Daily Archives: December 27, 2008

Charles Blow: Heaven for the Godless?

So in August, Pew asked the question again. (They released the results last week.) Sixty-five percent of respondents said ”” again ”” that other religions could lead to eternal life. But this time, to clear up any confusion, Pew asked them to specify which religions. The respondents essentially said all of them.

And they didn’t stop there. Nearly half also thought that atheists could go to heaven ”” dragged there kicking and screaming, no doubt ”” and most thought that people with no religious faith also could go.

What on earth does this mean?

One very plausible explanation is that Americans just want good things to come to good people, regardless of their faith.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture

New Congress reflects overall U.S. religious landscape

The religious makeup of the incoming 111th Congress roughly matches the overall American religious landscape, with overrepresentation among Jews and Mormons, according to new analysis by the nonpartisan Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Just over half (55 percent) of House and Senate members who will take office on Jan. 6 are Protestants, compared to 51 percent of the U.S. population. The second-largest group, Catholics, make up 30 percent of lawmakers, compared to 24 percent of all Americans.

Among Protestants, Baptists lead in the House and Senate, at 12 percent, followed by Methodists (11 percent), Presbyterians (8 percent), Episcopalians (7 percent) and Lutherans (4.5 percent).

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Hamas Promises Retaliation

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the Israeli air campaign was “criminal” and urged world powers to intervene.

Egypt said it would keep trying to restore the truce between Israel and Gaza.

Hamas threatened to unleash “hell” to avenge the dead, including possible suicide bombings inside Israel.

Hamas estimated that at least 100 members of its security forces had been killed, including police chief Tawfiq Jabber and the head of Hamas’s security and protection unit, along with at least 15 women and some children.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Middle East, Violence

Unprecedented waves of airstrikes in Gaza

Israeli warplanes retaliating for rocket fire from the Gaza Strip pounded dozens of security compounds across the Hamas-ruled territory in unprecedented waves of airstrikes Saturday, killing at least 155 and wounding more than 310 in the single bloodiest day of fighting in recent memory.

The vast majority of those killed were security men, but civilians were also among the dead. Hamas said all of its security installations were hit and responded with several medium-range Grad rockets at Israel, reaching deeper than in the past. One Israeli was killed and at least four people were wounded in the rocket attacks. With so many wounded, the Palestinian death toll was likely to rise.

“The operation will last as long as necessary,” declared Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, though it was not clear if it would be coupled with a ground offensive. Asked if Hamas political leaders might be targeted next, military spokeswoman Maj. Avital Leibovich said, “Any Hamas target is a target.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Israel, Middle East, Violence

Cardinal George Pell of Sydney's Christmas Sermon

As always Christmas takes us further than an unreflective acceptance of appearances, calling us to a deeper reflection as we go beyond the Christmas wrapping to search for the gifts inside. The birth of a child is always mysterious and wonderful, bringing out the best in all of us, even if that goodwill sometime fades quickly. But it requires an honesty and readiness to set aside our self-centredness, our imperial egos, to accept that this newborn Jewish child was and is the son of God. Joseph was present for the birth of his redeemer. This claim turns everything upside down. The world’s fulcrum is not the financial centre’s of New York’s Wall Street or London city, but a cave in Bethlehem.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Australia / NZ, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Roman Catholic

A Real Closing of the Breach

“God with us means more than God over or side by side with us, before or behind us. It means more than His divine being in even the most intimate active connection with our human being otherwise peculiar to Him. At this point, at the heart of the Christian message and in relation to the event of which it speaks, it means that God has made himself the one who fulfills his redemptive will. It means that He Himself in His own person ””at His own cost but also on His own initiative””has become the inconceivable Yet and Nevertheless of this event, and so its clear and well-founded and legitimate, its true and holy and righteous Therefore. It means that God has become man in order as such, but in divine sovereignty, to take up our case. What takes place in the work of inconceivable mercy is, therefore, the free overruling of God, but it is not an arbitrary overlooking and ignoring, not an artificial bridging, covering over or hiding, but a real closing of the breach, gulf and abyss between God and us for which we are responsible. At the very point where we refuse and fail, offending and provoking God, making ourselves impossible before Him and in that way missing our destiny, treading under foot our dignity, forfeiting our right, losing our salvation and hopelessly compromising our creaturely being””at that very point God Himself intervenes as man.”

–Karl Barth (1886-1968)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons

Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem's Christmas 2008 Homily

On that night, Christ divides history into two parts: since then, there is a before Him and an after Him. That which was impossible before Him, becomes possible. We celebrate today that blessed night that changed the course of history, hearts full of joy. We who come from different countries, some nearby and others far off, like the shepherds, we surround the Child in the Grotto this night in order to adore Him and thank Him for having illuminated our history through His Incarnation.

Welcome to this divine Child! Welcome to the Christmas message and the joy of Christmas and the Christmas presents which bring back the smile to the faces of both the little and the big. This new Child is the fruit of the love of the Eternal Father for humankind, a love which desires for us more than we desire for ourselves. It wants a peace that we have lost, a loss to which we have resigned ourselves; mutual love which no longer exists to the point that it has disappeared even from our vocabulary; respect and dignity, so often battered by maltreatment, by insults and the spilling of blood.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons

The Saving Truth

”¦[T]here must be no weakening or obscuring of the saving truth that the nature which God assumed in Christ is identical with our nature as we see it in the light of the Fall. If it were otherwise, how could Christ really be like us? ”¦ God’s Son not only assumed our nature but He entered the concrete form of our nature, under which we stand before God as men damned and lost”¦.

–Karl Barth (1886-1968)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons

Christmas Morning

On Christmas day I weep
Good Friday to rejoice.
I watch the Child asleep.
Does he half-dream the choice
The Man must make and keep?
At Christmastime I sigh
For my good Friday hope
Outflung the Child’s arms lie
To span in their brief scope
The death the Man must die.
Come Christmastide I groan
To hear Good Friday’s pealing.
The Man, racked to the bone,
Has made His hurt my healing,
Has made my ache His own.
Slay me, pierced to the core
With Christmas penitence
So I who, new-born, soar
To that Child’s innocence,
May wound the Man no more.

–Vassar Miller (1924-1998)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor's Christmas 2008 Midnight Mass homily

Christianity neither condemns nor canonises the market economy; it may be an essential element in the conduct of human affairs. But we have to remember that it is a system governed by people, not some blind force like gravity. Those who operate the market have an obligation to act in ways that promote the common good, not just in ways that promote the interests of certain groups. The market economy will only work justly if it has an underlying moral purpose. But it is unfair to blame only one section of our community for the present crisis, and all is not gloom. Crises always give an opportunity to think again and re-evaluate our own priorities of what makes for a good life and a good society. All of us have an opportunity, each in our own way, to deepen our trust in other people. Because it is people who matter, who comes first. Trust begins in the family but it stretches out to people who live in villages, towns and cities all over our country. One of my hopes this Christmas is that you and I and people everywhere will be able to build communities based on trust, places more like villages than cities, where neighbours have names and faces, where their concerns gradually become our concerns. Basically, my dream is of a society that becomes more deeply human, more satisfying, more hopeful.

The inspiration for my dream is in the Christmas crib scene, the birth of a child in a cave in Bethlehem, bathed in heaven’s light. Most of the cribs I have ever seen focus on the way Mary looks at her son with such extraordinary tenderness and love. It is tempting to leave it there at the level of emotion, but the eyes of faith see her gaze as a sign of God’s love for the world He created, that love that tells us insistently how much we matter to God, how much we should matter to each other.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, England / UK, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Roman Catholic

Christus Natus Est

In Bethlehem
On Christmas Morn
The lowly gem
Of love was born
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

Bright in her crown
Of fiery star
Judea’s town
Shone from afar
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

For bird and beast
He did not come
But for the least
Of mortal scum
Hosannah! Christus natus est.
While beasts in stall
On bended knee
Did carol all
Most joyously
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

Who lies in ditch?
Who begs his bread
Who has no stitch
For back or head
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

Who wakes to weep,
Lies down to mourn?
Who in his sleep
Withdraws from scorn?
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

Ye outraged dust
On field and plain
To feed the lust
Of madmen slain
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

The manger still
Outshines the throne
Christ must and will
Come to his own
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

–Countee Cullen (1903-1946)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons

The Nativity of the Christ

Behold the father is his daughter’s son,
The bird that built the nest is hatched therein,
The old of years an hour hath not outrun,
Eternal life to live doth now begin,
The Word is dumb, the mirth of heaven doth weep,
Might feeble is, and force doth faintly creep.

O dying souls, behold your living spring;
O dazzled eyes, behold your sun of grace;
Dull ears, attend what word this Word doth bring;
Up, heavy hearts, with joy your joy embrace.
From death, from dark, from deafness, from despairs
This life, this light, this Word, this joy repairs.

Gift better than himself God doth not know;
Gift better than his God no man can see.
This gift doth here the giver given bestow;
Gift to this gift let each receiver be.
God is my gift, himself he freely gave me;
God’s gift am I, and none but God shall have me.

Man altered was by sin from man to beast;
Beast’s food is hay, hay is all mortal flesh.
Now God is flesh and lies in manger pressed
As hay, the brutest sinner to refresh.
O happy field wherein that fodder grew,
Whose taste doth us from beasts to men renew.

–Robert Southwell (1561-1595)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons

The Christ-child

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s breast,
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world’s desire.)

The Christ-child stood at Mary’s knee,
His hair was like a crown.
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down.

–G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons

The Archbishop of York's Christmas Day Sermon

This is a press release i could not find the whole sermon text.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Christmas, Church of England (CoE), Church Year / Liturgical Seasons