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At this time of the year the focus of most literature and television adverts seems to be about eating, drinking, giving presents and the copious consumption of material "things".

Yesterday I posted a question on Christianity Stack Exchange looking for a reference to an uplifting and inspirational meditation for Christmas Eve and Ken Graham found the answer.

Since there is no Winter Bash on Stack, I would like to invite everyone to share any uplifting and inspirational thoughts for this time of the year. Poetry or literature (serious or funny), hymns and carols, or even experiences of kindness and compassion from others.

As the days shorten in the northern hemisphere and the weather deteriorates, wouldn't it be nice to focus on uplifting thoughts?

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Oswald Chambers penned what is, perhaps, one of the best devotional works ever written; 'My Utmost For His Highest'. I worked through this devotional on a daily basis for the first 4 or 5 years of my Christian life and his insistence on centering every entry solidly on the person and work of Christ was deeply formative for me. I have pasted in one of the daily entries from this book for the edification of all:


His Birth and Our New Birth

"Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us." —Matthew 1:23

His Birth in History. “…that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35). Jesus Christ was born into this world, not from it. He did not emerge out of history; He came into history from the outside. Jesus Christ is not the best human being the human race can boast of— He is a Being for whom the human race can take no credit at all. He is not man becoming God, but God Incarnate— God coming into human flesh from outside it. His life is the highest and the holiest entering through the most humble of doors. Our Lord’s birth was an advent— the appearance of God in human form.

His Birth in Me. “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you…” (Galatians 4:19). Just as our Lord came into human history from outside it, He must also come into me from outside. Have I allowed my personal human life to become a “Bethlehem” for the Son of God? I cannot enter the realm of the kingdom of God unless I am born again from above by a birth totally unlike physical birth. “You must be born again” (John 3:7). This is not a command, but a fact based on the authority of God. The evidence of the new birth is that I yield myself so completely to God that “Christ is formed” in me. And once “Christ is formed” in me, His nature immediately begins to work through me.

God Evident in the Flesh. This is what is made so profoundly possible for you and for me through the redemption of man by Jesus Christ.


And the Word, who was God in the beginning, was made flesh ... and the bread of life, newly entered into the world He made, was laid in a feeding trough to be our necessary food...our daily bread.

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    Both uplifting and inspirational.
    – Lesley
    Commented Dec 13, 2023 at 14:19
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    Oswald Chambers - an interesting background: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oswald_Chambers
    – Lesley
    Commented Dec 13, 2023 at 17:19
  • @Lesley Indeed. " Chambers did not oppose glossolalia but criticized those who made it a test of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.." I appreciate this position Commented Dec 14, 2023 at 13:14
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Frances Chesterton, the wife of G.K., penned a number of great and warm poems including some good Christmas ones.

How far is it to Bethlehem?
    Not very far.
Shall we find the stable-room
    Lit by a star?

Can we see the little Child?
    Is He within?
If we lift the wooden latch,
    May we go in?

May we stroke the creatures there —
    Ox, ass, or sheep?
May we peep like them and see
    Jesus asleep?

If we touch His tiny hand,
    Will He awake?
Will He know we've come so far
    Just for His sake?

Great kings have precious gifts,
    And we have naught;
Little smiles and little tears
    Are all we brought.

For all weary children
    Mary must weep;
Here, on His bed of straw,
    Sleep, children, sleep.

God, in His mother's arms,
    Babes in the byre,
Sleep, as they sleep who find
    Their heart's desire.

The first two lines, "How far is it to Bethlehem? Not very far." is like the answer to all our prayers and all my kids quandaries about "how many days still Christmas". It's the question we spend our whole lives asking. It's right up there with How long till freedom? How long till peace? When will we beat our swords into plowshares? When will the Internet be fun again?

That last question, is probably the least important one, because there is Freedom in Christ, there is peace in the valley of the Lord, there will come a time when we don't train for war again, but the Internet will never be fun again.

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How far to Bethlehem? Some thousands of miles for Magi, back then. A prayer away for us today.

How find us the babe? Praising angels told humble shepherds. Humble prayers get answers today.

Can we go in? Invited shepherds surely did. Humble seekers likewise, today.

Who gazed upon the babe? Mary, Joseph and shepherds. Eyes for nothing else, as we should be.

Who dared touch this Son? His holy mother did, as do we by faith, with purified hearts and minds today.

What can we bring to such a King? He gave his all, no less will do for us who have received from Him.

I never did like slush, of any type, but concede to a degree with this, reeled off from the top of my head.

Oh, and with apologies to Frances Chesterton, who might think I've called her poem 'slush'.

No, I haven't really. Just taken her idea and found inspiration with it.

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Can we share uplifting and inspirational thoughts for this time of the year?

If you do not mind, Lesley, I would like to post a reply to this question, but it will be a little bit more on a traditional and Catholic point of view, because that is what I am. The elements I hope could in some way inspire those of other denominations as well.

While Advent and Christmas seasons Seem to ”focus seems to be mainly on eating, drinking, giving presents and having a jolly good time”, this really not what these times are spiritually meant to be!

Advent really is a time to prepare for the coming of Christ in the flesh and the Word made Flesh was born in order to redeem mankind from sin. As such All merry making and eating should be done in a more spiritual way in order to benefit our spiritual growth as Christians. Even the Christmas exchange of presents could be more subdued to make it less materialistic. I try to be give practical presents to friends and family, including my wife, while remaining modest in purchasing something.

Let us start with Advent!

What is Advent?

A period of prayer in preparation for Christmas, including four Sundays, the first nearest the feast of St. Andrew, November 30. It is the beginning of the Church's liturgical year. The use of the organ and other musical instruments is restricted in liturgical functions. However, it is allowed 1. in extraliturgical functions, 2. for exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, 3. to support singing, and 4. on Gaudete Sunday, feasts and solemnities, and in any extraordinary celebration. Altars may not be decorated with flowers. In the celebration of matrimony, the nuptial blessing is always imparted. But the spouses are advised to take into account the special character of the liturgical season.

Now some will see that we have lost some of the spiritual aspects of preparation that was done in the good old days. Believe me it not that hard to accomplish, but it does require a steadfast intention to achieve this to benefit ourselves spiritually.

  • In former days, marriages were not permitted in the Catholic Church, during Lent or Advent.

  • Advent fasting was at one time was an obligation on the faithful. This helped us directly curve our more mundane and animal instincts and directly aided our spiritual life. Fasting was done in Advent, on Wednesdays and Fridays as well as the Ember Days Fast. Of course, Christmas Eve was also a day of fasting, except when Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday, like it will this year. Nevertheless, it would remain a day of abstinence. This is why many European Catholic regions still eat fish on the Eve of Christ’s Birth!

Even so food still had it’s tradition place in Advent, albeit the the festive mood as not really there.

The Ember Day Tart has it’s place since the Middle Ages.

enter image description here

Believe me the above is not physically demanding, but it will help in making one more mature in a spiritual way. I have done this for many years, so I am not simply writing this a mere suggestion that is all talk. Many pastors still preach about it, but I feel the importance is in that fact if they want to encourage these past traditions, they must lead by example, which they are not. Sometimes, actions speak louder than words.

All this said about food and merriment does not mean these things do not have their place at Christmas or during Advent!

Examples of eating in an appropriate disposition can be quite helpful and at the same time a tool of catechism for all Christians. Some we have lost in modern times.

For example, in Charles Dickens book A Christmas Carol we can see a glimmer of this in Bob Cratchit’s household. There is the Christmas pudding and the Smoking Bishop drink. Done in moderation food and drink do have their place at this time of the year!

The drink mentioned by Dickens book was nothing new. Some have mentioned it in a short rhyme more than hundred years earlier:

Come buy my fine oranges, sauce for your veal, and charming, when squeezed in a pot of brown ale: Well roasted, with sugar and wine in a cup, They’ll make a sweet Bishop when gentlefolk sup.

I do not think the either Ebenezer Scrooge or Bob Cratchit were real drinkers in this novel, so a moderate traditional drink would seem to be in place.

Smoking bishop can be made ahead of time, strained, and reheated with great success.

  • One 750 ml bottle of port

  • 3 oranges (Seville, if possible)

  • 8 cloves

  • 250ml water

  • Dark brown sugar to taste

My wife and I watch the classic movie A Christmas Carol every Christmas and Advent.

  • Christmas Novena

From December 16 - 24, there is time to pray a Christmas Novena. A Christmas novena is usually prayed, starting nine days before Christmas.

  • O Antiphons (also known as the Great Advent Antiphons or Great Os)

The O Antiphons (also known as the Great Advent Antiphons or Great Os) are Magnificat antiphons used at Vespers on the last seven days of Advent in Western Christian traditions. They likely date to sixth-century Italy, when Boethius refers to the text in The Consolation of Philosophy. They subsequently became one of the key musical features of the days leading up to Christmas.

The texts are best known in the English-speaking world in their paraphrased form in the hymn "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel".

What about Christmas?

The Christmas Season starts with First Vespers of the Nativity of the Lord and continues with a holy joy until the 2nd Vespers of the feast of the presentation of the Lord (February 2nd).The celebration of a 40 day season for Christmas goes so far back into antiquity that it is impossible to know at what point in time it became a tradition. The Feast of the Presentation was established as a feast on this date at least by the 6th century. Mary was obliged by Jewish law to present Our Lord to the Lord 40 days after his birth, thus bringing the joys of Christmas to a natural conclusion.

Until 1969, the ancient Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord, which is of Oriental origin, was known in the West as the feast of the Purification of Our Lady, and closed the Christmas season, forty days after the Lord's birth.- Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (120) of the Vatican Website.

Traditionally speaking, our Christmas trees should go up on Christmas Eve and brought down on the Feast of the Epiphany with the arrival of the Magi with their gifts of gold ,frankincense and myrrh. On this day the three wise men are added to our manger scenes! In Europe, the Christmas Crèches are only taken down on February 2nd.

  • The Three Christmas Masses

The custom of saying three Masses on this day is also very ancient, and recalls to our minds the threefold birth of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity – His eternal birth from the Father before all ages, His temporal birth in Bethlehem, and His spiritual birth in the souls of men.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote a beautiful summary of these three comings of Christ that is featured in the Church’s Office of Readings during Advent.

We know that the coming of the Lord is threefold…The first coming was in flesh and weakness, the middle coming is in spirit and power, and the final coming will be in glory and majesty.

To simplify St. Bernard’s summary even further, it can be explained as follows:

  1. First Coming – Birth at Bethlehem.

  2. Second Coming – Spiritual coming to each believer.

  3. Third Coming – Jesus coming again at the end of the world.

St. Bernard continues with his explanation of these three comings, focusing on their connection.

This middle coming is like a road that leads from the first coming to the last. At the first, Christ was our redemption; at the last, he will become manifest as our life; but in this middle way he is our rest and our consolation.

If you think that I am inventing what I am saying about the middle coming, listen to the Lord himself: If anyone loves me, he will keep my words, and the Father will love him, and we shall come to him. - What are the 3 comings of Christ?

  • Feast of the Holy Innocents Pabulum Tradition

On the Feast of the Holy Innocents, it has became a custom, not only in the homes of the faithful, but also in convents and monasteries to serve an extra dish consisting of a white porridge (some kind of pabulum, usually cream of wheat with milk, sugar and cinnamon) to the youngest ones children in families and to the novices (a novice in some communities is any religious not yet in solemn vows) in religious houses, at the evening meal. This tradition is known as the Holy Innocents' Pabulum tradition. In know of some traditional (Extraordinary Rite) monastic communities that follow this tradition.

Other Holy Innocent customs include the superiors of some Religious Orders serving the noonday meal to the brethren. For example in some communities the abbot, prior, cellerar, and novice-master serve at table, while the sub-prior will do the table reading. The abbot of Westminster Abbey in Mission, BC serves tables of the brethren on this feast.

  • Feast of the Epiphany

The Catholic liturgy, ritual and traditions for the Epiphany are rich in meaning to help the faithful make this day more meaningful and profound in different aspects throughout this time.

Today is fitting to sing: We Three kings

The Church also blesses chalk today in some areas. The custom of blessing chalk at Epiphany is centuries old and is still found in some of the more traditional parishes.

My personal favourite of this day is the blessing of Gold, Incense, and Myrrh on the Feast of the Epiphany.

Do not forget the three kings cake for a family setting.

A king cake, also known as a three kings cake, is a cake associated in many countries with Epiphany. Its form and ingredients are variable, but in most cases a fève (lit. 'fava bean') such as a figurine, often said to represent the Christ Child, is hidden inside. After the cake is cut, whoever gets the fève wins a prize. Modern fèves can be made of other materials, and can represent various objects and people.

enter image description here

  • Feast of the Presentation (February 2nd)

Traditionally this is the last day of the Christmas season. In days gone by Christmas Carols were sung up to this date and the faithful would visit churches to visit the Divine Babe Jesus in the crèche. Traditions as such are now almost none existent. That right Christmas is over after the second vespers of the Feast of the Presentation!

The Presentation of Jesus is an early episode in the life of Jesus Christ, describing his presentation at the Temple in Jerusalem. It is celebrated by many churches 40 days after Christmas on Candlemas, or the "Feast of the Presentation of Jesus". The episode is described in chapter 2 of the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament. Within the account, "Luke's narration of the Presentation in the Temple combines the purification rite with the Jewish ceremony of the redemption of the firstborn (Luke 2:23–24)."

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Presentation of Jesus at the temple is celebrated as one of the twelve Great Feasts, and is sometimes called Hypapante (Ὑπαπαντή, "meeting" in Greek).

The Orthodox Churches which use the Julian Calendar celebrate it on 15 February, and the Armenian Church on 14 February.

In Western Christianity, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord is also known by its earlier name as the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin or the Meeting of the Lord. In some liturgical calendars, Vespers (or Compline) on the Feast of the Presentation marks the end of the Epiphany season, also (since the 2018 lectionary) in the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland (EKD). In the Church of England, the mother church of the Anglican Communion, the Presentation of Christ in the Temple is a Principal Feast celebrated either on 2 February or on the Sunday between 28 January and 3 February. In the Roman Catholic Church, especially since the time of Pope Gelasius I (492-496) who in the fifth century contributed to its expansion, the Feast of the Presentation is celebrated on 2 February.

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  • I do not mind in the least that you present a traditional and Catholic point of view and thank you for sharing various traditions concerning Advent. There is nothing wrong with enjoying good food and drink in moderation. The recepie for 'Smoking Bishop' sounds like an up-market version of punch!
    – Lesley
    Commented Dec 12, 2023 at 17:50
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Christmas can be a very difficult time for people who are living alone, who are in pain, in poverty, who are suffering, or who are grieving. Sometimes the brokenness of this world can feel overwhelming as spiritual darkness seems to engulf our planet. That is why I need to focus on Christ Jesus, not as a baby in a manger, but as “the light of the world” and to lift my eyes to heaven above to thank God for the most wonderful and valuable gift ever given to humanity.

To help me do that I’ve been reading an advent devotional that reflects upon the character of Christ and His qualities. 700 years before the Saviour of the world was born, God described Him to the prophet Isaiah as recorded in Chapter 9 verse 6:

For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 6:1 says that he saw the Lord God Almighty, seated on a throne. Then the Apostle John said that Isaiah “saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him” (John 12: 41). Jesus himself said this in John 12: 45-46:

When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no-one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

Speaking of the Logos, the Word of God, John’s Gospel expands on this theme of Jesus as the source of spiritual light and life:

In him was life and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1: 4-5)

We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1: 14)

God’s love for us is expressed in the reality of his one and only Son, who gave up the glory he shared with his Father in heaven to become a little lower than the angels so that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life (John 3: 16-18). This is the verdict:

Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he had done has been done through God. (John 3: 19-21)

I [Jesus] am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12)

During these spiritually dark days, when so many people fail to understand the true meaning of the birth of Jesus, it is good to reflect upon His glory, that He is the light and the life of the world. Like the angels in heaven who came to earth to announce the miraculous birth, may we also give glory to God in the highest (Luke 2:14) and receive the peace of God which transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:17).

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