Saturday, December 28, 2013

Pray4America (part 11) - New Year Reset


To the good old days! 

That is a good modern paraphrase of Auld Lang Syne.  
[reference:  History and Meaning of the Song, Auld Lang Syne - Yahoo Voices -]

The lyrics and the tune have an interesting history.   Auld Lang Syne  is from Scottish poem written in 1788 by Robert Burns and later the words were set to the music of a folk song. 
 [reference:  The History and Words of Auld Lang Syne — The Official Gateway to Scotland]

Universally sung as New Year’s Eve turns into the New Year at the stroke of midnight,  no doubt, it will be sung, again, around the world as 2013 rolls over to 2014.

A beautiful rendition of this song is performed in this link below:


The New Year can bring a sense of optimism, a sense of starting over.  Resetting the calendar can mean a reset of our lives.  As to the good old days, it is a time to put the past behind us and press ahead into the future - the New Year.

In the New Testament, St. Paul exhorts us, too, to put the past behind us and press ahead and look up as expressed in this advice:

Brothers and sisters, 
I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.
But one thing I do:
Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,
I press on toward the goal to win the prize
for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

This past year has had many troubling events, its share of tragedies.  But 2013 has had its triumphs as well as good memories.  Though there still may be dark days ahead in 2014, we have the promise that the future will be glorious in a new world where the sorrow of the past will be forgotten:
See, I will create new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,  
nor will they come to mind.

Meanwhile, as we press ahead and make resolutions for 2014, may one of our New Year's resolution be to lift up one another and -

Pray for America

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Culture 101 (part 13) - Coventry Carol

Wikipedia/The Adoration of the Shepherds

Christmas carols have become part of the holiday tradition and part of our culture.  Many celebrate with winter songs as well as songs about the birth of Jesus, such as what is pictured above.

As concerning the more religious carols about Jesus, most are about His birth in Bethlehem, the baby Jesus in the manager, the shepherds hearing His birth announcement by the angels, the wise men from the east.  Here is a sample of such:

* The annunciation

The story can be found here - Luke 1:26 - 34  - The Birth of Jesus Foretold

Many songs celebrate this event, such as - Handel Messiah, Alto Recitative: Behold, a virgin shall conceive

* The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem 

The story of the birth is told  here  - Luke 2:1-7

And many carols sing about His birth in Bethlehem.  This one may be unique (a traditional spiritual sung in English, then Chinese) - Little Baby Jesus born in Bethlehem

* The shepherds visitation by angels 

The story of the angels announcing the birth to the shepherds abiding in the field is here - Luke 2:8-20

And many songs celebrate  this, such as - Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

* The Wise men visit

The story is here - Matthew 2:1-12

And there are many carols such as - We Three Kings of Orient Are

But one part  seems to be skipped over in the Christmas story and carols.  That is ...

* The Slaying of the Innocents

The story is here - Matthew 2:13-18

In particular these verses tend to be skipped over -

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.

Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

 “A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”

Actually there is at least one traditional Christmas carol that sings about the slaying of the innocents.

* Coventry Carol *

The melody of this carol is hauntingly beautiful:
Wikidpedia / Coventry Carol

And it is set to these lyrics:

Lully, lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
By, by, lully, lullay.
Lullay, thou little tiny Child,
By, by, lully, lullay.

O sisters too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we do sing
By, by, lully, lullay.

Herod, the king, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight,
All children young to slay.

Then, woe is me, poor Child for Thee!
And ever mourn and sigh
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.

As The Gospel of Matthew describes the slaying of the innocents when Jesus, the Deliverer, was brought into the world, likewise the Old Testament in the Book of Exodus describes the slaying of the innocents before the Deliverer - Moses - was brought into the world.  [reference:  Exodus 1:1-2:10]

Many celebrate Moses delivering his people in the feast of Passover.  And that feast looks back to the deliverance from slavery in Egypt as well as looking forward to the coming of the Messiah as sung below in this traditional Hebrew melody -

(reference: )

The lyrics in this arrangement combine Hebrew with English from Charles Wesley's hymn - Come Thou Long Expected Jesus (another great Advent carol):

Eliyahu hanavi, Eliyahu hatishbi
Eliyahu, Eliyahu, Eliyahu, hagladi.
Bimheira b'yameinu yavo eileinu
Im Mashiach ben David, Im Mashiach ben David.

(Elijah the prophet, Elijah the Tishbite, Elijah from Gilead, may he come
soon and in our days, with Messiah the Son of David.)

Come thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free.
From our sins and fears release us, let us find our rest in thee.
Israel's strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art.
Dear desire of ev'ry nation, joy of ev'ry longing heart.

Bimheira b'yameinu, yavo elieinu
Mashiach ben David, Mashiach ben David
Bimheira b'yameinu, yavo elieinu
Mashiach ben David, Mashiach ben David

(Soon and in our days, Messiah the Son of David will come again to us.)

This Advent and Holy Season may we look back to the coming of the Messiah into the world.  And may be look forward to His second coming.  As St. John wrote the final words of the promise of the Second Coming in Revelation -

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.


Previous posts in the Culture 101 series:

Culture 101 (part 1) - Reagan's Challenge (2012)

Culture 101 (part 2) - Easter Eucatastrophe (2012)

Culture 101 (part 3) - Paul Revere's Ride (2012)

Culture 101 (part 4) - Gold Diggers and the Great Depression (2012)

Culture 101 (part 5) - Blue Bloods and 9/11 (2012)

Culture 101 (part 6) - Gilligan's Island and Breast Cancer Awareness (2012)

Culture 101 (part 7) - Band of Brothers  (2013)

Culture 101 (part 8) - Snow White (2013)

Culture 101 (part 9) - Father Knows Best (2013)

Culture 101 (part 10) - Summertime! x 3 (2013)

Culture 101 (part 11) - Native American Osmosis (2013)

Culture 101 (part 12) - Thanksgivukkah (Thanksgiving and Hanukkah) (2013)


Photos from: Wikipedia/The Adoration of the Shepherds ;   Wikipedia / Coventry Carol   

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Proverbs (part 2) - Live Long and Prosper

Wikipedia/Beowulf and the dragon
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

The Book of Proverbs begins by giving such advice to a young man starting out in life - going out the door.  (Young ladies, too.)

Before walking down that road -

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction
    and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
They are a garland to grace your head
    and a chain to adorn your neck.
Proverbs 1:8-9  (NIV)

Several verses in Proverbs repeat this advice to the young person.  It must be important.  Indeed as Tolkien wrote - it is a dangerous business going out your door.

And in other literature and stories, similar advice is given to the younger generation.  An example of such - a father's instruction to his son -  is read below in the poem,  IF, by Rudyard Kipling :

And by listening to the wise parent or guardian, comes this promise:

My son, do not forget my teaching,
   but keep my commands in your heart,
for they will prolong your life many years

   and bring you peace and prosperity.
Proverbs 3:1-2 (NIV)

 A shortened version is this traditional religious Jewish blessing -

Live long and prosper.

Sound familiar?

We may know it as a Vulcan greeting from Star Trek.  And it may be no coincidence that the actor, Leonard Nimoy, who first played Mr. Spock, and made this phrase well know, again, is Jewish.
[reference:  Live long and prosper - origin]

Whether the 10th century B.C. or the 23rd century A.D. ... on planet Earth or Vulcan or anywhere in the universe, this blessing is timeless and universal.

The grass withers and the flowers fall,
   but the word of our God stands forever.

Isaiah 40:8 (NIV)


Related Links -

Lessons in Manliness From the Greatest Generation | The Art of Manliness


Previous post in the series:

Proverbs (part 1) - Information vs. Wisdom (2013)


Photo from:
Wikipedia/Beowulf and the dragon

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

PC Watch (part 2) - The South Park Offense

Question Authority

That was a mantra of protesters in the 1960s, often credited to Timothy Leary.  [reference: Timothy Leary Quotes]  But Benjamin Franklin, an original American revolutionary, may have said it first.  [reference:  Benjamin Franklin Quotes/Quotations from Liberty Quotes]  Indeed, if we wish to think for ourselves, questioning authority is a good start.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the generation gap between the baby boomers and the "greatest generation" was made even more pronounced with this warning -

Never trust anyone over 30  

This slogan of the baby boomer generation is attributed to Jack Weinberg , though it is not a new thought and seems to recycle itself with each new generation.  [reference:  Quote/Counterquote: Don't trust anyone over 30 – or 40]

Time marches on.  Now, baby boomers are all over thirty and many of us have become part of "the establishment" - the very thing some had protested against in the 1960s.  And ironically some who had been part of the free speech movement (FSM) have pushed the political correctness in our times which seems to have a chilling repression of free speech.  [reference:  The Death of Free Speech on Campus]

But the following generations find creative ways of watching out for the people and exposing the abuses of the politically powerful.  One tried and true method of attack on "the establishment" is an offense through "children's stories" and humor.

Those who follow my blogs may have an inkling that my posts express a conservative worldview with a religious flavor. So it may seem a surprise that I have taken to the Comedy Central cartoon South Park.  Yes, this show pushes the boundaries of decency and nice as the first weekly TV show to earn the Mature Audience (MA) rating.  No doubt many find the cartoon offensive for its language and adult situations.

The South Park Offense?

Frankly, I see redeeming social value in South Park's humor.  It is an equal opportunity offender, sparing no special group of its barbs and satire, taking on the establishment and politically correct world with comedy.  And it can be a great tool to go on the offensive in the culture war and even teach children to question authority and think for themselves.

But this cartoon is not for children, is it?  It's MA - mature audiences only.  Yet, this clip makes a case that children can learn important skills of critical thinking:

(Warning:  Some mature content in video below.)

Quick summary for kids of all ages:

1.  Almost every episode shows the difference between legitimate authority and the abuse of power/scare mongering.

  Otherwise, South Park encourages us to think for ourselves - question authority, especially those in the establishment.

2.  Kids today (as well as us adults) are subjected to a "tolerance" and "diversity" that ring hollow and false.  

  But the show fosters a true live and let live ethos sadly lacking in most school curricula - as well as other institutions and much of the media.

3.  A core theme is taking personal responsibility for our own actions.  

   In many of the episodes, it takes a child to point out self-control and accountability to the adults.  It also lampoons blaming someone or something else for the problems we have created, such as Blame Canada!

And there have been many  types of "South Parks" throughout history.  

Here are a few of them:

* Court jesters

Often the court jester (or fool) was the rare person who could criticize the king with impunity and freely speak his mind.   [reference: Medieval Jesters]  One such example in western literature is  the Fool in Shakespeare's King Lear.

* Children's stories 

Listed are some examples of classics some of us have grown up with -
*  Nursery Rhymes [reference: Secret History of the Nursery Rhyme], 
*  Aesop's Fables [reference: "The Storyteller from Samos" by Donna L. Preble],
*  Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels [reference: George Orwell: Politics vs. Literature - An examination of Gulliver's travels]

These are only a few examples of how the commoners, the powerless of the day, were able to exercise free speech and criticize the politics and the abuses of the elite.  Under the heel of a tyrant, the critics of the political correctness of those regimes often came to an end that was not pretty.

Today, we may see ourselves as more civilized.  But we have our ways to silence free speech and dissent through character assassination and the politics of personal destruction.

The South Park characters are an example of the court of jesters of our times.  The show lampoons political correctness through the eyes of children so we may open our eyes and see that the Emperor really has no clothes!  [reference:  Hans Christian Andersen : The Emperor's New Clothes :: :: The Hans Christian Andersen Center]

And some of the South Park Offense is an effective offense in the culture war, questioning authority and perhaps get us thinking for ourselves.

Benjamin Franklin would be proud!


Previous post in this series:

 PC Watch (part 1) - Political Correctness (2013)


Photo from: