Daily Archives: December 27, 2012

The Bishop of Exeter’s Christmas Message 2012

Putting the piles of presents under the Christmas trees this year, I have not been able to get out of my mind the image of another tree and under it a young woman, sleeping rough, and then crushed as it toppled over in the recent storms in Exeter….

…there is one gift that we can all give, because it is something that we all have: we can give ourselves, and our care and attention to others, especially those in need, or who feel marginalised or alone.

Giving of ourselves is the best gift we can give and paradoxically the one which gives us the most back too. It was the gift that God gave us at Christmas; he gave it freely but not without cost.

Read it all.

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

Simon Critchley–The Freedom of Faith: A Christmas Sermon

In an essay in The Times’ Sunday Book Review this week the writer Paul Elie asks the intriguing question: Has fiction lost its faith? As we are gathered here today, let us consider one of the most oddly faithful of all fiction writers, Fyodor Dostoevsky. More specifically, I’d like focus pretty intensely on what some consider to be the key moment in his greatest novel ”” arguably one of the greatest of all time ”” “The Brothers Karamazov.” (Elie himself notes the 1880 masterpiece as an example of the truly faith-engaged fiction of yore.) I speak in particular of the “Grand Inquisitor” scene, a sort of fiction within a fiction that draws on something powerful from the New Testament ”” Jesus’s refusal of Satan’s three temptations ”” and in doing so digs at the meaning of faith, freedom, happiness and the diabolic satisfaction of our desires.

Read it all. Be warned–this is not short and it is not light bed-time reading; it is, however, well worth the time–KSH.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anthropology, Christology, Europe, Philosophy, Poetry & Literature, Religion & Culture, Russia, Soteriology, Theodicy, Theology

Bishop of Durham: A 2012 Christmas Message From The North

The best parties have something solid to celebrate, not just a desire to get out of one’s mind. The shepherds went to see Jesus and went away celebrating because God had come to be with them. They were optimistic. Hope lived. And hope and joy are better when shared, in fact sharing them makes the, grow and gives them life.

So, my own sense this Christmas is one of optimism. I see people staffing food banks, sharing good things, sacrificing to give. Perhaps just going to see a neighbour, hurrying a bit less when someone wants to chat, we can all do that. Perhaps we can give something to someone who has had a rough year, make space for them to have hope and joy.

Read it all.

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

Music for Christmas 2012–Arlan Sunnarborg's Wonderful Fanfare Intro to Hark the Herald Angels Sing

Just oh so uplifting–KSH.

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

Albert Mohler: Must We Believe the Virgin Birth?

Carl F. H. Henry, the dean of evangelical theologians, argues that the Virgin Birth is the “essential, historical indication of the Incarnation, bearing not only an analogy to the divine and human natures of the Incarnate, but also bringing out the nature, purpose, and bearing of this work of God to salvation.” Well said, and well believed.

Nicholas Kristof and his secularist friends may find belief in the Virgin Birth to be evidence of intellectual backwardness among American Christians. But this is the faith of the Church, established in God’s perfect Word, and cherished by the true Church throughout the ages. Kristof’s grandfather, we are told, believed that the Virgin Birth is a “pious legend.” The fact that he could hold such beliefs and serve as an elder in his church is evidence of that church’s doctrinal and spiritual laxity ”” or worse. Those who deny the Virgin Birth affirm other doctrines only by force of whim, for they have already surrendered the authority of Scripture. They have undermined Christ’s nature and nullified the incarnation.

This much we know: All those who find salvation will be saved by the atoning work of Jesus the Christ ”” the virgin-born Savior. Anything less than this is just not Christianity, whatever it may call itself. A true Christian will not deny the Virgin Birth.

Read it all.

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

William Willimon on Christmas: From a God We Hardly Knew

It’s tough to be on the receiving end of love, God’s or anybody else’s. It requires that we see our lives not as our possessions, but as gifts. “Nothing is more repugnant to capable, reasonable people than grace,” wrote John Wesley a long time ago.

Among the most familiar Christmas texts is the one in Isaiah: “The Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (7:14) Less familiar is its context: Isaiah has been pleading with King Ahaz to put his trust in God’s promise to Israel rather than in alliances with strong military powers like Syria. “If you will not believe, you shall not be established,” Isaiah warns Ahaz (7:9). Then the prophet tells the fearful king that God is going to give him a baby as a sign. A baby. Isn’t that just like God, Ahaz must have thought. What Ahaz needed, with Assyria breathing down his neck, was a good army, not a baby.

This is often the way God loves us: with gifts we thought we didn’t need, which transform us into people we don’t necessarily want to be. With our advanced degrees, armies, government programs, material comforts and self-fulfillment techniques, we assume that religion is about giving a little, of our power in order to confirm to ourselves that we are indeed as self-sufficient as we claim.

Read it all.

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

The Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe's 2012 Christmas Truce Lecture in Dublin

A war in a measure unexpected, a war whose reality was unanticipated, a war which some thought would be over in a short time, became all too soon a reality. English public schoolboys and others who had compared shooting the enemy to a pheasant shoot, soon discovered a very different and terrible reality. Movements of troops took time. My father, when a boy in the brewery town of Alton in Hampshire, remembered the troops which had marched from the garrison town of Aldershot, camping on the Butts Green, as the first stage on their three day march before they prepared to move on to Southampton or Portsmouth to embark for France and Flanders. The journey to the front took time ”“ as it took time as the first Christmas of the war approached for Christmas greetings and Christmas gifts to be brought to those at the front….

So what happened at the Christmas Truce in 1914? It was conditioned by the new situation of industrialised warfare, and in particular trench warfare. No longer were battles charges of cavalry, whirling swords and thrusts of spears, knights in armour, or even the firing of cannon balls.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church History, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Defense, National Security, Military, Europe, Religion & Culture

Ring out, Wild Bells

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

–Lord Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Poetry & Literature

Dorothy Sayers on the Incarnation

…[Jesus of Nazareth] was not a kind of demon pretending to be human; he was in every respect a genuine living man. He was not merely a man so good as to be “like God”””he was God.

Now, this is not just a pious commonplace: it is not a commonplace at all. For what it means is this, among other things: that for whatever reason God chose to make man as he is””limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death””he [God] had the honesty and courage to take his own medicine. Whatever game he is playing with his creation, he has kept his own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that he has not exacted from himself. He has himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death. When he was a man, he played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worthwhile.

Creed or Chaos? (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company,1949), page 4 (with special thanks to blog reader and friend WW)

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

Great Fun and Laughter for Christmas 2012: Straight No Chaser – The 12 Days of Christmas

Wonderful stuff!

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * General Interest, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Humor / Trivia, Liturgy, Music, Worship

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint John

Merciful Lord, we beseech thee to cast thy bright beams of light upon thy Church, that we, being illumined by the teaching of thine apostle and evangelist John, may so walk in the light of thy truth, that we may at length attain to the fullness of life everlasting; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer for Christmas to Begin the Day

O Almighty God, who by the birth of thy holy Child Jesus hast given us a great light to dawn upon our darkness: Grant, we pray thee, that in his light we may see light to the end of our days; and bestow upon us, we beseech thee, that most excellent Christmas gift of charity to all men, that so the likeness of thy Son may be formed in us, and that we may have the ever brightening hope of everlasting life; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

–William Knight

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad! Clouds and thick darkness are round about him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. Fire goes before him, and burns up his adversaries round about. His lightnings lighten the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim his righteousness; and all the peoples behold his glory.

–Psalm 97:1-6

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

John Rutter: All Bells in Paradise

A new carol written for the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge and sung as part of this year’s Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. You can also listen to an Introduction by Stephen Cleobury

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

Tom Wright–Suspending Skepticism: History and the Virgin Birth

..the [New Testament] birth stories have become a test case in various controversies. If you believe in miracles, you believe in Jesus’ miraculous birth; if you don’t, you don’t. Both sides turn the question into a shibboleth, not for its own sake but to find out who’s in and who’s out.

The problem is that “miracle,” as used in these controversies, is not a biblical category. The God of the Bible is not a normally absent God who sometimes “intervenes.” This God is always present and active, often surprisingly so.

Read it all.

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