Greater gladness, increased joy

•December 5, 2012 • 1 Comment

Isaiah 9 card from Living FaithI was reading the following passage on Monday morning (Isaiah 9:1-2a):

The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone. You have made their gladness greater, you have made their joy increase.

The first statement that struck me here was this: “You have made their gladness greater, you have made their joy increase.” It’s not that the people were without gladness or joy, but that the dawning of the light has made that gladness and joy greater.

Christians can often exaggerate the misery of life as it is experienced outside Christ, which means that the gospel fails to gain traction with those who hear it and who think, “Well, actually I’m feeling pretty fine, so I don’t need that religious crutch, thanks all the same.” The message which this passage has to people like that is: your gladness could be greater; your joy could increase.

But in what sense is that gladness “greater” or that joy “increased”? I don’t think it necessarily lies in subjective experience, but rather in this: in a universe without God, the joy and gladness we experience can only be carved out of a fundamentally impersonal and joyless reality. Joy is thus an act of rebellion by small sparks of reality against the rest of itself.

That is not without its aesthetic appeal. But the dawning of the light of Christ reveals that our joy and gladness is not setting ourselves against the fundamental nature of reality, but bringing us back into line with it. Our joy and gladness is not a brief spark to be extinguished by death, but a distant glimmer of the joy, gladness, light and love that underlies all things. It is in that sense that our gladness is greater and our joy increased.

Well, that’s all very well for those who are experiencing joy and gladness. But what about those whose experience of life is very different? I can’t presume to speak for people in that situation, but Isaiah’s words do at least hold out a message of hope: that for those who walk in darkness and deep shadow (“the shadow of the valley of death”), light has dawned, joy and gladness are in prospect, even if for now the darkness appears to be prevailing.

Elephants and Toddlers

•December 4, 2012 • Leave a Comment

hello-elephantIt has been said that the gospel according to St. John is like a pool in which a toddler can wade and an elephant can swim. It is simple enough for the novice but it is also plenty deep for the experienced disciple. As evidence I would offer the very first verse, John 1:1. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” . Here are three clauses. Each clause in itself is very simple (particularly once one knows that “the word” stands for “Christ”). Take the second clause, “the Word was with God”. It is very simple. There’s no trick to it. A child knows what it means for someone to be “with” someone else. So here the Word was with God. Alongside God. In the company of God. Nothing could be simpler.

Simpler still is the third clause, “the Word was God”. A subject, a verb, and an object. A child knows what it means to be something. So here the Word was (and is!) God. Nothing could be simpler.

But we enter the elephants’ pool when we put those two simple statements together, as St. John does. Suddenly it’s not so simple anymore. The two simple statements don’t interact with each other well. How can the Word be with God, and therefore distinct from God, and be God. Are the Word and God the same? Are they distinct? Can both clauses be right? How? And then, John makes the pool deeper yet by wrapping all this up and handing it to us in quivering flesh – “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us!” (John 1:14)  We are swimming with elephants now.

All this to say that as we contemplate the birth of Jesus in  Bethlehem we should keep in mind that there are depths and shallows in the background. The simple story of a baby born under unusual circumstances and the deeper story that this child is the word made flesh. The pool is refreshing both at the shallow and at the deep end.

– posted by Richard C

I Will Find A Way

•December 19, 2011 • Leave a Comment

“I Will Find A Way” by Andy Gullahorn

One of the best new Christmas songs I’ve heard in recent years.

Let There Be Light

•December 16, 2011 • Leave a Comment

“Let There Be” by Gungor from Ghosts Upon The Earth

This song feels particularly appropriate for the Advent season, as we contemplate how Jesus’ Incarnation signaled the arrival of the new creation, in which God would once again speak light into darkness.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”  -Genesis 1:1-3

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,on them has light shone.” -Isaiah 9:2

“Arise, shine, for your light has come,and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you.” -Isaiah 60:1-2

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” -John 1:1-5

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” -2 Corinthians 4:6


•December 15, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Mary swells

with the anticipation

of new life springing

up from this thorny soil.

The seed of woman

kicking inside her watery womb

at serpent’s heads

waiting to be crushed.

The Nativity – Cute Overload version

•December 12, 2011 • Leave a Comment

An adorable re-telling of the Christmas story, from St Paul’s Church in Auckland, New Zealand.

HT @sjgarver

Gaudete (Rejoice!) Sunday

•December 12, 2011 • 8 Comments

Gaudete, gaudete! Christus est natus

Ex Maria virgine, gaudete!

Tempus adest gratiæ
Hoc quod optabamus,
Carmina lætitiæ
Devote reddamus.

Ezechielis porta
Clausa pertransitur,
Unde lux est orta
Salus invenitur.

Ergo nostra contio
Psallat iam in lustro;
Benedicat Domino:
Salus Regi nostro.

 Rejoice, rejoice!
Christ is born
Of the Virgin Mary, Rejoice!

    The time of grace has come
That we have desired;
Let us devoutly return
Joyful verses.

    The closed gate of Ezechiel
Has been passed through;
Whence the light is born,
Salvation is found.

    God has become man,
And nature marvels;
The world has been renewed
By Christ who is King.

    Therefore let our song
Now be sung in brightness
Let it give praise to the Lord:
Greeting to our King.