November 29th, 2009


Football talk

When my siblings and I attended Wheaton Central High School, our football team was, shall we say, mediocre. The Tigers were never the worst team in the conference, but we rarely won more than five games in any given season. The team started to improve immediately after the last of the Heaton kids graduated; that year, 1988, the Tigers made it into the post-season for the first time in history, advancing to the third round before being knocked out. The following year, they made it to the fourth round. They made it all the way to the final game in 1990 and 1991, only to lose (to the same team) both times. By 1992, all three of the Heaton kids had moved out of state, and lo and behold, the Tigers made it back to the finals ... and this time they won. Since then, they've made it into the playoffs every year but one, and they won the title five more times. Their sixth championship was won just yesterday, when they beat Glenbard West 31-24 in double overtime.

Now, I'm not saying that the Heaton kids were jinxing the Tigers; I'm saying it was me. (Though my brother and sister probably didn't help the team any.) Consider: after high school, I spent two years at the local community college; in 1988, when I left Illinois to go to college in Iowa, the Tigers made it to the playoffs for the first time. In 1992, after I moved to DC, they started winning championships. Meanwhile, the Washington Redskins have gone from being a perennial playoff contender to being a consistent under-achiever. They won the Super Bowl in three of the ten seasons preceding my move to DC; in the 17 seasons since, they've made it to the playoffs only four times, never advancing past the second round. Coincidence? Perhaps, but who can say?

Anyway, the point of all this is to say congratulations to my high school alma mater for winning their sixth state football title. Go them!
Christmas, Advent

Advent 2009: Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

Today is, in a liturgical sense, both the start of the new year and the start of the Christmas season. Advent is a time for Christians to commemorate the coming of the Christ and to prepare for His second coming. It is also a time during which I celebrate the season by making a holiday-themed post every day between the first Sunday in Advent and the Feast of the Epiphany, which falls every year on January 6. The first year I did this was 2003, when I posted a seasonal poem every day. The following year, I posted seasonal works of arts from Washington-area museums. In 2005, I posted images of holiday cards, botrh antique and contemporary. I went back to poetry in 2006, and to art in 2007. Last year, I shared one or more seasonal MP3s every day. And this year? Well, if you've been paying attention you know that once again I've compiled a selection of Christmas poetry to share.

(I should note here that while the majority of the poems are Christmas or Advent poems, they are not exclusively so. You'll see poems celebrating Hanukkah, Solstice, St. Stephen's Day, and the Annunciation. Also, some of the poems are not poems. And you should not expect the poems to correspond to the liturgical calendar. Yes, the Advent poems will all be posted before Christmas, and those about the Magi will appear after Christmas. (Because the Biblical Magi arrived in Judea after Jesus was born, and their arrival is officially celebrated on the liturgical calendar on January 6.) But many of the Christmas poems will appear during Advent, which is not really appropriate in a liturgical sense. However, so what. As they say, "remenber, if you don't like it, you can lump it.")

Ayway, here is the first of this year's poems. It's one of my favorite hymns, written in the 1740s by the British hymnodist Charles Wesley. It is both the first and the second hymn in the Presbyterian hymnal; it's set first to the tune Stuttgart, second to Hyfrydol. My impression is that Hyfrydol is the more commonly sung tune, but I like it either way.

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Previous Advent posts:

2003: Project began Nov. 30
2004: The Alba Madonna
2005: The holiday that you'll sorely miss
2006: Project began Dec. 3
2007: Project began Dec. 2
2008: Project began Nov. 30