Monthly Archives: December 2021

A Prayer for the year to come from the Church of England

God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
whose years never fail
and whose mercies are new each returning day:
let the radiance of your Spirit renew our lives,
warming our hearts and giving light to our minds;
that we may pass the coming year
in joyful and firm faith;
through him who is the beginning and the end,
your Son, Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Amen.

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

More Music for Christmas–Det är en ros utsprungen- Jan Sandström

Michael Praetorius arr. Jan Sandström sung by Siglo de Oro

Lo, how a rose e’er blooming,
From tender stem hath sprung.
Of Jesse’s lineage coming,
As men of old have sung;
It came, a flow’ret bright,
Amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night. [based on Isaiah 11:1]

Posted in Christmas, Liturgy, Music, Worship

Christmas Morning

On Christmas day I weep
Good Friday to rejoice.
I watch the Child asleep.
Does he half-dream the choice
The Man must make and keep?
At Christmastime I sigh
For my good Friday hope
Outflung the Child’s arms lie
To span in their brief scope
The death the Man must die.
Come Christmastide I groan
To hear Good Friday’s pealing.
The Man, racked to the bone,
Has made His hurt my healing,
Has made my ache His own.
Slay me, pierced to the core
With Christmas penitence
So I who, new-born, soar
To that Child’s innocence,
May wound the Man no more.

–Vassar Miller (1924-1998)

Posted in Christmas, Poetry & Literature

A Prayer for Christmas from the Church of England

Almighty God,
who wonderfully created us in your own image
and yet more wonderfully restored us
through your Son Jesus Christ:
grant that, as he came to share in our humanity,
so we may share the life of his divinity;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Amen.

Posted in Christmas, Church of England (CoE), Spirituality/Prayer

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.

Posted in Church History, Prison/Prison Ministry, Spirituality/Prayer

For his Feast Day (2)–[SWJT] Olayemi O.T. Fatusi–The Retransmission of Evangelical Christianity in Nigeria: The Legacy and Lessons from Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther’s Life and Ministry (1810–1891)

In conclusion, this article has attempted to establish the evangelical root and persuasion of Ajayi Crowther that perspicuously points to his missiological praxis. It equally shows that the nineteenth century pioneering evangelical antecedents of Crowther’s ministry was a foundation upon which the twenty-first-century Christian faith expansion and movements in the Anglican Communion in Nigeria was cast. The contemporary manifestation of the evangelical movement in the Church of Nigeria today still points to Crowther’s evangelical convictions on the Scriptures, the need for conversion of sinners in missions, and the need for collaborating efforts in mission driven ecumenism. Indeed, the historic growth and expansion that places the Anglican Church in Nigeria on the pedestal of global leadership within the global Anglican Church today can be traced back to Crowther’s principles and strategies in gospel retransmission.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Church of Nigeria, Missions

For his Feast Day (1)–(CMS) Andrew Walls–Samuel Ajayi Crowther: the unsung hero

It is time to tell again the long-neglected story of Samuel Ajayi Crowther, writes Gareth Sturdy.

If you know the name, it probably resounds as that of a hero. Such heroes, unacknowledged in their own time and then ignored by their immediate successors, end up being the Really Important Ones. Their stature is so great that it is missed entirely up-close, gets larger the more distant you are from it, and can only been seen in its true glory from space.

If the name is unknown to you, then you are the victim of a cover-up. How else can you have missed one of the most important Africans of the modern era?

It is an opportune moment to reassess Crowther in the light of new understanding. A light that glares at the cover up and reveals a significance greater than that so far ascribed to him by even his most loyal champions.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Church of Nigeria

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Samuel Ajayi Crowther

Almighty God, who didst rescue Samuel Ajayi Crowther from slavery, sent him to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ to his people in Nigeria, and made him the first bishop from the people of West Africa: Grant that those who follow in his steps may reap what he has sown and find abundant help for the harvest; through him who took upon himself the form of a slave that we might be free, the same Jesus Christ; who livest and reignest with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Church of Nigeria, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer for Christmas from William Knight

O Almighty God, who by the birth of thy holy Child Jesus hast given us a great light to dawn upon our darkness: Grant, we pray thee, that in his light we may see light to the end of our days; and bestow upon us, we beseech thee, that most excellent Christmas gift of charity to all men, that so the likeness of thy Son may be formed in us, and that we may have the ever brightening hope of everlasting life; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Christmas, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

–Psalm 46:1-3

Posted in Theology: Scripture

More Music for Christmas–Handel: Messiah, For unto us a child is born

Enjoy it all from the London Symphony Orchestra.

Posted in Christmas, Liturgy, Music, Worship

Hippolytus–The Manifestation of the Hidden Mystery

There is only one God, brethren, and we learn about him only from sacred Scripture. It is therefore our duty to become acquainted with what Scripture proclaims and to investigate its teachings thoroughly. We should believe them in the sense that the Father wills, thinking of the Son in the way the Father wills, and accepting the teaching he wills to give us with regard to the Holy Spirit. Sacred Scripture is God’s gift to us and it should be understood in the way that he intends: we should not do violence to it by interpreting it according to our own preconceived ideas.

God was all alone and nothing existed but himself when he determined to create the world. He thought of it, willed it, spoke the word and so made it. It came into being instantaneously, exactly as he had willed. It is enough then for us to be aware of a single fact: nothing is coeternal with God. Apart from God there was simply nothing else. Yet although he was alone, he was manifold because he lacked neither reason, wisdom, power, nor counsel. All things were in him and he himself was all. At a moment of his own choosing and in a manner determined by himself, God manifested his Word, and through him he made the whole universe.
When the Word was hidden within God himself he was invisible to the created world, but God made him visible. First God gave utterance to his voice, engendering light from light, and then he sent his own mind into the world as its Lord. Visible before to God alone and not to the world, God made him visible so that the world could be saved by seeing him. This mind that entered our world was made known as the Son of God. All things came into being through him; but he alone is begotten by the Father.

The Son gave us the law and the prophets, and he filled the prophets with the Holy Spirit to compel them to speak out. Inspired by the Father’s power, they were to proclaim the Father’s purpose and his will.

So the Word was made manifest, as Saint John declares when, summing up all the sayings of the prophets, he announces that this is the Word through whom the whole universe was made. He says: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Through him all things came into being; not one thing was created without him. And further on he adds: The world was made through him, and yet the world did not know him. He entered his own creation, and his own did not receive him.

–from St. Hippolytus’ treatise against the heresy of Noetus

Posted in Christmas, Church History, Theology

(Guardian) Robyn Vinter–A Christmas Carol is not cosy, and its angry message should still haunt us

“A Christmas Carol isn’t just a cheery, uplifting tale that we can mimic in various modern ways,” says Mayhew. “It’s a very seriously intended work of moral fiction and, perhaps because we tend to pigeonhole it as a Christmas story, we don’t read just how serious it is.”

The message that Dickens had for Victorian Britain is increasingly pertinent, even though we may use different words to describe similar problems, [Professor Robert] Mayhew believes.

“It’s interesting because we’re living right now with unprecedented levels of homelessness and individuals needing the support of food banks. We have the binary between extreme wealth on one hand and those inured to poverty on the other.” You feel the resonance of A Christmas Carol seems to get stronger every year.”

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Christmas, England / UK, History, Poverty, Religion & Culture

(NC Register) St. Thomas Becket — A Saint for This Season?

What was the most surprising thing you discovered in your research of St. Thomas?

That Thomas is a much more complicated man than often portrayed in secular and religious histories – infuriating, reckless, and yet calculating and even wise. In terms of his personality, he could be distant, officious. I was surprised at how few people loved him in life. Many respected and admired him, but it is said that only three people were known to have loved him: his mother, Henry II and Archbishop Theobald of Canterbury, his mentor. Thomas is known to have loved his mother, Henry II and Henry’s son, Henry, whom he educated in his house and considered a son. Thanks to the devotion which has built up in the centuries, Thomas was and is much loved by so many, but it is heart-breaking to think that he may not have had the experience of warm human relationships and may have meant he experienced great loneliness. But then, that may have been another reason for him to find refuge in God.

What do you think is the particular holiness of this saint?

If we had known Thomas in his time, we probably would not speak of his holiness. Those who knew him would not have considered him a Saint at all; it was his death that changed people’s view of him. But he had been growing in holiness, little by little. We could say that he was a man who, for all his public persona, was “hidden with Christ in God”, as he struggled to become a better man and a good bishop. He persisted, quietly and often painfully, giving himself to God in prayer and penance, consciously aware of his mistakes and pride.

His desire to be a good bishop came from his sense of duty; in the end, that sense of duty led him to realize that only the sacrifice of his life could bring peace. And he was prepared to offer that sacrifice. Thomas’ particular holiness was the hidden, daily struggle to be what Christ wanted him to be, and that drama was at the heart of the long journey from a man of ambition, an ordinary, decent Catholic, to a man prepared to die for Christ and the Church.

Read it all.

Posted in Archbishop of Canterbury, Books, Church History

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Thomas Becket

O God, our strength and our salvation, who didst call thy servant Thomas Becket to be a shepherd of thy people and a defender of thy Church: Keep thy household from all evil and raise up among us faithful pastors and leaders who are wise in the ways of the Gospel; through Jesus Christ the shepherd of our souls, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer for Christmas from Gelasian Sacramentary

O God, who makest us glad with the yearly remembrance of the birth of thy only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that as we joyfully receive him for our Redeemer, so we may with sure confidence behold him when he shall come to be our Judge; who livest and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.

Posted in Christmas, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill; and his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. And she said to Eli’jah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death of my son!” And he said to her, “Give me your son.” And he took him from her bosom, and carried him up into the upper chamber, where he lodged, and laid him upon his own bed. And he cried to the LORD, “O LORD my God, hast thou brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son?” Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried to the LORD, “O LORD my God, let this child’s soul come into him again.” And the LORD hearkened to the voice of Eli’jah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived. And Eli’jah took the child, and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house, and delivered him to his mother; and Eli’jah said, “See, your son lives.” And the woman said to Eli’jah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth.”

–1 Kings 17:17-24

Posted in Theology: Scripture

Frederick Buechner for Christmas

“Without somehow destroying me in the process, how could God reveal himself in a way that would leave no room for doubt? If there was no room for doubt, there would be no room for me.”

–Frederick Buechner, quoted at the beginning of A Prayer for Owen Meany, cited by yours truly in the Christmas Eve sermon

Posted in Anthropology, Christmas, Christology

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 Christmas, Christology

Dorothy Sayers on the Incarnation

..[Jesus of Nazareth] was not a kind of demon pretending to be human; he was in every respect a genuine living man. He was not merely a man so good as to be “like God” he was God.

Now, this is not just a pious commonplace: it is not a commonplace at all. For what it means is this, among other things: that for whatever reason God chose to make man as he is limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death he [God] had the honesty and courage to take his own medicine. Whatever game he is playing with his creation, he has kept his own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that he has not exacted from himself. He has himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death. When he was a man, he played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worthwhile.

Creed or Chaos? (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company,1949), page 4 (with special thanks to blog reader and friend WW)

Posted in Christmas, Christology, Church History

Eleanor Parker on Childermas Day, the feast of the Holy Innocents

I wonder if the popularity of the Coventry Carol today indicates that it expresses something people don’t find in the usual run of joyful Christmas carols – this song of grief, of innocence cruelly destroyed. The Feast of the Holy Innocents (Childermas, as it was known in the Middle Ages) is not an easy subject for a modern audience to understand, and the images which often accompany it in medieval manuscripts, of children impaled on spears, are truly horrible. But they are meant to be; they are intended to disgust and horrify, and they’re horrible because they’re not fantasy violence but all too close to the reality of the world we live in. Children do die; the innocent and vulnerable do suffer at the hands of the powerful; and as this carol says, every single form of human love, one way or another, will ultimately end in parting and grief. Every child born into the world – every tiny, innocent, adorable little baby – however loved, however cared for, will grow up to face some kind of sorrow, and the inevitability of death. Of course no one wants to think about such things, especially when they look at a newborn baby; but pretending otherwise, not wanting to think otherwise, doesn’t make it any less true.

Medieval writers were honest and clear-eyed about such uncomfortable truths. The idea that thoughts like these are incongruous with the Christmas season (as you often hear people say about the Holy Innocents) is largely a modern scruple, encouraged by the comparatively recent idea that Christmas is primarily a cheery festival for happy children and families.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Christmas, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals

The Coventry Carol for the Feast of the Holy Innocents

Lyrics:

Lullay, thou little tiny child
Sleep well, lully, lullay
And smile in dreaming, little one
Sleep well, lully, lullay
Oh sisters two, what may we do
To preserve on this day
This poor youngling for whom we sing
Sleep well, lully, lullay
Farewell, lully, lullay
Herod the king in his raging
Set forth upon this day
By his decree, no life spare thee
All children young to slay
All children young to slay
Then woe is me, poor child, for thee
And ever mourn and say
For thy parting, neither say nor sing
Farewell, lully, lullay
Farewell, lully, lullay
And when the stars fill darkened skies
In their far venture, stay
And smile as dreaming, little one
Farewell, lully, lullay
Dream now, lully, lullay

Posted in Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Liturgy, Music, Worship

A sermon of St Quodvultdeus on the Holy Innocents–Even Before They Learn to Speak, They Proclaim Christ

From here:

A tiny child is born, who is a great king. Wise men are led to him from afar. They come to adore one who lies in a manger and yet reigns in heaven and on earth. When they tell of one who is born a king, Herod is disturbed. To save his kingdom he resolves to kill him, though if he would have faith in the child, he himself would reign in peace in this life and for ever in the life to come.
Why are you afraid, Herod, when you hear of the birth of a king? He does not come to drive you out, but to conquer the devil. But because you do not understand this you are disturbed and in a rage, and to destroy one child whom you seek, you show your cruelty in the death of so many children.
You are not restrained by the love of weeping mothers or fathers mourning the deaths of their sons, nor by the cries and sobs of the children. You destroy those who are tiny in body because fear is destroying your heart. You imagine that if you accomplish your desire you can prolong your own life, though you are seeking to kill Life himself.
Yet your throne is threatened by the source of grace, so small, yet so great, who is lying in the manger. He is using you, all unaware of it, to work out his own purposes freeing souls from captivity to the devil. He has taken up the sons of the enemy into the ranks of God’s adopted children.
The children die for Christ, though they do not know it. The parents mourn for the death of martyrs. The child makes of those as yet unable to speak fit witnesses to himself. See the kind of kingdom that is his, coming as he did in order to be this kind of king. See how the deliverer is already working deliverance, the saviour already working salvation.
But you, Herod, do not know this and are disturbed and furious. While you vent your fury against the child, you are already paying him homage, and do not know it.
How great a gift of grace is here! To what merits of their own do the children owe this kind of victory? They cannot speak, yet they bear witness to Christ. They cannot use their limbs to engage in battle, yet already they bear off the palm of victory.

Posted in Children, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Preaching / Homiletics

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 Children, Church History, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Death / Burial / Funerals, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer for Christmas from John RW Stott

O Lord Jesus Christ, at whose birth the praises of God were sung by a multitude of the heavenly host: Unite our voices now with theirs, and grant that…[this Christmas] we may worship thee with joyful lips and humble hearts; for the glory of thy great name.

Posted in Christmas, 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: Scripture

More Music for Christmas–The Gloucester Cathedral Choir sings In the Bleak Midwinter

Listen to it all.

Posted in Christmas, Liturgy, Music, Worship

TS Eliot for Christmas–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 Christmas, Poetry & Literature

A story from a School in Michigan for Christmas

I have a friend who teaches in the upper peninsula in Michigan. He has one of those schools that run from kindergarten all the way up through eighth grade, including special ed. One of his students was intellectually slow, couldn’t do very well in classes. And when Christmas Pageant time came he wanted to have a part in the Pageant. What’s more, he wanted a speaking part. He wouldn’t settle for anything less.

So they made into the innkeeper. They figured he could handle that because all he had to do was say, “No room,” twice: once before Mary spoke, once after she spoke. The night of the Pageant, Mary knocks on the door he opens the door, and he says in a brusque fashion, “No room!” Mary says, “But I’m sick, and I’m cold, and I’m going to have a baby, and if you don’t give me a place to sleep, my baby will be born in the cold, cold night.”

He just stood there. The boy behind him nudged him and said, “No room, No room, say, “No room.’” And finally, he turned and he said, “I know what I’m supposed to say, but she can have my room.”

–Anthony Campolo in William H. Willimon Ed, Sermons from Duke Chapel: Voices from “A Great Towering Church” (Durham: Duke University Press, 2005), p.294; used by yours truly in the Christmas Eve sermon

Posted in Children, Christmas, Education, Preaching / Homiletics

The Book of Homilies on the Nativity–‘What greater love could we seely creatures desire or wish to have at God’s hands?’

But, for the better understanding and consideration of this thing, let us behold the end of his coming: so shall we perceive what great commodity and profit his nativity hath brought unto us miserable and sinful creatures. The end of his coming was to save and deliver his people, to fulfil the law for us, to bear witness to the truth, to teach and preach the words of his Father, to give light unto the world, to call sinners to repentance, to refresh them that labour and be heavy laden, to cast out the prince of this world, to reconcile us in the body of his flesh, to dissolve the works of the devil last of all, to become a propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but for the sins of the whole world.[48] These were the chief ends wherefore Christ became man, not for any profit that should come to himself thereby, but only for our sakes ; that we might understand the will of God, be partakers of his heavenly light, be delivered out of the devil’s claws, released from the burden of sin, justified through faith in his blood, and finally received up into everlasting glory, there to reign with him for ever. Was not this a great and singular love of Christ towards mankind, that being the express and lively image of God[49]he would notwithstanding humble himself and take upon him the form of a servant and that only to save and redeem us? O how much are we bound to the goodness of God in this behalf! How many thanks and praises do we owe unto him for this our salvation, wrought by his dear and only Son Christ: who became a pilgrim in earth, to make us citizens in heaven; who became the Son of man, to make us the sons of God; who became obedient to the law, to deliver us from the curse of the law; who became poor to make us rich;[50] vile to make us precious; subject to death to make us live for ever. What greater love could we seely creatures desire or wish to have at God’s hands?

Read it all.

Posted in Christmas, Christology, Church History, Church of England (CoE), Preaching / Homiletics