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Archive for the ‘Advent’ Category

In my last post I took exception to Miroslav Volf’s unsupported accusation that Wheaton College’s action in placing Larycia Hawkins on administrative leave was “not about theology and orthodoxy,” but “enmity toward Muslims.”

Comes now Mr. Brian McLaren, who takes that accusation and gives it another run through the spin cycle:

The hostile rhetoric of presidential candidates – much of it spewed out to impress the “Evangelical base” of the Republican Party – seems to have swayed college administrators from their professed theology, which at Christmas should remind us all that God is in solidarity with all humanity, all creation …

Dr. Volf had set forth — with no evidence — an alleged motive for Wheaton’s action: enmity toward Muslims. Now Mr. McLaren sets forth the source of that enmity: the college administrators were “swayed . . . from their professed theology” by “the hostile rhetoric of presidential candidates.” I’m not holding my breath to see Mr. McLaren present actual evidence for that claim.

Is it so impossible to suppose that the Wheaton College administrators placed Dr. Hawkins on leave for saying “Christians and Muslims worship the same God,” not because they were “swayed from . . . their professed theology,” but because — I dunno — they believed it? 

If Wheaton affirms the Incarnation — a mystery that Muslims flatly deny, and Christians adore — and then also affirms that “Christians and Muslims worship the same God,” Wheaton is equivocating about whether it believes in God’s supreme act of “solidarity with all humanity, all creation.”

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Schemes we have sought,
Schemes we have invented:
The skeleton, the smoking gun,
The “fair cop” and the well-timed flop;
Our defense when accused
Is accusation.

We sons of hell,
Satans of our father
The Snake, fill our mouth with our tail
And narrow the circle of hell
With every swallow.
Lord, have mercy.

Teach us, Wisdom,
Faithful Son of Faith begotten,
To set our jaws, to shut our mouths,
To glory in our “shames”
As you before.

Hell had “the goods”
On you from conception.
“Bastard son of fornication!”
Your Mother treasured these things in her heart.
Then Joseph said: “The Son of Heaven
Is no bastard on Earth,”
Setting Hell’s teeth
On edge.

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VisitationMarytoElizChildinWombblogIn Advent we remember the absence of God — not to despair as though he were fully absent, but to hope for his fuller presence. Four hundred years of divine silence preceded the Exodus, and then the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Four hundred years of divine silence preceded the Word’s becoming flesh and dwelling — tabernacle-ing — among us. For so God loved the world, dark though it was.

In the Revelation to St John, the heavenly herald declared (21.3-4):

Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

The second promise — that God will scour us with all the old Creation –we do not yet see fulfilled. And long we have waited for it. Yet we know it is true, because the first promise was fulfilled, in the sight of unlikely but faithful witnesses, whose eyes had been tested almost to the limit in looking for God-With-Us, the glory of Israel and light to the nations.

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Advent — always a brisk, brief season — is shorter than usual this year. Christmas Eve is following right on the heels of the fourth Sunday in Advent. Among other things, that means we skip the daily readings appointed for the days following the fourth Sunday: readings designed to prepare us for Christmastide, which is now upon us.

The effect of losing this week in the table of lessons and Psalms is curious. For while Christmas Day shall fall on December 25, as it always does, it feels like Christmas Day is coming like a thief in the night — with a kind of thrill of fear that usually attends a well-rendered judgment.

In this, the abbreviation in the liturgical calendar this year brings out something significant about Christmas. For while Christmas is profoundly comforting, it is not (in the colloquial sense) comfortable. At the Lord Jesus’s first Advent, God did nothing less momentous than judge the world:

This is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.

Sometimes the most effective judgment is simply to turn the lights on.  Flick the switch in the kitchen and the naughty cockroaches scurry for the dark underbelly of the refrigerator.  Publish the content of the shady backroom deal and the naughty politicians scurry to the comforting darkness of their war rooms and lawyers’ offices.  Let a six-year-old speak simple Sunday School truth to an erudite middle-aged sociologist, and the hedges magically appear like Jack’s beanstalk. Those whose eyes have adapted to see in thick darkness do not take kindly to the curtains going up in the morning.

Yet for all the rage against the arrival of the light, the light, like the little beam from the star Samwise Gamgee saw hanging over Mordor, has found its way into and – simply by being itself – judged the darkness. At that, the thrill of fear, which called us to attention and sobriety, may give way to a thrill of hope.

Happy Christmastide, friends!

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King Lir looked down at me. He seemed as tall as a tree right then, and he patted my head very gently with his iron glove. He said, “Little one, I have a griffin to slay. It is my job.”

* * *
[He] kept petting me with one hand and trying to put me aside with the other, but I wouldn’t let go. I think I was actually trying to pull his sword out of its sheath, to take it away from him. He said, “No, no, little one, you don’t understand. There are some monsters that only a king can kill. I have always known that — I should never, never have sent those poor men to die in my place. No one else in all the land can do this for you and your village. Most truly now, it is my job.” And he kissed my hand, the way he must have kissed the hands of so many queens . . .

Peter S. Beagle, Two Hearts, in The Line Between 37 (2006).

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We jump to take up seats in the kingdom; we shirk taking up crosses. We gratefully confess that God was lifted up on a cross for the sins of the world; we howl protests at his being lifted up as sovereign king of the world. Here we cannot be devoted to the one and despise the other; for when the Word of life was made flesh “take up” and “lift up” were made double entendres. What God has joined together, let no man separate.

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Today is the segue from the penitential/preparatory season of Advent into the celebratory one of Christmas.  To mark this transition, I posted a little something on Christmas for my friends at Lantern Hollow Press here.

To all who find their way here today and during the great twelve-day Feast of Christmas, Merry Christmas, and welcome, to you.

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