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Gloria In Excelsis Deo!

Angel with Gloria banner.

The Song of Bethlehem by J.R. Clayton (1901)

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirin’i-us was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2: 1-20—RSV)

Merry Christmas!

Advent is Here

Advent candle

Tonight, we’ll resume our yearly Advent tradition and light the first candle on our family Advent Wreath. Anna has asked to help lead the prayers this year, and I think she’s ready.

I will begin as always by saying my favorite Advent candle-lighting prayer, which is also the Collect for the First Sunday of Advent in the Episcopal Church (my former church) …

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Then we’ll light the first candle, and she’ll read the prayer for the First Sunday of Advent …

All-powerful God, increase our strength of will for doing good that Christ may find an eager welcome at his coming and call us to his side in the Kingdom of Heaven, where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit one God forever and ever. Amen.

Some of you may recognize this as the old translation of the Collect for the First Sunday of Advent, that was superseded by an updated translation in 2011. While the new version is more accurate, and at times more eloquent, this is the one from my copy of A Prayer Book of Catholic Devotions that we’ve used since Anna was a baby. It will also be easier for her to read.

Then we’ll read the Gospel for this Sunday, and say the Lord’s Prayer and the Hail Mary to conclude our prayers.

Bloggerhood Etc. 10/6/14

THUNDERDOME!

Photo: Chris Bernholdt

Best Rant. “Stop Taking the Play Out of Playgrounds” by Chris Bernholdt at DadNCharge.

Best Book.One of the Coolest Books of Maps That Your Kid Will Ever See” by Tom B. at Building a Library.

Best Birthday Cake.Baking Dad: Space Shuttle Birthday Cake” by Chris Routly at Daddy Doctrines.

Best Commentary.Neoliberalism Has Brought Out the Worst in Us” by Paul Verhaeghe at The Guardian. (NOTE: What Europeans call “neoliberalism”—i.e. extreme economic liberalism—is known as libertarianism in the U.S.)

Best Role Model.Heisman in Pieces, but Marcus Mariota Remains Whole” by John Canzano at Oregon Live.

Best List.10 Movies That Were More Biblical Than Left Behind” by Benjamin J Corey at Formerly Fundie.

Best Reflection.Martha, Misunderstood” by Cara Strickland at The Junia Project.

Best Book Review.The Closed Mind of Richard Dawkins” by John Gray at New Republic.

Best Relationship Advice. “The Secret to a Conflict-Free Relationship (Just Kidding, I Don’t Believe in Those)” by Natalie Trust.

Best Parenting Post.Kids and Electronics” Bring Back Boredom” by Cornelia Becker Seigneur.

Most Disgusting.Types of Boogers: A Cartoonized Guide” by Andy Herald at How to Be a Dad.

Best Question.Will D.C. Residents Do What Red Mesa Residents Did and Save Their High School Indian Nickname?” by Anthony Brown at Redskins’ Hog Heaven.

Best Dad Post.Suffering Children” by Brian Doyle in America.

Best Call to Action. Social Justice for Single People” by Christena Cleveland.

Most Thought Provoking.Why You Need More Muslim Friends” by John Huckins in Relevant.

Best Video.She Moved Through the Fair” by Peter Hollens (via YouTube).

His debut album from Sony Masterworks comes out October 27th and is available for pre-order (more details at the end of the video).

He Holds Us

Christ the Redeemer, Rio De Janiero, Brazil

Photo: Sean Vivek Crasto

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross (through him), whether those on earth or those in heaven. —1 Colossians 1:15-19 (NAB)

I have never struggled with the supposed contradiction between the Scriptural account of Creation presented in Genesis 1 and the overwhelming evidence for evolution. Perhaps it’s because, like St. Augustine, I always saw the Genesis story as allegorical. And perhaps it’s because, like St. Francis, I picture God continuously willing the whole universe into being as an act of infinite, divine love.

He isn’t Newton’s Absent Watchmaker, who built the machine, pressed start, and walked away. Neither is he Calvin’s Divine Puppeteer who wrote the script and pulls all the strings. He loves us, and everything else, into existence, and he sustains us, and everything else, by a constant, intentional, and ongoing act of love.

He who is Trinity in Unity and Unity in Trinity holds us. He who became like us so that we may become like him died for us. He who made us and all things reconciles us and all things in him.

The visible Son who is the Image of the invisible Father holds us through the power of the Spirit.

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One God who is Love.

Amen.

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Ten Years Ago

Julia and I after our wedding.

June 26, 2004

Ten years ago, these words from The Song of Songs were read at our wedding. They have always expressed the depth of my love for her in a better way than I ever could.

“Set me like a seal on your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, passion as relentless as the grave. The flash of it is a flash of fire, a flame of the LORD himself. Love no flood can quench, no torrents drown. Were a man to offer all his family wealth to buy love, contempt is all he would gain.” —Song of Songs 8:6-7

Ten years ago, I vowed my love and my life to her and I have never regretted it for one moment. She is the best wife, best mother to our daughter, and best friend I could have asked for, and I thank God every day that he brought her into my life.

Happy Tenth Anniversary my love! May we have many, many more together.

The Road of Discipleship

Road to Emmaus Icon

Image: Sister Marie-Paul/The Printery House

Description via The Printery House.

The vivid story of two disciple’s encounter with the Resurrected Christ on the road to Emmaus is found in chapter 24 of Luke’s Gospel. The scene has often been rendered in western European art. The painting, “Supper at Emmaus” by Caravaggio is particularly famous. However, icons of this very familiar story are rare. The image we have reproduced for you here is an original by Sister Marie-Paul and is especially unusual in that one of the disciples is female. There actually is excellent scriptural and traditional evidence for identifying the unnamed disciple as a woman. The man is named as Clopas or Cleopas (Luke 24:18). Elsewhere, a woman named Mary (often called “the other Mary” to distinguish her from Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene) is named as the wife of Clopas (John 19:25). Still elsewhere, this Mary is identified as the mother of the Apostle James the Less and Joses (Mark 15:40). So the most likely companion for Clopas on the Road to Emmaus would be his wife Mary, who had been a witness to the Crucifixion and to the empty tomb (Mark 16:1).

I found this icon at our local Catholic bookstore, and I love it for two reasons. The story of the “Road to Emmaus” (Luke 24:13-35) has always seemed to me to be a prefiguring of the Mass. We meet Jesus on the road of our lives each Sunday or Holy Day, and we walk with him for awhile. He speaks to us through the Scriptures, and especially in his own words through the Gospel. And then he becomes known to us in the breaking of the Bread. The eyes of our faith are opened, and we believe that he is with us in the Blessed Sacrament.

The other reason I love this icon is that the unnamed disciple is female. This weekend, my daughter will take the next step on her own road of discipleship as she receives the Body and Blood of Christ for the first time. This icon is a reminder to her, and to every other woman who follows Jesus on the road, that she is as much a part of the Body of Christ, as the men who walk alongside her.

For “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

Calling Each Other “Friends”

A giant FB friend collage.

A Facebook “friends” collage.

Today’s Five Minute Friday prompt is “friend.” Another repeat prompt—not the first—but coincidentally it’s back exactly one year later. Here’s what I wrote about “friend” last year.

Facebook has ruined the word “Friend.”

First of all, it is not a verb. You do not friend people, you meet them—preferably in person—and over time, if you find enough in common between you to make connections, a friendship will grow organically.

Second, “defriend” and “unfriend” are not words. I do not defriend someone to make him my unfriend, or unfriend someone to make her my defriend. If a friendship ends, it is usually through inaction. Except for a couple of Seinfeld episodes, no one ever “breaks up” with a friend.  Friendships don’t get killed, they die through neglect.

But worst of all, Facebook abuses of the meaning of the word “friend.” In real life, we have layers of friendship. Best friends, good friends, friends-of-friends, acquaintances, colleagues, people-we-know-but-don’t-think-too-much-about, people-we-nod-to-politely-as-we-pass-them, etc.

But in Facebook, everyone is a potential friend. All it takes is a friend request …

It was a real-life friend that got me on Facebook in the first place. And early on, the people I connected with—often after many years out-of-touch—were real-life friends too. But then I started connecting with people I only knew online. That’s when it got a little weird, and a few of these virtual “friendships” had to end.

But there’s a good part too, and maybe it’s proof that a tool is only as good as what you do with it.

I’ve since met some of the people I once knew only through social media. I’ve gotten a chance to talk to them face to face, if only for a short time. And it’s been wonderful. No, they’re not really “friends” in the same way people I’ve known for years are, but they are colleagues and, in many cases, fellow disciples of Jesus too.

Jesus said “I call you friends.” Maybe we can call each other friends, and—unlike Facebook—have it mean something.

Five Minute Friday