Posts tagged: Christmas
This week’s lectionary reflection comes from my good friend Matthew Burdette, one of the most talented young theologians I know. Matt is finishing his thesis for a Masters of Theology degree from La Sierra University. He is a high school Bible teacher in Redlands, California, and occasionally blogs at Constructing Theology: The Theological Explorations of a Progressive Adventist. I asked Matt to share the lectionary reflection this week at The Suburban Pastor, it comes from the sermon he preached today at the Highstown Church, in Highstown, NJ. Thanks Matt!
Today is a day on which we remember an old story that just about all of us know, a story that all of us could probably tell from memory. It is a common story about a baby, some angels, a some shepherds, a pregnant teenage mother, her bizarre account of how she ended up pregnant, her confused fiancé, a few astrologers, a nervous king, a hotel with no vacancy, and the fate of the world. This is, as I said, a story we’re quite familiar with.
One of my favorite things to do as a child was listen to stories. I had several favorites. Two that I remember in particular were called Milk and Cookies and Are You My Mother? I am certain that the only other persons besides myself who remember this are my mother and maybe my teddy bear. Now don’t be deceived by the title of Milk and Cookies. This isn’t so much a story about food as it is about a baby bear visiting his grandparents’ house, terrified of a furnace in the basement that he is convinced is a dragon. Scary stuff. Likewise, Are You My Mother? is a very dramatic story about a newly-hatched bird who strays from the nest, and suffers all kinds of confusion as he attempts to identify his mother. Again, scary stuff.
As a child, I wanted to read these books all the time. Now, have you ever stopped to wonder why it is that children do this? I remember my little sister Lizzie had a favorite book when she was a kid, and my mom would read it to her all the time too. And I know of other kids that do the same thing, so it isn’t just my family. Why is it that children can watch the same movie over and over again, or read the same book every night? It isn’t bad memory. Kids know what’s coming next. They wait anxiously for their favorite parts. They mumble along with the movies, having memorized all the lines. They correct you when you misread the sentence in the book. It isn’t bad memory. It is something else. Continue reading 'A Christmas Sermon'»
A quote to begin the Sabbath:
In contrast to the arrogance, lack of relationships, and abstraction embodied in the global meltdown, we find material concreteness, relationship, and humility affirmed in the Christmas story. The story celebrates a person with a face who entered into time; it celebrates a relational, family community; and it celebrates a humble baby Jesus. Christmas is the church’s re-enacting this major chapter of the fullness of the Christian story: the story that the Word of God became flesh in the womb of a Virgin only to suffer and die an unjust death, before being raised to new life and ascending to heaven. This true story schools us in concreteness: we recall the baby in the manger in Bethlehem. It schools us in community and relationships: Jesus was born of a woman, born into an extended family, born into a neighborhood, born into a village, and born into friendships. And it schools us in humility: the birth of our Lord was a modest birth, in the humble circumstances of a migrant family. Hence, the story of Christ’s birth offers contrasting ways of imagining globalization that can lead to constructive improvisation and concrete action that is re-framed by the Christmas story. Re-enacting the Christmas drama helps us re-imagine alternative practices to the current system of global money and global capital circulation.
- From The Fullness of Time in a Flat World by Scott Waalkes, p. 69-70
Here are three moving Christmas stories to ponder about justice, hope, and peace:
1. A Prisoner’s Christmas by Yuliya Tymosjenko
Yuliya Tymoshenko, twice Prime Minister of Ukraine, and leader of Ukraine’s political opposition, is currently imprisoned in Lukyanivska Prison, Kyiv. She reflects here on the meaning of Christmas as one wrongly imprisoned for her political resistance.
2. Christmas Amidst the Rubbish by Rich Lowry
National Review Editor, Rich Lowry, tells the story of Coptic Christians in Egypt struggling for survival in Cairo’s “Garbage City.” Lowry reflects on how Christmas is about seeing the world from below.
3. Christmas Eve, 1914 – It Started in Ypres by Gabriel Gadfly
Poet Gabriel Gadfry’s poem about one of my favorite Christmas stories—a miraculous truce that occurred Christmas day 1914, in the trenches of World War 1. You can read more about this amazing story on Wikipedia as well.
A quote to begin the Sabbath:
Christmas is the promise that the God who came in history and comes daily in mystery will one day come in glory. God is saying in Jesus that in the end everything will be all right. Nothing can harm you permanently, no suffering is irrevocable, no loss is lasting, no defeat is more than transitory, no disappointment is conclusive. Jesus did not deny the reality of suffering, discouragement, disappointment, frustration, and death; he simply stated that the Kingdom of God would conquer all of these horrors, that the Father’s love is so prodigal that no evil could possibly resist it.
- From Reflections for Ragamuffins by Brennan Manning
Used in A Guide for Prayer for All Who Seek God, p. 27
Here’s an interesting blog post about N.T. Wright’s take on Christmas based on the hymns we sing during the season. I came across it thanks to a number of RT’s on Twitter. It’s by Peter Leithart at the CREDENDAagenda blog. A really good read. I couldn’t agree with Wright (and Leithart) more. You can read his post here. Here’s the punchline for me if you don’t have time to read the whole thing:
What does Simeon sing about? When he takes the infant Jesus into his arms, he blessed God: “Let your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation.” And what is that? Access to heaven? Forgiveness of sins? No: “the light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.”
Here’s one of the earliest recorded Christmas sermons from one of the greatest preachers in the history of Christianity, John Chrysostom. It comes to me via way of the Spectrum blog, via way of Tony Jones‘ blog—they both provide some good introductory context. Here’s one of my favorite paragraphs:
What shall I say! And how shall I describe this Birth to you? For this wonder fills me with astonishment. The Ancient of days has become an infant. He Who sits upon the sublime and heavenly Throne, now lies in a manger. And He Who cannot be touched, Who is simple, without complexity, and incorporeal, now lies subject to the hands of men. He Who has broken the bonds of sinners, is now bound by an infants bands. But He has decreed that ignominy shall become honor, infamy be clothed with glory, and total humiliation the measure of His Goodness.
Go here for the post in the Spectrum blog.
Go here for the post in Tony Jones’ blog.
Here’s a good quote for Advent from J.B. Philips (I don’t know the source but I found it on the Christian Prayers and Worship site, inspired by the Celtic Christian Church):
“If New Testament Christianity is to reappear today with its power and joy and courage, men [and women] must recapture the basic conviction that this is a Visited planet. It is not enough to express formal belief in the “Incarnation” or in the “Divinity of Christ”; the staggering truth must be accepted afresh — that in this vast, mysterious universe, of which we are an almost infinitesimal part, the great Mystery, Whom we call God, has visited our planet in Person. It is from this conviction that there springs unconquerable certainty and unquenchable faith and hope. It is not enough to believe theoretically that was both God and Man; not enough to admire, respect, and even worship Him; it is not even enough to try to follow Him. The reason for the insufficiency of these things is that the modern intelligent mind, which has had its horizons widened in dozens of different ways, has got to be shocked afresh by the audacious central Fact — that, as a sober matter of history, God became one of us.”