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U.S. Capitol gets official Christmas tree
A 73-foot Englemann spruce arrives at the Capitol.
November 26th, 2012
04:27 PM ET

U.S. Capitol gets official Christmas tree

By Paul Courson, CNN

Washington (CNN) - The official Christmas tree of the U.S. Capitol arrived Monday and will be illuminated at a ceremony on December 4.

Dozens of tourists, Capitol Hill staffers and news crews watched the tree's arrival along with Stephen Ayers, the Capitol architect. "My job is to officially accept the Capitol Christmas Tree on behalf of the Congress," he said.

U.S. Capitol crews using a crane hoisted the 73-foot Englemann spruce from a flatbed truck and prepared it for display on the West Lawn.

Once the tree is mounted, U.S. Capitol workers will place ornaments crafted and donated by Coloradans and will string energy-conserving LED-type lights on it.

Read the full story about the Capitol Christmas tree
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christmas • DC

Pope prays for Syria and Myanmar in Christmas message
December 26th, 2011
12:23 AM ET

Pope prays for Syria and Myanmar in Christmas message

By the CNN Wire Staff

Vatican City (CNN) – Pope Benedict XVI prayed for peace in Syria, reconciliation in Myanmar, and comfort in flood-stricken Thailand and the Philippines in his annual Christmas message "To the City and the World" on Sunday.

Addressing a packed St. Peter's Square on a glorious sunny day, the pope pleaded with God to "bring an end to the violence in Syria, where so much blood has already been shed."

More than 5,000 people have died in Syria since President Bashar al-Assad began a brutal crackdown in mid-March on anti-government protesters calling for his ouster, the United Nations said earlier this month.

In his Christmas morning speech, Benedict also urged the international community to help those suffering hunger and insecurity in the Horn of Africa, a reference to famine and violence in Somalia and Kenya.

FULL STORY
- Dan Merica

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christmas • Holidays • Pope Benedict XVI • Syria • Vatican

Christmas carnage in Nigeria; 5 churches bombed
December 26th, 2011
12:19 AM ET

Christmas carnage in Nigeria; 5 churches bombed

By the CNN Wire Staff

Jos, Nigeria (CNN) - A string of bombs struck churches in five Nigerian cities Sunday, leaving dozens dead and wounded on the holiday, authorities and witnesses said.

The blasts mark the second holiday season that bombs have hit Christian houses of worship in the west African nation. In a statement issued late Sunday, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan called the bombings "a dastardly act that must attract the rebuke of all peace-loving Nigerians."

"These acts of violence against innocent citizens are an unwarranted affront on our collective safety and freedom," Jonathan said. "Nigerians must stand as one to condemn them."

Bombs targeted churches across the country, hitting the cities of Madalla, Jos, Kano, and Damaturu and Gadaka, said journalist Hassan John, who witnessed the carnage in Jos. The death toll in Madalla alone was 18, including two people reported dead overnight at a nearby hospital, Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency spokesman Yushau Shuaib told CNN.

FULL STORY
- Dan Merica

Filed under: Christianity • Christmas • Church • Holidays • Religious violence

Pope calls for worshipers to remember 'essence' of Christmas
December 25th, 2011
01:00 AM ET

Pope calls for worshipers to remember 'essence' of Christmas

By the CNN Wire Staff

Rome (CNN) – Pope Benedict XVI presided over Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, delivering a homily that focused on the "essence" of the holiday rather than the "commercial celebration" it has become.

"Today Christmas has become a commercial celebration, whose bright lights hide the mystery of God's humility, which in turn calls us to humility and simplicity," the pope said after recalling the story of Christmas. "Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light."

The 84-year-old pope, presiding over his seventh mass as pontiff, also conjured up an image of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, explaining that visitors must bend down to enter its low opening, drawing a tie to what followers of Christ must do to find their faith.

"If we want to find the God who appeared as a child, then we must dismount from the high horse of our 'enlightened' reason," he said. "... In this spirit let us celebrate the liturgy of the holy night, let us strip away our fixation on what is material, on what can be measured and grasped."

FULL STORY
- Dan Merica

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christmas • Holidays • Pope Benedict XVI

December 24th, 2011
10:00 PM ET

'What's Christmas without chopsticks?' How other faiths celebrate December 25th

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) -
Two days before Christmas, Imam Mohamed Magid, the executive director at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, preached about Jesus at Friday prayers.

"We live in a country with a majority of Christians, where Christmas is a major holiday... It's a reminder we do believe in Jesus. Jesus' position in Islam is one of the highest prophets in Islam," Magid said, adding that Muslims view Jesus as a prophet on par with Abraham, Moses, Noah and Mohammad.

Often when he says the name of Mohammad or Jesus in conversation, Magid adds the Islamic honorific "Peace be upon him" after his name.

"Jesus is a unifying figure, unifying Muslims and Christians," he said. The Quran, the Islamic scriptures, makes specific mention of Jesus and of his mother Mary. "It's very interesting that there are many places where the prophet (Mohammad) is quoting Jesus."

Christmas has a way of bleeding into other faiths in America.  The Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ in a manger in Bethlehem 2000 some odd years ago is ubiquitous across the country, even if the American tradition has leaned away from the sacred and toward the secular.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Buddhism • Christianity • Christmas • Hinduism • Islam

My Take: Why we're skipping the Christmas roast
Food practices are important for the journey of spiritual formation, the author says.
December 24th, 2011
05:00 AM ET

My Take: Why we're skipping the Christmas roast

Editor's note: The Rev. Dr. Craig Goodwin is the author of  "Year of Plenty: One Suburban Family, Four Rules, and 365 Days of Homegrown Adventure in Pursuit of Christian Living."  His family is dedicating a year to explore the role of food in Christian spiritual formation by eating their way through different food traditions, one month at a time. He is writing about their experiences at www.tablesofplenty.com.

By The Rev. Dr. Craig Goodwin, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Advent is a season of feasting for most American Christians. It unofficially begins on Thanksgiving with gut-busting portions of turkey and potatoes and carries on all the way through to Christmas with a dietary gauntlet of party trays, cookies and candy canes.

Our family is trying a different approach to Advent this year by following what Orthodox Christians call the Nativity Fast in which participants refrain from dairy, eggs, oil, wine and meat. Fish, wine and oil are allowed on certain designated days. As my 9-year-old daughter explained to her friends over school lunch, “We’re going vegan this Christmas.”

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Christmas • Food

My Take: When Bedford Falls Becomes Pottersville
December 24th, 2011
03:00 AM ET

My Take: When Bedford Falls Becomes Pottersville

Editor's note: Larry Alex Taunton is the founder and executive director of the Fixed Point Foundation. This article is adapted from his book “The Grace Effect: How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief.”

By Larry Alex Taunton, Special to CNN

(CNN) - My favorite Christmas movie is, unquestionably, Frank Capra’s 1946 feel-good flick "It’s a Wonderful Life." Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed play George and Mary Bailey, a happy couple living a life of genteel poverty in the small American town of Bedford Falls.

George is a kind and generous man. He is active in his community and in the war effort. Most importantly, George is all that stands between the town’s mean old man, Mr. Potter, and the demise of all that is good in Bedford Falls.

As financial pressures crowd in on poor George, he begins to question his value to the community. So much so, that he wishes he had never been born. To demonstrate to George the folly of his wish, an angel is sent to give him a glimpse of what Bedford Falls would look like if that wish were granted. In Dickensian fashion, the angel takes him from one scene in that small town to another. The difference is stark. Indeed, Bedford Falls isn’t even Bedford Falls anymore, but a place called Pottersville. The town’s main street is a red-light district, crime is rampant, and life there is coarsened.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Christmas • Church and state

My Faith: Praying away the cookies
Indulging in cookies can be tempting during the holidays. The author suggests prayer can give you strength to stop overeating.
December 23rd, 2011
11:30 AM ET

My Faith: Praying away the cookies

Editor's note: Keith Wommack is a Christian Science practitioner and teacher. He also is a media and legislative liaison for Christian Science in Texas. He has been described as a spiritual spur (since every horse needs a little nudge now and then).

By Keith Wommack, Special to CNN

(CNN) - With Christmas cookies, fruitcake and eggnog tempting us at every corner, it is hard not to gain weight during the holiday season. Yet it is not just holiday foods that are enticing.

Oversized and disproportionate - that about sums it up when the average American is 20 pounds overweight. The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently said, "Obesity, and with it diabetes, are the only major health problems that are getting worse in this country, and they are getting worse rapidly."

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christian Science • Christmas

My Faith: An unexpected Christmas at South Pole
The South Pole reminds people how little control we have over our lives, the Rev. Steve Rossetti says.
December 23rd, 2011
06:00 AM ET

My Faith: An unexpected Christmas at South Pole

Editor's note: The Rev. Steve Rossetti is a professor of theology at Catholic University in Washington, and he's a chaplain this Christmas at the South Pole.

By The Rev. Steve Rossetti, Special to CNN

South Pole, Antarctica (CNN) - Modern men and women often live under the illusion that they are in control of their lives. Science and technology have brought us far beyond the superstitions of ancient civilizations. Confident in our abilities and achievements, we feel secure. Outside of the occasional environmental or personal tragedy, we feel self-sufficient and safe.

Antarctica blasts this illusion of control. As one of the managers at the South Pole told me, “Antarctica is boss.” Anyone who loses respect for this savage continent is in danger of paying the ultimate price. As local lore has it, “Antarctica is constantly trying to kill you.”

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Christmas

On California coast, atheists nudge out Nativity scenes
A creche stands in Santa Monica, California, where atheists have legally occupied space normally used for Nativity scenes.
December 22nd, 2011
10:20 PM ET

On California coast, atheists nudge out Nativity scenes

By Michael Martinez and Zohreen Adamjee, CNN

Los Angeles (CNN) - Every Christmas for the past 60 years, Nativity scenes have dominated two blocks of a park on bluffs overlooking the ocean in Santa Monica, California.

The 14 scenes depicting Jesus Christ's birth have long been a popular attraction among area residents and tourists to the southern California city.

This year, however, atheists have taken over most of the two-block stretch, nearly shutting out and angering a group of churches who contend the atheists have organized against the Christians and gamed a city lottery process allocating the holiday exhibit space.

In response, a leader of the atheist group says he's just looking for evenhanded treatment to present his beliefs in a public space - and goes so far as to say that the city shouldn't even be allowing any religious or even atheist expression in the park.

Read the full story here
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Christmas

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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.

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