Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

In the Manger

IMG_3718

In the Manger

They process down the center aisle
while the pastor reads the story from Luke,
Mary and Joseph, angels and shepherds,
now my grandson with a paper crown

bearing treasure to his savior;
Mary in a bathrobe holds a plastic baby
in a yellow receiving blanket
but in the pew behind me

my daughter-in law cradles
two month old Amelia, premature,
less than 5 pounds at birth, even now
just about the heft of a healthy

Middle Eastern newborn boy –
why not lay her in the manger?
For today in the city of David is born
to us all a savior, anointed one, and this

shall be the sign – we shall find
the babe wrapped in a pink blankie
and lying in a manger, and we shall call
her name Wonderful, Counselor,

Bringer of Peace, Mighty One,
and in her presence we will hear angels
singing, Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth Peace to all creatures.

*    *    *    *    *

Bill Griffin
Christmas Day 2015

IMG_4239_crop

*  *  *  *   *

IMG_4301_crop

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Read Full Post »

It’s 1975, late afternoon on Christmas Day in Aurora, Ohio at the Frenches’.  Linda and I have braved the West Virginia Turnpike in winter (Our Motto: Under Construction unto Eternity) to drive up from Durham.  My folks still live in Aurora, too (we’ll divide our time with a microtome), but right now we’re sitting in the living room with Mom and Dad French, Skip, Jill, Sue, Becky, Annie, Jodi, and several imposing snowdrifts of torn wrapping paper, eating another delicious something, and waiting.

There’s the knock.  John is here!  Hugs galore, then he sets up his screen and fiddles with the old Super-8 projector and little reel-to-reel tape player, frame by frame and inch by inch so they’ll sync when he throws the switch.  Dim the lights.  Action, sound!  Grazini Christmas.  A new tradition is born.

IMG_1751

.     .     .     .     .

How many years, John, did you make that pilgrimage to the Frenches’ to set up your projector?  Your audience gradually shrank as the sibs moved on – Minnesota, New Mexico, West Virginia.  Some years I had to work on Christmas and we didn’t make it north.  A few years ago you sent us a Grazini DVD and man, did those memories come rushing back!  Now this season I’ve watched GC twice already, once when you sent me the YouTube link and once with my Mom after showing her how to add it to her Favorites Bar.  Margaret may be getting tired of me going on and on about the amazing story boarding and cinematography accomplished by two teenagers learning on the fly.  Linda has reminded us how she had to trail you guys around downtown Cleveland all day until it was time for her thirty-second scene.  But most important, John, is the lump in my throat – I still get it during that closing scene.  Every darn time.  I know what’s coming, I can recite the dialogue, one might say the message is so simple as to be obvious, but I still choke up.

IMG_1705

.     .     .     .     .

Readers, it’s time for you to watch Grazini Christmas.  In 1972 two high school seniors, John Mlinek and Dave Prittie, made a movie with a handheld Super-8 camera, a portable tape recorder, and scissors and tape.  A hero for our time, Grazini-Man searches for the true meaning of Christmas.  The film is literally a family tradition – watch for Linda as the little old lady and her brother Skip as the blind scam artist.  Much of it is shot on location in Cleveland; that’s the real Higbees Department Store Santa (the store security guard chased them out once he figured out what they were up to).  The closing scene is set in The Church in Aurora, where Linda and I were in the high school youth group, just a block from Linda’s parents’ home.  Tradition.

How is it possible to “make” something a tradition?  The word means that which is handed down  – doesn’t that imply that a tradition must seep into you from the past, that it requires years and years of gestation before its birth?  Maybe John hadn’t created a tradition the first time he knocked on Linda’s door with his projector, but I’m willing to say that by the second time he had indeed.  I think the secret is more than the family context, the predictable jokes, the backstory.  I think this little film connects with something primal – at some level we are all of us always searching for meaning, whether we can articulate it or not.

Thanks, John.  Got to go now.  Getting ready to premier Grazini Christmas on the big flat screen.  Linda says, “Hi.”

IMG_0669

.     .     .     .     .

And there were in the same country shepherds
abiding in the field, keeping watch
over their flock by night. And, lo,
the angel of the Lord came upon them,
and the glory of the Lord shone round about them:
and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not:
for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy
which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David
a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you;
Ye shall find the babe
wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude
of the heavenly host praising God,
and saying, Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Luke 2:8-15 KJV

.     .     .     .     .

IMG_1767

IMG_9520

Click to watch Grazini Christmas, written produced and directed by John Mlinek.

.     .     .     .     .

IMG_6432

Read Full Post »

“Like you and like I.”  True confession time: tell me there hasn’t been at least one time during the week leading up to Christmas that you could have reasonably been accused of being ornery.  Maybe in the last 24 hours even.  Heck, in the last thirty minutes.  Stuck in traffic on Hanes Mall Blvd. – Oh no, I didn’t lean on my horn.  Spouse asking for the fifth time where the wrapping paper is . . . or telling for the fifth time (these are all purely hypothetical situations, of course).  No time to relax, take a walk, look at the hundred photos you just took, write a line.  Makes me darn ornery!

“I wonder as I wander . . .”  So haunting, so probing, so true – this Southern Appalachian carol has always been one of my favorites.  When Linda sings it at church I can feel the bitter wind of Mt. Pisgah through her threadbare shawl.  The questions it raises – “If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing” – seem to pierce my heart.  What do I want?  Where can I find hope?  Or meaning?  An ornery cuss like me?

Ornery – as in grumpy, disagreeable, cantankerous?  Actually the word comes from Appalachian dialect as a contraction of “ordinary.”  Commonplace.  Garden variety.  In other words, you and me. If we’re a little cantankerous at times, well, ordinary people are like that.  The same way we are also sometimes patient with grandkids.  Forgiving of spouses.  Open to sharing our homes, our space, our selves.  Christmas has arrived “in a cow’s stall, with wise men and shepherds and farmers and all.”  Or in the case of Bon Aire Rd., Elkin, with retired chemists and teachers, psychologists and technical writers, bakers and public administrators, artists and doctors (and five dogs, all under one roof). I guess Jesus enjoys hanging out with the ornery.

.     .     .     .     .

IMG_9445

The story goes that “I Wonder as I Wander” was collected by John Jacob Niles in Murphy, NC in July 1933 from a young traveling evangelist Annie Morgan.  For all who may feel Christmas as a harsh mountain winter, I offer this poem as an invitation to awaken to a song of love, assurance, and hope.

.     .     .     .     .

Pisgah Stranger
(Awaken to a Song)

A stranger here, I sleep
Beneath the slash of stars,
The Pisgah forest deep
And friendless.
I close myself to love,
My heart requires the dark;
Can night within this cove
Be endless?

Come, you’ve slept too long
And love grows dim.
Awaken to a song –
Can it be Him?

Is it madness or a dream
That seems to whisper here?
The murmur of a stream
Or singing?
It chants, this still small voice,
I’ve nothing now to fear
For tidings of great joy
It’s bringing.

Come, you’ve slept too long
And love grows dim.
Awaken to a song
And welcome Him!

And now the music swells
As every fir and spruce
Unloose their boughs to tell
The story:
May all God’s creatures wake,
Hearts quickened by the truth,
Invited to partake
Of mercy.

Come, we’ve slept so long
That love grows dim.
Awaken that our song
May worship Him.

Come sing it with the wind
And all the Pisgah throng:
The Child reclines within
The manger!
With owl and bear and deer
My soul’s reborn in song
For none of us is here
A stranger.

Come, you’ve slept too long;
If love grows dim
Awaken to a song
For it is Him!

Waken . . . welcome . . . worship . . .
It is Him!
.
.

Bill Griffin (c) 2011

.     .     .     .     .

IMG_9468

Read Full Post »

Every Christmas for almost thirty years, Linda and I have sung with the Elkin Community Chorus.  This year marked the 51st annual performance of the Chorus, originally founded by Fran Greene, currently directed by David McCollum, and open to all comers . . . that is anyone who wants to commit every Thursday night to rehearsing Christmas anthems beginning way back in October.  Gets you in the spirit early!

This year’s Chorus has been a special joy for me for many reasons, but one is that David selected a piece by me for us to perform.  In 2010 my friend composer and director Mark Daniel Merritt asked me to write lyrics he could work into a Christmas suite for our semi-pro choral group Voce.  We premiered The Wanderer’s Carols last Christmas at Biltmore House, and this year on December 4th one hundred of my friends and neighbors in the Elkin Community Chorus sang the first movement, The Birds’ Carol.

.     .     .     .     .

The Wanderer’s Carols
Music by Mark Merritt Lyrics by Bill Griffin
[copyright 2010]
Movement 1
The Birds’ Carol

“Morning!  Morning!” trills the lark,
“The Babe brings gold to the sky!
A song of light now showers the earth,
And we shall know God this day.
.    Now is the dawn of our new life,
.    And we shall know God this day.”

“This coat I wear,” caws the rook,
“So black, so heavy, so grim.
Only One knows the way to make it bright –
The Child who reclaims us from sin.
.    He lifts our burden upon himself,
.    The Child who reclaims us from sin.”

“Come rest with me,” coos the dove,
“In this humble stable take ease.
Kings and shepherds together embrace
The Prince who unites us in peace.
.    You make us one in all the earth,
.    O Prince who unites us in peace!”

“I . . . Thou, I . . . Thou,” vow the geese
From dark earth to heaven above –
“May we join with Thee in a world made new;
May we fly forever in love.
.    Give us wings of Your perfect light,
.    And we’ll fly forever in love.”

.     .     .     .     .

IMG_9285

I’d like to share some thoughts about the background of these lyrics:

The Lark   –   Joy

In England the Sky Lark is known for its towering display flight, greeting the morning with loops and aerobatics, all the while filling the sky with its exuberant warble.  A fitting welcome for Christmas and the newborn Babe!

Our own North Carolina Meadowlark also sings a welcome to light returning to the earth   –   its melody seems to chant the words, “Spring of the year!”

.     .     .     .     .

The Rook   –   Hope

Every one of us encounters darkness during our lives; there is no one that does not shoulder some burden.  The Rook proclaims hope in the coming of the Child who will take our burden upon Himself.  The One who can bring light into our darkness.

The English Rook is first cousin to our American Crow, both of them highly sociable and intelligent creatures.  If you’re smart, you know you must look beyond yourself for the hope of salvation.

.     .     .     .     .

The Dove   –   Peace

The Dove has symbolized God’s promises since ancient times   –   picture the bird clasping an olive branch as it returns to Noah and the wanderers.  Today there is no more universal image of peace than the Dove.  In this verse, the Dove affirms that the peace of this Prince is promised to all people of whatever station in life, exalted or lowly, king or shepherd.  If we are to be united in all the earth, it will only be through Christ’s peace.

The Rock Dove is native to England’s cliffs and coasts, but after being imported to the new world it has become ubiquitous wherever there is human habitation   –   we call it a “pigeon.”  From the eaves of an abandoned building, doesn’t the sound of that cooing evoke peacefulness and home?

.     .     .     .     .

The Geese   –   Love

Next time you hear a pair of Canada Geese flying overhead honking back and forth (the male perhaps slightly lower pitched than the female), imagine that they are not only calling to each other but also to their Creator   –   “I, Thou . . . I, Thou.”

For me these Geese are a powerful symbol of love.  They mate for life and may live twenty to thirty years in the wild.  They constantly watch out for each other.  They protect their goslings most ferociously.  And when I hear their call through the trees at dusk, it reminds me that the love of our Creator surrounds us and lifts us up.

.     .     .     .     .

IMG_2548

If you would like to listen to the choral group Voce performing The Wanderer’s Carols (with harp accompaniment and boy soprano), please follow these links:

THE WANDERER’S CAROLS

1 – The Birds’ Carol

2 – Beside the Manger

3 – The Wanderer’s Prayer

.     .     .     .     .

Read Full Post »