Daily Archives: December 30, 2013

Flannery O'Connor on Christmas: Is this the Word of God, this blue-cold child?

(It is very difficult to set the stage for this scene, but some background will be helpful. Rayber is one of the novel’s central characters and is strongly anti-Christian. He is looking as hard as he can for his nephew, Francis Tarwater, who has run away. This has led him to a small church service, likely a revival meeting, and he is watching what is occurring through a window. Rayber is unable to hear in one ear and in the other he wears a hearing device which sometimes vexes him. The “old man” is a reference to another key character in the novel, Mason Tarwater, whose death and desired burial form an important early part of the book. There is also a mention of Bishop who is Rayber’s son and who appears to have Down’s syndrome).

. . . A little girl hobbled into the spotlight.

Rayber cringed. Simply by the sight of her he could tell that she was not a fraud, that she was only exploited. She was eleven or twelve with a small delicate face and a head of black hair that looked too thick and heavy for a frail child to support. A cape like her mother’s was turned back over one shoulder and her skirt was short as if better to reveal the thin legs twisted from the knees. She held her arms over her head for a moment. “I want to tell you people the story of the world,” she said in a loud high child’s voice. “I want to tell you why Jesus came and what happened to Him. I want to tell you how He’ll come again. I want to tell you to be ready. Most of all,” she said, “I want to tell you to be ready so that on the last day you’ll rise in the glory of the Lord.”
Rayber’s fury encompassed the parents, the preacher, all the idiots he could not see who were sitting in front of the child, parties to her degradation. She believed it, she was locked tight in it, chained hand and foot, exactly as he had been, exactly as only a child could be. He felt the taste of his own childhood pain laid again on his tongue like a bitter wafer.

“Do you know who Jesus is?” she cried. “Jesus is the word of God and Jesus is love. The Word of God is love and do you know what love is, you people? If you don’t know what love is you won’t know Jesus when He comes. You won’t be ready. I want to tell you people the story of the world, how it never known when love come, so when love comes again, you’ll be ready.”

She moved back and forth across the stage, frowning as if she were trying to see the people through the fierce circle of light that followed her. “Listen to me, you people,” she said, “God was angry with the world because it always wanted more. It wanted as much as God had and it didn’t know what God had but it wanted it and more. It wanted God’s own breath, it wanted His very Word and God said, ‘I’ll make my Word Jesus, I’ll give them my Word for a king, I’ll give them my very breath for theirs.’

“Listen, you people,” she said and flung her arms wide, “God told the world He was going to send it a king and the world waited. The world thought, a golden fleece will do for His bed. Silver and gold and peacock tails, a thousand suns in a peacock’s tail will do for His sash. His mother will ride on a four-horned white beast and use the sunset for a cape. She’ll trail it behind her over the ground and let the world pull it to pieces, a new one every evening.”

To Rayber she was like one of those birds blinded to make it sing more sweetly. Her voice had the tone of a glass bell. His pity encompassed all exploited children–himself when he was a child, Tarwater exploited by the old man, this child exploited by parents, Bishop exploited by the very fact that he was alive.

“The world said, ‘How long, Lord, do we have to wait for this?’ And the Lord said, ‘My Word is coming, my Word is coming from the house of David, the king.'” She paused and turned her head to the side, away from the fierce light. Her dark gaze moved slowly until it rested on Rayber’s head in the window. He stared back at her. Her eyes remained on his face for a moment. A deep shock went through him. He was certain that the child had looked directly into his heart and seen his pity. He felt that some mysterious connection was established between them.

“‘My Word is coming,'” she said, turning back to face the glare, “‘my Word is coming from the house of David, the king.'”

She began again in a dirge-like tone. “Jesus came on cold straw. Jesus was warmed by the breath of an ox. ‘Who is this?’ the world said, ‘who is this blue-cold child and this woman, plain as the winter? Is this the Word of God, this blue-cold child? Is this His will, this plain winter-woman?’

“Listen you people!” she cried, “the world knew in its heart, the same as you know in your hearts and I know in my heart. The world said, ‘Love cuts like the cold wind and the will of God is plain as the winter. Where is the summer will of God? Where are the green seasons of God’s will? Where is the spring and summer of God’s will?’

“They had to flee into Egypt,” she said in a low voice and turned her head again and this time her eyes moved directly to Rayber’s face in the window and he knew they sought it. He felt himself caught up in her look, held there before the judgment seat of her eyes.

“You and I know,” she said turning again, “what the world hoped then. The world hoped old Herod would slay the right child, the world hoped old Herod wouldn’t waste those children, but he wasted them. He didn’t get the right one. Jesus grew up and raised the dead.”

Rayber felt his spirit borne aloft. But not those dead! he cried, not the innocent children, not you, not me when I was a child, not Bishop, not Frank! and he had a vision of himself moving like an avenging angel through the world, gathering up all the children that the Lord, not Herod, had slain.

“Jesus grew up and raised the dead,” she cried, “and the world shouted, ‘Leave the dead lie. The dead are dead and can stay that way. What do we want with the dead alive?’ Oh you people!” she shouted, “they nailed Him to a cross and run a spear through His side and then they said, ‘Now we can have some peace, now we can ease our minds.’ And they hadn’t but only said it when they wanted Him to come again. Their eyes were opened and they saw the glory they had killed.

“Listen world,” she cried, flinging up her arms so that the cape flew out behind her, “Jesus is coming again! The mountains are going to lie down like hounds at His feet, the stars are going to perch on His shoulder and when He calls it, the sun is going to fall like a goose for His feast. Will you know the Lord Jesus then? The mountains will know Him and bound forward, the stars will light on His head, the sun will drop down at His feet, but will you know the Lord Jesus then?”

Rayber saw himself fleeing with the child to some enclosed garden where he would teach her the truth, where he would gather all the exploited children of the world and let the sunshine flood their minds.

“If you don’t know Him now, you won’t know Him then. Listen to me, world, listen to this warning. The Holy Word is in my mouth!

“The Holy Word is in my mouth!” she cried and turned her eyes again on his face in the window. This time there was a lowering concentration in her gaze. He had drawn her attention entirely away from the congregation.

Come away with me! he silently implored, and I’ll teach you the truth, I’ll save you, beautiful child!

Her eyes still fixed on him, she cried, “I’ve seen the Lord in a tree of fire! The Word of God is a burning Word to burn you clean!” She was moving in his direction, the people in front of her forgotten. Rayber’s heart began to race. He felt some miraculous communication between them. The child alone in the world was meant to understand him. “Burns the whole world, man and child,” she cried, her eye on him, “none can escape.” She stopped a little distance from the end of the stage and stood silent, her whole attention directed across the small room to his face on the ledge. Her eyes were large and dark and fierce. He felt that in the space between them, their spirits had broken the bonds of age and ignorance and were mingling in some unheard of knowledge of each other. He was transfixed by the child’s silence. Suddenly she raised her arm and pointed toward his face. “Listen you people,” she shrieked, “I see a damned soul before my eyes! I see a dead man Jesus hasn’t raised. His head is in the window but his ear is deaf to the Holy Word!”

Rayber’s head, as if it had been struck by an invisible bolt, dropped from the ledge. He crouched on the ground, his furious spectacled eyes glittering behind the shrubbery. Inside she continued to shriek, “Are you deaf to the Lord’s Word? The Word of God is a burning Word to burn you clean, burns man and child, man and child the same, you people! Be saved in the Lord’s fire or perish in your own! Be saved in . . .”

He was groping fiercely about him, slapping at his coat pockets, his head, his chest, not able to find the switch that would cut off the voice. Then his hand touched the button and he snapped it. A silent dark relief enclosed him like shelter after a tormenting wind.

The Violent Bear It Away (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1960), pp.129-132 [my emphasis]

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Books, Christmas, Christology, Church History, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Religion & Culture, Theology

A Good Christmas Reminder: A bit of George Lindbeck's review of the Myth of God Incarnate (1977)

You may need to enlarge the page to see it better; I sure did; KSH.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Books, Christmas, Christology, Church History, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

Holy Child

Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child,
Make thee a bed, soft, undefiled,
Within my heart, that it may be
A quiet chamber kept for Thee.
My heart for very joy doth leap,
My lips no more can silence keep,
I too must sing, with joyful tongue,
That sweetest ancient cradle song,
Glory to God in highest heaven,
Who unto man His Son hath given
While angels sing with pious mirth.
A glad new year to all the earth.

–Martin Luther

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

From the Do not Take Yourself too Seriously Department–United Breaks Guitars

Watch and listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * General Interest, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Humor / Trivia, Music, Travel

Mark A. Hadley: A Christmas Carol for adults

Dickens and Disney’s Tiny Tims both hope that those who feel pity for a poor crippled boy in church “”¦ will think of Him who made lame men walk” at Christmas time.

This was a lesson that Dickens meant for adults, as well as children.

There is no separating the generosity we owe to others from the generosity God has shown to us by sending his son to give us new hearts. Christmas shouldn’t just bring out the best in us once a year; it should transform our lives””as it did for Scrooge. Dickens knew where he wanted to end his story, and finished it accordingly:

“Some laughed to see the alteration in [Scrooge] but he let them laugh … he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed that knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us, every one!”

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Books, Christmas, Christology, Church History, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Theology

Faith in the eternal Word of the Father is faith in Jesus of Nazareth or it is not”¦Christian faith

But the object of divine action in the Incarnation is man. God’s free decision is and remains a gracious decision; God becomes man, the Word becomes flesh. The Incarnation means no apparent reserved, but a real and complete descent of God. God actually became what we are, in order actually to exist with us, actually to exist for us, in thus becoming and being human, not to do what we do-sin; and to do what we fail to do”“God’s, His own, will; and so actually, in our place, in our situation and position to be the new man. It is not in His eternal majesty”“in which He is and remains hidden from us”“but as this new man and therefore the Word in the flesh, that God’s Son is God’s revelation to us and our reconciliation with God. Just for that reason faith cannot look past His humanity, the cradle of Bethlelhem and the cross of Golgotha in order to see Him in His divinity, Faith in the eternal Word of the Father is faith in Jesus of Nazareth or it is not the Christian faith.

–Karl Barth (1886-1968)

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

The Plain Meaning of the Word Becoming Flesh

The plain meaning therefore is, that the Speech begotten by God before all ages, and who always dwelt with the Father, was made man. On this article there are two things chiefly to be observed. The first is, that two natures were so united in one Person in Christ, that one and the same Christ is true God and true man. The second is, that the unity of person does not hinder the two natures from remaining distinct, so that his Divinity retains all that is peculiar to itself, and his humanity holds separately whatever belongs to it. And, therefore, as Satan has made a variety of foolish attempts to overturn sound doctrine by heretics, he has always brought forward one or another of these two errors; either that he was the Son of God and the Son of man in so confused a manner, that neither his Divinity remained entire, nor did he wear the true nature of man; or that he was clothed with flesh, so as to be as it were double, and to have two separate persons.

–John Calvin (1509-1564)

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

(NY Times Op-Ed) T. M. Luhrmann–When Demons Are Real

While this feels very different from soft-toned American evangelical Christianity, which emphasizes God’s loving mercy rather than God’s judgment, spiritual warfare is deeply embedded in the evangelical tradition. The post-1960s charismatic revival in the United States, sometimes called “Third Wave” Christianity (classical Pentecostalism was the first wave and charismatic Catholicism the second), introduced the idea that all Christians interact with supernatural forces daily. That included demons.

In fact, I found American books on dealing with demons in all the bookstores of the African charismatic churches I visited. In one church where I stood looking at the shelf of demon manuals, a helpful clerk leaned over to fish one off for me. She chose an American one. “Here,” she said as she handed me Larry Huch’s “Free at Last,” “this one is good.”

In many American evangelical churches, people will tell you that demons are real, but they do not treat them as particularly salient.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Evangelicals, Ghana, Globalization, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Theodicy, Theology

More Music for Christmas 2013: Carol of the Bells (for 12 cellos) – ThePianoGuys

Listen to it all.

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

(NBC) Years after her death, a wife gives her husband an incredible gift

One Iowa family received a very special Christmas surprise. It came in the form of a letter from a mother, who died two years prior. Her three wishes for her family have moved a community. NBC’s Mike Taibbi reports.

Watch it all [this is quoted in full in the sermon two posts back].

Posted in Uncategorized

([London] Times) Alister McGrath–The Incarnation is the thawing of our wintry world

When rightly understood, the imaginatively compelling story of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth was about God entering the world, in order to redeem it.

Lewis explored this theme in a remarkable sermon that he preached in a London church during the Second World War. He had learnt how to dive in 1930. Although he initially saw this simply as an enjoyable, exhilarating experience, Lewis began to realise its potential as an analogy for what he was coming to see as a core theme of the Christian faith ”” the incarnation.

Lewis invited his audience to imagine a diver plunging into the water to retrieve a precious object. As he goes deeper, the water changes from “warm and sunlit” to “pitch black” and “freezing”. Then, his “lungs almost bursting”, he goes down into the “mud and slime”, before finally heading back up to the surface, triumphantly bearing the lost object. God “descended into his own universe, and rose again, bringing human nature up with him”.

Read it all (subscription required) [this is quoted in the sermon in the previous post].

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

Kendall Harmon's Sermon for Christmas 2013–Do we See that Love Came Down at Christmas (Luke 2)?

Listen to it all if you so desire.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * By Kendall, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * South Carolina, Anthropology, Christmas, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Science & Technology, Theology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Frances Joseph-Gaudet

Merciful God, who didst raise up thy servant Frances Joseph-Gaudet to work for prison reform and the education of her people: Grant that we, encouraged by the example of her life, may work for those who are denied the fullness of life by reasons of incarceration and lack of access to education ; through Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O merciful Jesus, who when thou tookest upon thee to deliver man, didst not abhor the Virgin’s womb: Vouchsafe evermore to dwell in the hearts of us thy servants. Inspire us with thy purity; strengthen us with thy might; guide us into thy truth; that we may conquer every adverse power, and be wholly devoted to thy service and conformed to thy will, to the glory of God the Father.

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

Some boast of chariots, and some of horses; but we boast of the name of the LORD our God. They will collapse and fall; but we shall rise and stand upright. Give victory to the king, O LORD; answer us when we call.

–Psalm 20:7-9

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture