Saturday, December 26, 2015

2015 Christmas Music Marathon Day 30

 The lights on the square in Bentonville, AR give a true small town USA feel to the Christmas season. Residents gather throughout the Holidays to wander the sidewalks, take photos and enjoy the festive display. It is something that we haven't done in a few years.

Well, we've come to the end of another Christmas Music Marathon. There have been a lot of new songs this year and I hope you have enjoyed the more contemporary twist on the celebration of the birth of Christ. I'm already looking forward to the 2016 Christmas Music Marathon. Can I get an "Amen"?

I'm going to take a few days off. I'll see you next year.

Friday, December 25, 2015

2015 Christmas Music Marathon Day 29

It's Christmas Day! A Savior is born! May the Gift and the Spirit of Christmas live in your heart and home this year and may He walk with  you every day of the New Year.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from our home to yours.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

2015 Christmas Music Marathon Day 28

The house is decorated and there is excitement in the air. Tonight we will attend a candlelight Lord's Supper at church, then we will come home, read the Christmas story and open our gifts. It will be a good time together as a family.

I do enjoy spending some time around the tree admiring the ornaments that my wife has selected over the years. Most of these ornaments are over a decade old. The little beaded wreaths are much older. 

One of the most recent additions to our Christmas decorations is this lantern. Not to worry, the candle is electric, but the flicker of it's flame is very realistic. It serves to remind me of the Light of the World whose birth we celebrate. As I said earlier, there is great anticipation in our house on Christmas Eve. I believe it was much different in a manger in Bethlehem.
Joseph and Mary had traveled there to be taxed. Joseph had brought his wife in order to protect her from the ridicule that she may have faced in Nazareth because of her pregnancy. While God had visited both of them personally and told them what was about to take place, I doubt if either of these new parents truly understood the magnitude of this "O Holy Night".

It is only because of that holy night that any of us have any hope of eternal life. It is only because of that most holy night that any of us have a real purpose in this life. May the Spirit of Christmas fill your heart and your home this year and may the Savior make His presence in your life very real this coming year. Merry Christmas from our house to yours.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

2015 Christmas Music Marathon Day 27

 Every year I spend a little time photographing Christmas ornaments on our tree. This year we traveled to the home of my wife's sister and her husband a few days before Christmas, so I spent a few moments photographing these ornaments. Most trees have a lot of bright, shiny ornaments of all colors, and this tree is no different. However, there are these ornaments. They were crocheted by my wife's mother. They are simple. They say Christmas and you can see the love that went into each piece.

Christians are a lot like Christmas ornaments. Some are bright and shiny. They are out in front of every event at church. There is no doubt that some things would never get done without them. Then there are those Christians that are a lot like the crocheted ornaments. They are simple, and quiet, but they are a part of a much greater story. They support every activity in the ministry without much fanfare, but you can see the love in everything they do.

The Bible tells us that Christians are members of the Body of Christ. Each of us has a part in the ministry of the church and there is a need for every member of that body. Not all of us need to be the hands. Not all of us need to be the brains. We simply need to remember that Christ is the Head of the church and we are the parts that do the will of the Head. I have to say, there have been times when God called me to be a shiny ornament. Now He has given me content with the role of the crocheted ornament but He has never given any of us the role of an unused ornament.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

2015 Christmas Music Marathon Day 26

All of us are born for a purpose. The Bible tells us that God has plans for us. The question is "What is God's purpose for our life and are we willing to follow His plan." Pastors are not the only people that God calls into a profession. From the time I was in the ninth grade, I knew that God wanted me to be an architect but I didn't know why. I was over 40 when we moved to our present location and the church was beginning a building program. I was appointed chairman of the long range planning committee and later, chairman of the building committee. Our committee guided the church through millions of dollars of construction. In fact the largest project that I was involved in, as an architect, was not a part of my day job. It was as chair of the committee that planned and constructed our our new sanctuary. I firmly believe that God called me to be an architect and led my professional career to this location so that I could be a part of these projects. That leads to the question, "Why was Christ born."
As unlikely as the answer might seem, He was born to die.  The Bible says that Christ would save His people from their sin. It also says that without the shedding of blood there is no remission for sin. Therefore, only the death of Christ, as the perfect Lamb of God, on a cross was sufficient sacrifice for the sin of this world. Without Christmas, there can be no Easter. Without Easter, there is no reason to celebrate the birth of a child in Bethlehem. Christ was born to die...for you and me.

Monday, December 21, 2015

2015 Christmas Music Marathon Day 25

Perhaps the most creative performance I have ever seen. Enjoy.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

2015 Christmas Music Marathon Day 24

Children's programs at school and church are a part of the Christmas season. Unfortunately, any reference to the true meaning of Christmas has been eliminated from the public school programs. But there are occasions when the real spirit of the season shows up in the most unlikely places and it is almost always appreciated and welcomed. Here is my all time favorite Christmas video and a traditional post that I will continue as long as I blog. Enjoy!

Friday, December 18, 2015

2015 Christmas Music Marathon Day 22

This young man is now 12 years old. He's now about 5-5" and well on his way to 6'+. They do grow up too fast! Since his parents live nearby we have seen him grow up. We watched him crawl, take his first steps, and learn to feed himself. We've laughed at his T-ball games and marveled at the plays that he can make now. We still wonder what kind of young adult he will become. I think we forget that Mary and Joseph had the same experiences.
They watched the Son of God crawl and then rise and take His first steps. I'm sure they were over joyed when He said His first words. How they must have marveled when they found a young Jesus in the temple literally expounding wisdom to those adults in the room. They must have wondered what type of young adult Christ would become. I'm sure Mary and Joseph knew that Jesus would be something special but I don't know that they ever fully grasped the meaning of the angels words when Gabriel told Mary that she wold give birth to the Savior of of the world. Many people today don't grasp that truth and they go about their lives without the hope of salvation and eternal life. Christ came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. He came into this world as a helpless infant. He will return one day as the triumphant King of kings. Have a blessed day.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

2015 Christmas Music Marathon Day 21

On Christmas eve the excitement and anticipation of the visit from Santa can be more that some children can handle. They hardly sleep at all. They have heard that Santa Clause in coming to town. He's made a list and he's checking it twice. Well the children have made their lists as well. They have itemized the things that Santa should bring them if they are found to be on the "Nice" list. Our oldest grand daughter used to interview her siblings and organize their Christmas lists into a PowerPoint presentation. It was very creative. Their focus seemed to be Come Now Santa!
For the follower of Christ in today's world we look forward to the return of our Savior and the beginning of a new life, a life eternal. Nearly two thousand years ago, believers in the Living God looked forward to the coming of the Messiah and an end to their persecution. They didn't entirely understand God's plan and the result was that many missed the event that changed history, the birth of Christ. They had been calling out, "Come Now Our King." He is here and He is available to anyone willing to receive Him into their heart. Have a blessed day.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

2015 Christmas Music Marathon Day 20

 One of the wonderful things about the Christmas season is that most people are in a more giving mood. They are willing to give a little more kindness. They are willing to give a little more gentleness and they are willing to love their neighbor a little more. It is this spirit that has God as it's source, even when we fail to realize it. The Bible tells us that God is love, and that is true. When God sent His Son to this earth to save us from our sins, He planted love in our midst and our example of true love should always be the life of Christ. If you're looking for love, look no further that God's Word. You will find that "Love Is Here." Have a blessed day.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

2015 Christmas Music Marathon Day 19


When the grandcrew were younger, one of our Christmas traditions was the "PJ" photo under the tree.
The evening would begin at church with a candle light Lord's Supper ceremony. Then, we would gather at our house for a meal. After the meal we would retire to the living room where we would read the Christmas Story from the Gospel of Luke. The grandcrew changed into their newest "Christmas PJ's, and I would get a couple of photos before we began unwrapping the gifts. It was a great tradition and the results were some of the best "Grandcrew" images that I have.
Every time I see these photos I am reminded that before the grandson arrived, our daughter was an only child, and she had birthed three girls. Even our dog was a girl. Then the baby boy arrived and everybody's life changed. On Christmas morn, the world was changed by a baby boy. Have a blessed day.

Monday, December 14, 2015

2015 Christmas Music Marathon Day 18

One way that God has communicated with His people is through angels, so it is no surprise that angels were a primary communication tool used to announce the coming of the Savior. An angel told Mary that she was going to have a child and that it was the Son of God. An Angel told Joseph that Mary had not been unfaithful to him, rather they had been chosen to be be the earthly parents of a heavenly child. How great an honor and responsibility is that? And when the Christ child arrived, angels announced His birth to shepherds in a nearby field. A shepherd was considered to be a poor mans job, and the men who practiced this profession were considered second class citizens. Therefore, the announcement of the birth of the Savior to these men was God's confirmation that salvation and eternal life was available to all of mankind. It is still available to those willing to repent, believe, and call on the name of Jesus. I'm sure that night the shepherds asked one another, "Do You Hear What I Hear?" Have a blessed day.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

2015 Christmas Music Marathon Day 17

Candles have long been a source of light. At one time, they were the primary source of light in a home, after dark. Today they are primarily decorative. They provide a warm glow to a room. Their light has a soothing, calming quality about it. Watching the flame can bring a sense of peace to a heart and mind.
Our lives are in need of a candle.  The light that is Christ can bring a warmth to our hearts, and a calm to our lives that no other thing can.  The Bible says of Christ, "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men." (John 1:4) The Light of the World came into this world in a manger in Bethlehem. We can invite that light into our heart and lives. When we do, Christmas becomes much more than a part of a long holiday season. It becomes the celebration of the birth of the Light of the World. Have a blessed day.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

2015 Christmas Music Marathon Day 16

I think this is a relatively rare Santa ornament. I've had it a few years now and what makes it unusual is that it is a construction themed Santa. Most Santas have toys surrounding him or have fishing tackle and other popular themes as the basis for the ornament. Being an architect, this little fellow naturally caught my eye. One can only imagine all of the things  that Santa and his elves can build with the proper tools. Life and construction share some common traits. In order to build a good building, it takes a proper foundation. The foundation must resist the ravages of freezing and thawing. It must be strong enough to support the weight of the structure and when properly anchored to the foundation, the structure can withstand severe external forces, such as wind and rain, with minimum damage that can be repaired. A good life is not about stuff, but it requires a good foundation. There is no better cornerstone that Jesus Christ. Born in a manger to a family of little note to the world around them, He was the Son of God and the foundation upon which every life must be built in order to withstand the external forces that attack our values daily. Christmas is about the celebration of the birth of a Savior. Those who have never invited Him into their lives really have very little to celebrate beyond their own gift exchanges. Those who know Him as their Lord, have an eternity to celebrate. In our house there is Joy.  Have a blessed day.

Friday, December 11, 2015

2015 Christmas Music Marathon Day 15

Well, the stores are busy, very busy. Many of the favorite Christmas gift items have already sold out and shoppers are seeking alternative offerings for those on their shopping list. I think we can look to the One whom this holiday celebration is supposed to be all about for an answer. Give yourself. Spend time with your family. Make memories, because they are more precious than things. There will come a time when memories is all that you will have. All of our grand kids are older now, so there are no "little ones" in the house at Christmas, but we have the memories of the grandcrew when they were much younger. One day God will call us home and all that our family will have is memories of our times together. Christ gave Himself so that we may spend eternity with the family of God. Our days here are numbered. Make the most of them by spending your time wisely and there is no better way to spend that time than making memories with the ones that you love. Have a blessed day.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

2015 Christmas Music Marathon Day 14

One of the joys of the Christmas season is pulling out the photos of Christmas past and reliving precious moments shared with the family. One of the joys of being a Christian is spending time reliving moments shared with the Savior. I can remember times when He delivered me from harms way. I can remember times when he gave me strength to face a difficult situation. I can remember when He gave me patience to manage people at work. I can remember when He wrapped His arms around me and let me know that He would not leave me, when I needed comfort. Whatever I have needed, He as supplied. I have been fortunate in this life. I had a good job and was able to retire in relative comfort. I have a marvelous family. I have decent health. If I had to make a Christmas list, it would be very short, because He has already provided everything that I truly need in this world. At the top of my Christmas list is a prayer that my grandchildren have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. One day they will be able to have memories similar to mine.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

2015 Christmas Music Marathon Day 13

God has always desired to have a relationship with His creation and there has always been an open invitation for us to enter into a personal relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ. On the night of Christ's birth, angels spoke to shepherds and invited them to go to Bethlehem to see what God has done.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

2015 Christmas Music Marathon Day 12

The regular college football season has come to a close and the four teams have been chosen to play for the National Championship. My Alma Mater, The University of Oklahoma is one of those teams. As you can see, my buddy, Boomer, and I have two championship hats and we're looking for number three. Let me tell you a little about Boomer. 
In 1984 I lost my job in architecture to a declining local economy in my hometown of Tulsa. I found work in Dallas several weeks later. My relocation meant that I would be separated from my family for several months. Our daughter was in school and we determined that the family would stay in Tulsa until school was out and I would get an apartment in Dallas until they could join me. Well, my wife and daughter decided that I needed a buddy, but a real live pet was not possible so they found Boomer. Boomer has aged much more gracefully than me. He looks pretty good for 31 don't you think? He now makes an appearance every Christmas, kind of like "Elf on a Shelf" without the antics. Well, Boomer and I are anxiously awaiting the play-offs and are hoping to add another cap to our collection. Think about it. Oklahoma won the National title in 1985 and 2000. It's 2015, so it's our turn, right?  BOOMER Sooner!!!
Regardless of how the play-offs turn out, I know that as long as I have Christ as my Lord and Savior, All Is Well.

Monday, December 7, 2015

2015 Christmas Music Marathon - Day 11

It's hard to believe that we have been our new home nearly a year. This time last year we were in the middle of packing and preparing to downsize our residence. In January of this year we moved to a new location. The home is a little smaller and all brick for less maintenance. The lot is smaller and flatter so it is easier to care for. I know it may be hard to believe, but even the Christmas tree is smaller and there are fewer of them. The main tree used to be 9' tall. The new one is 7.5' tall. There have been as many as four trees, of various sizes in our home. Now there are two. We still have all of the decorations from the past, but now that we know what we need to decorate this house, a lot of the old ornaments will be disposed of after the holiday. I love the warmth and comfort that Christmas brings to the home and to the heart. My wife loves everything about Christmas, including the movies.
The exterior is smaller, the shrubs are smaller, so fewer lights are required to make the Holidays bright. There are even a couple of "up lights" built-in to the front elevation on the left of the frame.
Well, the decorations are complete and most of the shopping is done. All I have to do now is stay current with my Music Marathon. It's my own "guilty pleasure".
I love music and I love finding new Christmas music that conveys the true message of the season. I like the traditional Christmas music, but you can hear that anywhere. If you want to hear a new song or a song that may be new to you, then stop by here during the Christmas season. We're open 24/7. The truth is, Christmas is not about the shopping, or the decorations, or even the time spent with family and friends. It's About The Cross.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

2015 Christmas Music Marathon - Day 10

I must say, I do enjoy putting together the music each year. I also enjoy creating the images that you see as a part of each post. Some of them relate directly to the music selection and some are just images that I have created and want to share. Occasionally, you get some unexpected results. We have a dark granite island in our kitchen. When I gathered the decorations to compose this image I wasn't sure what the final results would look like, but I think the reflection is better than I had imagined. It reminds me that we are to be a reflection of Christ in this world. What kind of image do we project to the world around us. Are we a reflection of this world, filled with anger, prejudice, vanity, jealously, pride, etc., or, are we a reflection of the One who can change a heart through, love. Christ was a reflection of His father and we are to be a reflection of Him as well. Have a blessed day.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

2015 Christmas Music Marathon - Day 9

Decorating the tree is a big deal at our house. It is such a big deal that we have had as many as four trees, of various sizes and themes. This year, in keeping with our downsizing effort, we have two trees, a large and a small. One of my favorite ornaments is this ceramic Santa that my wife painted several, several years ago. It has almost become a tradition to post an image of this decoration during the Christmas Music Marathon.
Santa represents the spirit of Christmas. He represents, joy, giving, kindness, and all of those things that most people associate with this season. For all of the good that Santa represents, he cannot represent forgiveness, salvation and eternal life. Those attributes are the sole domain of the Christ child. Only He is worthy of our praise.

Friday, December 4, 2015

2015 Christmas Music Marathon - Day 8

Time in a Bottle
Since Christmas is about celebrating the birth of a Savior, it is only natural that Christmas is all about the kids. It seems that they grow up all too fast. The image above is from 2005. The image below was taken last week. A decade has passed and one of these children is now a young adult in her sophomore year at college. One will soon be getting her drivers license and the other two are  beginning their adventures as teenagers. Time flies.

How quickly a decade passes. These two images put into perspective just how little time we have to train our children and influence our grandchildren before they are making their own way in this world. The Bible tells us to "train our children in the way that they should go" and it states that the Bible is good for instruction in all things. Training our children in all things includes their religious and moral values.  There is a whole world out there waiting to tell them that anything goes. The Holidays, Christmas & Thanksgiving are excellent opportunities to teach our children important values regarding friends, family, and worship. We only have them for a few short years. We need to make the most of our time with our children and grandchildren.  Have a blessed day.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

2015 Christmas Music Marathon - Day 7

Whenever a new baby is born into a family there is great joy and celebration. Everyone is excited to see if there is any resemblance between the baby and any other family member. Often the new born looks like one of their parents, or has a few traits of both. Sometimes the child may resemble a aunt, uncle, grandparent or even a great-grandparent. There is speculation about what kind of world the babe will grow up in, and what will they become when they are adults. Christ was born into this world for one purpose, that you and I may have eternal life. He looks like His father. Christ said, "Whoever has seen me, has seen the Father." (John 14:9) He came in order for us to experience the abundant life, "...I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly,"(John 10:10). He came so we might have direct access to the father. "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6). There is no other way. God has made it very simple for us to have an eternal relationship with Him. There is only one way, and it all began in a manger. He was born that we might have life.  Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

2015 Christmas Music Marathon Day 6

While Mary was in the midst of carrying the Savior in her womb, her fiance, Joseph was being advised to not marry her. By all appearances, she had been unfaithful and Joseph seemed to have every right to call off the wedding. But God told Joseph all that he needed to know in order to make the right decision.
" Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”
So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife..."
Matthew 1:18-22
I'm sure that Mary and Joseph were the topic of much discussion among their neighbors. There were close friends that had advised Joseph not to go through with the marriage. After all, "It Wasn't His Child."

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

2015 Christmas Music Marathon Day 5

The prophecy spoken of in Jeremiah was made known to a new generation some 470 years after God spoke to the prophet.
"Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,  to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.  And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”
 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.  Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

Have you ever read a portion of scripture and not truly grasped all of the message that was being proclaimed by the verses in front of you? One has to wonder if Mary grasped the magnitude of the message that Gabriel brought to her. "Mary Did You Know".

Monday, November 30, 2015

2015 Christmas Music Marathon Day 4

In the old testament God told the prophet Jeremiah that there would come a day when His relationship with Israel would change.
“Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt..." Jeremiah 31:31-32
That change was Jesus Christ. This is the first announcement regarding the birth of Christ and it happened 470 years prior to that first Christmas night. He was the new covenant. Before to the birth  of Christ Israel was to worship God through a priesthood out of the tribe of Levi. Christ was from the tribe of Judah and He brought with Him direct access to the living God. The birth of Christ signaled the beginning of the new covenant and His death, burial, and resurrection sealed the implementation of that new covenant with anyone who accepted Christ as their Savior. He was Heaven's Child.

Thanksgiving 2015 - Wordless Wednesday

Thanksgiving was spent with my cousins in Kentucky. We arrived Tuesday afternoon and returned home on Saturday. We had a great time with family that we don't get to see but once every couple of years. 
 Thursday was all about family and food. There was plenty of both and everyone had a great time.
There was some basketball and football to be watched, but the games were hardly the focus of the day. However, on Friday we went to see some very special athletes.
 Everyone loaded up and we headed to Churchill Downs for some horse racing.  I have never been to a race track on race day. These animals are beautiful and you can see every muscle. They are finely tuned athletes that love to run.

And they're off! There were twelve races scheduled for the day. The races varied between 1-1/8 mile to about 1-1/2 mile. Two of the races were run on the grass track that is inside of the dirt (actually sand) main track. The position of the starting line varies, but the finish line is always at the same location.

The first few paces out of the gate can set the tone for the race. One or two of the horses want to lead from start to finish. A couple want to trail the leaders but stay close enough to overtake them in the final section of the race.
It can get pretty exciting in the final straight as they head to the finish line. This week-end the stands were far from full, so we could wander just about anywhere along the track and take photos.
This is probably my favorite image. Note that all four feet are off of the ground. We had a great time at the track and didn't wager a dime. Some people believe that there is a great deal of skill involved in picking a winner. I think it is much more of a game of chance than skill. I was just happy to get to photograph something new in sports. So, how was your Thanksgiving?

Sunday, November 29, 2015

2015 Christmas Music Marathon Day 3

There are a lot of things associated with Christmas. Good food, football games, holiday decorations, gift exchanges, etc. I've come to realize that the most important thing about Christmas is spending time with the family celebrating the birth of our Savior. Several years from now none of us will remember what we got or what we gave as gifts to one another, but we will remember spending time together and we will remember the family Christmas traditions. Our family has several traditions. At some point the grandcrew come over and spend a day baking cookies and other goodies. The food isn't nearly important as the fellowship. Memories are made and captured, to be shared for years to come. The image above was taken on Christmas Eve 2007, two years before my dad passed away. Our daughter and the four grandcrew are gathered around Papa Yogi. His real name was not Yogi, but it is a nickname that stuck. Christmas time will always be special around our house.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

2015 Christmas Music Marathon Day 2

Not every Christmas song is easily identified as Christmas music. We have to listen closely in order to realize that the lyrics are announcing the birth of Christ in a new way. Everyone may be familiar with Hark the Herald Angels Sing, but this song declares the same message in a more contemporary verse. Have a blessed day.

Friday, November 27, 2015

2015 Christmas Music Marathon Day 1

Welcome, welcome, welcome!!! Today marks the beginning of the sixth year that I have been doing my Christmas Music Marathon. You may be recovering from too much Thanksgiving, Black Friday midnight shopping specials, or in the middle of this holiday week-end football marathon on every television network on the planet. But if you are ready to focus on Christmas, and the true meaning of Christmas, you have landed at the right place. Every day between now and Christmas I will post at least one music video that celebrates the most important event in human history, the birth of Jesus Christ.
I am a traditionalist. One of my music marathon traditions is to start with a certain video. Many people mark the beginning of this holiday season by fighting the crowds to secure special bargain prices on what have been determined to be the most desirable gifts of the year. The malls are crammed with people scurrying from store to store, eager to swipe their credit cards to purchase gifts that may be returned in a few weeks. Others avoid the crowds by shopping online but the electronic shopping frenzy is no less furious. One song reminds of the streets of Bethlehem and that maybe we should spend a little time in the city of the birth of our Savior.  Let the marathon begin. Merry Christmas.