I’m not sure how all three of these cartoonists seized upon myrrh this year, but it is the most mysterious of the three gifts of the Magi. We’re all familiar with gold and I think a lot of people recognize frankincense as (mostly) a form of incense, while myrrh is a little more puzzling.
Myrrh and frankincense are both tree resins, but myrrh is used as an ointment and medicine for a variety of things, one of which is ceremonial anointing of kings and other high figures in Israeli culture, so it could be argued that the Magi were bringing it to anoint the young Messiah.
Or simply as an analgesic for his post-partum mother, though that seems a bit specific and unMage-like, given that the entire nativity sequence is more folkloric than some of us would like to admit.
And to further puncture things, they don’t belong in the manger scene anyway, because Matthew describes them as arriving after the family had returned home, but before the family had to flee across the border and we’ll get back to that.
But, in general, if you’re going to believe, you should get the story straight: Joseph and Mary got out of the stable as soon as they’d fulfilled the requirement to register for the census of which there is no historical record.
It’s not necessary to believe in the literal truth of the Bible in order to follow the philosophy taught by Joshua ben Joseph, and Graeme MacKay brings the story up to date with a reference to the horrific travel conditions of this Christmas.
I’m particularly impressed that he depicts some people as being kind, generous and concerned while others, shown in dismal gray, continue to nap or stare at their phones, oblivious to the lives going on around them.
Which reminds me, BTW, of the tail end of 1968, when I tried to fly from Syracuse to Dallas to visit my sister and her husband, and found myself along with everyone else socked in at Hancock Field by a nasty blizzard.
What I remember is some guy screaming at the ticket clerk because he was certain she was concealing active flights from him despite the fact that you could barely even see the runways, much less expect airplanes to use them.
When I got up there, I was polite enough that she went out of her way to get me a seat on the next available flight, not so much based on airline policy as on Proverbs 15, “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”
What does endure is, as Frank Mariani reminds us, the holiday itself, which, however literally you accept the details, should still inspire us to embrace charity and kindness in this dark, cold time of year in this dark, cold world.
Dan Piraro, in his guise as the Sunday Bizarro guy, points out the blasphemous folly of arguing over whether “Die Hard” qualifies as a Christmas movie because it takes place during that holiday.
If that’s what you took away from the movie and from the holiday, you’d better hope the parts about Hell are folkloric and not literal.
There are all sorts of movies that better reflect Christmas, even though they aren’t set in December, which, by-the-by, is not the logical timing for the Nativity anyway. It’s a good time for Saturnalia and other festivals marking the darkest time of the year, however, and a good adaptation, assuming that the dark times are best remedied with light and hope, not gunfire, explosion and hideous supervillains.
Herod stood in as a hideous supervillain in the Nativity story, but note that his murderous plot was foiled not by Bruce Willis but by Joseph being warned in a dream, whereupon he fled with his wife to safety in a neighboring country until Herod had died and it was safe to go back.
We keep this tradition alive by having Texas Governor Greg Abbott — knowing the forecasts for deadly temperatures in Washington — loading up Nicaraguan refugees and dumping them in front of the Vice-President’s residence in DC, without so much as a sweater or jacket in the bitter cold.
And so we quote Jeremiah for a second day in a row:
This is what the LORD says: “Keep your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for the reward for your work will come, declares the LORD. Then your children will return from the land of the enemy. So there is hope for your future, declares the LORD, and your children will return to their own land.
Greg Abbott isn’t the only hideous supervillain out and about this time of year, and Christian Adams shows the sad fate of another, though, as with Herod, we should interpret this spiritually rather than quibble over whether it is literal truth.
I can’t remember a worse DecemberJust watch the icicles form What do I care if icicles form I’ve got Fox News to keep me warm
Can’t we talk about something more festive?
Macanudo (KFS) describes yesterday’s walk with my pup, whose trail indeed showed more enthusiasm and joy than my own. The only thing that would make this more accurate would be marks showing the many times she stopped and wriggled on her back, hoping to get the damn sweater off despite it being a brisk 10F outside.
That was my fault: We only ran into one couple, and, since I make her wear the aforementioned damn sweater not to keep her warm but to make me look responsible, it was a wasted gesture as well as an annoying one.
As for putting warm clothing on people, Kevin Necessary demonstrates the process, though, as I write this, Alexa assures me that it is a balmy 14F out, so I shouldn’t complain and, lord knows, the dog won’t understand it if I did.
Though I’m being drawn more and more to celebrate a Jeremy Banx Christmas.
But Non Sequitur (AMS) reminds us that Christmas should be taken both spiritually and literally.
And not just today.
(Though if you really want it, you have to work to make it really happen.)
20 thoughts on “CSotD: Have Yourself A Myrrhy Little Christmas”
I, too, was once caught in an airport because of ‘mechanical failure’. I waited ’til everyone else had vented and ranted and raved and gotten other seats. I then went to the counter lady and told her I’d go back home (with my dog, who hadn’t been out of his crate for HOURS) and so I could take a seat the next day . . . she gave me a First Class seat and that spoiled me; the few times after that when I had to fly, I went FC.
I realize not everyone had the luxury of 1) going back home; and 2) leaving the next day, but I sure felt sorry for her!
Frankly, if there IS a mechanical failure, I’d rather not get on the plane, no matter what schedule I’d be on.
Happy Christmas to you and thank you for your hard work. Your writing is a beacon of rational thought and hopefulness that makes my and many other people’s days brighter. (Not really sure about the apostrophe but it is Christmas so I am gonna let it ride.)
It’s amazing what you can get if you ask politely, you acknowledge that the answer will probably be no and you won’t have a tantrum if it is, and you make the person you’re asking laugh. Just the first will get you a whole can of your complimentary beverage of choice on Southwest.
I’m not sure why, but the dog in MacKay’s cartoon made it really special for me. That and the gifts of pretzels and a bag that looks like it may have a muffin.
And finally, unlike Banks’s character, we don’t have a tree (the cat would knock it over), but we do have bags of dog poop in our downstairs loo waiting to thaw. (It’s gotten up to the mid-20s here in the DC area.)
Thanks for all you do, Mike. I always start my day with CSOTD.
Merry Christmas, Mike.
Thanks for another year of insightful thought and analysis but also lots of smirks, giggles and laughs.
A Happy and Prosperous New Year to you and yours.
I do really appreciate your thoughtful postings. They have a very decent and constructive perspective on our deteriorating society.
Mike, thank you for including my cartoon in your collection today. I I was corrected by a few people on technicalities about the timing of Jesus’ birth and the like, but as you stated, the popular narrative is what drives the important message of good will towards men. I’ve had many a Charlie Brown moment in my senior years.
Your posting today is heavily oriented to the Northern Hemisphere. Many of your regular readers, I presume, are enjoying long, warm days for their Christmas.
George, according to the latest tracking, about 2% of my audience is in the Southern Hemisphere. I run a higher percentage of cartoons than that from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and, as it happens, I wrote the other day that the holidays are bushfire time in Australia.
Relax. Have some eggnog. Or a gin and tonic. Your choice.
I only know the location of one of your followers, Olympia WA , where it cold and rainy – egg nog it is.
People nowadays are unfamiliar with myrrh, so a lot of jokes are made about it, probably because if the odd spelling and pronunciation. But back in the time when Jesus was born, frankincense was (literally) worth its weight in gold while myrrh was seven times more valuable. So it was by far the best gift.
Also, while Die Hard is set at Christmas, it is NOT a Christmas movie, no matter what anyone says.
And Merry Christmas to all.
According to the folklore described in the Christmas carol “We Three Kings of Orient Are…”
“Myrrh is mine
Its bitter perfume
Breathes a sense
Of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in a stone cold tomb.”
The gold was for a king, the frankincense for a god, the myrrh for his death, Myrrh had the other uses you speak of as well, but the ancient Egyptians included it in some of their burial rites.
Merry Christmas and a happy new year from South Africa. It’s a cold beer as I wait for the late afternoon summer thudershower. Thanks for your contributions Mike. I savour them and will sometimes wait two weeks before diving in for a good read.
@Fred King: “. . . but we do have bags of dog poop in our downstairs loo waiting to thaw.”
Can someone explain the Banx cartoon? I think it’s dog poop, but why?
It’s winter up here, William, and a great deal more unpleasant than anything you get down your way, even when you aren’t torturing us with shots of the beach and Table Bay.
I’ve cut our walks to one and a short one. Beyond that, she goes out in the yard on her own and doesn’t stay long.
Andréa: Our dogs are 50 and 70lbs, and our toilet doesn’t deal with their frozen poop all that well. As for why flush it at all, well…, it’s easier that way.
Thanks for the message Mike. I still don’t understand why the poops are on the tree. (My first thought was they were scrotums and looked to the dog!)
William, you might be overthinking it. The guy is clearly poor–patched quilt and hot water bottle, and his room doesn’t even have walls–and bags of dog poop are substituting for ornaments.
Thanks Fred. I kind of get it now but I guess some humour does not translate across borders, here it’s 29 degrees C., about 84F. Nice swimming weather.
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