President Obama on Jesus; Lowe's Pulls Ads from Muslim Reality Show; Church Closing after 104...


Obama, family attend `Christmas in Washington'

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama says Jesus Christ "was

no ordinary child. He was the manifestation of God's love."

At the 30th annual "Christmas in Washington" concert Sunday

night, Obama said Jesus changed the world with his teachings of

faith, love, forgiveness and serving others. The president said,

"Those are values that are shared by all faiths."

The concert benefiting the Children's National Medical Center

was hosted by comedian Conan O'Brien, who joked that it was a time

to celebrate a child worshipped by millions -- Justin Bieber.

Bieber performed along with musical stars Cee Lo Green, Jennifer

Hudson, Victoria Justice and the Band Perry.

They all joined with Obama and his family, a choir and

orchestra, to sing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing."



Obamas walk to church across from White House

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama and his family have

started the week by attending church.

The first family walked across Pennsylvania Ave. to St. John's

Episcopal Church for the Sunday morning service.

In the sermon, the Rev. Luis Leon recalled how John the Baptist

told people he wasn't the Messiah they were looking for. Leon said

many once expected President Obama to be a messiah. The

congregation laughed as Leon called that an unfair expectation.

Churchgoers also chuckled when a young boy ran to the front of

the church to get a good look at the Obamas.

The first family took Communion before strolling back through

Lafayette Park to the White House.

St. John's claims to have been visited by every president since

James Madison. One of the church pews has a small brass plaque

designating it as "The President's Pew."





Lowe's chain pulls ads from Muslim reality TV show

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) - The Lowe's home improvement chain says

it's pulling ads from the new reality TV show "All-American

Muslim" after protests from a conservative evangelical Christian


"All-American Muslim" premiered last month on TLC and features

five families from Dearborn, a Detroit suburb with a large Muslim

and Arab-American population.

The Florida Family Association mounted a campaign against the

show and claims victory after Lowe's announcement.

In a Facebook posting, Lowe's says it heard a wide range of

comment on the show and remains committed to "diversity and


But cast member Rana Abbas is unconvinced and says Lowe's

appears to have made "a blatant bigoted decision."

In California, Democratic state Rep. Ted Lieu says he may call

for a boycott against Lowe's for what he calls "naked religious







Lutheran church in Chester closing after 104 years

CHESTER, S.D. (AP) - A 104-year-old church in Chester, S.D., has

held its final Sunday service because of dwindling membership.

The Madison Daily Leader reports that St. John Lutheran Church

has 79 registered members, but attendance at Sunday services

usually attracts just a couple of dozen people.

Church Council President Shawn Martin says the future of the

building is uncertain, but it's listed for sale with a real estate


Jan and Eldon Hohwieler have been attending St. John for more

than 50 years. Jan Hohwieler says it's a very sad day.

The church will hold its final Advent service Wednesday night.



Boston church selling centuries-old silver items

BOSTON (AP) - The congregation of one of Boston's oldest

churches is preparing to sell its prized silver collection, hoping

the historic pieces will fetch enough at auction to repair their

crumbling building.

First Parish Church of Dorchester has owned the 27 silver

beakers, chalices and tankards since the 17th and 18th centuries.

The Boston Globe reports the items are scheduled to be auctioned

Jan. 20 by Sotheby's in New York, where the church hopes to raise

up to $3 million. The Rev. Arthur Lavoie says it hurts to sell the

items, but the historic church needs so many repairs that other

fund-raising efforts have fallen fell far short.

The silver items have been stored at the Boston Museum of Fine

Arts for 80 years and include pieces by some of the area's earliest




Catholic church to reopen after deadly 1958 fire

CHICAGO (AP) - A Chicago Catholic parish that was the site of a

1958 school fire that killed 95 people is experiencing a rebirth.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Our Lady of Angels Church

could reopen next month.

Archdiocese officials closed the crumbling church in 1990. The

adjoining school on the city's West Side was where 92 students and

three nuns died in a 1958 fire.

Over the years, many parts of the parish have been rebuilt and

put back into use. The rehabbed parish center provides after school

activities and classes for adults. The final piece is the church.

The Rev. Bob Lombardo is the driving force behind the rebirth.

He arrived in 2005.

He says the church won't offer regular Mass, but will be a place

of prayer and programs.



Gospel's Andrae Crouch calls dyslexia his blessing

ATLANTA (AP) - Gospel singer Andrae Crouch says his lifelong

struggle with dyslexia has made him depend on God.

Crouch, whose signature songs include "Soon and Very Soon" and

"My Tribute (To God Be the Glory)," says he usually starts off

with drawings of how he thinks the song would sound before he

begins to write lyrics, often with his sister's help.

Since he debuted in 1960, Crouch has collected eight Grammy

awards. He also helped pioneer the "Jesus Music" of the late

1960s and `70s that launched the spread of contemporary Christian

music. He and his choir The Disciples have sung background for

Madonna's song "Like a Prayer" and he went on to arrange music

for the 1985 film "The Color Purple" and the Disney's "The Lion

King" in 1994.

The 69-year-old Crouch recently released his 18th solo album,

"The Journey," which already has received a Grammy nomination for

best gospel album. It's his first release since his 2006 album,

"Mighty Wind," which won a Dove Award for traditional gospel

album of the year.



Farrakhan, Winfrey land in Haiti on separate trips

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Nation of Islam leader Louis

Farrakhan has arrived in Haiti, saying he wants to see how his

organization can help the poor Caribbean country rebuild from the

devastating 2010 earthquake.

Farrakhan tells reporters at the airport that he has always

wanted to visit Haiti. He says he is particularly interested in

learning about Voodoo, the religion widely practiced in Haiti.

He was greeted at the airport Sunday by Haitian Foreign Minister

Laurent Lamorthe before talking to reporters. Farrakhan is expected

to meet with Haiti's president later in the week.

Airport authorities hustled journalists out of the airport

shortly after Farrakhan's arrival to prevent them from covering the

arrival of Oprah Winfrey, who was arriving on a separate visit.



Pope: Christmas will be tough this year

ROME (AP) - Pope Benedict says he knows Christmas will be

difficult this year for many people, but he's urging the faithful

to remember there's more to the holiday than gift-buying.

Benedict spoke Sunday while visiting a parish in a working-class

neighborhood on the outskirts of Rome. Italians are facing new and

higher taxes as the country struggles with a government debt


The pope told parishioners that despite the hard times, he

wanted to wish all a happy holiday. Benedict said that preparing

for Christmas "doesn't only mean buying" gifts.

Later he told pilgrims in St. Peter's Square that real joy comes

as Christians prepare their hearts to welcome the savior.




Cardinal Foley, who led order in Jerusalem, dies

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The Philadelphia Archdiocese says Cardinal

John Foley, a priest who rose to lead an ancient Roman Catholic

order in the Holy Land, has died in Darby, Pa., at the age of 76.

The recipient of a master's degree in journalism from Columbia

University, Foley co-hosted a local radio program and was

editor-in-chief of The Catholic Standard & Times from 1970 to 1984.

From 1984 to 2009, Foley provided commentary for the Christmas

Midnight Mass in Rome.

In 2007, Pope Benedict named Foley the Grand Master of the

Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. The order

supports schools, health institutions and serves basic needs for

the poorest people of all faiths in the region.



SKorea to allow second Christmas tree near border

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - South Korea says it will allow

Christians to light a second Christmas tree-shaped tower near the

tense border with North Korea despite strong opposition from the


South Korea allowed a Christian group to light a massive steel

Christmas tree near the border last year for the first time in

seven years as tensions flared in the wake of two deadly attacks

blamed on the North. That tree is to be lit again this month.

Communist North Korea's government website warned Sunday that

lighting the tree was a form of psychological warfare and would

trigger an "unexpected consequence."

But South Korea's Defense Ministry said Sunday it will help

Christians light a second Christmas tree near the border, and will

bolster security near the two trees.




(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


AP-NY-12-12-11 0333EST


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