December 18, 2017
Thoughts from Brian: Which Christmas?
There are two ways of celebrating Christmas: looking backwards and looking forwards. There are only two accounts of the birth of Jesus in scripture in Matthew and Luke. Matthew emphasizes how Jesus is born as a very Jewish Messiah coming in fulfillment of Jewish prophecies, especially those of Isaiah. Matthew spends about twice as much ink laying out Jesus’ genealogy as the whole story of his birth. Luke on the other hand is all about change in the future beginning with Mary’s song of rebellion against empire and wealth that we call the Magnificat. Luke’s portrayal emphasizes surprise, radical change, and a complete reversal of the expected order of things. Luke also has lots of people singing: Mary, Zechariah, and the angels.
So, do you celebrate Christmas looking backwards or forwards?
Our culture is firmly committed to looking backwards. Christmas is a celebration of nostalgia and tradition. It is a time for old recipes and heirloom ornaments. It is a time to remember old hopes and dreams. And of course, Christmas is all those things. But focused on the past, Christmas is safe, docile, inoffensive, and a willing accomplice for materialism, consumerism, and greed. Of course, you are not supposed to look too far back You are not supposed to check out all those ancient prophecies that Jesus will fulfill. For secular culture it is best to just leave it with a charming nativity crèche and not ask what this birth means.
Luke does not permit such nostalgia. Luke is all about revolution and God’s invasion of time. Mary, upon hearing of the impending birth, sings out a song of insurrection against the powers of this age knowing that the birth of this child begins God’s invasion of history and the transformation of everything we have ever known. Old Zechariah, though blind to the world, clearly sees what this child means and the change he will bring.
Do you celebrate Christmas backwards or forwards? What kind of Messiah are you looking for and what kind of Messiah do you get? Is Christmas about memory or hope or both? With Mary, these are the things we ponder in our hearts in the midwinter night.
Friday, July 28, 2017
What ever happened to virtue? (with apologies to Alasdair MacIntyre)
“You don’t need to believe in God in order to be good!” she told me rather imperiously. “True,” I immediately conceded, “but then again if you don’t believe in God, it really wouldn’t matter if you chose to be otherwise.” Read more…
Friday, July 7, 2017
Would Anyone Like to Join Me?
What would it mean to be a spiritual church?
“Spirituality,” is a term that is often bandied about, but seldom defined. We all intuitively know it has something to do with supernatural or ultimate meaning, but the term is sufficiently vague to encompass almost any referent.
“Religion,” on the other hand, is discomfortingly concrete. “Religion,” conjures up images of puritans and law codes, scripture, clergy, shame, dogma, buildings, and the occasional inquisition. “Religion,” is all too often cast as spirituality’s unreformed, illiberal opposite. Describing oneself as spiritual but not religious has grown into the clichéd label of our culture. Read more…
Friday, July 14, 2017
A Rule of Life
Christian monastic communities, since the days of St. Benedict, have regulated their lives together through the use of a monastic rule, a guide to living together with each other and with God. Those rules, properly called a rule of life or regulam vitae, explain in practical terms the lived patterns of seeking to be child of God alongside others. While the rule of each community became a distinctive marker of various monastic traditions (Benedictine, Franciscan, Jesuit, etc.) the underlying idea of identifying core values, principles, and relationships is important for every person. What would your rule of life look like? How has it changed? Read more…
Friday, July 21, 2017
Concerning Zombie Apocalypses
George Romero died this week. For those who may not be familiar with this great film director’s oeuvre, Romero created the genre of American zombie apocalypse films starting with Night of the Living Dead in 1968. Since then, zombie films and television programs have come to dominate our insatiable appetite for post-mortem horror, but I am intrigued by our cultural fascination with this very particular form of terror. Read more…