Daily Archives: December 29, 2014

Kendall Harmon””The Light Shines in the Darkness at Christmas

I believe the hardest job in America today is that of being a Roman Catholic parish priest.

Perhaps the most challenging single job this year is that of Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The spiritual leader of 500,000 people in one of the most heavily Roman Catholic regions in the United States, Hughes, according to the New York Times, had to put together a diocese “in exile.” The task was to reorganize the Archdiocese, including a charitable network and 104 parochial schools, inBaton Rouge. Can you imagine?

“I never thought the Lord was going to ask me to take this on at 72,” said the Archbishop. Indeed.
And here is where faith in the child in the manger comes in. Looking out at all the flooding, devastation, looting and loss, the reporter asked Alfred Hughes whether he still had hope.

He declared: “Absolutely. Absolutely. That is the root of our faith.”

“The most important thing is to not doubt God’s presence and God’s saving and transforming grace,” he continued. “I’m convinced that God is going to purify us through this.”

What a bracing affirmation in the midst of so many who are tempted to soften Christmas into a Hallmark Card these days. “In the bleak midwinter,” Christine Rossetti reminds us, “frosty wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone.”

Talk about bleak ”” how about New Orleans after Katrina? Yet the good Archbishop says “I am convinced.” If there can be light in the bleakness of Bethlehem, in the miry initial despair of New Orleans after such a fury of nature, there can ALWAYS be hope. For the light shines in the darkness at Christmas, and the darkness has not and never will overcome it.

–The Rev. Canon Dr. Kendall S. Harmon from 2005

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

Bishop Mark Lawrence for Christmas–Mabel’s Christmas Letter

I don’t know what peo­ple do who cel­e­brate Christ­mas with­out the Lord Jesus. They must feel ter­ri­bly empty when they wake up the next day with presents unwrapped, the food eaten and life back to nor­mal. No won­der the doc­tors say so many folk get depressed dur­ing the hol­i­days. I think peo­ple have for­got­ten that Love came down at Christ­mas. God’s Love! God’s Son””our Sav­ior! He did not grow up out of this ancient world of ours as if he was the best we had to offer. No, dear friends, He came down from heaven””God looked down and saw our need and so He sent His Son. That is why we call him, Immanuel, “God with us”. It is odd how you learn new things about that. Twelve years ago when my hus­band died it was my first Christ­mas in 54 years with­out my dar­ling Hank. I was all alone in my liv­ing room and I said, “Lord, I don’t think I can go on. I’m so alone.” Then the room seemed to grow unusu­ally quiet and the Lord seemed to say to me, “Mabel””you are not alone””always there will be two of us. Oth­ers may leave but I will stay.” That’s what Christ­mas means to me. God is with us””God is with me.

So go ahead. Dec­o­rate your trees and houses. I sup­pose it puts us all in a more cheer­ful mood. Give the chil­dren their gifts. Fill your stom­achs with all the deli­cious foods. But lis­ten to an old lady, if only for a moment. Sooner or later a per­son has to real­ize he is not going to live for­ever. No mat­ter how hard we try to live upstand­ing lives there is a lot we do in this life for which we need to be for­given. When we stand before God’s judg­ment every­one needs a Sav­ior. Besides there is more than once in a man’s or woman’s life she stands before a cross­road and doesn’t know what path to take. If you don’t have a Sav­ior and Lord at these times you’re rud­der­less. You’re like a boat adrift on the open sea. You’re like that boy, Daniel, out in a boat in the wild ocean waves look­ing for his dead father. Look””I’m swim­ming out to the lamp post to hold out this ram­bling let­ter to you like some ragged and torn umbrella for some poor soul to grab hold of ”˜less he miss Christ­mas alto­gether. It is the least I can do for my Lord who is with me even when Christ­mas is over. I know I’ve ram­bled on but I do want to wish you and yours a Merry Christ­mas and a God-filled New Year!

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Christmas, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Soteriology, Theology

More TS Eliot for Christmas 2014–A moment in time and of time

Then came, at a predetermined moment, a moment in time
and of time,
A moment not out of time, but in time, in what we call history:
transecting, bisecting the world of time,
a moment in time but not like a moment of time,
A moment in time but time was made through that moment:
for without the meaning there is no time,
and that moment of time gave the meaning.

—T.S. Eliot, Choruses from “The Rock”, VII, as found for example there (page 107).

Posted in Uncategorized

Oxford in Voice (6/6): Christmas

Watch and listen to it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Christmas, Church of England (CoE), Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Education, England / UK, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Religion & Culture, Young Adults

Another Poem for Christmas 2014–Gary Johnson's December

A little girl is singing for the faithful to come ye
Joyful and triumphant, a song she loves,
And also the partridge in a pear tree
And the golden rings and the turtle doves…..

Read it all.

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

Kendall Harmon–The gift of the full Season of Christmas

I’m always so glad every year for the 12 days of the Christmas Season- we need time to ponder the mystery and the glory of the incarnation–KSH.

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

John Piper–A Christmas Message of Particular Truths about Christ

…I have chosen this text with some fear and trembling that I would do an injustice to it by treating it with one sermon. But I choose it for two reasons. One is that it is a great Christmas passage. The key verse that shows this Christmas orientation is verse 14: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” This is the meaning of Christmas. God has come into the world, born of virgin, in the person of Jesus Christ. The second reason I have chosen this text is because it is so full of particular truths about Jesus Christ that we desperately need to know and embrace.

This is especially important today because, as I said last week during my welcome, even the major non-Christian religions of the world are speaking these days as though they esteem and honor and, in some sense, believe in Jesus. You hear this especially, these days, from Muslim leaders who want to draw the fact that they even honor Jesus more than we do because they do not think God would allow him to suffer the ignominious death of a criminal on the cross. So it is crucial that Christians know Jesus Christ very well, and can tell the difference between the Christ of the Bible and the Christ which other religions claim to honor.

So what I would like to do with this great paragraph about Jesus Christ, written by the one who knew him on earth more intimately than anyone else, the apostle John, is to point out and explain and exult over five truths concerning the Word made flesh, and then contrast two starkly different responses that you might give to him this morning. My aim is that you might see him for who he is and be moved to receive Him as your Lord and your God and your all-surpassing Treasure. And if you have already received Him, I pray that you will embrace him, and treasure him and delight in him and follow him and display Him more than you ever have.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christmas, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology, Theology: Scripture

More Music for Christmas 2014: Carol of the Bells (for 12 cellos) – ThePianoGuys

Listen to it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Music

A Prayer for the Feast Day of the Holy Innocents

We remember this day, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by the order of King Herod. Receive, we beseech thee, into the arms of thy mercy all innocent victims; and by thy great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish thy rule of justice, love, and peace; 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, * Culture-Watch, Children, Church History, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O Holy Jesus, who to deliver us from the power of darkness didst deign to be born as a child and laid in a manger: Let the light of thy love shine evermore in our hearts, and make us an offering meet for thine honour; who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and his anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the LORD has them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.”

–Psalm 2:1-6

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Ed Leap: In this season we celebrate the birth of the only ”˜physician’ who can heal us

Sickness relieved is a beautiful thing. A heart attack treated takes the elephant off the chest and leaves a smile. A child made well, a broken bone splinted, a wound closed, a tooth numbed, an abscess opened are among the reasons that physicians, at least at first, decide to walk among the sick.

However, we poor doctors, with our paltry degrees and bags of tricks, can only do a little. We merely treat the symptoms. He treated the disease. He brought an end to it all with his birth, death and resurrection. No more sin, no more death. He offered every patient the cure, free of charge, with no need for insurance or cash.

How it must feel to be him! Not to cure the broken bones, but to offer healing to the broken hearts. Not to excise the tumor, but to remove the guilt. Not to bypass the heart, but to replace it with a new one.

At Christmas, we celebrate the child. How blessed we are that he walked among us, knew our every disease, then grew up to become the only physician qualified to heal us.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Christmas, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Health & Medicine, Theology

Will Willimon–Incarnation: The Truth About God

Martin Luther (in his Larger Catechism, 1529) said he felt sad for those who follow faiths other than Christianity. Even though they might worship the one, true God, they had no way of knowing God’s attitude toward them. “They cannot be confident of his love and blessing,”¦” because they do not know God Incarnate. The Incarnation not only tells us who God is but also God’s intentions for us.

I asked a distinguished new church planter what virtue he most admired in a potential new church planter.

A robust theology of the Incarnation,” he replied. “Only someone who believes that God is relentlessly reaching out to save the world has the drive to birth a new church.”

Read it all (emphasis mine).

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

Karl Barth on Christmas–a real and complete descent of God

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 Nazereth or it is not the Christian faith.

–Karl Barth (1886-1968)

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

G.K. Chesterton on Christmas: It is rather something that surprises us from behind

For those who think the idea of the Crusade is one that spoils the idea of the Cross, we can only say that for them the idea of the Cross is spoiled; the idea of the cross is spoiled quite literally in the cradle. It is not here to the purpose to argue with them on the abstract ethics of fighting; the purpose in this place is merely to sum up the combination of ideas that make up the Christian and Catholic idea, and to note that all of them are already crystallised in the first Christmas story. They are three distinct and commonly contrasted things which are nevertheless one thing; but this is the only thing which can make them one.

The first is the human instinct for a heaven that shall be as literal and almost as local as a home. It is the idea pursued by all poets and pagans making myths; that a particular place must be the shrine of the god or the abode of the blest; that fairyland is a land; or that the return of the ghost must be the resurrection of the body. I do not here reason about the refusal of rationalism to satisfy this need. I only say that if the rationalists refuse to satisfy it, the pagans will not be satisfied. This is present in the story of Bethlehem and Jerusalem as it is present in the story of Delos and Delphi; and as it is not present in the whole universe of Lucretius or the whole universe of Herbert Spencer.

The second element is a philosophy larger than other philosophies; larger than that of Lucretius and infinitely larger than that of Herbert Spencer. It looks at the world through a hundred windows where the ancient stoic or the modern agnostic only looks through one. It sees life with thousands of eyes belonging to thousands of different sorts of people, where the other is only the individual standpoint of a stoic or an agnostic. It has something for all moods of man, it finds work for all kinds of men, it understands secrets of psychology, it is aware of depths of evil, it is able to distinguish between ideal and unreal marvels and miraculous exceptions, it trains itself in tact about hard cases, all with a multiplicity and subtlety and imagination about the varieties of life which is far beyond the bald or breezy platitudes of most ancient or modern moral philosophy. In a word, there is more in it; it finds more in existence to think about; it gets more out of life. Masses of this material about our many-sided life have been added since the time of St. Thomas Aquinas. But St. Thomas Aquinas alone would have found himself limited in the world of Confucius or of Comte.
And the third point is this; that while it is local enough for poetry and larger than any other philosophy, it is also a challenge and a fight. While it is deliberately broadened to embrace every aspect of truth, it is still stiffly embattled against every mode of error. It gets every kind of man to fight for it, it gets every kind of weapon to fight with, it widens its knowledge of the things that are fought for and against with every art of curiosity or sympathy; but it never forgets that it is fighting. It proclaims peace on earth and never forgets why there was war in heaven.

This is the trinity of truths symbolised here by the three types in the old Christmas story; the shepherds and the kings and that other king who warred upon the children. It is simply not true to say that other religions and philosophies are in this respect its rivals. It is not true to say that any one of them combines these characters; it is not true to say that any one of them pretends to combine them. Buddhism may profess to be equally mystical; it does not even profess to be equally military. Islam may profess to be equally military; it does not even profess to be equally metaphysical and subtle. Confucianism may profess to satisfy the need of the philosophers for order and reason; it does not even profess to satisfy the need of the mystics for miracle and sacrament and the consecration of concrete things.

There are many evidences of this presence of a spirit at once universal and unique. One will serve here which is the symbol of the subject of this chapter; that no other story, no pagan legend or philosophical anecdote or historical event, does in fact affect any of us with that peculiar and even poignant impression produced on us by the word Bethlehem. No other birth of a god or childhood of a sage seems to us to be Christmas or anything like Christmas. It is either too cold or too frivolous, or too formal and classical, or too simple and savage, or too occult and complicated. Not one of us, whatever his opinions, would ever go to such a scene with the sense that he was going home. He might admire it because it was poetical, or because it was philosophical, or any number of other things in separation; but not because it was itself. The truth is that there is a quite peculiar and individual character about the hold of this story on human nature; it is not in its psychological substance at all like a mere legend or the life of a great man. It does not exactly in the ordinary sense turn our minds to greatness; to those extensions and exaggerations of humanity which are turned into gods and heroes, even by the healthiest sort of hero-worship. It does not exactly work outwards, adventurously, to the wonders to be found at the ends of the earth. It is rather something that surprises us from behind, from the hidden and personal part of our being; like that which can some times take us off our guard in the pathos of small objects or the blind pieties of the poor. It is rather as if a man had found an inner room in the very heart of his own house, which he had never suspected; and seen a light from within. It is as if he found something at the back of his own heart that betrayed him into good. It is not made of what the world would call strong materials; or rather it is made of materials whose strength is in that winged levity with which they brush us and pass. It is all that is in us but a brief tenderness that is there made eternal; all that means no more than a momentary softening that is in some strange fashion become a strengthening and a repose; it is the broken speech and the lost word that are made positive and suspended unbroken; as the strange kings fade into a far country and the mountains resound no more with the feet of the shepherds; and only the night and the cavern lie in fold upon fold over something more human than humanity.

–”“The Everlasting Man (Radford, Virginia: Wilder Publications, 2008 paperback ed. of the 1925 original), pp. 114-116

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