Thoughtful reading for the holidays here Universalism, Augustinianism, Calvinism, Limited Atonement, Limited Reprobation, God is gracious and just but how, and in which world?
Anglican Down Under Blog Holiday
Time to replenish the "little grey cells". While reserving the right to post should peace and unity break out ecumenically, or a new gospel be added to the canon of Scripture, I intend to take a holiday from blogging until c. Monday 19 January 2015. (For northern hemisphere readers, it is summer Down Under and the nation more or less shuts down, people switch from blogs to detective novels for their reading, beaches entice, etc.)
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all readers :)
And, thank you for reading and commenting through the past year.
Some Christmas thoughts (apres Christmas)
Interesting to be part of two full Eve services, pick up, via Tweets etc, news of other full churches in NZ. Visible evidence to my eyes of young people present, not all of whom were with their parents. Christianity has not died here!
But what can we learn from the connection with church building/liturgical worship/heritage church rather than fresh expressions being appreciated at such a season?
I might come back after the holidays with some thoughts ...
Some Christmas Thoughts (prior to Christmas)
As a matter of fact I am pulpitless this Christmas but that doesn't mean I am not thinking about what could or even should be said this Christmas about the reason for the season.
Somewhere in my hypothetical sermon I think I would be mentioning that this Christmas the message of Jesus Christ is a little, perhaps even a lot harder to preach because this past year has been a very, very bad year for religion.
The violence and hatred expressed murderously in the name of one or two religions makes it harder for all religions to communicate their message. That some atheists in the 20th century murdered millions in the name of atheistic anti-religions such as Marxist-Leninism is a pretty bleak counter to those who wonder why any religion should be taken seriously when in the name of religion children are being beheaded in front of their parents, girls are being kidnapped, both girls and adult women are being sold into slavery and forced marriage. The list goes on and in 2014 has been viciously horrible.
There is something deeply wrong with religion in general when religious reasons are proffered for ill-treatment of fellow human beings, especially the most powerless in the face of men with guns: children and women. Could 2015 be a year when religious leaders start talking to one another and uniting in condemnation of humanity's inhumanity to one another?
Yet the dark religious clouds hovering over Christmas this year highlight the beacon of light which shines from the manger in the stable. That light is the light of the world, born in miserable circumstances to bring light and life to the whole world, to every man, woman, and child.
The light that shines from the stable is not the light of truth, if truth means we may maim and kill those who do not agree with us, and it is not the light of goodness and purity, if goodness and purity means that we may torture and destroy those we perceive to be bad and impure. It is the light of life, the light of love, the light of God who so loved every man, woman, child (i.e. 'the world') that he sent his own Son to all humanity to rescue us from precisely the darkness which threatens to engulf the world today.
The challenge of Christmas (if we may put it that way - it does sound serious and heavy in the midst of celebration) is to move beyond religion (if that means 'my religion' versus 'your religion') to the heart of God which is love. If religion does not serve this God, it is nothing. If the religion known as 'Christianity' does not serve this God, it has misunderstood the announcement God's heart makes to our hearts in Jesus Christ.*
In many ways the sermon is now preached. But I have also been thinking through this year about the awesomeness of the Incarnation. I think in my hypothetical sermon I would also want to at least mention this. The common accord with the reflections above could be this: when God takes up human flesh, God signals the true worth and value of every human being - God's love for the world is so great that God becomes the world, identifies and shares with us in our plight, and leads us to God's new creation.
There is a risk when we talk about the Incarnation that we reduce it to a kind of cosmic magic trick. "Look, God became a man. How awesome is that?" But that is not the Incarnation, and nothing in John's beautiful Prologue suggests anything like a display of awesome magic took place when Jesus was born.
Rather, when Jesus was born, God made a new birth for humanity possible. By becoming us, God opens the way for us to become God. Salvation is so much more than moving from the wrong side of God's ledger to the right side, from hell to heaven: it is to be drawn into communion with the Communion of Father Son and Holy Spirit.
But after 2000 years, have we made much progress as Christians in understanding this?
Let 2015 be the year when theology moves from its preface to its first chapter, when the church moves from infancy to childhood, and when religions wither on the vine!
*(Unfortunately there is evidence that Christianity is a religion which misunderstands this message! Here is but the latest, in this morning, 20 December, evidence of not understanding our calling to serve the God who is love).