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Removing the “Holy” from “the Holidays”

light and bulbs

Christians have not always celebrated the Christmas holiday in this way—with canned music and decorations that begin long before the Thanksgiving turkey is stuffed and that end when the tree gets kicked to the curb on December 26. Christmas as we know it first began when our Christian ancestors in the Middle Ages took a perfectly good pagan observance of the winter solstice and... Read More

Measured Hope: A Meditation on the Third Week of Advent


A couple months ago, I ran across an article in the Atlantic that I thought was a sure fake (Chelsea Fagan, October 18, 2011). I read it once in disbelief; I read it a second time and thought, I must have stumbled across something from the Onion. The story just seemed too outlandish. It was an article on something called the “Paris Syndrome.” It explained that every year about... Read More

Advent and Teddy


After dinner I get a call from one of the homies: towering and tattooed Teddy. While working as a jail chaplain with Tierra Nueva in Washington State’s Skagit Valley, I found myself being adopted as the pastor of a network of Chicano gang members. The first two times I met Teddy at these midnight gang meetings, he nearly assaulted me. He was drunk at the time, but that same boldness... Read More

Do Not be Afraid: A Meditation on Matthew 1:18–25


“Tell me the story of when I was born.” This is a request that my adult son Evan invariably makes of me whenever we get together: “Tell me the story of when I was born,” he always says. And so I go through the whole story—the town and the house where we lived before his birth, the day or two leading up to that moment, and then the day of the birth. I tell him of the drive... Read More

The Introduction: A Meditation on Matthew 3:1–12


If you are old enough to remember Johnny Carson, you’ll remember that the late-night host’s show opened with an invariable liturgy: it always began with the announcement, “Welcome to the Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson,” followed by a listing of the night’s special guests and then an enthusiastic “Heeere’s Johnny,” always intoned by the avuncular Ed McMahon.... Read More

Pardon the Interruption: A Meditation on Luke 1:26-36


Inevitably, it always occurs at the most inconvenient time. You know what I mean. After a long, exhausting day at work, you sit down with a warm cup of tea to catch up on Gossip Girl, and that’s when it happens. “We interrupt your regularly scheduled program for this Special Emergency Alert!” You know right away that this is not going to be good news—after all, they would... Read More

A Peculiar Memory


Bertrand Russell, that great humanist of the past century, was fascinated with human memory. Our capacity to have events and feelings and notions seared in our minds in ways that we could recollect in detail and communicate from one generation to the next was the mark of our superiority above all else under the sun. Sure, Pavlov’s dogs could be trained to drool at the ringing... Read More

Waiting with Mary: A Meditation on Luke 1:26–38, 47–55


This essay is adapted from one published in J. Alexander Sider and Isaac S. Villegas, Presence: Giving and Receiving God (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2011), 22–27. Used by permission of Wipf and Stock Publishers. www.wipfandstock.com.   Advent is a season of waiting, of being drawn into the spiritual discipline of anticipation. Our spiritual director is Mary, the mother of... Read More

The Advent Issue


As we move into the darkest season of the calendar year, daylight runs in short supply, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, where The Other Journal makes its home. By the time the winter solstice arrives, we’ll experience about eight and a half hours of daylight, with plenty of thick, low-hanging clouds to obscure our rare chances of sunshine. It is a darkness with which many... Read More