Tag Archives: bethlehem

Santa, Elf on a Shelf, and Missing the Point

3 Dec

Because this overindulgent Elf on a Shelf picture says it all…and it’s funny.

When I was a kid, there was no Elf on a Shelf and the threat of “you’d better behave or Santa won’t bring you anything” was rarely used in my house.  But there was a little game my father and I used to play called “put the crazy 70’s elves in silly places and laugh our heads off.”  Yes, we owned several of those freaky little elves with the vacant smiles (like these).  The elves would appear in various places during the holiday season–on the toilet, hanging on door frames, ripped apart by our Yorkshire terrier (I don’t think that one was planned), and so on.  Certainly we didn’t have the creativity that parents are now using these days with Elf on a Shelf and yet it was enough.  A few years ago, I even though of purchasing a couple of those wacky old elves on eBay for nostalgic purposes, but alas, nostalgia isn’t cheap. (And neither is Elf on a Shelf, almost $30 for a plastic elf and a book?!  Seriously?!)

Maybe it’s because I’m not a parent, but Elf on a Shelf bothers me and not just because you can buy a skirt to accessorize the elf and turn “him” into a “her.”  (I’ve been informed there are now female elves.  Whew!) I’m not even sure how to feel about Santa Claus anymore.   It may sound unholy, but as a kid I was much more excited about getting presents from Santa Claus than the birth of baby Jesus.  I mean, I was glad to hear about His birth and liked wearing a pretty dress at Christmas.  I was taught about the importance of Jesus year after year; it’s just that the presents (like Barbies and My Little Ponies and video games) given in honor of His birthday were more exciting.  Christmas meant a lot of things, but mostly, I’d get stuff.  A lot of stuff.  And have a week off from school.

As an adult, I still get excited about Christmas.  I mean, I’ve got holiday shopping sprees, big church productions, light displays, cookie exchanges, and heartfelt movies about the true meaning of Christmas (which is usually involve meeting Mr. Right or being with family).  I pause to ask myself, is this what the holiday season is *really* about?  I mean, we all remember the Christ child.  Some of us even make a semi-annual pilgrimage to church on Christmas Eve or put up a little nativity scene among all the other inflateables and what not in the front yard’s December light extravaganza.

But what does any of this have to do with the Savior of the world being born?

Scholars don’t even think He was born in December!  It is far more likely Jesus entered the world in the spring time.  The stable was most likely glorified hole in the wall (no, seriously, like a cave) and the wise men didn’t show up until at least a year or two after Jesus’ birth by which time the holy family was living in a house.  Recently, I heard on the radio that Jewish custom always made room for visitors, so it’s more than likely the inn keeper could have made room for Mary and Joseph at the inn.  I mean, who puts a teenager in labor in the barn?  The commentator said perhaps news of the out of wedlock pregnancy went ahead of the young couple and while there may have been room for others at the inn, Mary and Joseph were simply not welcome. (Incidentally,  the song “Just a Girl” by Brandon Heath puts an interesting spin on what may have been the innkeeper’s inner monologue and seems to support this theory.)  Like I’ve said before (read The Awestruck Apathy of Christmas), the real event was sweaty, painful, and dirty…yet miraculous, even scandalous.  Perhaps it was easier for Mary and Joseph to stay in Bethlehem with baby Jesus because their families simply didn’t understand God’s plan (I mean, they traveled to Bethlehem to the census, but we don’t know why they stayed there.)  The Bible doesn’t tell us how either family reacted, only that Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist believed Mary’s story.

It’s not that I’m against “Happy Birthday, Jesus” merchandise or photos with Santa or even Elf on a Shelf.  I like my church’s Christmas musical and appreciate a good cookie exchange.  I just wonder, like I do every year, if we’re shoving Jesus out of the our inns as well.  Sure, we  give Him a place out back in the stable.  We’ll say we’re keep the “Christ” in “Christ-mas” and refuse to say “Happy Holidays,” just “Merry Christmas,” but are we really seeking Him?  Are we setting out on journeys like the wise men who followed that star for a year or more, even when the sandstorms whirl around us in the desert, even when we feel like we can’t go on, even when it seems like we’ll never get there (wherever “there” is)?

(This version of “Star of Wonder” by JJ Heller is one of my favorites.  One day I’ll work up the courage to sing it in church!)

I don’t want to miss the point anymore.  I can do all the things I’m “supposed” to do–go to church, buy a present for a needy kid, drop money in the Salvation Army kettle, and say it’s all about Jesus.  I can also live my life on autopilot–say all the right church things, do all the right Christian things, and go through all the motions.  None of that gets me back to a dirty, stinky manger in the small town of Bethlehem.  On the night God came down, all of Heaven watched the sight, but people barely noticed.  Only the lowliest of shepherds paid honor to the King of the Universe.

And I don’t want to get excited about Jesus’ birth because it’s Christmas; I want to be excited about the reality of what He did every single day of my life!  God wrapped himself in human flesh to save you, me, and everyone else!  Can you think of a greater story?  I can’t even imagine it!  Then we, humankind, actually kill God-in-human-flesh and it’s all part of His plan to save humanity from the curse we brought upon ourselves.  Admittedly, I’d go for a happier tale with rainbows and glitter (lots of glitter).  Not being kept hostage to death, Jesus miraculously rises from the dead and then ascends to His Father promising to return.  So, we wait.  Again.  It seems that life is an eternal advent, doesn’t it?

In the meantime, we play hide-and-seek with elf dolls and watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”   We sing songs about an elderly gent who is always watching us and has a sleigh of flying reindeer.  I could say that we should get rid of everything that isn’t about Jesus and His birth, but I’m not even sure Jesus would say that.  It’s interesting we have so much fanfare around an event that went unnoticed by so many.

I wouldn’t trade those elf hiding days with my father for anything or dressing up as a shepherd for the children’s Christmas play (even though I wanted to be an angel) or even my belief in Santa Claus because it led me here.  It came with candlelight services, “O Holy Nights,” live nativities, and the reading of the Bible, yet it was so much more.  It gave way to Easter celebrations in which Christmas paled in comparison.   Even then, I was pretty excited to get candy and wear a pretty dress, but I understood there was something far greater going on.

In the backdrop of holiday madness, there is something far greater going on.  As so many bumper stickers used to say, “Wise men (and women) still seek Him.”  Every day, wholeheartedly, they chase after Him and seek to know Him more.  Isn’t that the true meaning of Emmanuel–God With Us–to be with Him?  While you’re looking for that silly little elf, don’t forget to dust off your grandmother’s nativity and seek what or rather Who truly matters.

Let’s talk about it…how have you missed the point?  What traditions do you like to keep alive in your family?  What are you doing to remember Jesus’s birth as a holy event?  How are you seeking after Him today?

Transformers 2 in the Valley

5 Jun

A scene from the set taken by Michael Kubel of The Morning Call.

Welp, there’s been a lot of excitement in the city of Bethlehem and the greater Lehigh Valley over the past week or so. Movie crews rolled in late last week to begin assembling sets at the old Bethlehem Steel Plant to prepare for the filming of Transformers 2. Yup, the opening scene to the Transformers sequel features Bethlehem, which has been transformed to look like a Chinese city. Still, it’s pretty cool (full Morning Call story).

Filming was scheduled Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from 4 PM-7AM. Unwilling to fight rush hour traffic or burn the midnight oil to see the spectacular pyrotechnic explosions, I stayed home and read about it in the paper. I mean, maybe if I could have pushed a few buttons to actually blow stuff up or share an Egg McMuffin with Michael Bay…yeah, I would have show up for that.

Filming was a bit hindered by rain and thunderstorms. Despite the weather, Bay and his crew got all the footage needed and are now moving on to their next location. Still, it was an exciting event for the Lehigh Valley and a bit more positive than Billy Joel’s song, “Allentown” and Alexis Cohen’s “American Idol” audition.

PEEP Flashin’ Show

24 Mar

Yeah, we do weird stuff, even on Easter Day. Sarah and I got each other these floating PEEPS you can put in water, and they light up…pretty cool.

MY PEEP SHOW

22 Mar

In case you’re wondering what I do on Friday nights…


I assure you that I’m at home making stuff like this.  I call it “Peepatopian Pirates”.  Notice that both Peep chicks and bunnies are represented in this piece, as well as jellybean treasure, and of course, Easter egg treasure chests.  The cost of all the supplies was like $5, but the memories are priceless.


Here’s an aerial shot of Peep Island.


And a close-up of the observation tower and plastic pirates.

As a bonus treat, I made my own Peep mobile facsimile.  If you’re fortunate enough to live in the Lehigh Valley, you get to see the Peep mobile on various occasions, including Halloween parades (plus folks dressed up as costumed boxes of Just Born candy–it’s weird).


Peep Mobile from the Bethlehem Halloween Parade in 2007


Amy’s Peep Mobile

I hope you enjoyed the Peep Show–all photographies and creations (except the original Peep Mobile) are mine.

Peepin’ in Spring

4 Mar

Living in the Lehigh Valley is great for many reasons–the mountains, the beauty, the history, and the Just Born Candy Factory (in Bethlehem) which produces various types of confectionery delights–most importantly PEEPS! There are truly some strange (and interesting) things that people have done with Peeps–many of which will be highlighted right here on Atypical Musings.

My own love of peeps developed when I was a wee lass–marshmallow birds covered in sugar. Down one or two of the little birds, and you were on a sugar high for at least a couple of hours. Then when I was in college–Cedar Crest College, a local women’s college–Just Born donated leftover Peeps to our campus for fun Peeps games. You can launch a Peep pretty far in a homemade launcher…

I want to bring the joy of Peeps to all of you, so to start our Peep Journey, check out the official Peeps website, and then check out this hilarious site called Peeps Research, which studies Peep behavior for science and health. It’s hilarious.

For example, since Peeps are born as Siamese quintuplets, the Peep research folks perform a complicated medical procedure involved in separating the chicks. Oh, yeah, there are pictures, including the one below of the gang getting ready for surgery…

Check out the full procedure here and see the results!

Threat 229

28 Feb

February 29 only comes around once every four years. To celebrate the day, McDonald’s is offering small fries for only 29 cents and at Dunkin’ Donuts you can get a Leap Year Donut for 29 cents (of course, both establishments require a coupon offered in the Sunday paper weeks before).

Other plans for this Friday aren’t so sweet, including rumors of school violence in the Lehigh Valley area. School officials and police in both Allentown and Bethlehem are beefing up security on Friday, while concerned parents are keeping their kids home (full story). According to the Morning Call, the threats originated on two MySpace sites–the 229 Brigade and the Pink Army P.A. Yet both groups also claim in the article to be peace-loving in nature. Although, in my opinion, their MySpace sites are a bit obnoxious, especially the pepto-bismal pink backgrounds. Yet they seem mostly harmless. I think we have more to fear from presidential debates.

After doing a quick Google search, it seems that the threats of violence go no further than the Lehigh Valley, and only appear to be unsubstantiated rumors. Unfortunately, we live in a world where rumors must be taken very seriously. While I don’t condone skipping school (even though I did it a few times), if I had a kid in high school, I’d keep ’em home on Friday and take ’em out for 29 cent fries at Mccy D’s.

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