Daily Archives: December 28, 2013

William Willimon for Christmas 2013: 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.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Christmas, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Methodist, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology

(Time Magazine) 10 Questions with Rick Warren

Rob Bell has suggested Christians put too much emphasis on hell. Do you agree?
Absolutely not. Most don’t even talk about it.

Do you think the church has lost the same-sex-marriage fight?
I’m going to pass on that. I don’t know.

Read it all (subscriber access only).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Eschatology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

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.

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

Great Fun and Laughter for Christmas 2013: Straight No Chaser – The 12 Days of Christmas

Enjoy the whole thing.

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

(RNS) Jonathan Merritt: 3 reasons Christians should mourn on December 28

As the tinsel is packed away and the echoes of Christmas carols fade, Christians around the world observe the Feast of Holy Innocents or “Childermas.” On this day, the faithful will read the Biblical story of King Herod’s massacre of children in an attempt to murder the infant Jesus. These infant innocents are considered the first Christian martyrs.

In medieval England, Christians commemorated the day by whipping their children in bed in the morning. The custom survived into the 17th century, but thankfully has fallen away. Today, the December 28 is marked as an occasion of childhood merrymaking.

Very few American Christians actively observe this holiday in the 21st Century. But we have plenty of reasons to grieve this Innocent’s Day as people who believe in the sanctity of life from the womb to the tomb…

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Children, Christmas, Church History, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine, Life Ethics, Parish Ministry, Theology

(NC Reporter) John Allen–What Francis can do on anti-Christian persecution

Pope Francis addressed anti-Christian persecution today, on the day after attacks on two Christian churches in Baghdad left at least 38 dead. He called for a moment of silence in honor of victims of such violence and said it must be “denounced and eliminated.”

His remarks came in an Angelus address on the feast of St. Stephen, the day after Christmas, and they marked the latest reference to anti-Christian persecution in what has become an emerging theme for Francis.

In the abstract, it’s tempting to ask what any pope can do to affect anti-Christian persecution beyond issuing a cri de coeur. Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI raised the issue, and their rhetoric didn’t seem to put a dent in a scourge that claims somewhere between 9,000 and 100,000 lives every year, depending on which set of estimates one chooses to trust, working out to somewhere between 1 and 11 new martyrs every hour.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Violence

Blaise Pascal on Jesus for Christmas

From here:

Jesus Christ. Offices.””He alone had to create a great people, elect, holy, and chosen; to lead, nourish, and bring it into the place of rest and holiness; to make it holy to God; to make it the temple of God; to reconcile it to, and save it from the wrath of God; to free it from the slavery of sin, which visibly reigns in man; to give laws to this people, and engrave these laws on their heart; to offer Himself to God for them, and sacrifice Himself for them; to be a victim without blemish, and Himself the sacrificer, having to offer Himself, His body, and His blood, and yet to offer bread and wine to God”¦

Posted in Christology, Theology

Most U.S. Families Still Routinely Dine Together at Home–Gallup

As families gather around the table this holiday season, Gallup finds that family dining is a part of everyday life for the majority of U.S. parents, and that it hasn’t diminished much in recent years. Fifty-three percent of adults with children younger than 18 say their family eats dinner together at home six or seven nights a week. The average 5.1 dinners that families share each week is down slightly from 5.4 in 1997, but unchanged from 2001.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Marriage & Family

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, Christmas, Church History, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Death / Burial / Funerals, Parish Ministry

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 Uncategorized

Christmas Messages from the Anglican Communion

Please let us know of any other messages
South Carolina: Bishop Mark Lawrence
Archbishop Duncan of ACNA
Bishop Julian Dobbs of CANA East
Fort Worth: Bishop Iker
Bishop Alberto Morales of Quincy

Australia: Archbishop Glenn Davies of Sydney
Australian Bishops
Dean of Sydney
Brisbane:Archbishop Phillip Aspinall
Canada: Bishop Charlie Masters, Moderator of ANiC
Archbishop Hiltz of ACoC
and video with National Bishop of ELC
Ghana: Archbishop Sarfo
Bishop of Accra
Hong Kong: Archbishop Paul Kwong
South East Asia: Kuching: Archbishop Bolly Lapok
West Malaysia: Bishop Moon Hing
Southern Africa: Archbishop Thabo Makgoba
New Zealand: message from the Archbishops
Sudan: Message from Churches
Uganda: Archbishop Ntagali
West Indies: Archbishop John Holder
West Africa: Gambia: Archbishop Tilewa


Churches Together in England
Archbishop of York
Bishop of London
Bishop of Bath and Wells
Bishop of Birkenhead
Bishop of Blackburn
and here
Bishop of Bristol
Bishop of Chester
Bishop of Coventry
Bishop of Lichfield: Christmas Begins with Christ
Bishop of Sheffield
Bishop of Sherborne
Bishop of Winchester
Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe – Bishop David Hamid
Bishop of Beverley

Archbishop of Armagh
Bishop of Down and Dromore
and here
Archbishop of Dublin

Church in Wales bishops


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

Christmas Concert from St John's College, Cambridge

Listen here if you wish

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

Dave Barry's Wonderful year in review for 2013

”¦ when Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos buys The Washington Post with his own personal money, thereby ensuring that one of the nation’s most important newspapers will be able to continue producing in-depth, hard-hitting journalism, including an estimated 400 stories and columns in August alone about what a genuinely brilliant yet humanitarian genius Jeff Bezos is. Bezos says he does not plan to make any major changes, other than to deliver the paper in cardboard boxes and replace the stories with reader reviews of news events, using a five-star rating system.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, signaling a major change in the federal government’s policy regarding the War on Drugs, tells a meeting of the American Bar Association that he has a family of tiny invisible harmonica-playing giraffes living inside his nose.

In sports, New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is indicted for murder; if convicted, under the strict new NFL rules aimed at reducing violence, he will have to sit out at least two games.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * General Interest, History, Humor / Trivia

(Ind. Star) A former Megachurch Tries to Learn to be Slow Church and to serve the neighborhood

Englewood runs counter to the church culture ”” and its own past ”” in some other ways. Where the church once focused primarily on evangelism, attractive programming and high membership growth, Englewood seems more interested in getting to know people.

“A lot of times churches just think it is about getting people to be baptized and saving their souls so they can go to heaven,” said Benjamin, the church secretary. “We believe the picture is so much bigger than that. It is about what God intended life to be. He intended people to have good shelters. He intended people to have the basic needs of life. He intended people to live together in harmony and share together.”

That philosophy is what Smith, the editor of the church’s book review, describes in a new book he has co-authored called “Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus.”

Borrowing some of the language of the Slow Food movement, it proposes to resist what some have called the “McDonald’s-ization of the church.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelism and Church Growth, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Theology