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New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung (Newspaper) - December 23, 2000, New Braunfels, Texas Saturday December HRRALDZBITI ING Page 7A RELIGION Mixedfaith families celebrate convergence in Test your Christmas TIM JUDKINS When it comes to Christmas its hard to tell the difference between history and folklore Pageants cantatas and nativity scenes offer us plenty of images and Unfortunately not all of the facts are documented and are therefore subject to interpre tive license Additions and adjust ments to the story abound Here is a quiz that can test your knowledge of the Christmas story The answers are based strictly on information that is provided in the Bible Be careful They are a little tricky 1 How did Mary travel to Bethlehem Donkey camel taxi 2 Where was Joseph from Bethlehem Nazareth Texas 3 What did the innkeeper tell Mary and Joseph No Would you like your hay 4 What is a Stable feeding trough storage bin Those were easy Lets raise the bar 5 Who saw the star in the East Shepherds Kings the BethlehemZeitung 6 How many wise men came to see Jesus unknown 7 How old was Jesus when the wise men found him infant 2 16 Lets see how you did Here are the answers with some explana tion 1 Unfortunately the Bible does not say how Mary traveled We assume she rode a camel or donkey Who knows maybe she had to walk 2 Joseph lived in Nazareth but he was from Bethlehem We know this because he was going there for the census and his fami ly line was from there Lk 3 The innkeepers role is a perennial favorite in most Christmas pageants Unfortunately the Bible gives him no such lines All we are told is that there was no room probably because of the census so they placed Jesus in a manger usually found in a Lk 4 A manger is simply a feed ing trough for animals No won der the cattle are 5 Of the choices given none saw the star The star appeared to astrologers from the East known in the Bible as wise There is no indication that the shep herds Mary and Joseph or even the community was aware of the star Furthermore there is no indi cation that the wise men were kings Mt 6 Carols and nativity scenes all indicate three The Bible how ever makes no such determina tion In fact the history and cul ture of the time would suggest that it was a large entourage We assume three wise men because three gifts are mentioned Mt 7 Once again legend fails us Scripture indicates that he was found in a house and was at or about 2 years old Why else would Herod give the order to kill all children 2yearsold and younger He gave this order after determining when the star has appeared concluding this to be the span of Jesus life Mt I offer this quiz to illustrate the importance of biblical accuracy If our information about some thing as obvious as the Christmas story is wrong I wonder how far off we might be in matters of faith and practice Scripture is the eter nal safeguard to straying down wellintended but erroneous path ways Tim Judkins will speak about Earth Invaders Sunday at the Contemporary Worship service of First Protestant BY MIRANDA LEITONOER ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER NEW YORK AP Redand green miniature Christmas can dles A blue prayer rug A black Quran A red Bible These are a few of the items that Joy Jamaluddin and her hus band Aziz squeezed into suitcas es brimming with sweaters and ski gear as they headed to Colorado on vacation from their home in The Woodlands Texas Joy raised Baptist and Aziz a Muslim from India have cele brated Muslim and Christian holi days and practiced their respec tive religions since they were married 30 years ago What will be different this year is that they will celebrate Christmas and honor the month long observance of Ramadan on the same day because of a rare convergence of religious calen dars Indeed 2000 marks what the Rev Michael Lynch who handles Roman CatholicMuslim rela tions for the Brooklyn diocese calls the great convergence with Christmas Hanukkah and the end of Ramadan occurring about the same time as Kwanzaa a partly spiritual holiday among AfricanAmericans and the win ter solstice which is observed by New Age religious groups The holiday season calls atten tion to the growing numbers of interfaith couples with Christians Jews Muslims and those of other faiths tackling the challenge of dual holiday celebra tions Interfaith relationships are easy when one partner accepts or con verts to a spouses religion In other instances however holidays entail creating new sets of tradi tions as the partners integrate their religions At the beginning of her mar riage Joy Jamaluddin did not know how to reconcile the two faiths I didnt practice any religion very much during my early years because it was too she said Today she mainly prac tices Islam though she still keeps Christmas customs As for Aziz he would say prayers but it wasnt really a family Joy said He did nt overtly object to the holidays he would just express it in ways that showed A time like Christmas height ens the sensitivity for twofaith couples said Imam AlHajj TalibAbdurRashid of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem Common Christmas depictions such as Nativity scenes could be disturbing to the Muslim partner because in Islam religious imagery of people and events is something that is forbid Their mixed faiths faced new challenges when the Jamaluddins had children There were times when my children would have a specific question and I would talk about how it would be explained in Christianity and Joy said adding that she emphasized the two religions were both valid We respected both The couples five children were raised with both faiths celebrat ing Christmas with a tree wreaths and candles as well as Indian food and drinks such as sheerkhorma what Joy described as the Muslim answer to egg When Ramadan overlapped with Christmas last year Joy read the story of the birth of Jesus from the Quran after their Christmas celebration This year when they return from their Colorado holiday the family plans to mark the end of Ramadan on Dec 27 with a fast ending feast combined with Christmas dinner Theyll have Muslim communal prayers and will later open Christmas gifts The Rev James Parks Morton of the Interfaith Center of New York counsels tworeligion cou ples to share aspects that many religions have in common such as the feast and a story tradi tions to bridge divides that may exist Michele Minsuk who is Jewish and her husband Rachid Habibi a Muslim are planning a holiday party to celebrate their respective faiths a Hanukkah Ramadan breakthefast evening with other interfaith couples The feast at their San Francisco home will include traditional Moroccan soup dates potato latkes and crescentshaped cook ies with a spiced date filling Muslim and Jewish holidays treat sundown as a special time Minsuk said noting that its a time when she and her husband can participate in each others tra ditions Sometimes I sit with him at the end of the evening sharing break the she said If he happens to be home he would light the candles for Hanukkah When Susan Rothstein and John Koeppel Jewish and Catholic respectively married 28 years ago interfaith marriages were rare and they struggled to find a way to honor and respect one anothers religions We questioned what was our identity and what identity were we passing on to the children said Rothstein the 51yearold manager of a dotcorn in San Francisco They decided to raise their son and daughter with both the kids were sent to Hebrew school and Koeppel also took them through a sixweek course on the basics of Catholicism Hanukkah and Christmas were celebrated but with limits What has evolved is really a blend what is most meaningful to us about our Rothstein said Away in a manger Several area churches have manger scenes either inside or outside of the church facilities Above Holy Family Catholic Church is locat ed at 245 S Hidalgo St Left Our Lady of Perpetual Help is located at 138 W Austin St CHRIS Zeitung Several churches hosting special Christmas services BY J L MCMICHAEL Staff Writer After a month of preparation Christmas Eve is close enough for children to be anxiously counting the hours For those in the holiday rush who havent yet decided where to attend a Christmas Eve service here is a compilation of the schedules of several local churches St Paul Lutheran Church located at 181 S Santa Clara has tniee Christmas Eve candlelight services scheduled for 5 7 and 11 The 11 starts with special music from said Pastor Chuck DeHaven The whole planet earth and anybody else is invited to he said with a chuckle Oakwood Baptist Church located at 2154 Loop 337 has two Christmas Eve candlelight services scheduled for 4 and It will be just a service geared towards the season with special said Anita Coppin administrative assistant St Joseph Anglican Church 440 N Seguin has a Christmas Eve service planned for First Protestant Church will conduct three Christmas Eve can dlelight services at and Everyone who would like to drop in is said Marianne Specht secretary First Protestant is located at 172 W Coll All three will be traditional type services with hymns and Christmas Specht said Our Lady of Perpetual Help 138 W Austin has a 10 Christmas Eve candlelight pro See Discovering the true meaning ofI Heard the Bells on Christmas Day BY GARY LANGE Special to the HeraldZeitung The older I become the more appreciation I have of history and the witness of those who have gone before us Among the rich historical gifts we have in the church are the hymns we sing While at times we lament their singability each of them is a powerful declaration of faith Each was born in the context of human struggle And like the Psalms of old each reminds us that there is hope because we have a God who claims us and loves us One such Christmas hymn is I Heard the Bells on Christmas In the December 2000 issue of Pulpit Helps Lindsay Terry retraces the circumstances of this hymn Tragedy struck the home of Americas most popular poet On July Henry Wadsworth Longfellows wife Fanny was near an open window sealing locks of her daughters hair in a packet using hot sealing wax It was never known whether a spark from a match or the sealing wax was the cause but suddenly her dress caught fire and engulfed her with flames Her husband sleep ing in the next room was awak ened by her screams He desper ately tried to put out the fire and save his wife He was severely burned on his face and hands She tragically burned slipped into a coma the next day and died His grievous burns would not even allow him to attend her funeral He seemed to lock the anguish within his soul Because he continued to work at his craft only his family knew of his per sonal suffering They could see it in his eyes and observe his long periods of silence His white beard so iden tified with him was one of the results of the tragedy the burn scars on his face made shaving almost impossible Although a legend in his own time he still needed the peace that God gives to His children On Christmas Day three years following the horrible accident at age 57 he sat down to try to capture if possible the joys of the season He began 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 As he came to the third stanza he was stopped by the thought of the condition of his beloved coun try The Civil War was in full swing The Battle of Gettysburg was not long past Days looked dark and he probably asked him self the question How can I write about peace on earth good will to men in this wartorn coun try where brother fights against brother and father against son But he kept writing and what did he write And in despair I bowed by head There is no peace on I said For hate is strong and mocks the song Of peace on earth good will to men It seems as if he could have been writing for our kind of a day Then as all of us should do he turned his thoughts to the One who solves all problems the One who can give true and per fect and continued writing 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 And so we have the marvelous Christmas carol I Heard the Bells on Christmas A musi cian named J Baptiste Calkin wrote the musical setting that has helped make the carol a favorite Just as that Christmas in 1864 was made better by Longfellow you can experience a Christmas that will be the greatest ever You can actually find the peace that Longfellow wrote about in the carol true peace with God As you pillow your head tonight you can know that you are Gods child You see Jesus did not come just to be a Babe in a manger He came to earth to die for the sins of the whole world for your sins and As you worship and sing in these days of Advent and Christmas may the witness of that good news through hymns of old fill you again with hope and peace Gary Lange is pastor of Peace Lutheran
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