Incarnation

Jack Palmer 12-23-2011
Christmas lights in London's Trafalgar Square, St. Martin's in the Field behind.

Christmas lights in London's Trafalgar Square, St. Martin's in the Field behind. Via http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/839615

I’m not sure we can quite get our heads around the latest ‘war’ being waged in the United States – the ‘war on Christmas’.

Visions of the 101st Airborne heading towards the North Pole abound. Anti-reindeer defense weapons, covert elf anti-merriment operatives and a unilateral ban on all copies of A Christmas Carol (in its various media iterations)? Is that what we have come to?

Surely — and thankfully — not, but given some of the rhetoric that is thrown around in the media at this time of year, you might be forgiven for thinking so!

Given that most reporting about religion in the UK and Europe usually includes the phrase “an increasingly secular country," you might think that the "war on Christmas" back on the old sod is even more sustained and sophisticated than in the United States.

Picture heavily fortified nativity scenes being assaulted by atheist flash mobs chanting “HAPPY HOLIDAYS!” if you will.

Well, I’m sorry to tell you that I’ve yet to witness such a terrifying scene on the streets of London.

Jim Wallis 12-22-2011

I love the lights and the love, which somehow seems a little easier during this season. Most of all I love the message: God made flesh, becoming human, and dwelling among us.

Our giving and receiving of gifts is most of all a reminder of the good gifts that God has already given to us. There is an old Sunday School saying that goes, "You can’t out give God."

No matter how much we give to those around us, it can never match the Light of the World entering into the darkness to be with us. Emmanuel, God with us, is the gift that can’t be out given.

In all the hustle and bustle of Christmas, don’t forget that. And don’t forget the people that you are especially thankful for.

Matthew Soerens 12-21-2011
"Holy Family's flight to Ethiopia." Image via http://bit.ly/w3Z2K9

"Holy Family's flight to Ethiopia." Image via http://bit.ly/w3Z2K9

In the Incarnation, Christ brings hope to a world where, for the time being, Herod is still king, and all is not as it should be. Christmas includes the story of a terrible genocide — a traumatic refugee experience for young Jesus and his parents, and all the worse for those parents who were not warned in a dream and thus did not escape to Egypt before their infant sons were murdered — but as evangelicals we seldom reflect on this part of the story. (Catholic & Anglican Christians remember these victims on the Feast of the Holy Innocents on December 28, a practice I adopted for the first time last year.)

The great hope of Christmas, though, is that it represents the entry into history of a Prince of Peace, who will eventually dethrone Herod and Caesar and set all things right. We’re still living in that tension: Christ’s kingdom has been inaugurated but is not here in fullness yet, as the injustice of last December’s DREAM Act vote and a thousand other tragedies of poverty, conflict, and marginalization throughout our globe remind us. So Christmas is a time for mourning and for hopeful joy: and it is entirely right that Advent is a time of eager and expectant yearning. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!

Cathleen Falsani 12-20-2011

Forget about that creche on the town green or the menorah outside the public library that the nice folks from Lubavitch Chabad will light for the first time tonight.

Now the Special Ops Humbug Unit of the War on Christmas has come for ... our flowers. Well, our shrubbery, technically.

Nadia Bolz-Weber 12-20-2011

To be a people marked by the faith of Mary is to be a people, who say, "Ok, I don’t understand what’s going on and I know that my life isn’t going to end up looking like one I would choose out of a catalogue but I trust that God is at work in all of it."

Blessedness is being used for God’s purpose more than it’s getting what I want or things being easy.

Christmas itself isn’t about getting what you want, or making sure you’re giving others what they want. To experience Christmas is to trust that God can do this thing again. God can again be born in me, in you, in this broken mess of a gorgeous world.

In the 4th century St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote, “What was achieved in the body of Mary will happen in the soul of everyone who receives the Word.”

See, God is at work in you in much the same way God was at work in Mary. (Not necessarily in that the Holy Spirit’s going to knock you up.) But I do think that you carry in your body the blessing of God and having faith like Mary means allowing yourself to trust that.

Jim Wallis 12-15-2011
Jim Wallis

Jim Wallis

The real Christmas announces the birth of Jesus to a world of poverty, pain, and sin, and offers the hope of salvation and justice.

The Fox News Christmas heralds the steady promotion of consumerism, the defense of wealth and power, the adulation of money and markets, and the regular belittling or attacking of efforts to overcome poverty.

The real Christmas offers the joyful promise of peace and the hope of reconciliation with God and between humankind.

The Fox News Christmas proffers the constant drumbeat of war, the reliance on military solutions to every conflict, the demonizing of our enemies, and the gospel of American dominance.

The real Christmas lifts up the Virgin Mary’s song of praise for her baby boy: “He has brought the mighty down from their thrones, and lifted the lowly, he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich empty away.”

The Fox News Christmas would label Mary’s Magnificat as “class warfare.”

So if there is a war on Christmas it ‘s the one being waged by Fox News.

Cathleen Falsani 12-13-2011
Carrie Newcomer

Carrie Newcomer

In her inimitably lovely way, Carrie Newcomer, the Quaker singer-songwriter, tells the story of June and Emmett and their children gathered at their Christmas table to sing carols and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in her should-be classic, "Long Christmas Dinner." It's a celebration of simple pleasures and the powerful quotidian blessings of family, hearth and home.

It's a quiet, soul-stirring tune with images so vivid and familiar they stay with me throughout the year.

http://youtu.be/MYeIgrYpk8k

We asked Carrie what her favorite Christmas song was and this is what she said...

Derek Flood 12-12-2011
Office Grinch peppersprays the Whos of Whoville. Image via officer-grinch-21501-

Office Grinch peppersprays the Whos of Whoville. Image via officer-grinch-21501-1321977693-24.jpg

Pepper spray.

Those two words bring to mind two very contrasting images from recent headline news: One is the shocking image of University of California at Davis students seated on a pathway, arms linked in peaceful protest, as they are repeatedly doused with pepper spray by a zealous campus police officer. The other is of the equally zealous shopper on Black Friday who sprayed her fellow Walmart customers so she could buy a discounted X-Box.

On the one hand we have an image of the power of nonviolent protest to expose injustice, and on the other an appalling image of consumer greed.

These are the signs of our times.

Cathleen Falsani 12-07-2011
David Wilcox via http://www.davidwilcox.com

David Wilcox via http://www.davidwilcox.com

It's that time of the year again, the joyful season when Jeff, my iTunes DJ, starts spinning holiday music when I choose "random" from the play options on my keyboard.

I almost always have headphones on with music playing as I work each day, and the surprise of what Jeff, as I call him, comes up with — especially when he reaches into the way-back machine for sonic fodder — is a daily delight.

First thing this morning, Jeff decided to play the tune "Miracle" by Ashville, N.C., singer-songwriter David Wilcox.

Oh joy! It's long been one of my favorite unconventional Christmas songs but I'd forgotten about its many charms until I was taking my first sip of coffee today.

The song, which appears on David's 2006 album Vista, is a take on the Natvity story seen through David's remarkably creative, often childlike sensibilities. Here's a taste of the lyrics:

Few will chose to follow
Out of all the star invites
Most will hide safe inside
With the lantern turned up bright

Waiting for a miracle

Julie Polter 12-01-2011

Advent loops past the second coming to the first -- and to us, stuck waiting in the mud of existence.

Sheri Ellwood 11-25-2011
Christmas tree detail. Photo by Cathleen Falsani for Sojourners.

Christmas tree detail. Photo by Cathleen Falsani for Sojourners.

I have heard it said that people of Christian faith should be more about Easter and less about Christmas. Easter is a powerful hope but it deals with things beyond this life.  It is a sure and certain hope but one that eludes my imagination, confounds my concrete mind.

The crucifixion is something I can wrap my mind around.  We have only to open our eyes and our hearts to the realities of the world and we recognize the darkness of Good Friday. When the season is upon us I will dwell with great gratitude at the foot of the cross.  

But, Lord God, I want to stay for a while in Christmas where hope is something I can cradle to my chest. I want to dwell here where music sings the promise of love, reminding me of those Mary moments in my life when it seems truth and love are about to burst forth from within and change the world.  

Let me hearken to Mary’s song and hear it as a radical claim awakening me for the sake of revolution, to grab hold of the Kingdom of God already present amongst us. 

peace fire 2I say a ceasefire can and also ought to mean that we will hold our peace, hold our tongues, intentionally muzzle ourselves, become mute in a discussion that can much too easily descend into verbal warfare. Often, when we are quiet in the face of verbal attack, the argument does not escalate into something that all parties involved will regret.

Eugene Cho 8-23-2011

About two years ago, Minhee and I made one of the hardest decisions we've made thus far in our marriage and in our calling as parents.

In our hope to honor a conviction of the Holy Spirit to give up a year's salary, we had begun the two-year process of saving, selling, and simplifying in 2007. Our goal was to come up with our then year's wages of $68,000 -- in order to launch One Day's Wages. With only a few months left to come up with the total sum, we were a bit short and decided to sublet our home for couple months and asked some friends if we could stay with them on their couches or their guest room.

Needless to say, it was a very humbling time.

Our instruction for ourselves and our children were very simple: Each person gets one carry-on bag for their belongings.

Jeannie Choi 6-03-2011

Awesome people. Vegetarians. Going mute. Here's a little round up of links from around the Web you may have missed this week:

  • Are you a new vegetarian? Some tips.
  • Kathy Khang shares more about her experience with depression.
  • Don't you sometimes wish you could just hit the mute button?

"Pentecost is God's 'show-and-tell' lesson that after the incarnation no one people has a purchase on the fullness of God. No single denomination, no one race, no one ethnicity, and no one socioeconomic group mediates God's fullness to the world. Diversity is an essential attribute of a Spirit-filled church (Acts 2:8,18)."

John R.W. Stott 12-01-2009
Imitating the Incarnation.
Michelle Garcia 1-01-2008

An interview with liberation theologian Jon Sobrino.

Molly Marsh 11-01-2007
From parables to street theater, imagined worlds open our eyes.
Kimberly Burge 11-01-2007

Finding God in theater.

James Martin, SJ 11-01-2007

Like the actors in this off-Broadway play, we're all participants in the story of Jesus.

James Ferguson 9-01-2006

In May, the Institute on Women and Criminal Justice released a report on the growth of the number of women in prison in the U.S.

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