O Come

 

Something for the weekend.  Tomorrow Advent gets under way and to rush it a bit we have my favorite version of O Come O Come Emmanuel, which has always sounded to me as if a group of Zealots were singing it.  Emmanuel or Immanuel, “God With Us”, comes from the seventh chapter of Isaiah:

10  And the Lord spoke again to Achaz, saying:

11  Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God either unto the depth of hell, or unto the height above.

12  And Achaz said: I will not ask, and I will not tempt the Lord.

13  And he said: Hear ye therefore, O house of David: Is it a small thing for you to be grievous to men, that you are grievous to my God also?

14  Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.  

These words, which would find their fulfillment  in Christ, were uttered during a time of calamity for Judah.  The great Syro-Ephramite War was raging (736 BC-732 BC) which set the stage for the ultimate destruction of the Kingdom of Israel by Assyria, the super power of the time in what we call the Middle East, in 721 BC.  Judah would avoid destruction by Assyria in the aftermath of the war, but only by the smallest of margins.

In that time of doom Isaiah began the great cycle of messianic prophecies centered around the messiah, Emmanuel, God With Us.  There is a great lesson for us in this piece of history.  No matter how desperate our situation in this world, God is with us.  Nations rise and fall, triumphs and disasters come our way, and through it all God is with us.  That is the great meaning of Advent.

Published in: on November 30, 2019 at 6:16 am  Comments Off on O Come  
Tags: ,

John Adams and Benjamin Franklin Debate National Symbols

 

After the American Revolution, former American officers in that struggle created a fraternal organization called the Society of Cinncinatus, named after the Roman consul and dictator, a constitutional office of the Roman Republic in emergencies, who saved Rome through his efforts in the fifth century BC and then retired to his humble farm.  The Society selected as its symbol a bald eagle.  In a letter to his daughter Sally Bache on January 26, 1784, no doubt with his tongue placed firmly in his cheek, Dr. Franklin indicated that he thought another bird would have been a better choice.

Others object to the Bald Eagle, as looking too much like a Dindon, or Turkey. For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen as the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perch’d on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him. With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping and Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country, tho’ exactly fit for that Order of Knights which the French call Chevaliers d’Industrie. I am on this account not displeas’d that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For in Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America. Eagles have been found in all Countries, but the Turkey was peculiar to ours, the first of the Species seen in Europe being brought to France by the Jesuits from Canada, and serv’d up at the Wedding Table of Charles the ninth. He is besides, tho’ a little vain and silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.

 

 

Published in: on November 29, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on John Adams and Benjamin Franklin Debate National Symbols  
Tags: , , ,

George Washington: First Thanksgiving Proclamation

A contemplation of the compleat attainment (at a period earlier than could have been expected) of the object for which we contended against so formidable a power cannot but inspire us with astonishment and gratitude. The disadvantageous circumstances on our part, under which the war was undertaken, can never be forgotten. The singular interpositions of Providence in our feeble condition were such, as could scarcely escape the attention of the most unobserving; while the unparalleled perseverance of the Armies of the U States, through almost every possible suffering and discouragement for the space of eight long years, was little short of a standing miracle.  

George Washington

 

The father of our nation was a religious man.  He had no doubt of the existence of God, and that He intervened in the affairs of men and nations.  Therefore it is no surprise that he originated the tradition of the last Thursday in November for Americans to thank God.  Lincoln revived the tradition in 1863 in the midst of the Civil War.  When we celebrate Thanksgiving today, we are celebrating a holiday that is at the very core of American history from the Pilgrims forward. (more…)

Published in: on November 28, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on George Washington: First Thanksgiving Proclamation  
Tags: ,

Johnny Cash: Thanksgiving

A reminder from the late, great Johnny Cash that we all have so much to thank God for when we sit down with our families tomorrow. Perhaps we should also recall these words from Theodore Roosevelt in his final Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1908:

For the very reason that in material well-being we have thus abounded, we owe it to the Almighty to show equal progress in moral and spiritual things. With a nation, as with the individuals who make up a nation, material well-being is an indispensable foundation. But the foundation avails nothing by itself. That life is wasted, and worse than wasted, which is spent in piling, heap upon heap, those things which minister merely to the pleasure of the body and to the power that rests only on wealth. Upon material well-being as a foundation must be raised the structure of the lofty life of the spirit, if this Nation is properly to fulfil its great mission and to accomplish all that we so ardently hope and desire. The things of the body are good; the things of the intellect better; the best of all are the things of the soul; for, in the nation as in the individual, in the long run it is character that counts. Let us, therefore, as a people set our faces resolutely against evil, and with broad charity, with kindliness and good-will toward all men, but with unflinching determination to smite down wrong, strive with all the strength that is given us for righteousness in public and in private life.

Published in: on November 27, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Johnny Cash: Thanksgiving  
Tags: , , ,

Red Skelton: Thanksgiving 1952

A Thanksgiving thought in 1952 from master comedian Red Skelton.  Born into deep poverty, he went to work at the age of 7 to help his family.  Life dealt Skelton some tough cards at the beginning of his life, and the worst thing that could happen to any parent, the death of a child, lay in his future.  Yet throughout his life Skelton retained a deep faith in God and an abiding love for his country.  He approached life with optimism and a thankful heart, a good message for any Thanksgiving.  Below is his classic Pledge of Allegiance skit. (more…)

Published in: on November 26, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Red Skelton: Thanksgiving 1952  
Tags: ,

Franksgiving

 

This year Thanksgiving falls on November 28, as late as it can fall under the current system of holding Thanksgiving.  Such was not always the case.

Americans used to have the quaint custom of not putting out Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving. That custom seemed to bode ill for the American economy in 1939 with Thanksgiving falling on November 30. President Lincoln had established the custom of Americans nationally thanking God for His blessings on the last Thursday in November. Now another president was going to make a change in this custom.

1939 was a lackluster year for the American economy, and President Roosevelt made the decision in August that Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the fourth Thursday instead, November 23. Polls indicated that a majority of the American people opposed the change with Republicans most opposed.

Twenty three states used the new date, twenty two states used the old date, and three states had holidays on both dates. The confusion this caused was fodder for comedians with Curly in a Three Stooges short No Census, No Feeling, remarks on the Fourth of July being in October. When Moe is incredulous, Curly responds, “You never can tell. Look what they did to Thanksgiving!” (more…)

Published in: on November 25, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Franksgiving  
Tags: , ,

1919 Thanksgiving Proclamation

 

 

The season of the year has again arrived when the people of the United States are accustomed to unite in giving thanks to Almighty God for the blessings which He has conferred upon our country during the twelve months that have passed. A year ago our people poured out their hearts in praise and thanksgiving that through divine aid the right was victorious and peace had come to the nations which had so courageously struggled in defense of human liberty and justice. Now that the stern task is ended and the fruits of achievement are ours, we look forward with confidence to the dawn on an era where the sacrifices of the nations will find recompense in a world at peace.But to attain the consummation of the great work to which the American people devoted their manhood and the vast resources of their country they should, as they give thanks to God, reconsecrate themselves to those principles of right which triumphed through His merciful goodness. Our gratitude can find no more perfect expression than to bulwark with loyalty and patriotism those principles for which the free peoples of the earth fought and died.During the past year we have had much to make us grateful. In spite of the confusion in our economic life resulting from the war we have prospered. Our harvests have been plentiful, and of our abundance we have been able to render succor to less favored nations. Our democracy remains unshaken in a world torn with political and social unrest. Our traditional ideals are still our guides in the path of progress and civilization.

These great blessings, vouchsafed to us, for which we devoutly give thanks, should arouse us to a fuller sense of our duty to ourselves and to mankind to see to it that nothing that we may do shall mar the completeness of the victory which we helped to win. No selfish purpose animated us in becoming participants in the world war, and with a like spirit of unselfishness we should strive to aid by our example and by our cooperation in realizing the enduring welfare of all peoples and in bringing into being a world ruled by friendship and good will.Wherefore, I, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America, hereby designate Thursday, the twenty-seventh day of November next, for observance as a day of thanksgiving and prayer by my fellow-countrymen, inviting them to cease on that day from their ordinary tasks and to unite in their homes and in their several places of worship in ascribing praise and thanksgiving to God the Author of all blessings and the Master of our destinies.In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. Done in the District of Columbia this 5thday of November in the year of our Lord, one thousand nine hundred and nineteen, and of the independence of the United States the one hundred and forty-fourth.

WOODROW WILSON

Published in: on November 24, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: , ,

To Jesus Christ Our Sovereign King

Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.

Isaiah 40:15

Something for the weekend. To Jesus Christ Our Sovereign King was  written in 1941, seventy-eight years ago, by Father Martin B. Hellriegel, a German-American pastor in Saint Louis, as a direct response to the pretensions of the Third Reich and to remind people who actually reigns eternally.  We Americans have traditionally understood that God is in charge:  We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Abraham Lincoln ringingly set forth what this section of the Declaration means:  “These communities, by their representatives in old Independence Hall, said to the whole world of men: “We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This was their majestic interpretation of the economy of the Universe. This was their lofty, and wise, and noble understanding of the justice of the Creator to His creatures. [Applause.] Yes, gentlemen, to all His creatures, to the whole great family of man. In their enlightened belief, nothing stamped with the Divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on, and degraded, and imbruted by its fellows.”

Nothing could be further from the nightmarish ideas that fueled the Third Reich, and Father Martin B. Hellriegel in his magnificent hymn conveys this majestic conception of God and of humanity under God:

(more…)

Published in: on November 23, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on To Jesus Christ Our Sovereign King  
Tags: , ,

Midway: A Review

My bride and I and our son went to see Midway last Saturday.  We all enjoyed it.  I highly recommend it.  Here follows the review with the usual caveats that there are spoilers ahead.

(more…)

Published in: on November 22, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Midway: A Review  
Tags: , , , ,

November 21, 1864: Letter to Mrs. Bixby

Executive Mansion,
Washington, Nov. 21, 1864.

Dear Madam,—I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.

I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.

I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom. Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,

A. LINCOLN.

It is a magnificent letter and repeats themes from the Gettysburg address and looks forward to the Second Inaugural.  Alas, the letter demonstrates how frequently ill advised it is to rely on government records.  Two of Mrs. Bixby’s sons died fighting for the Union, another died as either a deserter or a prisoner of war and another deserted and survived the war.  The final son was honorably discharged from the Army.  (This is not that unusual.  One of my friends, when it came time for him to retire from the Marines, had quite a time convincing the Pentagon that he had not died fighting in Hue during the Tet Offensive in 1968.)

Mrs. Bixby did not find the letter of comfort apparently.  According to a granddaughter, Mrs. Bixby was secretly in sympathy with the Confederacy and had little good to say of Mr. Lincoln.  She probably destroyed the letter soon after it was delivered to her on November 24, 1864, as the original letter, which was published at the time, promptly vanished from history.

Lincoln, although he signed the letter, may not have written it.  Theodore Roosevelt had a copy of it in his office and greatly admired it.  A witness indicated that at one point his Secretary of State John Hay, who had been one of Lincoln’s private secretaries, stated that he had written the letter, which would not have been an unusual procedure, although Lincoln wrote quite a bit of his own correspondence as President.  The question remains open, although on balance I think the authorship of the letter by Hay, mimicking Lincoln’s thoughts and style, probably has the stronger case than Lincoln’s own authorship.

Having said all of that, I assume that Lincoln’s heart did go out to Mrs.  Bixby.  He had seen two of his own sons die, and friends and relatives of his had fallen in the War.  He was a frequent visitor to Union hospitals around Washington to visit the Union wounded and knew well the immense human cost of the War that now, mercifully, was drawing to a close. (more…)

Published in: on November 21, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on November 21, 1864: Letter to Mrs. Bixby