This past Friday was heart-crushing for anyone who heard about the Newtown, Connecticut elementary school shooting that took the lives of 20 six and seven year-olds and six adults. Less well-publicized was the stabbing of 22 children ages six to twelve and one 85 year-old woman outside a primary school in China the very same day. The news was almost too much to bear and puts a cloud of darkness over this often joyous time of year. One shop owner in Newtown commented to a reporter, “Christmas is cancelled this year.” However, as today we light three candles for Advent: hope, peace, and joy, if there is anytime we need this church season in our lives, it is now. Continue reading
(This is a much revised version of a post that first appeared last year)
The sun doesn’t shine as bright this time of year, but the malls absolutely glisten. We are entering what is known in our contemporary culture as the “Christmas season.” The next four weeks will be paraded by both the religious and the secular as a time of upbeat songs, brightly colored lights, tinsel, and presents, presents, presents. We will run ourselves silly buying up gifts, gorging ourselves on rich food, and inducing an all-around giddy madness. Then, on December 26th, we inevitably crash. It’s so routine, we might be tempted to think that this is the way December has always been. In the ancient traditions of the Church, however, this time of year has a completely different vibe. Continue reading
We are entering what is known in our contemporary culture as the Christmas season. This is in many ways a misnomer, however. Ecclesiastically, the time known as Christmas begins Christmas Day and lasts the next twelve days. Christmas is the celebration of Christ’s coming, his first coming in Bethlehem a little over two thousand years ago, as well as his second coming (though this one tends to slip into the background). However the period leading up to Christmas, starting on the fourth Sunday prior and ending Christmas Eve, is called Advent. Advent anticipates Christmas, it commemorates the fact that God’s people were longingly awaiting their coming Messiah in spiritual darkness. We also await our Messiah… we await his return, whereupon he will expel the darkness (sin, death, and Satan) from this world once and for all. Continue reading
“The idea that God, if there is a force of Logic and Love in the universe, that it would seek to explain itself is amazing enough. That it would seek to explain itself and describe itself by becoming a child born in straw poverty, in shit and straw . . . a child . . . I just thought: “Wow!” Just the poetry . . . Unknowable love, unknowable power, describes itself as the most vulnerable. There it was. I was sitting there, and it’s not that it hadn’t struck me before, but tears came streaming down my face, and I saw the genius of this, utter genius of picking a particular point in time and deciding to turn on this.”
- Bono, from Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas
In answer to the question “Should we ban bad theology carols?”
“Only with great care. For thousands, carols will be their only link with a church. At the same time, sentimentality is perhaps the single most dangerous feature of our Church and culture—and the sentimental air is never thicker than at Christmas. The Incarnation is messy, dirty, and resonates with the crucifixion. We need a new wave of carol writing that can gradually swill out the nonsense and catch the piercing, joy-through-pain refrains of the New Testament.”
– Jeremy Begbie
HT: Jesus Creed
One could safely propose that there are far too many Christmas albums in the world, but far too few good ones. For those of us with an aversion to anything referencing Santa Claus, snowmen, reindeer, elves, and such, it becomes even more difficult. If one searches for something authentically Gospel-centered or artistically original (or even the slimmest possibility of achieving both), it may take years to come across a single one.
There are three Christmas albums in my life that have truly achieved both gospel-centrality and artistic excellence. Previously there were two: Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God (2004) and Sojourn Community Church’s Advent Songs (2007). Now, I can finally add one more. Purely by recommendation (several, particularly Steve McCoy’s recommendation at Reformissionary and Ryan Hamm’s at Relevant), I checked out Bifrost Arts’ new Christmas-themed album Salvation is Created and had my Advent season rocked anew. Continue reading
It is no secret that I have had a certain enmity with Christmas for quite a few years now. As a child, I embraced Christmas as it was given me: Santa Claus, Christmas presents, television specials, and celebrations galore. Funny, the thing most unimportant about Christmas in those years was the fact that it was a time for celebrating the birth of the Christ. Indeed, this was true into my late teens, as I began to grow in faith.
However, as I grew in faith in those years and certainly into my twenties, my view of Christmas gradually became more troubled. I could not reconcile it. Continue reading