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Showing posts from December, 2010

Merry Christmas: We Are Free!

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This past week's Wall Street Journal carried a fine piece by its books and culture editor John Wilson on "Why Christians Overemphasize Christmas." His thesis is not what one might expect, a rant about how Christmas trumps Easter and shouldn't, but that "Easter is implicit in Christmas, and Christmas is implicit in Easter. When we celebrate the one, we celebrate the other, looking forward to the restoration of all things."

Today's Epistle reading, Hebrews 2:10-18, reminded me of this in a powerful way.Verses 14 and 15 read,

 "Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death."

That is really what Christmas is about, isn't it? God came to us in human form, and became like us in every way except that he was free of sin,…

The Light Shines On

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Today's newspapers are carrying the story of the cancellation of Christmas in parts of Iraq, where the threat against Christians continues to escalate following the devastating church bombing on October 31. To many of us this is unthinkable: No decorations; no lights; no church services. “We cannot find a single source of joy that makes us celebrate," said Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako in Kirkuk. "The situation of the Christians is bleak.”

The State Department estimates that one-half to two-thirds of Iraq's Christian population has fled the country since the start of the Iraq war. This drives home the reality of this coming Sunday's Gospel reading, Matthew 2:13-23, to be heard in all Christian churches which use the Revised Common Lectionary: Warned by an angel about King Herod's evil plan to kill the newborn Messiah, who the magi told him was king of the Jews, Joseph at once gathers Mary and Jesus and flees to Egypt. Flight is the only option; to sta…

Believing

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A few days ago various news sources conveyed the Federal Trade Commission's finding that there is no evidence to support Dannon's claim that its Activia yogurt helps relieve constipation nor that its DanActive yogurt helps prevent colds. The company now owes $21 million to state and federal regulators, about as much, Slate noted wryly, as Jamie Lee Curtis probably received from any one of her commercials promoting Activia.

This isn't at all surprising. The vast majority of advertising claims are probably false. It is up to us to be discerning enough to figure out which claims might have merit and which probably don't. (Remember what happened with POM Wonderful, another bubble burst recently by the FTC?)

What brought me up short, though, was Dannon's belligerent response to the FTC decision. “Millions of people firmly believe in, benefit from and enjoy these products," the company's statement read, "and Dannon will continue to research, educate and c…

Politics and the Spiritual Life

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I am blessed to be part of a small group which meets every month for fellowship and "to solve all the world's problems" (well, mostly those in our own back yard). During Advent and Lent, in particular, we enjoy the writings of 20th century Christian mystic Evelyn Underhill.

Evelyn (we're on a first-name basis) writes with uncompromising urgency about how important it is that we pay attention to God in all aspects of life and not allow ourselves be swallowed up by worldly concerns that are turned away from God and toward selfish pursuits. A passage from last week in Advent with Evelyn Underhill almost jumped off the page. She is talking about how important it is that the spiritual life be integrated with the world around us - not "above" it, but centered in its very midst:

"It is far easier, though not very easy, to develop and preserve a spiritual outlook on life, than it is to make our everyday actions harmonise with that spiritual outlook. That mean…

God's own heart

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"Many people seem to think that the spiritual life necessarily requires a definite and exacting plan of study," writes 20th century Christian mystic Evelyn Underhill. It does not. But it does require a definite plan of life...."

Underhill, whose prophetic voice is unfailingly urgent and often blunt, is not talking about a career plan but an entire approach to living the life God has given us. That approach is centered on complete cooperation with God, "which begins with a full and practical acceptance of the truth that God alone matters and that He, the Perfect, always desires perfection."

That got me to thinking. What does this perfection look like?

The answer came quickly: Slow to anger; abounding in steadfast love; doing justice, loving mercy, walking humbly with God.

In other words: God desires for us the very qualities that illuminate God's Son, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. What a gift God has given us, that we may simply gaze from manger …

Truth-telling (or: Divine Justice, Part 2)

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is no saint and can scarcely be imagined to impart any divine inspiration to his efforts. But if a central component of the Christian life is cultivating an awareness of the Triune God's presence and activity in the world, it is possible to see the ongoing revelations by WikiLeaks as a component of the truth-telling to which we are all called.

In John 8:31-32, Jesus tells "the Jews who had believed in him, 'If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.'" He is talking about the truth of who he is, but we can apply this to any situation in which truth is at stake. Falsehood, slander, and covert actions are agents of imprisonment. Anyone who has been caught in a lie can testify to that. How are we freed? Only by telling the truth.

Listen to what Assange told Time Magazine in the interview published yesterday:

"Asked what his 'moral calculus' was…