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On Monday, November 27, 2017, First Lady Melania Trump welcomed a group of schoolchildren to the White House which she has transformed into a magical Winter Wonderland.

Ballet dancers performed selections from The Nutcracker Suite. The US Marine Corps band provided musical accompaniment. (Ignore the sarcasm from the CNN reporter’s caption.)

AP has a good video here of the dancers and Mrs Trump’s warm hugs for each child. She also sat down to talk and listen to their Christmas letters to the US military and helped them decorate Christmas wreaths:

This video shows more of Mrs Trump’s dress (see the back at 40 seconds in). There were two tables set up for the pupils, but the children at the second table quickly left to stand behind Mrs Trump at her table. One girl sat on her lap:

One child compared America’s first lady to an angel:

Indeed. Mrs Trump’s dress was perfect for the occasion:

The Gateway Pundit reported that the children are from Joint Base Andrews:

NBC News tweeted heartwarming footage of Melania Trump welcoming students from Joint Base Andrews at a White House Christmas event. The children were stunned as the angelic First Lady entered the room.

“Are you the first lady?!” a boy asked as he hugged Melania Trump.

“She seriously looks like an angel,” added another child.

Look at the kids run to her:

They clearly enjoyed being with her:

The White House issued a press release on this year’s Christmas decorations, excerpted below (emphases mine):

The First Family will celebrate their first Christmas in the White House with a nod to tradition. This year’s theme, “Time-Honored Traditions” was designed by First Lady Melania Trump to pay respect to 200 years of holiday traditions at the White House.

In the East Wing, visitors find a tribute to our service members and their families with the Gold Star Family Tree, which has been decorated with gold stars and patriotic ribbon. Visitors are encouraged to write a message to their loved ones who are on duty or abroad on the digital tablets provided.

After passing through the East colonnade, visitors will see the China Room, which honors the holiday traditions of dining and hospitality. The room is set up for a family Christmas dinner, with the table displaying the china from President Ronald Reagan. Then, visitors will see the Library, which features President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1866 edition of “A Christmas Carol,” as they recall the time-honored custom of reading Christmas stories to loved ones.

On the State Floor of the White House, the Grand Foyer and Cross Hall celebrate the first themed White House Christmas, which was the “Nutcracker Suite” in 1961. The Green Room honors the festivities of crafts, paper, and classic design. The Blue Room holds the official White House Christmas tree, which is decorated with glass ornaments depicting the seal of each State and territory. The Red Room hosts delightful holiday treats, and has been decorated with peppermints, candy, and cookies. The State Dining Room holds a traditional gingerbread house, which depicts the South facade of the White House and features Mrs. Trump’s signature Christmas wreaths.

I mentioned the gingerbread house last week. It is something to behold.

The White House will be receiving many visitors in the run up to Christmas:

the White House will host more than 100 open houses and many receptions. More than 25,000 visitors will walk the halls taking part in public tours.

Unlike presidential palaces, it is considered the People’s House, and the Trumps have opened the doors to tens of thousands of Americans, many for special recognition, in addition to those attending tours.

After many years in storage, the Nativity scene has reappeared:

You can see it from a distance in this video, at the end of a corridor full of brilliantly decorated Christmas trees:

This video shows the Nativity scene close up at the beginning of the following video (detail photo here). How beautiful:

In addition to views of the other rooms — including the Blue Room with the main Christmas tree (also see) — that video also has an excellent extended close-up of the gingerbread house, complete with portico and columns. How did they make that? Wow!

Mrs Trump also has Christmas booklets printed which explain a bit about the history of the White House rooms. The boy in the illustration is the First Son, aged 11:

Along with millions of Americans, I am so grateful for such a wonderful First Family.

No more Mao ornaments, as favoured by the Obamas. Thank goodness for that.

Compare and contrast the 2016 White House decorations with this year’s. (No Mao ornaments, but the difference is startling.)

Even worse were the Clintons’ White House displays. Please read the story at that link (content too indecent to summarise here).

In closing, here is another video.

I am also grateful that the Gateway Pundit‘s Jim Hoft gave special emphasis to the Nativity scene:

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are bringing Christ back to Christmas.

Melania released video of the beautiful White House decorations.

And this year a Nativity scene was included.

Yes! Christmas makes a comeback!

And the White House has never looked as beautiful as it does now.

———————————————————————————-

UPDATE: CNN announced they will be boycotting the Trumps’ White House Christmas party for the media. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders is delighted, and Trump says we should turn off CNN.

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The 2017 White House Christmas tree arrived from Wisconsin on Monday, November 20.

First Lady Melania Trump and 11-year-old Barron Trump received the tree, which was placed in the Blue Room.

The Chapman family, owners of Silent Night Evergreens in Endeavor, Wisconsin, won this year’s National Christmas Tree Association contest and, by virtue of that, supplied the White House tree.

The Daily Mail has more.

A military band played O Christmas Tree (O Tannenbaum, my late father’s favourite carol) before the arrival of the horse-drawn carriage:

The building to the right in that video is the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where the vice president and cabinet officials have their offices.

Barron is taller than his mother, who was wearing high-heeled knee-high leather boots:

Mrs Trump spoke with the Chapmans before she and Barron posed for a photograph:

This video shows how many men it took to unload and take the tree indoors:

It looks as if there is also — in another room — a huge gingerbread representation of the White House, baked and assembled by the pastry chefs (click on each of the top two photos):

It is interesting that this year’s White House ornament (below) honours a Democrat. That said, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the longest serving US president. He died in office, but many Americans thought his four-term tenure was turning him into a dictator. In 1947, Congress passed the 22nd Amendment,  restricting a president to two terms. The 22nd Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified in 1951.

Tree, sugar sculpture, wreaths and ornaments aside, for the first time in several years, a nativity scene will be on display in the White House.

The Trumps are making Christmas great again.

Sorry to be late to the party with this item, but it was in our two-week Christmas issue of the Radio Times, Britain’s foremost television (and radio) guide.

In the 17-30 December 2016 issue, the back page interview was with Prime Minister Theresa May, also the MP for Maidenhead. She answered a variety of questions from reporter Michael Hodges. Excerpts and a summary follow.

On Christmas Day, she and her husband Philip go to church. Afterwards, they meet up with friends for a drink, then it’s off to an ecumenical lunch for the elderly, where May takes time to talk with her constituents.

The Mays return home where the Prime Minister roasts a goose for Christmas dinner. They haven’t had turkey for several years. Although others consider goose to be extremely fatty, May points out:

if you keep the fat, it makes wonderful roast potatoes for quite a long time thereafter.

Absolutely. We also have goose at Christmas, partly for that reason, and for the unctuous stock from the wings.

May, a practising Anglican, lent the Radio Times a photo of herself as a girl with her late father, the Revd Hubert Brasier. She told Michael Hodges what Christmas past was like:

Throughout my life I have been going to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and church on Christmas Day morning. As a child I had to wait until my father had finished his services before I could open my presents.

It felt like a very long wait. Others I knew would be able to open their presents first thing in the morning.

I’m an only child and my mother played the organ. So I would sit alongside her while my father was taking the service.

The interview did not mention that May’s parents died within a year of each other. Her father died just as she completed her studies at Oxford and her mother several months later. It can’t have been easy for her, especially with no siblings for support:

When you first lose your parents, Christmas is hugely, hugely important. Now I enjoy Christmas with my husband Philip and we keep up the tradition of going to church. But, of course, it does remind me of my parents.

During her childhood, she watched only the BBC, until:

one day, my mother managed to jiggle the aerial and we got ITV and I saw Robin Hood. That music and Richard Greene as Robin Hood really grabbed me.

This is the iconic theme to which May refers:

May’s other television favourites included early series of The Avengers with Diana Rigg, then Joanna Lumley, although:

I have never had a female role model — I’ve always just got on with doing what I am doing.

As an adult, she watched the ‘very evocative’ Das Boot. These days, she enjoys Scandinavian dramas Borgen and The Bridge. Christmas Day favourites include Doctor Who and David Suchet as Poirot.

She doesn’t take recommendations for television viewing:

My advisers don’t tell me what to watch on the television — I watch what I want to watch.

May ended the interview by saying she had no idea a year ago that she would be Prime Minister today.

What follows is her four-minute New Year’s message. If her father was as eloquent a speaker as his daughter is, he must have been a splendid vicar. May speaks of the change that Brexit will bring this year but also of the unity of the four nations of the United Kingdom and the shared values and experiences that make us one people:

This is very similar to the first speech she gave as Prime Minister outside No. 10.

She and Donald Trump will get on well. Of that, I have no doubt.

Br Guy in Lab.jpgBefore Christmas, SpouseMouse brought to my attention an interesting article from the London Evening Standard.

On Friday, December 16, the paper published ‘Can science explain the mystery of the Star of Bethlehem?’ on their op-ed page. Br Guy Consolmagno SJ, the author, is the director of the Specola Vaticana, the astronomical observatory of the Vatican City state.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We liked this for two reasons. One, it shows you can be religious and scientific:

At the Vatican Observatory, our work is the same as any other astronomical observatory. We take new data about things in space and try to devise explanations for how they behave. But we’re interested in the Star of Bethlehem for the same reason that everyone else is: it’s a fun mystery, a place where science and hope intersect.

Two, Br Guy goes through all the theories. Some you might like, some you might not. I did not agree with everything he had to say.

Regardless, his article will make you think more about the Star of Bethlehem, especially as he concludes (emphases mine):

Actually, to me the most astonishing part of the story of the Magi is not that they would predict the birth of a king from the positions of the planets; any fortune teller could have done that kind of calculation. Nor is it that they’d pull up roots and travel afar to find out if they were right; we astronomers do that all the time. Instead, it’s that they would be able and willing to recognise the king they were seeking in the child they found in a manger.

I thought a lot about that over Christmas. We still have time to ponder it, as Epiphany isn’t until January 6.

The following images come from #ChristmasMorning.

This was my favourite:

Donald Trump received applause and a standing ovation when he went to a Christmas Eve service. This is the Episcopal church where he and Melania were married:

Please note that the following film is not as billed. The young men in the film are not Muslim. They are Italians who pulled down a Wishing Tree in Naples — in 2015:

 

I hope everyone had an enjoyable Christmas!

Best wishes to all those who are celebrating Boxing Day!

File:Bartolomé Esteban Perez Murillo 008.jpg

This painting, The Holy Family with dog, hangs in Madrid’s Museo del Prado. Bartolomé Esteban Murillo painted it between 1645 and 1650. He was born late December 1617, baptised January 1, 1618 and died on April 3, 1682. Find out more here:

Thoughts on Christmas

December 26 is also the feast of St Stephen:

St Stephen, the first martyr

Learn about Boxing Day:

Boxing Day – a history

For those visiting family and friends today, have fun.

For those who are already back at work, may the Christmas spirit live on in your hearts.

May everyone reading this enjoy a very happy Christmas!

The painting above dates from 1622.  It is called Adoration of the ShepherdsGerard (Gerrit) van Honthorst, a Dutch Golden Age painter, studied in Italy and took his influences from Caravaggio’s use of chiaroscuro, as you can see from the way the light plays on the Holy Family and the shepherds.

You can find out more in the following post:

Happy Christmas, one and all! (John 1:1-17)

For more on John 1, see:

Christmas Day — John 1:14 (with commentary from Matthew Poole)

Lutherans might appreciate these posts:

Martin Luther on the birth of Jesus

A Lutheran defence of Nativity scenes and crucifixes

These are also helpful:

Christmas prayer intentions

Jesus’s nature as depicted in Christmas carols

The_Donald‘s contributors have been discussing our Lord Jesus in some of their posts. This year, a few of them have rediscovered Christianity. In this post (sadly, language alert), someone cited Isaiah 53:1-6:

53 Who has believed what he has heard from us?[a]
    And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
    and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
    and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected[b] by men,
    a man of sorrows[c] and acquainted with[d] grief;[e]
and as one from whom men hide their faces[f]
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

In the midst of our celebrations, may we always remember and be ever grateful for the one sufficient sacrifice our Lord made for us.

Let us pray that more people will come to Christ this year. I was moved by what The_Donald’s posters had to say. Here are five separate comments, the last of which is the Roman Catholic Grace:

Cold Case Christianity. Powerful stuff from a life long atheist and veteran homicide detective. Powerful evidence of Christ. I used to be hardcore atheist and specifically anti-theist. I couldn’t deny the evidence presented. And ultimately – what if someone is wrong about believing in God (for real) – worst case scenario you become a better person. Worst case scenario for atheism is way worse. That was only a small step on an ongoing walk but it spoke to me.

It’s really sad that someone who only desired the best in people would make people angry. He led such a life of self-sacrifice, that I desire my character to be like His.

And if God be for us, who can stand against?

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Bless us, o Lord, and these thy gifts for which we are about to receive. And from thy bounty, through Christ our Lord, amen.

Today’s painting is ‘The Nativity’ by Federico Barocci (Baroccio), who was born in the first half of the 16th century and died in 1612. He painted ‘The Nativity’ in 1597. I found this thanks to The Four Mass’keteers and featured it in my 2009 Boxing Day post.

All being well, we have now finished our Christmas cards and present wrapping. We can now focus on our Saviour’s humble birth on earth. Past posts of mine may be helpful in this respect:

The Christmas story in Matthew’s Gospel (hermeneutics)

Christmas Eve — Matthew 1:18-25 (with commentary from Albert Barnes)

The Christmas story according to St Luke

The Christmas story in Luke’s Gospel (hermeneutics)

Angel imagery in Christmas carols (Dr Paul Copan on how the Bible portrays them)

I hope your Christmas Eve is pleasant and peaceful.

https://a.thumbs.redditmedia.com/VSxB-oFgeCCNvj31vHSzz1JgIMSuVrhBBse5u37uCp8.pngToday, let’s look at the lighter side of Christmas.

The Trump as Santa image comes from one of his fans at The_Donald.

It has a lot of clever detail. Ted Cruz is the elf on the outside looking in. Below Cruz’s picture are images of Trump’s unofficial campaign mascots, Harambe the Gorilla and Pepe the Frog. Hillary is in the snowball on his desk. On the opposite side is Trump’s favourite beverage, Diet Coke. Slightly to the right of that is the little red Trump Train. One of the balls on the tree has Jeff Sessions’s picture (second from the top), and another Ben Carson’s (bottom). Santa Trump’s list has Rosie O’Donnell‘s and Megyn Kelly‘s names on the Naughty side. Mike Pence and Carrier made the Nice list.

Trump’s latest achievement was getting Boeing’s CEO to back down on the cost of the new Air Force One planes. Lockheed Martin also drew the president elect’s ire over the cost of the F-35 fighter jet project. Their CEO has also agreed to re-examine pricing.

Today, December 22, Trump appointed the first successful female presidential campaign manager Kellyanne Conway as counsellor to the president. The married mother-of-four said on December 20 that she and her family would be moving to Washington DC where she planned to work on behalf of Trump in some capacity.

Now on to posts about the secular nature of Christmas.

Historically, this time of year did not have a religious nature even when the Church took root across Europe. Efforts were made during the Middle Ages with Nativity Plays, but a widespread Christian focus occurred only in the 19th century. This eventually extended to Christmas cards, which were quite bizarre when they first appeared. My posts below explain more:

The Christmas tree — a history (related to Christianity)

Christmas gifts — a history (and a Christian defence thereof)

British attitudes towards Christmas

Bizarre Christmas cards from the 19th century

Louis Prang — father of the American Christmas card

Christmas feasting and revelry (the rehabilitation of Christmas)

In 2008, many voters who did not cast a ballot for Barack Obama were disappointed but philosophical.

Life must go on, we figured.

We then hoped that a Republican would defeat him in 2012, but such was not the case. Again, we were disappointed but philosophical.

Now, finally, a Republican has won the election. Donald Trump’s voters are cautiously optimistic about the Electoral College vote despite the Jill Stein recounts and look forward to a safe inauguration in January.

Trump voters bear no ill will towards Hillary voters. We understand that some people are lifelong Democrats who still romanticise the party, recalling the days of FDR and Harry Truman. That’s okay.

However, Hillary’s voters are still apoplectic. The_Donald has a full list (language alert in comments) of the violence angry leftists have committed against people of all ages — including children — who like Trump. There were also leftists who didn’t physically or verbally lash out but lied about Trump supporters attacking them.

One of the incidents on the list concerns a news item published on December 1 in the Observer-Reporter in Washington County, Pennsylvania. A 27-year-old man brutally assaulted his 69-year-old neighbour in a block of flats. This took place just a few days before Thanksgiving (emphases mine):

Matthew Pugh, 27 … was arrested Wednesday on a warrant obtained by Donora police on charges of attempted homicide, aggravated assault, simple assault and reckless endangerment.

Borough police were called to the apartment complex Nov. 20. Witnesses told police that Pugh and the woman, also a Donora Towers resident, were in the lobby when they got into a disagreement about politics, particularly the recent presidential election.

Pugh reportedly became enraged. He allegedly picked up a chair and hit the woman over the head, knocking her to the floor. The chair opened a gash on her head that bled severely, police said. The woman also suffered other injuries in the fall

The woman was taken to Monongahela Valley Hospital for treatment of her injuries. Police said Pugh was taken to the same hospital for an evaluation.

Pugh was arraigned before District Judge Larry Hopkins and placed in Washington County jail on $50,000 bond. He is scheduled for a Dec. 14 preliminary hearing before District Judge Mark Wilson.

An article by Dennis Prager for Townhall described the madness surrounding Thanksgiving celebrations. A number of Hillary voters decided to not participate with Trump-voting family members. This affected all generations and, yes, some parents disowned their Trump-supporting children.

This will probably recur at Christmas. I highly recommend everyone read Prager’s ’10 Reasons Left-Wingers Cut Trump Voters From Their Lives’. Excerpts follow:

… conservatives were not one whit less fearful of Clinton and the Democrats than Democrats were of Trump and Republicans.

Yet virtually no conservatives cut off contact with friends, let alone parents, who supported Clinton.

Exactly.

Here are 10 reasons left-wingers cut Trump voters from their lives.

1. Just like our universities shut out conservative ideas and speakers, more and more individuals on the left now shut out conservative friends and relatives as well as conservative ideas.

2. Many, if not most, leftists have been indoctrinated with leftism their entire lives …

There are far more conservatives who read articles, listen to and watch broadcasts of the left and have studied under left-wing teachers than there are people on the left who have read, listened to or watched anything of the right or taken classes with conservative instructors.

3. Most left-wing positions are emotion-based. That’s a major reason people who hold leftist views will sever relations with people they previously cared for or even loved. Their emotions (in this case, irrational fear and hatred) simply overwhelm them.

This is why I occasionally make the plea for less emotion, especially crying. It interferes with a rational thought process.

4. Since Karl Marx, leftists have loved ideas more than people. All Trump voters who have been cut off by children, in-laws and lifelong friends now know how true that is …

5. People on the right think that most people on the left are wrong; people on the left think that most people on the right are evil

That is a very important distinction: wrong versus evil. Wrong has to do with thoughts and beliefs. Evil implies dark immorality.

The next point elaborates on that notion further:

6. The left associates human decency not so much with personal integrity as with having correct — i.e. progressive — political positions. Therefore, if you don’t hold progressive positions, you lack decency. Ask your left-wing friends if they’d rather their high school son or daughter cheat on tests or support Trump.

That is an erroneous way of thinking — one that affects how leftists see others, including centrist or conservative family members.

There is more at the link.

Prager strongly encourages Hillary voters to make amends with those they have defriended and disowned.

I couldn’t agree more. Christmas is only a few weeks away. Advent is a time of preparation for Jesus’s earthly birth. John the Baptist exhorted his followers to repent and to exercise charity during this time. May we follow suit.

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