New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - December 23, 2000, New Braunfels, Texas
Saturday, December 23, 2000 — Herald-Zeitung — Page 7 A
Test your | Mixed-faith families celebrate convergence in 2000
By Miranda Leitsinger Associated Press Writer
When it comes to Christmas, it’s hard to tell the difference between history and folklore. Pageants, cantatas and nativity scenes offer us plenty of images and “facts.” Unfortunately, not all of the facts are documented and are therefore subject to interpretive license. Additions and adjustments 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 room,” “No way,” “Would you like your hay turned?”)
4. What is a “manger”?
(Stable, feeding trough, storage bin)
Those were easy. Let’s raise the bar.
5. Who saw the star in the East? (Shepherds, Kings, the Bethlehem-Zeitung)
6. How many wise men came to see Jesus? (3, 4, unknown)
7. How old was Jesus when the wise men found him? (infant, 2, 16)
Let’s see how you did. Here are the answers with some explanation:
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 family line was from there. (Lk. 2:3,4)
3. The innkeeper’s 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 stable). (Lk. 2:7)
4. A manger is simply a feeding trough for animals. No wonder the “cattle are lowing.”
5. Of the choices given, none saw the star. The star appeared to astrologers from the East (known in the Bible as wise men). There is no indication that the shepherds, Mary and Joseph or even the community was aware of the star. Furthermore, there is no indication that the wise men were kings. (Mt. 2:2)
6. Carols and nativity scenes all indicate three. The Bible, however, makes no such determination. In fact, the history and culture 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 2-years-old and younger? He gave this order after determining when the star has appeared, concluding this to be the span of Jesus life. (Mt. 2:1)
I ofter this quiz to illustrate the importance of biblical accuracy.
If our information about something 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 eternal safeguard to straying down well-intended but erroneous pathways.
(Tim Judkins will speak about "Earth Invaders ” Sunday at the Contemporary Worship service of First Protestant Church.)
NEW YORK (AP) — Red-and-green miniature Christmas candles. A blue prayer rug. A black Quran. A red Bible.
These are a few of the items that Joy Jamaluddin and her husband, Aziz, squeezed into suitcases 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 celebrated Muslim and Christian holidays and practiced their respective religions since they were married 30 years ago.
What will be different this year is that they will celebrate Christmas and honor the monthlong observance of Ramadan on the same day because of a rare convergence of religious calendars.
Indeed, 2000 marks what the Rev. Michael Lynch, who handles Roman Catholic-Muslim relations 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 African-Americans, and the winter solstice, which is observed by New Age religious groups.
The holiday season calls attention to the growing numbers of U.S. interfaith couples, with Christians, Jews, Muslims and those of other faiths tackling the challenge of dual holiday celebrations.
Interfaith relationships are easy when one partner accepts or converts to a spouse’s religion. In other instances, however, holidays entail creating new sets of traditions as the partners integrate their religions.
At the beginning of her marriage, Joy Jamaluddin did not know how to reconcile the two faiths.
“I didn’t practice any religion very much during my early years because it was too bothersome,” she said. Today, she mainly practices Islam, thbugh she still keeps Christmas customs.
As for Aziz, he “would say prayers, but it wasn’t really a family thing,” Joy said. “He didn’t overtly object to the holidays, he would just express it in ways
that showed it.”
“A time like Christmas heightens the sensitivity” for two-faith couples, said Imam Al-Hajj TalibAbdur-Rashid 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 forbidden.”
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 Islam,” Joy said, adding that she emphasized the two religions “were both valid . .
. . We respected both traditions.”
The couple’s five children were raised with both faiths, celebrating 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 nog.” When Ramadan overlapped with Christmas last year, Joy read
Away in a manger
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Several area churches have manger scenes either inside or outside of the church facilities. Above, Holy Family Catholic Church is located at 245 S. Hidalgo St. Left, Our Lady of Perpetual Help is located at 138 W. Austin St.
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 haven’t 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 three Christmas Eve candlelight services scheduled for 5 p.m., 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. “The 11 p.m.
starts with special music from 10:30 p.m. on,” said Pastor Chuck DeHaven. “The whole planet earth and anybody else is invited to come,” he said with a chuckle.
Oakwood Baptist Church, located at 2154 Loop 337 N., has two Christmas Eve candlelight services scheduled for 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. “It will be just a service geared towards the season with special music,” said Anita Coppin, administrative assistant.
St. Joseph Anglican Church, 440 N. Seguin Ave., has a Christmas Eve service planned
for 10:30 p.m.
First Protestant Church will conduct three Christmas Eve candlelight services at 5:30 p.m.,
7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. “Everyone who would like to drop in is welcome,” said Marianne Specht, secretary. First Protestant is located at 172 W. Coll. “All three will be traditional type services with hymns and Christmas music,” Specht said.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help,
138 W. Austin, has a IO p.m. Christmas Eve candlelight pro-
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. They’ll have Muslim communal prayers and will later open Christmas gifts.
The Rev. James Parks Morton of the Interfaith Center of New York counsels two-religion couples to share aspects that many religions have in common, such as the “feast and a story” traditions, 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 break-the-fast evening with other interfaith couples.
The feast at their San Francisco home will include traditional Moroccan soup, dates, potato latkes and crescent-shaped cookies with a spiced date filling.
Muslim and Jewish holidays treat sundown as a special time,
Minsuk said, noting that it’s a time when she and her husband can participate in each other’s traditions.
“Sometimes I sit with him at the end of the evening, sharing break the fast,” 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 another’s religions.
“We questioned what was our identity, and what identity were we passing on” to the children, said Rothstein, the 51 -year-old manager of a dot-com 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 six-week 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 traditions,” Rothstein said.
Discovering the true meaning of ‘I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day’
By Gary Lange
Special to the Herald-Zeitung
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 bom 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 Day.” In the December 2000 issue of Pulpit Helps, Lindsay Terry retraces the circumstances of this hymn:
“Tragedy struck the home of America’s most popular poet. On July 9, 1861, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s wife, Fanny, was near an open window sealing locks of her daughter’s 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 sleeping in the next room, was awakened by her screams. He desperately 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 bums 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 personal suffering.
They could see it in his eyes and observe his long periods of silence. His white beard so identified with him, was one of the results of the tragedy — the bum 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 men.’
As he came to the third stanza he was stopped by the thought of the condition of his beloved country. The Civil War was in full swing. The Battle of Gettysburg was not long past. Days looked dark, and he probably asked himself the question, ‘How can I write about peace on earth, good will to men in this war-torn country, 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 earth,’ 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 perfect peace — 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 men.’
And so we have the marvelous Christmas carol, ‘I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.’ A musician 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 God’s 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 mine.”
As you worship and sing in these days of Advent and Chnctmas, 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 Church.)