A. Thanks for all the kind thoughts about our upcoming move. We’re not planning on being out of the house before March, 2022 – our youngest needs to get his Eagle Scout stuff done, and I agreed to teach another year of history/literature. The meeting with the realtor was just to help me establish priorities and a to do list. First order of business: get the house tented for termites (minimal damage, but they’re here) – and that’s not until mid-October. Then, exterior paint, some tree trimming, lots of relatively minor repairs, etc. By end of March, we hope to be out of here. Probably rent a house near Sacramento, to get to know the area. Or, if the insanity escalates, go check out Iowa/Midwest.
We’ve got +/- 6 months to pack up the house. Sigh.
B. Have tons to do to prep for classes starting Tuesday, so of course I did a quick but utterly unnecessary woodworking project instead. Behold! A charcuterie board!
Walnut is not usually used for food tools – cutting boards, rolling pins, that sort of thing – because the grain is too open. But I figure, one, we’ll call it a board, not a cutting board, to reduce the usage and wear, and, two, I don’t care. Still needs last coat of butcher block oil and good buffing. Looks pretty good now.
C. The writing projects ground to a halt this past month and a half. Sigh. BUT! Hope springs eternal! I again find myself thinking about them – the SciFi work and the Science Essentials book – when doing other things. So:
Rather than just being me venting on our rampant scientific illiteracy, I think I’ll rework the science book into something more like Essentials of Science, and aim it at high school and college age people. Tone it down, introduce a bunch of history, focus on the basics that apply to all sciences worthy of our respect. Then maybe pitch it to the homeschooling/ catholic schooling crowd.
The other book just needs work. Have to ram it through.
But, hey, my life is shaping up to be: teach class, pack up the house, get items off the punchlist, read every day, and – write. I’ll need the change of pace. We’ll see how it goes.
D. Weirdly, out of nowhere, I started writing an a capella mass in Latin about 6 weeks ago. When I was in my 20s, I wanted to be a composer. What I liked to compose was a capella pieces, the market for which is small, to say the least. By my late 20s, I also wanted to get married and raise a family, so I consciously set the music aside. Now, after a nearly 40 year gap, I find myself, sitting at the piano pencil in hand, writing out 6-part vocal works in a dead language.
About 2/3rds of the way through the Agnus, maybe half way through the Gloria. My style (I laugh to myself) is basically a poor man’s John Williams meets a homeless man’s Faure, and has an ugly child. This is a pretty intensely inside joke: Williams loves mediant and sub-mediant modulations and horn-call like melodies, and Faure loves odd modes and half-step changes, and intense dissonances within his voice leading. I love all those things, too! I just don’t have anything near the training and talent of either of those guys. To put it very mildly.
Trying to live well, stay sane, and enjoy life. It’s the only way out.
Yesterday, we all went to see and ride this, the subsequent and much larger rollercoaster designed and built by the same people over the last 6 months (I imagine they will put up a video of the finished project; this is the latest on their channel, and as you can see the cosmetics are not there yet):
Here’s the thing: a bunch of 20-somethings decided during lockdown last year that they were going to build a functioning rollercoaster in the the backyard of the parents of the ringleader. Because why not? Sean LaRochelle, an impressive young man who, at age 29, has married a beautiful woman, fathered 4 children and built his own house, is now finishing up his master’s in architecture, decided if he was going to be locked down, he was going to do something fun.
I had met Sean before, but just barely – our oldest daughter had rented a room from him and his family in the house he had designed and built in Napa. The reason we got invited is that our son in law did all the music – very much Disney-ride-quality music, as you can hear on the videos.
The team of young people involved were equally impressive. Sean’s sister did a whole Old West town in the staging/line area. The team did design, acquiring the materials, bending pipes into rails, welding it up, building frames to hold it into place, then creating a whole Arizona desert look with sheets of foam, spray foam, and paint. They designed and built a launch mechanism; there were waterworks and a light show; they had a booster mechanism halfway through the ride that sped up the car for the final loop; they designed and built the car itself, as well as a system of safety sensors along the key parts of the track to make sure everything was in working order.
My wife spoke to a woman who was cajoled by Sean into doing wiring. Seems she had once swapped out a light fixture – good enough! She told of watching YouTube videos while in the ride’s caves, trying to figure out how to wire something up. Sean is evidently very convincing.
And just the nicest people! Sean’s family threw a big catered dinner just so people could come and ride the rollercoaster and hang out. So while we are justifiably bemoaning the sorry state of Kids These Days, nice to see a bunch of young people any parent should be proud of doing something cool and outrageous in a spirit of fun and cooperation. Rock on!
(There’s also, it seems, a huge overlap, perhaps their circle is completely within the larger circle in the Venn diagram, between this crowd and the Napa TLM crowd.)
Start with something fun: this is Leonid & Friends, the band formed by Leonid Vorobyev, a musician from Russia, upon his retirement a few years ago. I’ve linked in the past to their insanely excellent Chicago covers. Leonid seems to know a large number of incredible session players. This is an original.
Aside: Ksenia, the lead singer, and Igor, the (insanely great) drummer, were the inspiration for two bits of flash fiction: Pig Farmer 1 and 2. One of the first and most profound ‘life is not fair’ moments for me was learning, as a child, that physical beauty and talent correlate pretty highly with intellectual talent. We’d love to believe in the dumb jock or airhead actress stereotypes – and some do exist – but the reality is not that fair: the high school quarterback and prom queen are more likely to be intellectually gifted than the typical high schooler.
I mention this because Ksenia not only has an angelic voice and looks like what Barbie would want to look like if she had better taste, but she also speaks and sings in a bunch of languages, like English, Mandarin, and Italian, and is otherwise insanely accomplished. She’s not a native English speaker, but you’d be hard pressed to tell that from this song. Life is truly not fair.
On a less fun note, here is someone demonstrating how to get around the algorithms:
Conservative Catholics are readying for their Truth Over Fear Summit that will begin on Friday, Apr. 30 and extend through the weekend.
The event is described as “a three-day online gathering of 40+ frontline doctors, scientists, attorneys, researchers, and journalists, who will share invaluable and eye-opening insights into the truth behind the headlines, Covid-19, the rushed vaccine, and the Great Reset.”
Once they got the conference going, Kartra, the service they used, shut them down. Unannounced.
Apparently, as they were doing the summit on Friday, the host (says the organizer) “Kartra killed the event—live—during the Q&A with Dr Scott Jensen, who is running for Governor of Minnesota.” Boom, gone. Now I have 42,000+ people texting and emailing about what happened.
So, actual credentialed experts want to discuss issues that fall within their areas of expertise – and that’s not allowed. Briggs says it’s been rescheduled for next weekend, but the Kartra account linked to has been deactivated.
An ancient chant, taken from Psalm 118:24. In the modern usage, this text is used in the Divine Office and for the Gospel Alleluia verse for all 8 days of the Easter octave, today through Divine Mercy Sunday. In Catholic tradition, Easter is too big a deal to fit into just one day, so the celebration of the day of Resurrections is extended over 8 days, and then a season of 40 days until the Ascension to celebrate the Risen Christ with us.
This is the day which the Lord hath made: let us be glad and rejoice therein. Alleluia.
verse for Easter Sunday: Give praise to the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. (Psalm 118:1) [Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us.]
verse for Easter Monday: Let Israel now say, that he is good: that his mercy endureth for ever. (Psalm 118:2)
verse for Easter Tuesday: Let them say so that have been redeemed by the Lord, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy: and gathered out of the countries. (Psalm 107:2)
Every great composer in the West set this to music for centuries, so, in addition to the epic and wonderful chant setting above, we have any number of other glorious versions:
Bach set this, because of course he did:
Happy, Holy, and Blessed Easter! He is truly risen!
A. Since a certain number of my beloved readers come here for the Covidiocy bashing, we’ll start there before moving on to the more mundane stuff. One note on Fauxvid: no disease in history has ever been tracked like this. If we followed the same exact instructions for reporting deaths ‘involving’ COVID, except we substitute ‘stress’ for the kung flu, fairly confident we’d show 300K-400K deaths ‘involving’ stress since the lockdown.
I’m not kidding or exaggerating in the slightest. More on this later.
B. Not saying anyone in particular may or may not do this, but it would sure be a nice tidy little protest if a group of people more or less spontaneously gathered in the town plaza one of these Christmas Season evenings and sang some carols for the joy and enlightenment of passers-by, who, if they were following orders, most certainly wouldn’t be out on a public plaza on a Christmas Season evening in the first place. Lockdown! Curfew!
Would have a bit of that ‘show me the coin with which you pay the tax’ gotcha to it.
C. Will be decorating today, tree & house. Typically wait to the last minute because a) Christmas starts AFTER Advent, and b) historically, that’s when the strapping young college age people return home to do the roof-clambering part of the festivities, which I, an old guy, would rather not do anymore.
But nobody is coming in from college this year. Our three older surviving children are married off, living on the East Coast, or already live with us, as does the 16 year old. So, it ain’t getting any better.
And, I am happy to report, the Christmas lights in our neighborhood came out earlier and with more vigor this year than any previous year I remember. I think people are trying to find a way to express their unhappiness with the lockdown, even if they don’t know that’s what they’re doing.
We will of course leave ours up through Epiphany.
D. Piano hack – as in, I’m a hack piano player -alert! I’ve been working on the Sonata Pathetique for maybe 2 and half or 3 years now. Started out as a burn off frustration from work thing when I wasn’t inspired to throw bricks out front. So I took on what is, for me, a very difficult but beloved piece.
I spent 18 months just getting the notes, so I could stomp and stumble my way through it. Since then, have whiled away many hours trying to master the many ‘hard’ parts, so that they sound like music and doesn’t sound so much like a poorly-trained monkey working out his frustrations (however accurate that last image may be).
What I’d like it to sound like (in my dreams):
Three or four weeks ago, I started looking for something else to play, some Beethoven maybe not quite so hard, and much shorter so that I could conceivably play it decently in my remaining lifetime. I chose the 2nd movement of the Moonlight Sonata:
2 minutes long, and only maybe 2-3 sections that push my feeble chops. So I now have that one down to the point where I wouldn’t be too embarrassed to play it when other people were listening. Now I need to find some more.
Searching around, found this site, which lists a boatload of classical piano music and ranks them by difficulty. This sort of thing is probably common knowledge among real piano players, but I’ve only had a couple years of lessons spread out over the years from age 15 to maybe 25, so I’ve no doubt missed a lot of details (for example, how to actually play the piano).
So now I know that the Bach preludes and fugues that have been killing me since college are rated 3.5 on a scale of 1 to 5 – on the hard side of the scale, but not really hard. So are the 1st and 3rd movements of the Sonata Pathetique. You evidently have to be able to play arpeggios, scales, chromatic rifts and such to pull these off – who would have thunk it?
So it seems the hardest things I’m likely to able to play in a reasonable amount of time are in the 2.5 range – provided they are not too long. Thus, settled on this little ditty, the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s Sonata 13:
There are a number of not too easy features here. Syncopations abound; there’s that one trill that needs to be played with conviction if it is not to sound lame, and that finish, with the hand 1/2 beat off from each other, ought to be fun.
A. The level of idiocy remains at critical levels. It’s looking likely that about 220,000 ‘excess’ deaths will take place in 2020, of which about 150-170K might be attributable to the damn virus. Back in April and May, I didn’t think 100k was likely; now, I don’t know if it’s possible to back out the deleterious effects of the lockdowns with any accuracy. It is clear that about 50,000 ‘excess’ deaths (and counting) are not directly caused by the virus, but it’s harder, conceptually, to show they are caused by the lockdowns. The anecdotal evidence is strong, as is my bias to believe it – therefore, I’m exercising caution.
What the CDC data shows is significant upticks in deaths attributed to stress and panic related causes, such as suicide and heart attacks. It would take a massive independent audit, however, to show how many such cases show up in the COVID numbers. We know that sickly old people do in fact have their deaths speeded up by stress and loneliness, which the lockdowns have ratcheted up to inhuman levels.
So, as of now, it’s pretty clear that there are not 250,000 COVID deaths, or whatever count is being bandied about at the moment. At most, there could be about 170,000 COVID deaths, max (the 220K ‘excess’ deaths minus the 50K non-COVID ‘excess’ deaths). Of course, one could cook up a theory that the lockdowns saved lives that would have been lost to non-COVID deaths, such that the net – 250,000 COVID deaths minus the ‘saved’ (from flu? Colds? Traffic accidents?) gives us the 220,000 ‘excess’ deaths the CDC’s data shows. Far-fetched doesn’t begin to describe such a theory. That won’t stop people from proposing it.
The plan is to take a detailed look at the final or near final numbers from the CDC in January, and back into some totals. Without that audit, there’s no good way to really sift out the effects of the lockdown versus the virus. I expect the excess deaths – which are merely the difference between the CDC’s estimated weekly deaths and actual deaths as counted by death certificated submitted to the CDC (with a lot of small, often pointless, and needlessly complex adjustments) – to stay right about 220K, or perhaps even drop some, as some of the sickly elderly who might have hung on until Christmas in a normal year are already dead.
The overall story remains the same: the original forecasts and model used to gin up the panic, put together by the non-scientist, non-medical finance guy and operative Ferguson, have proven wildly inaccurate. Real world experience has confirmed what I, and everybody else who took an intelligent look at the original numbers out of Wuhan, the Diamond Princess, Italy, etc., noted: the overall real-world fatality rate was nothing like the 2-4% Case Fatality Rate range typically reported. The real infection fatality rate – the number of interest – couldn’t be over about 0.25%, and is probably lower. This virus is no more deadly than a bad flu – the 1969 and 1958 flus were worse; 2018 was almost as bad. The 2017 pre-COVID planning literature, prepared by the same CDC that’s helped create the panic, did not propose lockdowns or mask for scenarios an order of magnitude worse than this – the theoretical benefits of lockdowns and masks do not offset real costs.
The CDC data, at least, the reporting of it, is already being monkeyed with. As William Briggs noted, the weekly fatality graph used to go back many years, but now only goes back a year. This is suspicious, as a glance at the longer-term pattern made it clear that, while 2020 was shaping up to be a bad year, it wasn’t significantly worse than many preceding years, and that the pattern of more deaths in the winter and fewer in the summer was playing out exactly in 2020 – that what one would expect to see, based on history, without lockdowns and masks is exactly what one did see with them. My confidence that any numbers that can be used to expose the fraud will remain available has thus decreased.
But we’ll see.
UPDATE: Seems someone has already done what I proposed above.
What this chart shows are the breakdowns between attributed COVID deaths and *excess* (as defined above) deaths from all other causes. You get this by looking at the details for each category the CDC tracks. They forecast, based on history, population growth & aging + some really minor adjustments, is of how many death there ought to be in each category. Here’s my comment from Clarissa’s blog post:
Last I checked, CDC shows 220K excess deaths total so far this year. If the attribution of every excess death shown here to the lockdown is roughly true – seems likely & reasonable – then there are fewer than 100K total deaths caused by COVID, rather than deaths where COVID appears anywhere on the death cert, which is the way you get that 240K number, as you noted. Even that 100K number is almost certainly high, as the bulk of COVID deaths – between 60-70% – were nursing home patients & other very sick elderly people, who had a median life expectancy of about 6 months even if they didn’t catch the virus. Over time, these slightly premature deaths would (if the lockdowns ended) show up as lower deaths in the corresponding age bands over the next year. But the lockdowns, and the deaths they cause, mask this effect.
Also, could you please post the source link? I know it’s on the picture, but tiny, I can’t quite make it out. Eyes are getting old. Thanks.
So, if these calculations are correct, and barring some unlikely and counterintuitive offsetting effects somewhere in here (somehow, many thousands of lives were saved from non-COVID death by COVID, lockdowns, and masks) the total death toll from COVID is under 100K; the total excluding very sick elderly people is maybe 30-40K. Most of that 30-40K seems to have had multiple pre-existing conditions.
Thus, as the CDC correctly believed right up until they stopped believing it around April, 2020, lockdowns do more harm than good. Lockdowns kill people, and, unlike routine airborne respiratory viruses like COVID, lockdowns are completely preventable and don’t run their course within a few months.
B. I want to do something, but I don’t know what. I’m praying harder than I ever have for God’s mercy on our country, because if we get what we deserve based on our sins, the Great Leap Forward will look like a picnic. I’d like to do something to put our little infant sociopath of a governor in his place. But I don’t even know how to fly a helicopter. (That’s hyperbole for your spy bots.)
Lord, remember your promise of mercy. For if you remember our sins, Lord, who could stand? For the sake of the Sorrowful Passion of your Son, have mercy on us and the whole world! Amen.
Lord, have mercy! Christ, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!
Holy Mother Mary, Queen of the Angels, pray for us!
St. Joseph, Terror of Demons, pray for us!
St. Michael, Prince of the Heavenly Host, defend us in battle!
C. About a week ago, started learning the 2nd movement of the Moonlight Sonata, the one everybody forgets is even there, as the 1st and 3rd movements are epic. Been working on a dozen or so pieces from the Well Tempered Clavier and on the Sonata Pathetique for years now, and have years to go at this rate, and I needed a break.
Almost got it down, as it’s very short and repetitive. Here’s someone who really can play it:
I find it very beautiful and fun.
D. Bunch of good stuff happening on the family side, but I’m sworn to silence for now.
E. I need to remind myself that I’m one of the most blessed and happy people I know, great marriage, wonderful kids, nice home in a beautiful state, lots of friends. Thank you, Almighty Father, giver of all good gifts.
A. Is there anyone in America so clueless as to believe mail-in ballots, without any need for positive ID, are anything other than the hugest election fraud in American history (outside Chicago), and that 2016 marks the last free(ish) election in our late Republic?
Don’t answer that. Strictly a rhetorical question. Of course there are. Millions and millions of them. Many are terrified enough by the lock down & face diaper fraud to believe anything the nice men and women on TV tell them to believe. Many have their self-images so tied up in their political affiliations that they will, at the same time, 1) believe their party wouldn’t do such a thing; AND 2) that they are just stealing the election back from the Russians anyway, not disenfranchising enough people to make Jim Crow look like a friendly mistake.
We have always been at war with Eastasia.
B. Yet, the weirdest thing: when I pray, I don’t worry. These days, at least – I spent much of June, July, and August unable to sleep, waking up at 3 or 4, going to bed only to get up in an hour.
Now? Even though every logical part of my mind says we’re totally doomed, we’ll all be Seattle or Chicago or Baltimore after the next election, and that it would take a revolution we’re far too soft to pull off to escape it – I don’t worry. Not that I know what will happen, nor do I tempt God by expecting a miracle, but – something. It’ll work out, somehow, in some unexpected way, far better than we deserve. I know it’s crazy, and I can’t explain it, but there it is.
I’ve even dreamt of it. I had this one dream where something awful happened to Trump, someone had to replace him at the last minute, and yet, somehow, that person won, and the real battle began – it will start with banning mail-in ballots unless notarized and received before election day, and weapon-purchase-level ID for EVERY VOTER IN EVERY ELECTION. The next day, Trump was diagnosed with the ‘Rona – and promptly recovered (LIKE 99.9%+ OF INFECTIONS WHERE THE PERSON ISN’T ALREADY HALF-DEAD. FOR MORE INFORMATION, DIAL 1-800-GET-A-CLU)
A sign? Hell if I know.
This is totally out of character for me. I’m usually Mr. Doom and Gloom. I sound like a balloon-head Pollyanna, and I offer no reasons, but I can’t shake the feeling this will work out. God has, at times, come to the help of his people, because He remembers His promise of mercy. It’s not like we don’t deserve to burn – nuclear war or a century of gulags would not be unjust, given how we have used our freedom and plenty. But I don’t think so. Let us pray.
C. Invested $25 in a cassette tape player that coverts recordings to MP3 format; dug up some old tapes. Found one with a set of 6 songs I wrote over 25 years ago, and a recording of a choir performing a piece I wrote almost 40 years ago. Recordings of recordings of recordings, in one of the worst formats for long-term preservation devised by man. Which is to say: ended up with slightly glitchy MP3s that nonetheless capture all the wobble and noise of a 25 year old third or more generation cassette. Barely listenable.
I’d throw some up here, at least the choir piece, but it seems WordPress won’t let you upload an MP3 on the free version. Gotta pay the man.
On the one hand, I’ve used this site for free for a decade now, so I can’t say I’ve not gotten my money’s worth. On the other hand, I’m not exactly flush at the moment.
D. Those 6 songs reminded me that, at one point, I actually knew a little MIDI. The songs are entirely virtual instruments run by a computer, with some vocals – me, on all parts – layered over them. Dumped it into one of those old school 4-track recorders (which I still have! Pack rat much?) A buddy of mine did a guitar solo on one song; otherwise, everything one hears is my fault.
I was clearly getting worn out or bored or both by the end, as the vocals and final mixes are pretty poor. Too much bass, everything up front and center, no hierarchy on the part volumes, clearly single takes on the vocals. I did nothing fancy with the MIDI, just the notes, over-quantized, using stock sounds. Didn’t even do any panning or reverb.
Yet – I kind of like it. Of course, only listened to them about twice now. A few more listens and I’ll hate it. There are a few nice touches in the songs. I’m starting to hate them just thinking about it.
But this has made me want to get a decent keyboard (my 20 yr old Alesis died a decade ago) and do some more MIDI. Things are so much less expensive now days.
E. Prepping for two middle school history & literature classes is a lot of work. Work I’m avoiding at the moment.
Youngest son, who plays the fiddle, sings, and enjoys goofing around on the guitar, drums, and whatever else is lying about, got a little Akai mpk keyboard for his birthday a while back. He wanted to create And record music.
So do I.
Way back when hair bands ruled the earth, I was in some bands, and I, too, wanted to record some music. It was a little more complicated and expensive back then. Garage Band on your phone wasn’t a thing. So I have some seriously outdated experience, and, perhaps more important, some somewhat outdated equipment.
I had converted part of the garage into a recording studio 20+ years ago. Long story.
Anyway, space being an issue, cleared out a corner by my piano to set ups more modern, and much cheaper, DAW work area for the Caboose and me. Threw together a desk to maximize the available space. Like this:
The KRK V-8s I knew where they were, so I grabbed them (they’re sweet. Followed the advice I’d read somewhere: only spend real money on mikes, monitors, and instruments, because they don’t go obsolete every year. After the long obsolete Mac tower, the only real investment I made). Need to track down my little Mackie board and a bunch of cables and mics, download some software, hook it up, and we should be good to go.
The desk itself is oak veneer 1 1/4” particle board pieces I’d rescued from some old cubicles getting thrown out many years ago.
A Happy, Holy & Blessed Christmas to all, and to all a happy and prosperous New Year!
Consider the 2nd movembt of Beethoven’s 7th symphony:
The story goes that when Beethoven debuted this work, the audience stopped the concert after this movement, and insisted it be repeated. Classical music audiences were a little more outgoing back in the day, it seems.
The audience’s reaction is perfectly understandable: pre-recorded music, one might die before getting a chance to hear this sublime and beautiful piece again, so why not now? A work this beautiful is life-changing. It may sound like just another overly-familiar classical work to jaded ears, but in context it is strikingly unusual: listen to the whole 7th, which is one of civilizations greatest works of art in any medium, and the 2nd movement still stands out.
But this Allegretto isn’t just aesthetically pleasing, it’s also deeply satisfying intellectually. The more you listen and think about it, the better it gets. Beethoven sets himself a series of puzzles or challenges, and ‘solves’ each one in inventive and unusual ways, yet, somehow, after you’ve heard it, all the little departures from expectations (or beauty where you didn’t know what to expect) sound utterly inevitable. And it fits perfectly within the symphony as a whole – as hard as it is to believe, it was only with this 7th symphony that Beethoven finally won over all the critics, many of whom had disliked his 3rd and nit-picked his 5th. The 7th is just perfect, and that 2nd movement slayed people.
Finally, as is true of all great art, the 7th, especially the 2nd movement, is bottomless: you can go as deep as you want, and there’s always more.
This confluence of soul stirring beauty and soul-stirring intellectual gratification is , of course, what makes great art great in the first place. Only in these dark modern times would anyone think to divorce emotional force from intellectual beauty.
These (mundane & traditional) thoughts were occasioned by the Christmas Gospel reading:
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
This Gospel story from Luke is beautiful in a specific and somewhat odd way. Consider these 2 sentences from the middle of the selection:
While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
This is the climax of the story: Mary gives birth to the son foretold by the prophets and announced to her by an angel of God, yet Luke gives it a sentence, as if it were any other birth of any man. The Lord and Creator of the the Universe, as described in the opening of John’s Gospel, or even as, in a similarly subtle and understated way, in Mary’s encounter with her cousin Elizabeth in the passage immediately preceding this one, is wrapped in the cloth of the poor and laid in a feeding trough for animals, with the casual, after the fact explanation: there was no room in the inn.
So, two matter-of-fact sentences that lay out the entirety of the Christian claim, paradox and stumbling block: That God became Man in this very specific time and place, utterly weak and humbled, and was wrapped and bound and laid among the food for animals by his own mother’s hands. He wasn’t even able to find a place at what was no doubt the very humble inn.
The artwork inspired by these two lines could fill any number of museums; a concert of the music written to commemorate them would go on for months; and the books holding the writings about them would fill any number libraries. And the flood shows no signs of abating.
Then, a great multitude of angels sing a song of infinite glory – to a bunch of sheep, and the shepherds watching over them.
The story of Christ’s birth is as beautiful as it is simple, and satisfies the soul. But it is also intellectually satisfying, not in the sense of providing a tidy summation, but in the sense of offering infinite depths to explore.