easy to see how they frequently disregard the commands of Christ, but nobody is implying that they are the only party that a true Christian should support, as many do with the Republican Party. The point is that Godless people have beguiled Christians into believing that politics is the savior of this society, and the avenue to that salvation is through the Republican Party - just like Herod fooled the wise men into believing that he wanted to worship the living Christ. It took special revelation from God to show the the wise men Herod's deception as it will no doubt require God's special revelation to enlightened today's believers.

The third thing that we see here is that the plans of wicked people are often well laid. Those plans occupy a long time and can stretch out over many years - even generations. Satan has great patience - if he can't get you then he'll come for your children or grandchildren or great-grandchildren. He'll bring it into the church, having entire denominations condoning sin. People twist scripture to make it say what they want it to say and ignore scripture that they cannot twist. Such people make diligent inquiry much like Herod, and all of it has the appearance of religion. But God sees through the design, and though people are deceived, God cannot be mocked.

See how strangely Herod was deceived in all of this? He trusted it with the wise men, and did not choose some other managers that would have been true to his interests. Bethlehem is only seven miles from Jerusalem - Herod could have easily sent spies to watch the wise men, who could have been there to destroy the child as the wise men came to worship him! God can easily hide from the eyes of His enemies those methods by which they might easily destroy His work; that's why no weapon formed against us shall prosper.

Herod waited a long time for the return of the wise men. He hoped that though they be slow, they would be sure, and he would crush this rival at His first appearing. But when he found out that they'd departed in another direction he correctly suspected that they pledged allegiance to this new King, which made Herod exceedingly angry - more passion and less reason. It obviously did not occur to him who he was dealing with, even though he'd been told. Herod did all that he could to obtain accurate information regarding the Child, that he might be sure of destroying him. He not only determined the probable time of His birth, and the place where He would be born, but he sent the wise men that they might actually see him, and bring him word.

Go back to verse 4 - he'd convened the Sanhedrin council to determine where the messiah was to be born, and they responded with the word of God. Micah 5:2 clearly told of the location: Bethlehem. Isaiah 7:14 told of the virgin birth. Zechariah 9:9 foretold of His triumphant entry (some 37 years later) while Isaiah 53:3 and Psalm 118:22 foretold His rejection by His own countrymen. Psalm 41:9 foretold His betrayal by one of His close associates, while Isaiah 53:7-8 foretold how he would stand silently before His accusers as He was put on trial and condemned. Isaiah 50:6 foretold how He would be struck and spat upon while Psalm 22:7-8 foretold how He would be mocked and insulted. Psalm 22:14-17 foretold how He would die of crucifixion and Isaiah 53:12 foretold His execution among criminals. Isaiah 53:5-12 foretold His death as a sacrifice for our sins and Psalm 16:10 foretold His resurrection, while Psalm 110:1-2 foretold Him being seated at the right-hand of the Father. (Parenthetically, it is this Psalm that Jesus used to shut down the Pharisees and assert His divinity.)

Herod must have heard all of this and more as the Jewish scholars recounted the Servant Songs in his hearing and quoted the messianic prophesies in his presence. Nonetheless, Herod was unmoved. He dismissed the council and met with the wise men privately to send them on a final intelligence-gathering mission. He missed the answer to the question that demanded a verdict: "Who is that child?" So, who is that child? Glad you asked. He is the One who has authority over the Law, the Sabbath, and the temple. He is the One who has authority to forgive sins. He is the One who is supreme over Moses, Jacob, and Abraham.

He is the Son of God.

He is the Messiah.

He is God incarnate.

The Jews of Jesus' day understood what Jesus said and meant, but many would not believe. Thomas put his fingers in Jesus' wounds and believed - worshiping the Christ. Peter confessed Jesus' lordship immediately. Who do you say that Jesus is? James 2:19 tells us that even the demons believe in God and tremble, yet they are still condemned. Is Jesus the Lord of your life? Have you surrendered you life to the King of kings, the Lord of lords, God with us - Immanuel? Herod would not submit to Jesus' authority, will you?

May the LORD bless you and keep you;
May the LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
And may the LORD,
Who gave us the greatest gift of all - Jesus,
May He turn His face toward you and give you peace.

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I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men."

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Turning the World Upside-down

Maybe you've seen me use a portion of this picture as a Gravatar--or maybe not, as I haven't used it in a while. The painting is entitled "Mary of the Magnificat". No, I realize that the first century peasant girl who was the mother of Jesus looked nothing like that. We've been watching these shows on the National Geographic channel which explain how much at odds the usual Christmas pageant imagery is at odds with what we know about life in first century Judea. Our 12-year-old is taking great pleasure in informing everyone that "The manger looked nothing like that--the animals were in a lower room, in the same building as where the people lived!"

I don't know if he's ready to understand that stories can be true--or reflect deeper Truths--without being factually, literally true. I think I first discovered what is beautiful and inspiring to me about this story back when we were attending a local Unitarian Universalist church. The Christmas sermon was entitled Turning the World Upside-down, and it said, in part:

And in a world where the Roman intelligentsia believed that Augustus Caesar himself was born of a virgin mother, a virgin who had a vision in a temple from a messenger from the gods, what might the author be saying? Since he or she (and we really don't know whether the author we call "Luke" was a man or a woman by the way-cases have been made for both) deliberately brings up Augustus Caesar at the beginning of the story about another virgin birth, I grow suspicious. Isn't it more likely that here is another picture inviting us to look at the world in a totally upside-down manner? The story is asking us "Is Caesar the greatest power on earth, Caesar with his power and might, his obedience and his executions, his slavery and his caprice; or, is it this peasant baby from the outskirts of civilization whose head needs to be entirely supported in the crook of his tender mother's arm? Two virgin births. But which of them is the real center of the world? Choose.

Mari herself, upon being told that she will be a mother, sings a clear song about the world turning upside down, The Magnificat, part of which you heard being sung this evening, by Peg Meckling and Edgel Alley, set to Bach's beautiful music. The Magnificat insists that the world is about to go topsy turvy. Remember the poem?

Do you see? The lofty are now scattered
through the arrogance of their own heart,
and the all-powerful rulers of earth
are pulled down off their thrones,
and poor people like me are lifted up.
The hungry are fed now,
the sated go away with empty hands.
The way I see it is this: when you worship a poor third world baby in a cattle-feeder, instead of a muscular and violent head of state on his throne, you begin to turn philosophy on its head, and certainly all theology.

And, to say (as the Christians eventually did), that this weak child nursing at its mother's breast is a wonderful picture of G-d, you get another upside-down image…not the common image of G-d as Caesar in the sky, controlling the weather, the fates of individual human beings, and meting out punishments and rewards according to bribes, but G-d, or the Ultimate, if you will, as a helpless child in a dirty, splintery cattle feeder.

By the way, I know that someone is bound to ask about the spelling G-d. Others can probably express it better than I can, but it is typically a Jewish convention. I have heard at least two explanations that I can recall--one is that if we try to give a name to the Ultimate, we risk making an idol of that name. Another is that, in the Hebrew scriptures, to name someone or something was to control them--have dominion over them. For obvious reasons, we could not expect to do that with God. Again, I'm sure someone else could explain this better, but I wanted to try to anticipate the question in an attempt to keep any confusion or curiosity about that from eclipsing the powerful truth of this story that I wanted to convey tonight.

Turning the world upside-down...that's what resonates with me. Knocking the powerful off their thrones, while at the same time recognizing the power in the "lowly" who can be all too easily dismissed by those who are content with "politics and usual". I *love* this story, and I believe in it. Well, in my heart, deep down I do. Sometimes, after the people fighting the good fight get knocked down again and again, it's hard to keep believing. At Christmas time, one thing I try to do is to remind myself that this very old story still rings True in our hearts, because there are always Caesars who need to be knocked off their thrones. It seems impossible. But the impossible can be achieved by something greater than ourselves. Maybe we call that something "God", or another name that means something similar. Or maybe that "something greater" is our sense of being interconnected, part of a larger community rather than focussed on our own narrow interests. The sense that "we're all in this together". Now, where have I heard *that* before? ;-)

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