Daily Archives: December 30, 2014

Christmas Bells

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, History, Poetry & Literature

Lent and Beyond: Prayer for South Carolina on Tuesday December 30th

Awaiting the results of litigation. Please pray for Her Honor Judge Diane S. Goodstein, the Diocese of South Carolina and its legal team, all those involved in the proceedings and for the growth of God’s Kingdom in South Carolina

A friend of mine described waiting like sitting on a bench in a beautiful garden, enjoying the presence of God. May it be so for the litigants in South Carolina. Please pray for Her Honor Judge Diane S. Goodstein, that she may have wisdom beyond measure in the dispensation of this case.

Malachi 1:11 (NLT)
But my name is honored by people of other nations from morning till night. All around the world they offer sweet incense and pure offerings in honor of my name. For my name is great among the nations,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

O Lord, may Your name be honored throughout South Carolina from morning till night. Amen.

Please pray it all and there are more prayers for South Carolina here

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

Fleming Rutledge for Christmas 2014–Last Month of the Year

On the radio one time I heard a breathtaking African-American spiritual that I had never heard before. It had a question-and-answer format, or, rather, call-and-response:

What month was my Jesus born in? Last month of the year.

What month? January? No…February? No… March? No”¦

Last month of the year”¦

Born of the virgin Mary.

What does this suggest to you? I think it means that the tide of human possibility was running out. Month after month, we thought that we could fix whatever was wrong. New resolutions, new products, new leaders, new technology, new strategies, new medicines, new regimes””surely we can fix it. Month after month the statistics tell the story: better lives for rich Arab sheiks, worse lives for Chinese peasants. Better lives for Scandinavian welfare recipients, worse lives for Congolese children. Better conditions for Baghdad, worse for Kabul and Islamabad. Put your finger in the dike here, a leak springs over there. We look to the stars, we look to the earth, but for this word which we speak there is no dawn. Human potential has been explored to the nth power and it is a dead end.

What month was my Jesus born in? Last month of the year.

What month?

Last month of the year”¦

Born of the Virgin Mary.

What does this suggest? When the tide of human possibility has run out, divine intervention take its place….

Read it all.

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

(AI) Robert Sirico–Christmas 2014 as a Dangerous Moment with Promise

This is, of course, the season, more than any other season, when we wish one another joy and happiness. I may be thought by some to be a Grinch for mentioning a fact that I think weighs on many of our hearts. We are living at a very dangerous moment due to a confluence of a number of things, intellectual, financial, militarily and theologically. I hope to be prudent enough not to attempt to delve into a deep analysis of these matters in what my editors have told me is to be a brief meditation as we enter into the Christmas season, but to be honest and direct, I thought it was necessary to begin with where we find ourselves this Christmas. And that is to say that we are at a perilous moment in history due to the confluence I alluded to above.

How to get to the heart of the matter? That, as Shakespeare might say, is the rub. Yet, as a Christian who believes that the redemption of the world was effected by the Incarnation of Christ, I can certainly use the lens of the Incarnation to understand the state of the world and the people in it, even when, indeed, especially when things are perilous. That is what it means to affirm that Christology is anthropology, i.e., that in order to discover man and what his end truly is, one must study Christ, the perfect man.

If we want to go to root of the modern dilemma we need to identify the tendency that balkanizes reality, the principle of division. Think of that for a moment: The Scriptures present a vision of the origin of humanity as one of harmony and peace, serenity, and joy. This pervasive harmony permeated the relation of the transcendent God to the material universe which Genesis says was fashioned by his own hand and pronounced good. There was a union between God and the human family which he fashioned in his own image. Likewise, there was an intimate unity between man and woman, who were made stewards of the whole of creation, which likewise enjoyed an abundant and harmonious existence.

Read it all.

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Bishop Mark Lawrence's Christmas Eve Sermon for 2014–Do we really Know what time it is?

Listen to it all (about 17 1/2 minutes).

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

Frank Limehouse for Christmas 2014–100% Grace and 100% Truth

Saint John has described the character of Jesus in just two words, grace and truth. He said Jesus was “full of grace and truth….”

How would someone describe you? Are you strong on truth but weak on grace- quick to judge and slow to forgive? A whole lot of people are. Or are you strong on grace and weak on truth? A whole lot of people are. But grace without truth is not grace, it’s denial.

It’s easy to fall off the slippery slop in one direction or another. In our marriages, parenting, our work places, and even in ministries there is often a lot of one but not much of the other.

Look at our churches. Some churches are deeply immersed in truth, but awfully thin on grace. One of the greatest novels ever written, in my humble opinion, is The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Talk about a story of truth with no grace. Mistress Hester Prynne was sentenced to wear the scarlet letter, (an A for adultery), as a mark of shame upon her breast all the days of her life until the letter be engraved upon her tombstone. If she entered a church, trusting to share a comforting word from God, it was often her mishap to find herself the text of the sermon.
How sad that accurately describes many churches today- a lot of law, a lot of truth, but thin on grace. There is a story of a clergyman who had an argument with a vestryman about whether a young man who had a bad reputation should be made welcome in the church. Finally the minister said, “Well, didn’t the Lord forgive the woman taken in adultery?” “Yes,” replied the old gentleman, “but I don’t think any more of him for having done it.” And so it is with many churches- strong on truth, but weak on grace.

And on the flip side, there are many churches that cheat people out of truth, churches that vow never to offend, to make everybody feel good and comfortable. It may feel good and comfortable, it may sound like sacred tolerance, but there is no abiding peace there. There is no new life, no liberation, no transformation.

I knew a man who once asked a much younger woman to marry him, but with a pre-nuptial agreement. In the pre-nuptial it was stated that she was not suppose to nag him about his drinking. She agreed, and little by little, instead of speaking the truth in love she sat by and watched him die of alcohol. Now it could be argued that she stuck nobly to the agreement, but it could also be argued that she lived a marriage of no truth.

Read it all.

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

(Forbes) Joel Kotkin–The Decline Of Christmas And The Looming Tech Nightmare

In the past, this season was marked by a greater interest in divinity, the family hearth and the joy of children. Increasingly our society has been turning away from such simple human pleasures, replacing them with those of technology.

Despite the annual holiday pageantry, in the West religion is on the decline, along with our society’s emphasis on human relationships. Atheism seems to be getting stronger, estimated at around 13 percent worldwide but much higher in such countries as Japan, Germany and China. “The world is going secular,” claims author Nigel Barber. “Nothing short of an ice age can stop it.”

In contrast, the religion of technology is gaining adherents. In a poll in the U.K., about as many said they believe Google to have their best interests at heart as God. Religious disbelief has been rising particularly among U.S. millennials, a group that, according to Pew, largely eschews traditional religion and embraces technology as a primary value. Some 26 percent profess no religious affiliation, twice the level of their boomer parents; they are twice as irreligious at their age as any previous generation.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, History, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Secularism, Theology

A Gerard Manley Hopkins poem for Christmas 2014

Moonless darkness stands between.
Past, the Past, no more be seen!
But the Bethlehem-star may lead me
To the sight of Him Who freed me
From the self that I have been.
Make me pure, Lord: Thou art holy;
Make me meek, Lord: Thou wert lowly;
Now beginning, and alway:
Now begin, on Christmas day.

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

The Gloucester Cathedral Choir sings In the Bleak Midwinter

Listen to it all.

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

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

“The purpose of religious language”¦is to evoke an attitude…”

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

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Apologetics, Books, Christmas, Christology, Church History, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, 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, * Culture-Watch, Church History, Prison/Prison Ministry, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O God, who hast given us grace at this time to celebrate the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ: We laud and magnify thy glorious name for the countless blessings which he hath brought unto us; and we beseech thee to grant that we may ever set forth thy praise in joyful obedience to thy will; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Scottish Prayer Book

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Now I know that the LORD will help his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with mighty victories by his right hand. 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 20:6-9

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

New Heaven, New War

Come to your heaven, you heavenly quires!
Earth hath the heaven of your desires;
Remove your dwelling to your God,
A stall is now His best abode;
Sith men their homage do deny,
Come, angels, all their faults supply.

His chilling cold doth heat require,
Come, seraphim, in lieu of fire;
This little ark no cover hath,
Let cherubs’ wings his body swathe;
Come, Raphael, this babe must eat,
Provide our little Toby meat.

Let Gabriel be now His groom,
That first took up His earthly room;
Let Michael stand in His defence,
Whom love hath link’d to feeble sense;
Let graces rock when He doth cry,
And angels sing this lullaby.
The same you saw in heavenly seat,
Is He that now sucks Mary’s teat;
Agnize your King a mortal wight,
His borrow’d weed lets not your sight;
Come, kiss the manger where He lies;
That is your bliss above the skies.

This little babe so few days old,
Is come to rifle Satan’s fold;
All hell doth at His presence quake,
Though He Himself for cold do shake;
For in this weak unarmèd wise
The gates of hell He will surprise.

With tears He fights and wins the field,
His naked breast stands for a shield,
His battering shot are babish cries,
His arrows, looks of weeping eyes,
His martial ensigns, cold and need,
And feeble flesh His warrior’s steed.

His camp is pitchèd in a stall,
His bulwark but a broken wall,
The crib His trench, hay-stalks His stakes,
Of shepherds He His muster makes;
And thus, as sure His foe to wound,
The angels’ trumps alarum sound.

My soul, with Christ join thou in fight;
Stick to the tents that He hath pight;
Within His crib is surest ward,
This little babe will be thy guard;
If thou wilt foil thy foes with joy,
Then flit not from this heavenly boy.

–Robert Southwell

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

([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, * Culture-Watch, Books, Christmas, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, History, Theology

USA Today–2014 was a devastating year for children

This year recorded the highest number of children caught in conflict zones who were directly and deliberately attacked. The targeting of children in conflict is not new, but it’s rising at an alarming rate. In 2014, more children were killed, kidnapped, tortured, raped, forcibly recruited by armed groups and even sold as slaves than at any time in recent history.

The numbers are grim. In Pakistan, over 130 students ”” most of them 12 to 16 years old””were slaughtered in a Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar earlier this month. In the Central African Republic, where 2.3 million children are entangled in a long-running sectarian conflict, as many as 10,000 children are believed to have been recruited as child soldiers, and more than 430 children were killed and maimed this year ”” three times as many as in 2013. When violence erupted in Israel and Gaza last summer, more than 530 children were killed, at least 3,370 children injured, and 54,000 children were left homeless, while countless others hid in fear from rockets, artillery and air strikes.

In Syria, where civil war, now approaching its fifth year, has created 1.7 million child refugees, there were at least 35 attacks on schools, killing and injuring hundreds of children. In Iraq, at least 700 children are believed to have been maimed, killed or even executed this year. In South Sudan, an estimated 12,000 children have been recruited and forced to fight in an ongoing civil war that has caused more than a million children to flee their homes. In Ukraine, 128,000 children have been displaced by violence.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Health & Medicine, Iraq, Middle East, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Syria, Theology, Ukraine

(F Things) Mathew Block–Slaughtered Sons: The Dark Side of the Christmas Story

The picture of the Bethlehem mother distraught over the slaughter of her infant son will be mirrored as Mary observes her son die upon a cross. And here at last the sorrows of Bethlehem’s mothers ””and of David for his dead sons””and of Job for his dead children””are finally answered. For here death itself is overcome. “And indeed, how could Rachel be answered otherwise?” Persson writes. “What mother would be satisfied with anything less than the unworking of her child’s death? Rachel refuses to be comforted, because comfort is not what she wants. She does not want comfort; she wants her children.”

It’s the story of Bethlehem’s mothers. It’s the story of David, grieving his dead sons. It’s the story of Job, mourning the death of his children. And it’s our story too””the story of all of us who grieve and weep and mourn.“We, with Job, wait””still with the tears of Rachel””for the time at the end of the eschaton when every tear will be wiped away,” Persson writes. “That time is not yet, and so there are still tears. There are tears, and it is Christmas. But this””this hope””is why we can sing. Not because there is no suffering, not because there is no Rachel, not because there are no slaughtered innocents, whose blood indeed cries out in their feast during the season of Christmas. No, it is not because these things are not, but because He””Christ””is.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Children, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Death / Burial / Funerals, Parish Ministry, Theology, Theology: Scripture

The Story of the Man and the Birds for Christmas 2014

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 Uncategorized