Monthly Archives: December 2020

Faith and Doubt

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Bertrand Russell, the celebrated 20th century British philosopher, wasn’t shy about his atheism.  As he looked across the cosmos, he doubted the existence of a transcendent Being.  In his book Why I Am Not a Christian, Russell didn’t pretend that such a conviction provided humanity with any grounds for a feel-good assurance that life has ultimate meaning: That Man is… Read more »

Nunc Coepi

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You would expect Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers to make public appearances wearing a cap with the team’s iconic horseshoe.  But more often than not, the veteran slinger – who is about to finish his 17th season in the NFL – wears a cap that displays two Latin words: Nunc Coepi.  That hat “tends to be on my head most… Read more »


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Geodes are the Forrest Gumps of geology. Remember what Forrest’s mother always told him?  “Life is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you’re going to get.”  Geodes are ordinary-looking rocks that conceal extraordinary treasures.  In some locales they’re known as potato rocks because of their resemblance to Idaho spuds.  But when cracked open they reveal a fairyland… Read more »

Sistine Chapel

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The Creation of Adam is the centerpiece of one of the world’s most famous paintings. More than 500 years ago the Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo covered the ceiling of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel with a sweeping artistic vision of Bible history.  Everything seems to swirl around the moment that God reaches out toward the newly created Adam. It took four… Read more »

Christmas Day

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In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the… Read more »

Angels We Have Heard on High

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Christmas carols are a bit like chili. There’s more than one great recipe out there.  And surprising combinations can sometimes bring the best results. Angels We Have Heard on High is an excellent example.  The tune is French.  The most familiar verses, penned by James Chadwick in 1862, are English.  The refrain (Gloria in excelsis Deo, or “Glory to God… Read more »

O Little Town of Bethlehem

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2020 has been a dumpster fire. This week an Indianapolis resident hauled a dumpster into his front yard and invited his neighbors to record their feelings about the current calendar year.  Some scrawled “good riddance.”  Others recorded jokes, jingles, and borderline poetry.  At least one resorted to expletives.  In a few days the dumpster’s trashy contents will be ceremonially torched… Read more »

Good King Wenceslas

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There’s only one widely-sung Christmas carol whose verses tell a story. It’s also the only carol that spotlights a real-life character not found on the pages of scripture.      We’re talking about Good King Wenceslas, the recitation of a medieval tale now more than 1,000 years old.  The lyrics we sing were composed by the English hymnwriter John Mason Neal… Read more »

Mary, Did You Know?

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Not all of the best-loved Christmas songs are hundreds of years old. Mary, Did You Know? hasn’t yet celebrated its 30th birthday, but it’s already become something of a classic. Composer Buddy Greene and lyricist Mark Lowry – two members of the Gaither Vocal Band from Alexandria, Indiana – wrote this song for Michael English, who performed it on his… Read more »

The First Noel

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Noel is a French word that means “birth of God,” which speaks to the mystery at the heart of Christmas. But the familiar carol called The First Noel is English through and through. No amount of research has turned up the composer of the tune or the author of the verses, but historians suspect they may go back as far… Read more »