“The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,” wrote W. H. Auden in a poem called “Christmas Oratorio.”
“And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
Be very far off.”
We hope the feast was a good one.
In Christmas around the world:
Iran’s top leaders used Twitter to send Christmas greetings that praised Jesus, continuing a new era of social media outreach.
At least 34 people were killed Wednesday when a car bomb exploded in a parking lot near St. John’s Roman Catholic Church in a southern neighborhood of Baghdad.
Pope Francis, celebrating his first Christmas as Roman Catholic leader, called on atheists to unite with believers of all religions and work for “a homemade peace” that can spread across the world.
Sorry for your Jewish friends who did not celebrate Christmas? Don’t be.
At The New Republic, Marc Tracy explains why, contrary to public opinion, many Jews do not suffer from Christmas envy. They appreciate a day off in which they can gather over eggrolls to ponder their Jewishness.
Christmas envy? Christians should envy me. December 25 is one of my favorite days of the year. I don’t have to work. I eat a fun ethnic meal (the cliché is true: It’s sometimes Chinese). I see a movie. And I celebrate my own heritage: Being Jewish on Christmas is like having one’s Jewishness traced in bright, red-and-green ink.
Meanwhile, Gary Shteyngart, a writer of Russian Jewish heritage, writes about Christmas in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) with its nondenominational New Year’s Tree and equally secular Grandfather Frost — Soviet inventions that Jewish families such as his own embraced — until they moved to Queens.
In other news:
The Egyptian government intensified its crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood on Wednesday, formally listing the group as a terrorist organization after accusing it of carrying out a suicide bomb attack on a police station that killed 16 people.
The former Primate of All Nigeria, the Most Rev. Peter Akinola, and his driver were kidnapped by gunmen Tuesday, but released unharmed later that day after Akinola convinced his captors he had no money to pay a ransom.
RNS reported earlier that the bloodshed in the Central African Republic is not all about Muslim-Christian hatred. Six peacekeepers were killed there on Wednesday. A Reuters analysis explains the larger issues at stake.
Back on the homeland:
The Rev. Dean Snyder, pastor of Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C., says his denomination cannot afford to wait until 2016 to change its rules regarding gays and lesbians. It needs to act now to prevent a deeper rift and avoid future church trials such as the one that stripped Frank Schaefer of his clergy credentials.
Struggling to keep up with the wave of state-by-state rulings on same-sex marriage? The AP has a good explainer that suggests bans on gay marriage are ripe for challenge and that the U.S. Supreme Court may not intervene anytime soon.
On Bloomberg TV tonight: A documentary on John M. Templeton, the late investor who accrued a fortune, but was also interested in spiritual matters and life’s big questions.
Don’t forget our 10 best religion books of 2013. I know I’ll be curled up with one of them this weekend.
Looking ahead to New Year’s but daunted by the traditional prayers for peace? Omid Safi offers a more modest version – one that does not paralyze us with its grand ambitions.
And finally, a poll finds that the outlook for 2014 is positive: 49 percent think their own fortunes will improve next year. Amen to that.
Here at RNS, we’d like to be hopeful too. That’s why we’re asking for your help. It’s not too late to make a donation to ensure you get these Roundups in 2014, plus breaking news and analysis on our website. Plus, if you’re already thinking ahead to that tax return, here’s your chance to add to your deductions. Happy New Year!