Readers, as a thank you for coming to this blog over the past year, I would like to give you Christmas gifts. I have done a lot of my shopping online, and these particular gifts will stay online, little things that I found you might enjoy and find uplifting.

First of all, here is my Christmas card. It is a contemporary painting of Mary showing her baby to the shepherds and the wise men, a different approach to the subject filled with joy and great expressions. The painting, titled “Nativity” by Carol Aust, is accompanied by a discussion of the work of Laurel Gasque, who not only unwraps the painting but ponders what it means.

(1) The discovery of this work made me discover the first gift that I want to give you. The site where the “Nativity” is located is called ArtWay. It is run by Dutch Christians associated with the late evangelical art critic Hans Rookmaaker. The scope of the site, however, is international and ecumenical, but, from what I can tell, orthodox. My gift, should you choose to accept it, is this: Every Sunday ArtWay will send you a free visual meditation, much like the painting “Nativity” and its commentary, featuring the work of an ancient Christian artist or new. To sign up for this giveaway which will continue to be offered throughout the year, click here.

(2) Also, I don’t know if you like to receive gifts from your friends’ children to put on your fridge, but that’s a whole different story. My daughter Mary Moerbe has a website called Meet, Write, and Salutary, which features Lutheran writers – conversations by and about them, lists of writers you might want to follow, and reviews from their books. She gives away a ton of free resources. She also has another website that some of you will find very useful, Lutheran Homeschool Marketplace & Press, which also has plenty of resources for homeschooling families, many of which are free and others are worth the price.

(3) Another kind of gift is a movie: The Shootist. It was John Wayne’s last film, made in 1976 when the Duke was 69 years old and in poor health, three years before his death. And it features a constellation of other megastars near their end – Lauren Bacall and Jimmy Stewart – as well as lesser but still wonderful lights like Richard Boone, Hugh O’Brian, Harry Morgan and John Carradine. And a newcomer, young Ron Howard.

John Wayne plays an old shooter who is dying of cancer. We watch the Country Doctor, played by Stewart, break the news and see how the hero takes it. (Wayne looks like he’d had this conversation with his doctor before in real life.) He checks into a boarding house, run by Bacall, for his final days. The problem is that other young shooters want to fight him to put a prestigious notch on their weapons. And the owner’s son, played by Howard, wants to grow up to be a killer like him. Meanwhile, John Wayne’s character takes stock of his violent life and impending death.

I am in awe of this film. The actors may be nearing the end of their careers, but they are at the top of their game and their performances are breathtaking. And the young Howard, between Opie and Richie Cunningham and long before his career as a director, has earned a Golden Globe nomination for the role, which is turning out to be far more than we expected. And despite the theme of aging, death, and farewell to the western genre, the story, far from depressing, is gripping and thrilling, with a brilliant double twist at the end.

When we watched this a few months ago, it was showing on a free channel through Amazon Prime, but I see it’s not available now. Businesses had to realize what they had. Now it’s free if you have Hulu, but you can rent it for $ 2.99. So I guess what I’m offering to you is not a movie, as I wanted it to be, but a movie suggestion.

(4) Social media and search engines struggle to distinguish between a satirical story and actual news – I had an onion story on my Google news feed a few days ago – but it does not matter because sometimes I can not either, so absurd our time has become. In any case, I offer you the gift of satire: Lutheran satire, the bee of Babylon, the onion.

(5) This is the one you probably already have, but it is also the tradition of Christmas gifts. But if not, you should read it, mark it and digest it internally: Bible Gateway. It has some 200 translations of the Bible into 70 languages, including the original Greek and Hebrew. You can easily search it by word, verse, chapter, subject or pretty much as you want. You can also compare how different translations render a text. And you can copy and paste passages, making it a great resource for pastors, teachers, writers, or other Bible students, as we all should be.

Finally, you can also have the freebies I gave you in 2019, which are still available. Do not hesitate to give a gift.

So have a good night before Christmas and a happy celebration of the birth of our Savior! He is the gift that all of our other gifts symbolize!

Image byanaterate via Pixabay

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