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#1655 - Tuesday, December 23, 2003 - Editor: Jerry

Today's Highlights are news stories featured in the last two days on NDS News. They reflect the Christmas season. If a story interests you, click on the associated link to read the whole story. To join the News list, please access the link:

Turn to the Scriptures to celebrate Christmas. For many people, the Christmas season is filled with anything but peace. Too much rushing around. Too much traffic. Too many activities, crowded stores and long lines. Too much stress. Not enough spiritual reflection and drawing closer to God. If your disillusionment with Christmas has been growing, one way to resurrect the holiday spirit is to practice the time-honored observance of 12 days of Christmas.


Sociopolitical aspect of historical Christmas. That Jesus decided to choose the ancient tradition of prophetic asceticism represented by John the Baptist proved his form of liberative commitment to the oppressed, sinners and the poor. He had been identifying himself with the religious poor of the countryside who came to be baptized by John the Baptist. The sociopolitical implication of this consideration makes us realize that the main meaning of Christmas is not the celebration but the action. Indeed, liturgically, Christians have to celebrate Christmas. But the most important thing is "Christmas action."


Interview: Music for divinity. Pastor Edward Baroi of Calvary Charismatic Church talks about church music to Fayza Haq of The Daily Star
The Daily Star: What is the origin of Church music?
Pastor Edward Baroi: Music has always played an important role in the worship of God. Way back, in the dawn of creation: "... the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy" (Job 38:7, Bible).


Customers pay by conscience. A simple brown basket near the water jug serves as the cash collection point. It's been sitting there since last spring, and her cafe still has no name on the window, nor does she do any kind of advertising. -more-


Our sense of wonder. Francis Church, a middle-aged newspaper editor, told 8-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon in 1897 that her friends who doubted the existence of Santa Claus "have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age." Our age is certainly no less skeptical, but we still find ways to connect with something above or outside our quotidian lives. Such as . . .


"Christmas is just a commercial event for the Chinese government," said Hua Huiqi, a Beijing-based Christian activist.

"They export hundreds of millions of US dollars in Christmas products overseas, but the government doesn't want Christianity to spread freely."

In the past year, the government has launched what some critics consider one of the harshest crackdowns against Christians in "underground churches" -- which insist on operating independenly from the government.

Dozens of churches have been demolished and many worshippers arrested.  


Christian Prayer for Dummies and short reviews of other curious and interesting books.


Film review. 21 Grams. "I believe in interior journeys, and that's why I love the characters' journey" in "21 Grams," Inarritu said. "That's why this film is about finding hope (when) confronting such extraordinary losses. "Want it or not, life is a string of losses. We lost, everyday, something. We lost childhood, innocence, our hair, our faith, our beliefs, our health and, at the end, our life. And how we deal with that everyday, and how we can make meaning or give meaning or sense to our lives through hope, I'm a true believer in that."


Sir John Templeton. In October, 1992, the Templeton funds were acquired by the Franklyn Group for $440 million. Sir John now dedicates his time to trying to change attitudes toward discoveries. He was amazed that "no religion has been enthusiastic about new discoveries... they all look back at ancient scriptures and prophets." This led Sir John to set up three foundations worldwide to facilitate scientists in making discoveries of a spiritual nature. For Sir John, there are no major regrets in his career, other than that "no one" has found ways to increase spiritual information. He wished he had started back in his garden at age six, instead of growing vegetables, to discover why he was created, why he was human. "Nobody ever explained it to me," he said. "I used to look up at the stars and wondered why they existed."

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