Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Tag

Sonship and Fatherhood   1 comment

Above:  The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple, by William Holman Hunt

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Isaiah 61:10-62:3

Psalm 147

Galatians 4:4-7

Luke 2:41-52

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The Reverend George Washington Barrett (d. 1956), a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, as well as one of my great-grandfathers, preached in the early years of the twentieth century that Jesus grew up in a Christian home.  That analysis would have shocked the author of the Gospel of Matthew, who understood Jesus to have been a thoroughly Jewish figure whose life story echoed the history of Israel.  In that Gospel, with its prominent contrast between Heaven and Earth, the young Jesus’s identification of God as his (heavenly) Father while St. Joseph, the man who raised the Messiah, was alive, brought up issues of types of fatherhood.

By faith and grace we are sons of God–members of the divine household.  For the purpose of inclusion, a cause near and dear to my generally liberal heart, certain contemporary translations render the Greek word for “sons” as “children.”  In so doing they lose the connection between the Son of God (4:4) as well as the “Spirit of his Son” (4:6) and each of us as a son of God by God’s actions (4:7), a case St. Paul the Apostle made in a culture in which only sons inherited.  The gendered, seemingly exclusive language is actually inclusive, and the modernized, inclusive, neutered language sacrifices literary and theological subleties.  I know a New Testament scholar who favors translating “sons” as “sons and daughters” rather than “children” for modern readers.  He concedes that doing so sacrifices some meaning while stating that all modern translations sacrifice some meaning.  I favor a translation that sacrifices as little meaning as possible and abhors superficial inclusiveness that makes us feel good and accomplishes little else.

We are, anyway, heirs of God, by faith and grace.  We, the “sons of God,” are not exclusively male or Jewish; we come from many categories, but all of us are in God.  This is wonderful news!  The love of God, although unconditional, imposes the duty of faithful response on its recipients, not all of whom obey.

We can ever repay God, but at least we can be grateful.  The metaphor of God as Father is a wonderful one.  Yes, maternal images for God exist in the Bible, but the paternal ones are on my mind as I write this post, based partially on texts that use the word “father.”  When human fathers disown their children, abuse them, et cetera, the metaphor of God as Father emphasizes the contrast between God and such sub par human fathers.  One might think of St. Joseph, certainly a fine father (He did raise Jesus), but even he had human failings.  As fine a father (as in the man who raises a child) St. Joseph was, we are supposed to understand, God is better.  God is perfect.  God adopts us.  God cares deeply about us.

Do we care deeply about God?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-after-christmas-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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Interim Times   1 comment

Above:  New Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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Koheleth advises us to eat, drink, and find happiness in work, for doing all of the above is a divine gift.  And what is that work?  Regardless of the particulars of vocations and avocations, that work, when it is what it should be, entails meeting the needs of people, to whom God has granted inherent dignity.  The divine commandment of hospitality, as in Matthew 25:31-46, is part of Judeo-Christian ethics.  Only God can save the world, but we can–and must–leave it better than we found it.

The end of Revelation (no “s” at the end of that word, despite Biblically illiterate additions of that letter) describes the aftermath of God’s creative destruction.  By this point in the Apocalypse of John God has destroyed the old, corrupt, violent, and exploitative world order built on ego, might, and artificial scarcity.  Then John sees a new heaven and a new earth.  Then the Kingdom of Heaven described in the Gospel of Matthew becomes reality.

That event remains in the future tense.  Until then we have work to do, for the glory of God and the benefit of our fellow human beings.  May we go about it faithfully and find happiness in it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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Eternal God, you have placed us in a world of space and time,

and through the events of our lives you bless us with your love.

Grant that in the new year we may know your presence,

see your love at work,

and live in the light of the event that gives us joy forever

–the coming of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 63

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Ecclesiastes 3:1-13

Psalm 8

Revelation 21:1-6a

Matthew 25:31-46

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/devotion-for-new-years-day-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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The Universal Offer of Salvation   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Life of Christ

Image in the Public Domain

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In Numbers 6:22-27 the Aaronic Benediction was for Israelites only.  In Galatians 3 and 4, St. Paul the Apostle, writing in large letters, with his own hand (6:11-12), argued that, by faith, in Christ, the Son of God, anyone, even if not male, free, or Jewish, became a son of God, an adopted member of the household of God, and therefore an heir.  (Only sons inherited in St. Paul’s time and place.)  The blessing was as close to universal as possible, St. Paul argued, given that many rejected the offer.

The love of God is universal; salvation is not.  Grace, although free to us, is certainly not cheap, for it demands much of us.  The family of Jesus provides a good example; Sts. Joseph and Mary, we read, were observant Jews.  On the eighth day, in accordance with Leviticus 12:3, they took Jesus for his bris, we read.  (Interestingly, Leviticus 12:3 mandates the circumcision of a boy on the eighth day, with no exception for the Sabbath, although Leviticus 16:31 and 23:3 state that the Sabbath should be a day of complete rest.  Sometimes the language in the Law of Moses states principles and not the exceptions as plainly as some readers might wish.)

The Holy Name of Our Lord and Savior means

YHWH saves

or

YHWH is salvation.

Philippians 2 reminds us that the price of that salvation was the self-sacrifice of Jesus–death on a cross–followed by resurrection, of course.  The cross is the background of much of the content of the canonical Gospels until it moves into the foreground.  Christ crucified, at the center of St. Paul’s theology, is essential to Christianity.  If the message of Christ crucified depresses us or otherwise makes us uncomfortable, that is a matter we should take to God in prayer.

The Holy Name of Jesus calls us to each of us to take up a cross and follow him, if we dare.  Do we dare?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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Eternal Father, you gave to your incarnate Son the holy name of Jesus to be the sign of our salvation:

Plant in every heart, we pray, the love of him who is the Savior of the world,

our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and

the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 151

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Numbers 6:22-27

Psalm 147 (at least verses 13-21)

Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7 or Philippians 2:5-11

Luke 2:15-21

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/feast-of-the-holy-name-of-jesus-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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Judgment and Mercy, Part VII   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Life of Christ

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Isaiah 63:7-9

Psalm 148

Philippians 2:12-18

Luke 2:21-40 or Matthew 2:13-23

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Judgment and mercy exist in balance in the Bible.  An act of mercy for the Hebrews (as in Isaiah 63) is judgment upon the Edomites (as in Isaiah 63:1-6).  Divine mercy exists not because of imagined human fidelity among a given population (such as the Hebrews), but as pure grace.  So, as Psalm 148 reminds us, all of creation should praise God.

Divine graciousness creates the obligation of faithful response–manifested in devotion, not the impossible standard of moral perfection.  We cannot be morally perfect, but we can do better, by grace–and as faithful response.  Many will respond favorably to divine graciousness.  Many others, however, will be indifferent.  Still others will be violently hostile, for their own perfidious reasons.

Divine graciousness certainly has the power to offend.  That fact makes a negative point about those who find such graciousness offensive.  Taking offense wrongly is one error; becoming violent about it is a related and subsequent one.  How we respond individually to divine graciousness is our responsibility.  If we get this wrong, we will harm others as well as ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-after-christmas-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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The Unfortunate Cheapness of Human Life   1 comment

Above:  Massacre of the Innocents, by Pieter Brueghel the Younger

Image in the Public Domain

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Christmas is supposed to be a happy season, right?  Yet darkness exists within it.  Consider, O reader, the sequence of three great feasts:  St. Stephen (December 26)St. John the Evangelist (December 27), and the Holy Innocents (December 28).

The kingdom of the Earth has yet to become the Kingdom of God in its fullness.  Thus we read of exiles in Jeremiah 31.  Then we read the plausible story of the Holy Innocents in Matthew 2.  Herod the Great, we know from both Biblical and extra-Biblical sources, was a disturbed and violent man who had members of his family killed.  One need not stretch credibility to imagine him ordering the murder of strangers, even young children.  Reading the story from Matthew 2 then turning to Psalm 124 creates a sense of jarring irony; one is correct to wonder why God did not spare the Holy Innocents also.

On another note, the account of the Holy Innocents provides evidence for the Magi arriving when Jesus was about two years old.  According to the Western calendar, as it has come down to us, Herod the Great died in 4 B.C.E., placing the birth of Jesus circa 6 B.C.E.  I prefer to use the term “Before the Common Era” for the simple reason that speaking and writing of the birth of Jesus as having occurred “Before Christ”–six years, perhaps–strikes me as being ridiculous.

Back to our main point, while admitting the existence of morally ambiguous and difficult scenarios with only bad choices, and in which doing our best cannot help but lead to unfortunate results….

Human life is frequently cheap.  From abortions to wars, from gangland violence to accidental shootings and crimes of passion, from genocidal governments to merely misguided policies, human life is frequently cheap.  The innocent and the vulnerable suffer.  People who are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time suffer.  May God have mercy on us all, for each of us is partially responsible, for merely being part of the social, economic, and political systems that facilitate such suffering.

The kingdom of the Earth has yet to become the Kingdom of God in its fullness.  Only God can make that happen.  We mere mortals can and must, however, leave the world better than we found it.  We can and must do this, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod.

Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims;

and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and

establish your rule of justice, love, and peace;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 31:15-17

Psalm 124

Revelation 21:1-7

Matthew 2:13-18

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 143

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/fourth-day-of-christmas-feast-of-the-holy-innocents-december-28/

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Reasons for Hope   1 comment

Above:  Nativity and Annunciation to the Shepherds

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Proper 2

Isaiah 62:6-12

Psalm 97

Titus 3:4-7

Luke 2:[1-7] 8-20

Proper 3

Isaiah 52:7-10

Psalm 98

Hebrews 1:1-12

John 1:1-14

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The Reverend Will Humes, consistent with the Roman Catholic tradition of the three masses of Christmas, provides Propers 1, 2, and 3 in his proposed lectionary.  Proper 1 is for Christmas Eve.  Propers 2 and 3 are for Christmas Day.

St. Gregory I “the Great,” Bishop of Rome (d. 604), provided the oldest surviving documentation of the three masses of Christmas.  The midnight mass was at the Church of St. Mary Major.  The second mass, at dawn, was at St. Anastasia’s Church.  The third mass of the day was at the Church of St. Peter.

Proper 2

The context of Isaiah 62 was the end of the Babylonian Exile.  The nations had witnessed the vindication of Israel in 61:10-62:2.  The best days of the returning exiles lay ahead.  The problem was that, according to all historical sources, those predictions of paradise on Earth did not come true.  Returning exiles lived in a poor, backwater satrapy of the Persian Empire.  Many people pushed those vaunted hopes into the future.

God is in charge.  This is good news for the righteous and bad news for those He consumes.  Justification by grace, which results from divine mercy, makes the justified heirs to eternal life, which is knowing God via Jesus (John 17:3).  Part of living faithfully, of responding favorably to God in response to divine mercy, is striving to live more patiently as one acknowledges God’s promises.  There is always hope, even though some of it has yet to arrive.

Regardless of the year you are reading this post, O reader, I guarantee that global news looks nothing like God’s full-blown reign on Earth.  This is a matter of human sinfulness and of divine scheduling.  Mustering patience can be difficult, I know, but we need not rely on our strength, which is insufficient anyhow.  Fortunately, God seems to smile upon even the effort to muster patience; at least the attempt is a sign of good faith.

Proper 3

The readings from Hebrews 1 and John 1 present the heavenly Jesus, who dwelt among people and met with both acceptance and rejection.  All the people of the Earth should rejoice because of the Incarnation, but most do not.  This is unfortunate.  It is also a matter for divine judgment and mercy; I will not presume to know more about the balance of those two factors than the very little I perceive.

The reading from Isaiah 52 is a prophecy of the restoration of Jerusalem.  The Presence of God will dwell with the people, as it did after the Exodus and before the crossing into Canaan, we read.  The full victory of God remains for the future, but the Incarnation constitutes a unique divine intervention into human events.  The Incarnation points toward intervention and tells us, among other things, that we who follow Christ have excellent reasons to hope for the future.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/devotion-for-christmas-day-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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With Equity and Justice for All   1 comment

Above:  Nativity of Christ

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Isaiah 9:2-7

Psalm 96

Titus 2:11-14

Luke 2:1-20

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Christmas and Easter remind me of graduation in a way; orations at each of these events are usually rehashes of old material.  That is not necessarily negative, of course.  Ministers, of all people, must be keenly aware that they are delivering Christmas or Easter sermon #9, frequently repeated.  How can reality be otherwise?

Isaiah 9:2-7 (or 9:1-6, if one is Jewish, Roman Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox) is a familiar passage.  Like so many familiar passages, it contains subtexts one might easily ignore when going on autopilot.  Depending on how one reads Hebrew verb tenses, the ideal king described is most likely Hezekiah (reigned 727/715-698/687 B.C.E.), son of Ahaz.  One can read of Hezekiah in 2 Kings 18-20 and 2 Chronicles 29-32.  One finds, however, that Hezekiah, although pious, was a deeply flawed man.  The ideal king of the Davidic Dynasty, then, remains a hoped-for figure for many.  Christian tradition identifies this prophecy with Jesus, born in Luke 2.

God is the King of the Earth, and salvation is available to all people, we read.  Yet we know that many people refuse and will reject that offer.  We also know that grace, although free to us, is never cheap to us, if it is to be effective.  Divine generosity to us imposes certain moral obligations upon us.  We have mandates, for example, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  That high calling leads to legal jeopardy sometimes, especially when the “king,” regardless of title, does not strive to be an ideal ruler and certainly falls far short of that standard.

Amid the reigns of wicked potentates and exploitative economic-judicial-educational systems I write

Merry Christmas!

to all of you.  Remember that God is in charge and will judge people with equity and justice.  That is good news for some and terrifying news for others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 16, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ADALBALD OF OSTEVANT, RICTRUDIS OF MARCHIENNES, AND THEIR RELATIONS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABRAHAM KUDUNAIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT; AND SAINT MARY OF EDESSA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ANCHORESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CACCIAFRONTE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, BISHOP, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MEGINGAUD OF WURZBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/16/devotions-for-christmas-eve-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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