Merry Christmas to all our readers, near and far! Depending on where you live, your Christmas may already be wrapping up, or it may just be dawning. Like our readers, our Spectrum staff members are scattered all around the world — from California to Ireland, and everywhere in between. Below you’ll find Christmas messages from the team. They’ve been asked to share a little bit about themselves, whether a favorite tradition, memory, book, song, poem, or perhaps just some general musings. Because many of our team members do the bulk of their work “behind the scenes” their names may not be familiar to you, but the work they do certainly is, as it is infused throughout the Spectrum website, journal, and community. We offer the below messages as a way of sharing a piece of our lives with you, our dear readers, wherever this Christmas Day finds you.
Alita Byrd, Interviews Editor:
Greetings from Dublin, Ireland! With four kids ranging in age from two to nine, the holidays are a thrilling time for our family. With carols and concerts, hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls, homemade Christmas tree ornaments and Christmas greeting cards from friends around the world, the nativity and Santa, and Christmas crackers and presents, my kids are embracing the holiday spirit. Now is the time to lock in whatever holiday traditions I want my kids to reminisce about later.
I love the idea that Christmas traditions can follow you wherever you are around the world. When we lived in South Africa, we had to have a fake tree and we wore shorts and T-shirts, but it was still Christmas. Our Christmas Elf has followed us from our home in Atlanta, Georgia to where we live now in Dublin, Ireland. In 2019, we are moving again — this time to Santiago, Chile. I'm excited to have a summer Christmas next year, but I know that our important family traditions will remain the same.
And that is what Spectrum has been to me, too, over the years. A constant in a life of change. I have continued writing for Spectrum no matter where I have lived: Washington DC, London, Dublin, Paris, Brussels, Pretoria, and Atlanta. I love how our increasingly interconnected world makes that tradition possible.
Happy Christmas to all of our readers, wherever you are!
Bonnie Dwyer, Journal Editor:
Christmas Greetings from our house to yours…In the photo above, I’m standing at the front door of the Spectrum home office in Roseville, California where the home office is literally a small house that was built about 100 years ago. Roseville is home to several independent Seventh-day Adventist ministries: Adventist Health, Maranatha International, and Amazing Facts are all in the area. Plus, the Northern California Conference will soon move to town. The spectrum of Adventism represented makes for a rich community life. I send you my thanks for being part of the Spectrum community conversation.
Steve Hergert, Webmaster:
When I was younger, one of my favorite holiday traditions was that my parents would let my brother and me open up the smallest gift addressed to each of us, on Christmas Eve. I loved it because we had all of our lights up, the decorations were out, the fireplace was on, the family was together, and we all had a good time on a quiet evening.
Another favorite tradition is on Christmas Day, we would open our presents and have to keep tabs on where the trash went — our cats would always try to steal pieces to play with, when they weren't trying to destroy the tree. I've always loved opening the stockings, too, because my mom always includes an orange in the bottom of it. It's been refreshing to get a fruit in addition to all of the sweet candy that's usually present around the holidays.
One tradition I love about Thanksgiving is that first thing in the morning, my wife makes French toast strata so we can get up to some warm delicious breakfast before preparing food for the rest of the day. It's a newer tradition, and every year I love that we get to share it together.
Rich Hannon, Columns Editor:
Alisa has asked each web team member to write a short Christmas blurb that expresses some wishes for our readers and also reveals more about ourselves. First, some wishes.
Many Spectrum readers have been distressed at the ongoing organizational conflict, ostensibly concerning unity but really about women’s equality in ministry. For the General Conference, I wish for a much greater portion of wisdom, because I think they have really “lost it.” Rather than a cleansing and readying the church for a soon-coming Jesus, I think they are driving the church into greater and greater irrelevance. Anti-equality, anti-science, anti-careful, rational thinking. More Fideism. But for readers who might be tempted to get tied up in knots about all this, I wish you to make your priority be the health of your local church. Whatever happens at the denominational level is mostly beyond your influence and, to that extent, you should consider devoting energy to an arena that is both more important and one you can actually influence.
Now, a bit about myself. My personality seems to be that of a serial binge-learner. And, over the years (lots of them by now) I’ve binged on learning about such diverse topics as: World War II, Hollywood’s Golden Age, Medieval history (notably the rise and decline of Catholicism), geology, economics, music theory, philosophy (notably epistemology), and probably a bunch of others I forget at the moment. I usually pick them without much deliberation, it seems — like a baby who sees a shiny object and says “Oooh.”
And, most recently, I’ve been reviving an old and rusted interest in classical music — mostly Romantic-era piano music. YouTube is a wealth of free material, and some of the performances there — by the world’s best musicians — are stunning. And the more I listen, often to the same piece performed by different artists, the more my discernment of what constitutes quality grows. But so too does my appreciation for diversity. The very same piece can, within the boundaries of the composer’s instructions, be legitimately interpreted in almost astonishingly different ways. Beautiful and satisfying to listen to. There’s a metaphor hiding in here somewhere…
As a parting “gift,” this video is absolutely the best, most sublime performance I have listened to so far in my current binge:
Enjoy, and don’t stress out about church troubles. God is still in control; even as He lets us foolish mortals struggle in trying to figure some things out.
Linda Terry, Editorial Assistant:
My favorite book is the Bible. Growing up in the world, I was looking for a better way of life, and then I found Jesus through His Word, which helped me know where salvation, forgiveness, strength and security comes from. I do not need to be afraid of what is taking place around me, but I can rest in Jesus knowing that He IS coming back to take us, His people to be with Him forever. I look forward to that day.
May the wonder and joy of Christmas be yours now and throughout the New Year.
Alex Aamodt, Writing Intern / Reporter:
If you want a white Christmas, sometimes you have to put in some work to make it happen. For nearly every Christmas season of my life — the tradition started when I was a scant six months old — I have gone with family to the edge of North Cascades of Washington State, where the Methow Valley holds the largest Nordic skiing area in the country. It’s a place where forest meets farmland at the valley floor, and the community has set in place a network of trails that crisscross property lines to allow many miles of uninterrupted travel. When I was younger, I perhaps thought that Nordic (or cross country) skiing was the slightly lame, slow-paced cousin of the downhill sport; but somewhere along the way I came to appreciate the purity of movement and the burn of cold air in the lungs as you propel yourself across the snow, hearing the rush of your own breath until you stop for a moment and realize the vast stillness of the forest covered in snow.
Spending the holiday in a fairly remote place such as the Methow Valley also makes for a good time to catch up on all the things I’ve intended to read, as well as reflect on my favorite written pieces from the year. Although I love diving into longer books, the sort of writing I do often leads me to shorter works of journalism. One of my favorites in 2018 was Sarah Gilman’s beautifully composed “South America’s Otherworldly Seabird,” published in The Atlantic. Gilman follows scientists as they try to find the nesting grounds of the mysterious ringed storm petrel, and hopefully save the species from the threats endangering it. Thinking about animals also reminds me of my personal favorite story from the entire year: the raccoon that climbed a skyscraper. In June, Twitter and the wider internet held their collective breath as a raccoon climbed the sheer face of a building in Minnesota, only reaching the top 20 tense hours later. I hope 2018 didn’t feel like you were clinging to the side of a building, but if it did, I hope the Christmas season brings hope and rejuvenation — and depending on where you’re at, perhaps a touch of snow.
Alisa Williams, Website Managing Editor:
This Christmas morn I’ll be in the car before sunrise, making my way an hour north to my parents’ farmhouse which is nestled down an old country lane a few miles from the Andrews University campus. While Thanksgiving has always been a boisterous time with extended family, friends, co-workers, and students, Christmas Day is a quiet affair with just my parents and me. In the days leading up to Christmas, my mom has been preparing her Christmas breakfast rolls, kneading the dough by hand, and following a recipe of her own creation. My dad, who prepares Christmas dinner, has been bouncing recipe ideas off me for weeks, via Facebook messenger and phone calls. Undoubtedly, there will be some tried-and-true favorites, along with a few surprise dishes.
One central theme in our house, not just at Christmastime, but throughout the whole year, was the importance of books, reading, and learning, and so there were always plenty of books under the tree for each of us to unwrap that would be enjoyed in the days, weeks, and years ahead. Books and reading have continued to be an important part of my life, and in recent years, I’ve enjoyed participating in GoodRead’s Reading Challenge, where people set a personal goal for the number of books they’d like to read each year and then cheer each other on as they work toward their finish lines. I also love the Iceland Christmas tradition of jólabókaflóð, and in the spirit of this “Yule Book Flood” I’ll share a few of the favorite books I read this year:
Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel’s Classroom by Ariel Burger (non-fiction) about Wiesel’s work and teachings as a professor at Boston University.
The Orphan Band of Springdale by Anne Nesbet (children’s historical fiction) about an eleven-year-old girl, a French horn, and a missing father in 1941 rural Maine.
Four Birds of Noah’s Ark by Thomas Dekker (devotional poetry and prayer). Written in 1608 and re-released in 2017 by Eerdmans Publishing Company, this little-known book offers beautiful, reflective prayers and meditations that are just as relevant to our lives today as they were 400 years ago.
May your Christmases be full of the people you love, delicious food to eat, and books to cherish for many years to come.
Pam Dietrich, News Headlines & Website Copyeditor:
As a former American literature teacher, I offer two mid-20th century poems for you to enjoy this Christmas season. The first, by Robert Frost, presents a moment of quiet reflection in a beautiful setting. We all have “miles to go before we sleep” and “miles to go before” our final sleep. Contemplating what we will do with the moments we have is a worthy use of quiet time.
The second poem, by Carl Sandburg, vibrantly paints the sights, sounds, colors, and wonder of Christ’s birth. It notes sparkle, crunch, and yearning, providing another moment of personal meditation for the season.
I wish you all joy as you experience Christmas this year.
Blessings, Pam Dietrich
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep
Star Silver by Carl Sandburg
The silver of one star
plays cross-lights against pine-green
And the play of this silver cross-wise against the green is an old story,
Thousands of years.
And sheep grazers on the hills by night
watching the woolly four-footed ramblers
watching a single silver star.
Why does this story never wear out?
And a baby, slung in a feed box back in a barn in a Bethlehem slum,
A baby’s first cry,
mixing with the crunch of a mule’s teeth on Bethlehem Christmas corn
Baby fists, softer than snowflakes of Norway
The vagabond mother of Christ
and the vagabond men of wisdom
all in a barn on a winter night
and a baby there in swaddling clothes on hay
Why does this story never wear out?
The sheen of it all–is a star, silver and a pine, green
For the heart of a child asking a story
The red and hungry, red and hankering heart
Calling for cross-lights of silver and green.
Main image: RawPixel / Unsplash.com
Inline images courtesy of the Spectrum team members (backgrounds from Unsplash.com).
We invite you to join our community through conversation by commenting below. We ask that you engage in courteous and respectful discourse. You can view our full commenting policy by clicking here.