Daily Archives: December 27, 2016

The Message of Christmas–Christ Jesus Came Into the World to Save Sinners

The message of Christmas for you from Christ this morning is that what is good and precious in your life need never be lost, and what is evil and undesirable in your life can be changed. The coming of the eternal Son of God into the world as the God-Man, Jesus Christ, is a fact of history. But thousands of Americans fill out Gallup Poll religious surveys that they believe this fact but then live just like everybody else. They have the same anxieties that good things will be lost and the same frustrations that crummy things can’t be changed. Evidently there is not much power in giving right answers on religious surveys about historical facts.
That’s because the coming of the Son of God into the world is so much more than a historical fact. It was a message of hope sent by God to teenagers and single parents and crabby husbands and sullen wives and overweight women and impotent men and retarded neighbors, and homosexuals and preachers and lovers and you. And since the Son of God lived, died, rose, reigns and is coming again, God’s message through him is more than a historical fact. It is a Christmas gift to you this morning, December 25, 1983, from the voice of the living God. Thus says the Lord: the meaning of Christmas is that what is good and precious in your life need never be lost, and what is evil and undesirable in your life can be changed. The fears that the few good things that make you happy are slipping through your fingers, and the frustrations that the bad things you hate about yourself or your situation can’t be changed — these fears and these frustrations are what Christmas came to destroy. It is God’s message of hope this morning that what is good need never be lost and what is bad can be changed.

There are many in our church family who because of age or sickness will inevitably ask themselves the question today: “Is this my last Christmas?” Life is good and precious and we don’t want to lose it. We can talk all we want about the good things of life, but if we don’t have life we don’t have anything. “What does it profit if you gain the whole world and lose your life?” O, how precious is our life. If you don’t feel it now, wait ’till you get very sick. Then you will know why Hezekiah wept bitterly with his terminal illness and pled for added years (2 Kings. 20:1-7). The message of Christmas to you who see your death on the horizon is that you need never lose your life. It is good to live. Your life is precious and can be saved.

Read it carefully and read it all.

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

Jeffrey Miller's Christmas Sermon at St Philips Charleston: "It's A Wonderful Life"

You can listen directly here or download it there.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * South Carolina, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Christmas, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, History, Ministry of the Ordained, Movies & Television, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Salus Mundi

I saw a stable, low and very bare,
A little child in a manger.
The oxen knew him, had Him in their care,
To men He was a stranger.
The safety of the world was lying there,
And the world’s danger.

–Mary Coleridge (1861-1907)

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

The Story of the Man and the Birds for Christmas 2016

Now the man to whom I’m going to introduce you was not a scrooge, he was a kind, decent, mostly good man. Generous to his family, upright in his dealings with other men. But he just didn’t believe all that incarnation stuff which the churches proclaim at Christmas Time. It just didn’t make sense and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn’t swallow the Jesus Story, about God coming to Earth as a man. “I’m truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, “but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas Eve.” He said he’d feel like a hypocrite. That he’d much rather just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them. And so he stayed and they went to the midnight service.

Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper. Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound. Then another, and then another. Sort of a thump or a thud. At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. But when he went to the front door to investigate he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They’d been caught in the storm and, in a desperate search for shelter, had tried to fly through his large landscape window.
Well, he couldn’t let the poor creatures lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter, if he could direct the birds to it. Quickly he put on a coat, galoshes, tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light, but the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them in. So he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow, making a trail to the yellow-lighted wide open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs, and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them. He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms. Instead, they scattered in every direction, except into the warm, lighted barn.

And then, he realized, that they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me. That I am not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how? Because any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him. “If only I could be a bird,” he thought to himself, “and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could tell them not to be afraid. Then I could show them the way to safety … to the safe warm barn. But I would have to be one of them so they could see, and hear and understand.”

At that moment the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sounds of the wind. And he stood there listening to the bells – Adeste Fidelis – listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. And he sank to his knees in the snow.

According to a knowledgeable blog commenter in the past, “This was written by the author, Louis Cassels. According to enotes.com, he was a “correspondent for United Press International. He was a feature writer and author of the popular column “Religion in America” from 1955 to 1974. He was also a recipient of the prestigious Faith and Freedom Award from the Religious Heritage of America.”

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

Peter Kreeft on the Meaning of Christmas

Let’s apply the spiritual sense of the Christmas story to our lives. For that story happens not only once, in history, but also many times in each individual’s soul. Christ comes to the world ”” but He also comes to each of us. Advent happens over and over again.

Christmas is so familiar that we sometimes wonder whether anything fresh and true can be said about it.

But there is a way to explore its meaning that may seem new to us today, yet is in fact quite traditional, dating back to the Middle Ages and the ancient Fathers of the Church.
Modern interpreters often argue about whether a given Scripture passage should be interpreted literally or symbolically. Medieval writers would question the “either/or” approach. They thought a passage could have as many as four “right” interpretations, one literal and three symbolic.

These were: (1) the historical or literal, which is the primary sense on which the others all depend; (2) the prophetic sense when an Old Testament event foreshadows its New Testament fulfillment; (3) the moral or spiritual sense, when events and characters in a story correspond to elements in our own lives; and (4) the eschatological sense, when a scene on earth foreshadows something of heavenly glory.

This symbolism is legitimate because it doesn’t detract from the historical, literal sense, but builds on and expands it. It’s based on the theologically sound premise that history too symbolizes, or points beyond itself, for God wrote three books, not just one: nature and history as well as Scripture. The story of history is composed not only of “events,” but of words, signs and symbols. This is unfamiliar to us only because we have lost a sense of depth and exchanged it for a flat, one-dimensional, “bottom-line” mentality in which everything means only one thing.

Let’s try to recapture the riches of this lost worldview by applying the spiritual sense of the Christmas story to our lives. For that story happens not only once, in history, but also many times in each individual’s soul. Christ comes to the world ”” but He also comes to each of us. Advent happens over and over again.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Anthropology, Apologetics, Christmas, Christology, 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 Uncategorized

God recapitulated in Himself the…formation of man…that He might…deprive death of its power

Therefore, as I have already said, He caused man (human nature) to cleave to and to become, one with God. For unless man had overcome the enemy of man, the enemy would not have been legitimately vanquished. And again: unless it had been God who had freely given salvation, we could never have possessed it securely. And unless man had been joined to God, he could never have become a partaker of incorruptibility. For it was incumbent upon the Mediator between God and men, by His relationship to both, to bring both to friendship and concord, and present man to God, while He revealed God to man. For, in what way could we be partaken of the adoption of sons, unless we had received from Him through the Son that fellowship which refers to Himself, unless His Word, having been made flesh, had entered into communion with us? Wherefore also He passed through every stage of life, restoring to all communion with God. Those, therefore, who assert that He appeared putatively, and was neither born in the flesh nor truly made man, are as yet under the old condemnation, holding out patronage to sin; for, by their showing, death has not been vanquished, which reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression. Romans 5:14 But the law coming, which was given by Moses, and testifying of sin that it is a sinner, did truly take away his (death’s) kingdom, showing that he was no king, but a robber; and it revealed him as a murderer. It laid, however, a weighty burden upon man, who had sin in himself, showing that he was liable to death. For as the law was spiritual, it merely made sin to stand out in relief, but did not destroy it. For sin had no dominion over the spirit, but over man. For it behooved Him who was to destroy sin, and redeem man under the power of death, that He should Himself be made that very same thing which he was, that is, man; who had been drawn by sin into bondage, but was held by death, so that sin should be destroyed by man, and man should go forth from death. For as by the disobedience of the one man who was originally moulded from virgin soil, the many were made sinners, Romans 5:19 and forfeited life; so was it necessary that, by the obedience of one man, who was originally born from a virgin, many should be justified and receive salvation. Thus, then, was the Word of God made man, as also Moses says: God, true are His works. Deuteronomy 32:4 But if, not having been made flesh, He did appear as if flesh, His work was not a true one. But what He did appear, that He also was: God recapitulated in Himself the ancient formation of man, that He might kill sin, deprive death of its power, and vivify man; and therefore His works are true.

–Irenaeus, Against Heresies III.18.7 (emphasis mine)

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

Music for Christmas 2016–Jesus Christ The Apple Tree

Ever since I first heard it, my favorite Christmas song–KSH.

Watch and listen to it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christmas, Church History, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, 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 to Begin the Day from Prayers for the Christian Year

Merciful and most loving God, by whose will and bountiful gift thine eternal Son humbled himself that he might exalt mankind, and became flesh that he might renew in us the divine image: Perfect us in thy likeness, and bring us at last to rejoice in beholding thy beauty, and, with all thy saints, to glorify thy grace; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

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

Wexford Carol – Libera

Good people all, this Christmas time,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done
In sending his beloved son
With Mary holy we should pray,
To God with love this Christmas Day
In Bethlehem upon that morn,
There was a blessed Messiah born.

Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep
Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep
To whom God’s angel did appear
Which put the shepherds in great fear
Arise and go, the angels said
To Bethlehem, be not afraid
For there you’ll find, this happy morn
A princely babe, sweet Jesus, born.

With thankful heart and joyful mind
The shepherds went the babe to find
And as God’s angel had foretold
They did our Saviour Christ behold
Within a manger he was laid
And by his side a virgin maid
Attending on the Lord of Life
Who came on earth to end all strife

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

Samuel Wells–Christmas is really for grown-ups

We don’t want the cozy Christmas story besmirched by…tawdry human and political realities.

So we get youngsters to perform our nativity plays. We talk about how magical this season is. We say “Christmas is really for the children.” How … convenient.

But that’s not all you find, when you sit in a market square in Delhi and see adults performing the Christmas story in an open-air nativity play. There’s more. You see that Christmas is about people struggling, not just politically, but personally. Everywhere you look in the Christmas story you see people clinging on with their fingertips to life, to sanity, to respectability, to hope.

Read it all (my emphasis).

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

(BBC) In pictures: Christmas around the world

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * General Interest, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Globalization, Photos/Photography

Cleophus LaRue on Christmas

In the juxtaposition of the John and Jesus birth stories, we see God’s movement between earth and the cosmic realm. The neighbors and relatives who rejoice over John’s birth are overshadowed by the more universal and expansive cosmic responses to Jesus’ birth. God’s movement is also shown in the religio-political repercussions of Jesus’ birth. The registration of “all the world” asserts Caesar Augustus’s sovereignty over that world””but the birth of God’s son is made known not to the emperor or even the governor, but instead to peasant shepherds. Jesus’ birth shows that God is on the move to dethrone the powerful and lift up the lowly. The census, even in Luke’s day, presupposed registration in the place of a person’s residence, not their hometown. But God is on the move, and Luke has Mary and Joseph travel from historical Nazareth to messianic Bethlehem.

Ironically, the one who will ascend the throne of David enters the world homeless. Forced to place her baby in a feeding trough, Mary improvises a solution for the cool night by wrapping him in cloths. Throughout the Gospel of Luke, Jesus continues to lack a permanent home. Luke’s Jesus, like Luke’s God, is constantly on the move.
Even before his birth, as an unborn child Jesus travels from Mary’s home in Nazareth to her cousin Elizabeth’s home and then back to Nazareth. The shepherds live in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks. The angels appear to them suddenly””movement by the heavenly host! Then with haste, we are told, the shepherds move to go find Mary and Joseph and the child. Through their actions, all involved demonstrate the appropriate response to the movement of the omnipotent God, who is determined to bring a savior into the world.

This season ought to remind us that we are not the only ones who are busy. God is always busy, in the best way, for us.

Christian Century (December 7, 2016), p.18

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