Friday, December 26, 2014

I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day

Christmas Bells. Church bells ringing. The magical feeling of sleigh bells. All over the world different kinds of bells -
 from small tinkling ones to large, heavy bells that peal for miles around have special meaning.

The great American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) wrote many cherished works. One of my favorite Christmas Carols was written by him.

Tragic events in his life, the death of his wife, and the injuries his young son suffered during the Civil war, did not discourage him, nor crush his faith. He still had hope. He still saw a light in the distance.

During one of the darkest times in American history he wrote "I heard the bells On Christmas Day", a poem that reflects grief and despair, but triumphantly brings us the well-known message of "Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men".

The classic Bing Crosby version of this beloved carol is special to me.

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.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my 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."

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."

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Winter Solstice Joy

The December solstice marks the longest night here in Northern Hemisphere. This year winter solstice in Norway marks its entrance 22 December, three seconds after midnight.

Winter solstice is an astronomical event that marks the longest night and the shortest day of the year, The southern hemisphere have theirs in June. We usually call it "the day the sun turns". Slowly, the days will be longer and lighter, even though the following couple of months are wintry - cold and snowy.

There's even a facebook group celebrating the 2014 winter solstice. To a northern country like ours, it is an event worth celebrating and looking forward to. The dark and long days leading up to winter solstice take their toll on many. Autumn depressions are rampant, many flee the country and take a vacation to warmer, sunnier places, and some buy lamps for light therapy.

Personally, I find this time of year charming. I treasure the pre-Christmas season and time to do things indoors.

Last Saturday morning I walked with the love of my life and Hector, the Wheaten Terrier down the path through the woods by the Duck and Cherry, past the neighboring farm and nursery, to where the landscape opens up to the southern beaches of our little island. Mist hovered over the fields with grazing sheep. The determined morning sun burst through the foggy air. The scene was magical.

Photos from Reier Beach, below the Duck and Cherry, December 2014.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Hope for Everyone

What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?

 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.

 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

There is hope for each and every one of us. An important thought in a busy life full of wordly schedules, chores, and to-do-list. How to slow down enough to take time for what's truly important? How to remember that whatever we do or wherever we are, there is always the offer to "be found" - to be loved and taken care of by the good shepherd.

A Christmas message today. An opportunity to implement the words peace, hope, love, and goodwill to men into our lives. 

The parable of the lost sheep (see video) is for everyone.

Photos today taken Saturday by the beach below the Duck and Cherry.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Magical Snow

Snow is such a magical thing.
It comes down silently, slowly, floating a little here and there, then lands on cold and exhausted ground. Within minutes the world is transformed into whiteness. Dry, brown leaves are hidden. Grass and wilted flowers are hidden under the soft cover to slumber, just for a while.

Magical, because the dark and short days before Christmas are now lighter.
Magical, because children and dogs run out of the house laughing and cheering, dancing around in the snow, throwing it up in the air.
Magical, because it adds to the spirit of the season. December and Christmas should have snow.

So, to convince you even more, please watch the supersimplelearning version of "Little Snowflake". It's adorable. Whenever I think of this song, I hear my grandson, Dean, sing this song. It melts my heart.

♫ Snowflake, snowflake, [Snowflake gesture.]
little snowflake. [Little gesture. Snowflake gesture.]
Little snowflake [Little gesture. Snowflake gesture.]
falling from the sky. [Snowflake gesture moving down.]
Snowflake, snowflake, little snowflake.
Falling, falling, falling, falling, falling,
falling, falling, falling, falling... [Snowflake gesture moving down very slowly.]
falling on my head. [Snowflake gesture landing on top of your head.]
Snowflake, snowflake, little snowflake.
Little snowflake falling from the sky.
Snowflake, snowflake, little snowflake.
Falling, falling, falling, falling, falling,
falling, falling, falling, falling...
falling on my nose. [Snowflake gesture landing on your nose.]
Snowflake, snowflake, little snowflake.
Little snowflake falling from the sky.
Snowflake, snowflake, little snowflake.
Falling, falling, falling, falling, falling,
falling, falling, falling, falling...
falling in my hand. [Snowflake gesture landing in your hand.]
Falling on my head.
Falling on my nose.
Falling in my hand.
Snowflake, snowflake, little snowflake... ♫

Photo of Dean and his little dog, Bellie.

Monday, December 1, 2014

I Have Been Waiting For Advent

I grew up with a father who was kind, gentle, and a bit crazy. Funny crazy, creative crazy. He was the life of the party wherever we went - and he loved to visit people. His heart was open to give of himself and his pockets were often empty after meeting with someone, as he gave them the last coins he had.

I also remember waiting for him. Waited as he had to have everything to perfection before we could go somewhere on one our many evening visits. Waited as every inch of ice had to be scraped off the car windows when days where cold and frosty. Waited as he had errands to run all over town - and I had come to meet him and get a ride home after school.

All the waiting has made me patient. I don't mind waiting. I don't mind sitting behind a slow driver in traffic. I don't care if I sit in the car waiting to pick a family member up at the train station and the train is half an hour late.

Yesterday was the first day of Advent - the waiting period that leads up to Christmas Eve.
Here in Norway, four Sundays leading up to Christmas Eve are celebrated by lighting one candle the first Sunday, two candles the second Sunday, and so on. It's a lovely tradition. Some sing songs and also have Christmas lights on a tree outside the house in time for the first Sunday of Advent.

Advent is a season observed in many Western Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. The term is an anglicized version of the Latin word "adventus", meaning "coming".

What are we waiting for? Christmas? Nativity? The birth of a Savior? Presents? Family traditions? Music? I don't mind admitting that my expectations are a combination of many of these. Maybe not so much presents anymore, but the cozy feeling of home, family and remembering the true meaning of Christmas.

So, I wait. And it's worth while the wating - in fact the advent period is a gentle, loving kind of waiting. In fact I have waited for this "waiting period"a long time already.

Today's water color was painted several years ago and made into a Christmas card. It depicts the Norwegian Christmas "nisse" who takes care of the animals on a farm.