Adventus

"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Staff Still Can't

keep him away from the Twitter account:



Try as they might:



Although posting a tweet with a pre-made sign is a bit of a give-away.

Ah, well:  Hogmanay is celebrated for three days, making me wish I was in Ediburgh about now.  Especially now.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Words Fail Me



Tell me again which country he is about to be President of?


And who is he supposed to represent?

Oy.....

HOGMANAY 2016!!!!!!!!!



Hogmanay of the sack

Hogmanay of the sack,
Hogmanay of the sack,
Strike the hide,
Strike the hide.

Hogmanay of the sack,
Hogmanay of the sack,
Beat the skin,
Beat the skin.

Hogmanay of the sack,
Hogmanay of the sack,
Down with it! up with it!
Strike the hide.

Hogmanay of the sack,
Hogmanay of the sack,
Down with it! up with it!
Beat the skin.

Hogmanay of the sack,
Hogmanay of the sack.

Hogmanay Carol

I am now come to your country,
To renew to you the Hogmanay,
I need not tell you of it,
It was in the time of our forefathers.

I ascend by the door lintel,
I descend by the doorstep,
I will sing my song becomingly,
Mannerly, slowly, mindfully.

The Hogmanay skin is in my pocket,
Great will be the smoke from it presently.
The house-man will get it in his hand,
He will place its nose in the fire;
He will go sunwards round the babes,
And for seven verities round the housewife.

The housewife it is she who deserves it,
The hand to dispense to us the Hogmanay,
A small gift of the bloom of summer,
Much I wish it with the bread.

Give it to us if it be possible,
If you may not, do not detain us;
I am the servant of God's Son at the door,
Arise thyself and open to me.

The song of Hogmanay

Now since we came to the country
To renew to you the Hogmanay,
Time will not allow us to explain,
It has been since the age of our fathers.

Ascending the wall of the house,
Descending at the door,
My carol to say modestly,
As becomes me at the Hogmanay.

The Hogmanay skin is in my pocket,
Great the fume that will come from that;
No one who shall inhale its odour,
But shall be for ever from it healthy.

The house-man will get it in his grasp,
He will put its point in the fIre;
He will go sunwise round the children,
And very specially round the goodwife.

The wife will get it, she it is who deserves it,
The hand to distribute the Hogmanay,
The hand to bestow upon us cheese and butter,
The hand without niggardliness, without meanness.

Since drought has come upon the land,
And that we do not expect rarity,
A little of the substance of the summer,
Would we desire with the bread.

If that we are not to have it,
If thou mayest, do not detain us;
I am the servant of God's Son on Hogmanay,
Arise thyself and open the door.
Hogmanay here! Hogmanay here!

Hogmanay
We are come to the door,
To see if we be the better of our visit,
To tell the generous women of the townland
That tomorrow is Calendae Day.

After being entertained the guisers go sunwise round the fire singing:

May God bless the dwelling,
Each stone, and beam, and stave,
All food, and drink, and clothing.
May health of men be always there.

Should the guisers be inhospitably treated, they file round the fire withershins walk out, and raise a cairn in or near the door, called carnan mollachd (cairn I malison), carnan cronachd (scathe, or evil, cairn).
They tramp loudly, shaking the dust of the place off their feet, and intoning' a deep voice the following and other maledictions:
The malison of God and of Hogmanay be on you,
And the scathe of the plaintive buzzard,
Of the hen-harrier, of the raven, of the eagle,
And the scathe of the sneaking fox.
The scathe of the dog and of the cat be on you,
Of the boar, of the badger, and of the brugha,
Of the hipped bear and of the wild wolf,
And the scathe of the foul foumart.

(All selections from Carmina Gadelica, ed. Alexander Carmichael)


Thursday, December 29, 2016

"Only the destitute are innocent."

--The Essential Jesus, John Dominic Crossan.

Then again, the destitute can still be bought, right Larry Kudlow?

Since the election, I have argued that the Barack Obama/Hillary Clinton war against business will come to an end, and that America will once again reward success, not punish it. And while the Left has demonized Trump’s cabinet appointees as a terrible group of successful business people, free-market capitalists such as myself regard this group as very good indeed.

Why shouldn’t the president surround himself with successful people? Wealthy folks have no need to steal or engage in corruption. Their business success demonstrates that they know how to achieve goals and convince skeptics that good deals can be made to the benefit of both sides. Isn’t this just what America needs?

A man who needs no scholar to ferret out what he actually said, and  who may be Trump's chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors.

Nothin' but BLUE skies ahead!

Comites Christ: Putting the measurements away





If I could be persuaded to search for it, I'd find a YouTube version of "Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin'", because it's my favorite Xmas song this year.

As it is, I have to go with a favorite from years past.  For at least these 12 days, put the measurements away....

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Holy Innocents-2016



When Herod realized he had been duped by the astrologers, he was outraged. He then issued a death warrant for all the male children in Bethlehem and surrounding region two years old and younger. this corresponded to the time [of the star] that he had learned from the astrologers. With this event the prediction made by Jeremiah the prophet came true: 'In Ramah the sound of mourning and bitter grieving was heard: Rachel weeping for her children. She refused to be consoled: They were no more.' " (Matthew 2: 16-18, SV)

But then consider how the medieval drama called "The Play of Herod" ends: the escape to Egypt, the hasty retreat of the magi, then the intrusion of the military into the village. The children are murdered and Rachel - the biblical mother - weeps and laments. A comforter is sent by God, but she refuses to be comforted because her children are no more. But this is not the end of the play. Did they somehow invent a happy ending? Nothing of the kind. The ending is not happy, it is a great mystery. For there is a Te Deum sung: "We praise you, God, we confess you as Lord." The greatest chant of praise. This is sung by Mary and Joseph, processing through the audience, but they are joined in their song and procession by the animals and the angels, by the shepherds, by the lamenting Rachel and the parents of Bethlehem, and they are joined by the soldiers and their victims and by Herod. Knowing that (Hopkins again)


we are wound
With mercy round and round. . . .


they all, incarnate God and all creation, even death, tyrants and martyrs, all process and all sing praise. And we sing too, and find ourselves in the procession.

Today we can't imagine it. We take our Christmas with lots of sugar. And take it in a day. Though we've been baptized into his death, we have little time for or patience with how that death is told at Christmas, a death that confuses lament and praise forever. And no wonder we are careful to keep Christmas at an arm's length. What is Herod in these times?"--Gabe Huck

WE remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

--Book of Common Prayer

O Christ, son of the living God, have mercy upon us.
Thou that sittest at the right hand of the Father, have mercy upon us;
And deliver us for thy Name's sake.

AMEN.

O Christ, when thou didst open thine eyes on this fair earth, the angels greeted thee as the Prince of Peace and besought us to be of good will toward one another; but thy triumph is delayed and we are weary of war.

SAVE US AND HELP US, O LORD AND MASTER.

O Christ, the very earth groans with pain as the feet of armed men march across thy mangled form.

SAVE US AND HELP US, O LORD AND MASTER.

O Christ, may the Church, whom thou didst love into life; not fail thee in her witness for the things for which thou didst live and die.

TEACH US TO DO THY HOLY WILL, O LORD AND MASTER.

O Christ, the people who are called by thy Name are separated from each other in thought and life; still our tumults, take away our vain imaginings, and grant to thy people at this time the courage to proclaim the gospel of forgiveness, and faithfully to maintain the ministry of reconciliation.

TEACH US TO DO THY HOLY WILL, O LORD AND MASTER

O Christ, come to us in our sore need and save us;
O God, plead thine own cause and give us help, for vain is the help of man.

SAVE US AND HELP US, O LORD AND MASTER.

O Christ of God, by thy birth in the stable, save us and help us;
By thy toil at the carpenter's bench, save us and help us;
By thy sinless life, save us and help us;
By thy cross and passion, save us and help us.

SAVE US AND HELP US, O LORD AND MASTER.

--E&R Hymnal

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Christ Child Lullaby


My love, my pride, my treasure, O
My wonder new and pleasure, O
My son, my beauty, ever You
Who am I to bear You here?

The cause of talk and tale am I
The cause of greatest fame am I
The cause of proudest care on high
To have for mine, the king of all

And though You are the king of all
They sent You to the manger stall
Where at Your feet they all shall fall
And glorify my child the king

There shone a star above three kings,
To guide them to the king of kings.
They held You in their humble arms
And knelt before You until dawn.

They gave You myrrh they gave You gold
Frankincense and gifts untold
They traveled far these gifts to bring,
And glorify their newborn king.

My love, my pride, my treasure, O
My wonder new and pleasure, O
My son, my beauty, ever You
Who am I to bear You here?


Monday, December 26, 2016

Comites Christi 2016


Partly in connection with this, I resurrect this post from 2004:

We come, after Christmas, to the Comites Christi, the companions of Christ. They are honored with feast days following Christmas, and two will be of special concern here: St. Stephen, and the Holy Innocents.

But there is no better introduction to the Comites Christi, for now, than the words of St. Augustine:

Consider what is said to you: Love God. If you say to me: Show me whom I am to love, what shall I say if not what Saint John says: No one has ever seen God! But in case you should think that you are completely cut off from the sight of God, he says: God is love, and he who remains in love remains in God. Love your neighbor, then, and see within yourself the power by which you love your neighbor; there you will see God, as far as you are able.

Begin, then, to love your neighbor. Break your bread to feed the hungry, and bring into your home the homeless poor; if you see someone naked, clothe him, and do not look down on your own flesh and blood.

What will you gain by doing this? Your light will then burst forth like the dawn. Your light is your God; he is your dawn, for he will come to you when the night of time is over. He does not rise or set but remains for ever.

In loving and caring for your neighbor you are on a journey. Where are you traveling if not to the Lord God, to him whom we should love with our whole heart, our whole soul, our whole mind? We have not yet reached his presence, but we have our neighbor at our side. Support, then, this companion of your pilgrimage if you want to come into the presence of the one with whom you desire to remain for ever.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Day 2016



I used to think of this as a cute "Children's hymn" at best, at worst as something saccharine and sentimental. Then I realized it is a powerful meditation on the central mystery of Advent and Christmas: the Incarnation.

Jesus our brother, kind and good
Was humbly born in a stable rude
And the friendly beasts around Him stood
Jesus our brother, kind and good.

"I," said the donkey, shaggy and brown,
"I carried His mother up hill and down;
I carried her safely to Bethlehem town."
"I," said the donkey, shaggy and brown.

"I," said the cow, all white and red
"I gave Him my manger for a bed;
I gave Him my hay to pillow His head."
"I," said the cow, all white and red.

"I," said the sheep with curly horn,
"I gave Him my wool for His blanket warm;
He wore my coat on Christmas morn."
"I," said the sheep with curly horn.

"I," said the dove from the rafters high,
"Cooed Him to sleep that He should not cry;
We cooed Him to sleep, my mate and I."
"I," said the dove from the rafters high.

"I," said the camel, yellow and black,
"Over the desert, upon my back,
I brought Him a gift in the Wise Men's pack."
"I," said the camel, yellow and black.

Thus every beast by some good spell
In the stable dark was glad to tell
Of the gift he gave Emmanuel,
The gift he gave Emmanuel.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve 2016

And then at midnight, the priest comes out from behind the screen, and whispers to the person standing there; who passes the news on in a whisper, which spreads like flame, like ripples on water, across the expectant crowd:

"Christ is born.

"Christ is born."

Christ is born."







Jesus, Jesus, rest your head,
You has got a manger bed.
All the evil folk on earth sleep in feathers at their birth,
Jesus, Jesus, rest your head,
You has got a manger bed.

Have you heard about our Jesus?
Have you heard about his fate?
How his mammy went to the stable on that Christmas eve so late?
Winds were blowing, cows were lowing,
stars were glowing, glowing, glowing.

Jesus, Jesus, rest your head,
You has got a manger bed.
All the evil folk on earth
sleep in feathers at their birth,
Jesus, Jesus, rest your head,
You has got a manger bed.

To that manger came then wise men,
Bringing things from hin and yon
For the mother and the father
and the blessed little son.
Milkmaids left their fields and flocks,
and sat beside the ass and ox.

Jesus, Jesus, rest your head,
You has got a manger bed.
All the evil folk on earth
sleep in feathers at their birth.
Jesus, Jesus, rest your head,
You has got a manger bed.

Christmas Eve 2016

The Oxen, by Thomas Hardy

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
"Now they are all on their knees,"
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
"Come; see the oxen kneel

"In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,"
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

A Christmas Service


I. Organ Prelude

II. Adeste Fidelis

III. Invocation

IV. Gloria, Mozart

V. Hymn

VI. Scripture St. Luke 1:5-45

THERE was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7 And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.

8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course,

9 According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. 11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. 14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. 15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. 16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. 17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. 19 And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. 20 And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.

21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless. 23 And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.

24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, 25 Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.

26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. 29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. 30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. 36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing shall be impossible. 38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

39 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; 40 And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. 41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: 42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. 43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45 And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.

VII. Magnificat (St. Luke I:46-55)

And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,

47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.

50 And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.

51 He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.

53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.

54 He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;

55 As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.

VIII. Scripture St. Luke 1:56-67

And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.

57 Now Elisabeth's full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son. 58 And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her.

59 And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father. 60 And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John. 61 And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name. 62 And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called. 63 And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all. 64 And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God. 65 And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea. 66 And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him.

67 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying

IX. Benedictus (St. Luke 1:68-79)

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,

69 And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;

70 As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:

71 That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;

72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant;

73 The oath which he sware to our father Abraham,

74 That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear,

75 In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.

76 And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;

77 To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins,

78 Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,

79 To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

X. Scripture St. Luke 1: 80; 2: 1-9

And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid
him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

XI. Annunciato Angeli (St. Luke 2:10-12)

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

XII. Scripture St. Luke 2:13

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

XIII. Gloria (St. Luke 2: 14)

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

XIV. Scripture St. Luke 2:15-28

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. 18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; 23 (As it is written in the law of the LORD, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) 24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. 26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, 28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,

XV. Nunc Dimmitis (St. Luke 2:29-32)

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:

30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,

31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;

32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

VI. Scripture St. Luke 2:33-40

And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. 34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; 35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; 37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

39 And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. 40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.

XVII. Gloria Patri

XVIII. Apostle's Creed

XIX. Collect and Festival Prayer

XX. Hymn

XXI. Epistle

XXII. Offertory

XXIII. Lord's Prayer

XXIV. Te Deum Laudamus

XXV. Benediction

XXVI. Postlude I have never thought of Christmas Eve as a time for a sermon.  Putting the sermon at the center of every worship service is a very Protestant idea, but even Protestants love the Service of Lessons and Carols of the Anglican Communion, and it eschews a sermon in favor of almost sola scriptura.  And there's the Lutheran v. Reformed split in Protestantism all over again:  the emphasis on liturgy in worship, v. the emphasis on the intellectual presence of God's word.  I stand uneasily with a leg in both camps, and whenever I led a Christmas Eve service I found it hard at first, and then easier later, to leave the sermon out.  But tonight....

This is what we have stayed awake for; and probably we will be asleep again when it happens.  This is what we were supposed to go out into the dark for; and probably we will stay with the sheep and attribute the angel's song to too much wine and too many late nights.  We will stay in and stare at the lights in our house rather than at the lights in God's sky, and we will miss the notice, busy as we will be worshiping the work of our own hands.  Even if we saw the star, even if we recognized it, would we set out, leave everything behind, find out what it meant, discover the new king, we who don't believe in kings at all anymore?  Would we fall down and worship, would we seek the home in Bethlehem, the feeding trough in the home invaded by smell shepherds coming late at night to tell us what they heard, sounding drunk and foolish and illiterate and not at all the right sort of people to be there.

Would we be the right sort of people?  Would we feel comfortable with the peasants in Bethlehem?  Would we wonder if we should have brought a gift, standing with the magi and their treasures?  Or would we just stay home, and stay asleep while wide awake.  If Joseph had not slept, would he have dreamed?  If we dreamed like Joseph, would we listen?  Or sleep in later that morning?

Christmas was once a public spectacle.  It still is for some churches:  word of the birth of the Christchild, of the first miracle of Christianity, is whispered from worshiper to worshiper at midnight.  Do we even bother to go out at midnight?  Isn't it too late, too cold, too much trouble?  We know how the service ends, do we really need to see it again?  Do we go to church on Christmas Day, even if Christmas comes on a Sunday?  Or do we stay home?  Isn't staying home easier?  Isn't staying asleep while wide awake easier still?

This time, for this occasion, we should wake up!  We should be fully awake!  We should run to the manger for the chance to see.  We should join our friends, not just our family, in worship and praise!  Christmas was once a public event, a spectacle, even.  The Puritans in England and then New England condemned it because it was kept in drunkenness and revelry, but at least it was still kept publicly!  Today Christmas is a family affair, a private matter, set around a tree and decorated with wrapping paper, or it is a failure and we despair.  Christmas is a time to be sad that you are alone, when the message of the gospels is that you are not alone, that none of us are alone, that each of us is our brother's keeper, our sister's friend, that there is nothing we need more surely and completely than each other.  What madness is it that we divide ourselves into units at this very time of year when we should be opening our doors to everyone, playing host to the world as we like to think we would have hosted the Holy Family so many centuries ago.  It us Los Posados played all over again, a metaphor for our times.  We are all inn keepers, and none of us have any room for those we don't know.

So this Christmas take joy, and let your spirit walk out among your fellow men, and take the spirit and the season and even the reason for the season out to those you don't know, out to those you don't see, out to those whose cries you never hear.  Make this a Christmas you will remember, by remembering them.  Honor the journeys of Christmas, of the Holy Family, of the Magi, of the shepherds, by making a journey of your own.  It will take you to a strange and new and wondrous place.  Glory to God in the highest!

Amen.


The service is from the Evangelical and Reformed Hymnal.

Christmas Eve 2016

In the reception of the poor and of pilgrims
the greatest care and solicitude should be shown,
because it is especially in them that Christ is received;
for as far as the rich are concerned,
the very fear which they inspire
wins respect for them.
The Rule of St. Benedict

YET if His Majesty, our sovereign lord,
Should of his own accord
Friendly himself invite,
And say 'I'll be your guest to-morrow night,'
How should we stir ourselves, call and command
All hands to work! 'Let no man idle stand!

'Set me fine Spanish tables in the hall;
See they be fitted all;
Let there be room to eat
And order taken that there want no meat.
See every sconce and candlestick made bright,
That without tapers they may give a light.

'Look to the presence: are the carpets spread,
The dazie o'er the head,
The cushions in the chairs,
And all the candles lighted on the stairs?
Perfume the chambers, and in any case
Let each man give attendance in his place!'

Thus, if a king were coming, would we do;
And 'twere good reason too;
For 'tis a duteous thing
To show all honour to an earthly king,
And after all our travail and our cost,
So he be pleased, to think no labour lost.

But at the coming of the King of Heaven
All 's set at six and seven;
We wallow in our sin,
Christ cannot find a chamber in the inn.
We entertain Him always like a stranger,
And, as at first, still lodge Him in the manger.

Anonymous, 16th century.

Christmas Eve 2016: "the eerie sound of silence...."

I remember the silence, the eerie sound of silence ... We all went out ... and just stood listening ... All I'd heard for two months ... was the hissing, cracking and whining of bullets, ... machinegun fire and distant German voices. But there was a dead silence that morning, right across the land as far as you could see. We shouted 'Merry Christmas', even though nobody felt merry. The silence ended early in the afternoon and the killing started again. It was a short peace in a terrible war.
The words of Alfred Anderson, "last living veteran who'd been present at the 1914 Christmas Truce."

“Christ Climbed Down,” by Lawrence Fehrlengetti




Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
there were no rootless Christmas trees
hung with candycanes and breakable stars

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
there were no gilded Christmas trees
and no tinsel Christmas trees
and no tinfoil Christmas trees
and no pink plastic Christmas trees
and no gold Christmas trees
and no black Christmas trees
and no powderblue Christmas trees
hung with electric candles
and encircled by tin electric trains
and clever cornball relatives

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no intrepid Bible salesmen
covered the territory
in two-tone cadillacs
and where no Sears Roebuck creches
complete with plastic babe in manger
arrived by parcel post
the babe by special delivery
and where no televised Wise Men
praised the Lord Calvert Whiskey

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no fat handshaking stranger
in a red flannel suit
and a fake white beard
went around passing himself off
as some sort of North Pole saint
crossing the desert to Bethlehem
Pennsylvania
in a Volkswagen sled
drawn by rollicking Adirondack reindeer
and German names
and bearing sacks of Humble Gifts
from Saks Fifth Avenue
for everybody's imagined Christ child

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no Bing Crosby carollers
groaned of a tight Christmas
and where no Radio City angels
iceskated wingless
thru a winter wonderland
into a jinglebell heaven
daily at 8:30
with Midnight Mass matinees

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and softly stole away into
some anonymous Mary's womb again
where in the darkest night
of everybody's anonymous soul
He awaits again
an unimaginable
and impossibly
Immaculate Reconception
the very craziest of
Second Comings

My daughter is in San Francisco this Christmas.  All I want for Christmas is a book of Fehrlengetti's poems from City Lights Bookstore.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Advent 2016



Genesis 16

The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. 8 And he said, "Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?" "I'm running away from my mistress Sarai," she answered.

9 Then the angel of the LORD told her, "Go back to your mistress and submit to her." 10 The angel added, "I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count."

11 The angel of the LORD also said to her:
"You are now with child
and you will have a son.
You shall name him Ishmael, [a]
for the LORD has heard of your misery.

12 He will be a wild donkey of a man;
his hand will be against everyone
and everyone's hand against him,
and he will live in hostility
toward [b] all his brothers."

13 She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: "You are the God who sees me," for she said, "I have now seen [c] the One who sees me." 14 That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi [d] ; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.

15 So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.

Genesis 18

1 The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. 2 Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.
3 He said, "If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, [a] do not pass your servant by. 4 Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. 5 Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant."
"Very well," they answered, "do as you say."

6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. "Quick," he said, "get three seahs [b] of fine flour and knead it and bake some bread."

7 Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. 8 He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.

9 "Where is your wife Sarah?" they asked him.
"There, in the tent," he said.

10 Then the LORD [c] said, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son."
Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, "After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?"

13 Then the LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Will I really have a child, now that I am old?' 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD ? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son."

15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, "I did not laugh."
But he said, "Yes, you did laugh."

Judges 13

1 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, so the LORD delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years.
2 A certain man of Zorah, named Manoah, from the clan of the Danites, had a wife who was sterile and remained childless. 3 The angel of the LORD appeared to her and said, "You are sterile and childless, but you are going to conceive and have a son. 4 Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean, 5 because you will conceive and give birth to a son. No razor may be used on his head, because the boy is to be a Nazirite, set apart to God from birth, and he will begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines."

6 Then the woman went to her husband and told him, "A man of God came to me. He looked like an angel of God, very awesome. I didn't ask him where he came from, and he didn't tell me his name. 7 But he said to me, 'You will conceive and give birth to a son. Now then, drink no wine or other fermented drink and do not eat anything unclean, because the boy will be a Nazirite of God from birth until the day of his death.' "

8 Then Manoah prayed to the LORD : "O LORD, I beg you, let the man of God you sent to us come again to teach us how to bring up the boy who is to be born."

9 God heard Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman while she was out in the field; but her husband Manoah was not with her. 10 The woman hurried to tell her husband, "He's here! The man who appeared to me the other day!"

11 Manoah got up and followed his wife. When he came to the man, he said, "Are you the one who talked to my wife?"
"I am," he said.

12 So Manoah asked him, "When your words are fulfilled, what is to be the rule for the boy's life and work?"

13 The angel of the LORD answered, "Your wife must do all that I have told her. 14 She must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, nor drink any wine or other fermented drink nor eat anything unclean. She must do everything I have commanded her."

15 Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, "We would like you to stay until we prepare a young goat for you."

16 The angel of the LORD replied, "Even though you detain me, I will not eat any of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, offer it to the LORD." (Manoah did not realize that it was the angel of the LORD.)

17 Then Manoah inquired of the angel of the LORD, "What is your name, so that we may honor you when your word comes true?"

18 He replied, "Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding. " 19 Then Manoah took a young goat, together with the grain offering, and sacrificed it on a rock to the LORD. And the LORD did an amazing thing while Manoah and his wife watched: 20 As the flame blazed up from the altar toward heaven, the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame. Seeing this, Manoah and his wife fell with their faces to the ground. 21 When the angel of the LORD did not show himself again to Manoah and his wife, Manoah realized that it was the angel of the LORD.

22 "We are doomed to die!" he said to his wife. "We have seen God!"

23 But his wife answered, "If the LORD had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and grain offering from our hands, nor shown us all these things or now told us this."

24 The woman gave birth to a boy and named him Samson.

1 Samuel

1 There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite [a] from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 2 He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.
3 Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the LORD Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the LORD. 4 Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. 5 But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the LORD had closed her womb. 6 And because the LORD had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. 7 This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the LORD, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. 8 Elkanah her husband would say to her, "Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don't you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don't I mean more to you than ten sons?"

9 Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on a chair by the doorpost of the LORD's temple. [b] 10 In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD. 11 And she made a vow, saying, "O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head."

12 As she kept on praying to the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14 and said to her, "How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine."

15 "Not so, my lord," Hannah replied, "I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the LORD. 16 Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief."

17 Eli answered, "Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him."

18 She said, "May your servant find favor in your eyes." Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.

19 Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the LORD and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah lay with Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her. 20 So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, [c] saying, "Because I asked the LORD for him."

Luke 1

5THERE was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.

6And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.

7And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.

8And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course,

9According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.

10And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.

11And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.

12And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.

13But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.

14And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.

15For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.

16And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.

17And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

18And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.

19And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.

20And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.

21And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple.

22And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless.

23And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.

24And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,

25Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.

26And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,

27To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.

28And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

29And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

30And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.

31And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.

32He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:

33And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

34Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

35And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

36And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.

37For with God nothing shall be impossible.

38And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her

The cup runneth over....





Only for a grifter!



He does understand that resolution isn't coming back up anytime soon, right?





And now he's dead.  You would like, maybe, to kill his family, his friends, his neighbors, his countrymen all?

Do we have any hope this vile stream of dangerous nonsense will stop on January 20, 2017?

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Oh, shit

Failure to take away his internet access should be clear grounds for impeachment.

It will be a matter of national security and human survival.

In other news:  the beatings will continue until morale improves.  And crime won't go down until everyone has a gun.  Especially three-year olds in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The New Morality

“As unfortunate as it is, I understand the quagmire,” Mr. Trump said in an interview Wednesday evening. “You do a good thing that backfires.”

That's not the PEOTUS, that's his son Eric talking.  The context is an offer to buy time with the PEOTUS, who will by then be POTUS, at the inauguration.  The offer was floated (for a minimum 7 figure "donation") by a non-profit set up by son Eric, which listed him as one of the event organizers for this access pay for play.

What backfired is that he got caught, because his actions are now subject to scrutiny, not to a yawn because that noise in the walls is just the cockroaches, er, rather, the Trumps again.  The "good thing" he was going to do?  Something for himself, rather the way Daddy ran the Trump Foundation.  This is a summary of the entire enterprise, almost up to the event of Eric's quoted lament:

The Trump sons and two longtime pals stand up a one-off 'nonprofit' to hold a fundraiser the day after the inauguration to sell access to the Trump Family. Nominally, the cause is 'conservation'. But they hadn't even figured out an explanation of what they were going to do with the money. The putative charity which stood to benefit said it hadn't decided whether it wanted to be involved. So much for that.
Four more years.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The New Puritanism


My favorite version of this was from the "Elf" soundtrack.  This is my new favorite.

Seriously?*

When you make Camille Paglia  sound sensible, you've gone too far.

*If you don't hear this, especially in the version above, as a very playful seduction tale, then we really have nothing further to talk about.  Well, on this subject....

Don't think of a Lakoff


Electors, both Republican and Democratic, were urged to vote their consciences.  Turns out they did, although only two GOP electors (in Texas!) actually cast ballots against the prevailing popular vote in their state.

Does this prove GOP electors are without a conscience?  That they're fine with Donald Trump and have no questions about the interference of Russia, a point raised by some 10 Democratic electors before last Monday?  Maybe.

Or maybe it proves that GOP electors and Democratic electors (well, a handful of the latter, based on the evidence) have different definitions of what the word "conscience" means.  Aye, there's the rub.

Is this a new division in America, a shocking development, an issue upon which the republic falls, or falls apart?  Not likely; but we do mean different things by the very same word, and I don't mean some cute regional difference such as what we call syrupy carbonated beverages.  There are fundamental differences in the world we see, and the nation we think we are.

I read an analysis of the popular vote in a comment at Salon, which quoted what was apparently a posting (on a company website?  a personal blog?  I dunno, but there was a link), arguing that the popular vote of California, the most populous state in the union, should be set aside because it "gave" Hillary all the extra popular votes she won, and why should California have that much importance? (Adding:  yes, this really is a thing.)

Because the citizens of California are U.S. citizens, too?  (rather like why we should have saved New Orleans after Katrina:  because they were U.S. citizens, even if they were poor, black, and abandoned by the city and state governments, and rejected by local counties around them.).  It's a silly argument that depends on deciding ab initio that some votes are more valuable than others, especially when those votes produce the outcome some want.  Imagine making that argument if Trump had lost the electoral college as well as the popular vote.

But the same people who think Hillary Clinton had uncountable conflicts of interest, now think Donald Trump has none worth mentioning.  To-may-to, to-mah-to?  Should we call the whole thing off?  Or should we recognize that, just as we have regional dialects in which words have clear meaning to one group, but not another (in Texas, I am always "fixin' to get around to it."  Baptist preachers used to think it was the funniest thing in the world to hand out round pieces of wood, about the size of a silver dollar (remember those?) labeled "to-its."  Get it?  My wife told an employer in St. Louis once that she was "fixin' to" do something, and the office erupted in laughter.  In Texas nobody would have blinked.).  We talk past each other because what we mean by "base appeals" is not the same thing other people mean.

So Democrats (well, again; some) appealed to the "conscience" of GOP electors; who may well have examined their conscience and said "I'm fine with this."  Maybe that's faithless, like this comment from Thought Criminal's blog:

I used to call myself an evangelical Christian, but I can't now that Trump hijacked the movement. It's one of the most horrifying things I can think of. My religion is the #1 reason I'm against him. If it wasn't for that I probably would have voted for him, because it's what people in my demographic do. (I'm a straight white guy from a working class family in Mississippi.) I still believe the same as before, but I want nothing to do with evangelicalism any more. If I wasn't white it might be different. When pollsters talk about evangelicals they really mean white evangelicals.... Trump is the most anti-Christ politician I know of.
I wouldn't argue with the sentiment, but apparently a lot of evangelicals would.   Are they faithless? Do I sway them by appealing to their consciences?  Do I damn them by accusing them of lacking a conscience?  Which one would fix the problem of making my conscience superior to theirs (which is obviously the problem, right?)?

There's going to be a lot of finger pointing in the next few months, most of it to make sure there are no fingers pointing back at the finger pointers; or at least that there are more fingers going in other directions.  There will be more complaining that Obama didn't do enough to conquer this problem, to smash the enemy and drive them before him, relishing the lamentations of their women; or at least, being far too optimistic about the character of the American public.  Lots of anger from lots of armchair generals, in other words, of whom Louis Black rightly said:

Still, armchair generals know only victories. When one has no skin in the game, if an action they advocate happens and doesn't work they will simply argue that it wasn't carried out well.
Obama failed, but we would have succeeded.  He only won election twice, as the first black President with a very non-"American" name, subject of vilification and outright racism, who accomplished much in the face of a Congress at first reluctant to work with him, and then for 6 years actively hostile to him, an opposition driven by financial fears and racial animus, but no, he didn't do nearly enough, and his "audacity of hope" was the wish of a Pollyanna.  The only people allowed to talk about that "shining city on a hill" are white Republicans and white Republican Presidents.  Because hope is "their" language.

Ours is despair; because we can't have absolutely everything our way; and because Donald Trump has proven there are two Americas; and we haven't decided if we need to talk to them, or fight them to the death.

As for making common cause with the blacks and the Hispanics, and even the Asians, and women, and the LGBTQ, and all the other groups of 'identity politics' (!), well, they will always be with us.  It's the disenchanted, disenfranchised white males we need to reach out to.  Because, after all, it's not about race because it's never about race; but white males are just so much more important.  I mean, maybe, 3/5's more?

Is that what we're talking about, and we don't even know it?

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

"Welcome to the Trump era, and may we be struck speechless in order to improve our effectiveness."


--letter from a friend.

Returned to old haunts this weekend, and that sets the theme this morning.  Some things were still there; some were there and not there; some where obliterated, some replaced, and nothing was as it was 25 years ago.

Well, things change, ya know?

We still aren't hip enough for the place (but we never were), and the locals are still complaining about the ingress of non-locals.  We were there 15 years, long enough to be local ourselves.  Back then there was just a general desire to convince people it wasn't that great a place, please don't come; it hadn't been distilled to a logo.  The sentiment, 40 years later, is still the same, however.

Well, some things don't change, ya know?

The great delight was finding this in print, and then on-line, where it could be quoted easily.  A sampling:


When a significant number of voters decide that the outcome of an election is not important enough to prioritize their party's candidate, the result is just not on third- party totals but the very tone and tenor of the nation's dialogue. In this past election, as in 2000, those whose votes privileged personal feelings over national interest had immediate consequences – not just derailing and pushing back a progressive agenda but enabling a conservative if not reactionary one, that deliberately reduces the rights of significant segments of the population.

Usually before elections these dissidents casually boast of their own integrity, especially as contrasted with the masses of mainstream voters. They seem to not care at all how the election results affect such groups as immigrants, women, minorities, the working class, labor, the LGBT community, and academics.

After the election rather than owning their role in its results, they not only deny their impact but indignantly dismiss any who criticize their decisions as bullies trying to dictate to them how to vote.
You get the idea without even reading the column's title.  Further the argument goes:

These folks often talk about how evil all politicians are, that our elected leaders make terrible decisions for the worst reasons. Social media self-declared pundits condemn government, business, media, and diplomacy as concurrently they anoint themselves, proclaiming their pure and untainted moral vision.

Ironically many of these same people were shocked by reading Clinton's emails, stunned to discover that grownups in politics play a cutthroat game. Having forever described the system as hopelessly corrupt, evidently they thought its participants would be like shepherds with sheep, wise men with staffs, compassionate monks in the sweet gardens of government.

The basic assumptions of those most critical of the Democrats and candidate Clinton were that a two-dimensional good guy vs. bad guy scenario was appropriate. They positioned it that incredibly difficult decisions were actually easy, while fantastically complicated situations offered clear solutions. Evidently it turns out from extremists of both the right and left that foreign diplomatic relations were actually simple and easily executed. Rather than impossibly difficult, what needs to be done in places like Syria and Libya is as clear as following a marked route on a map. 
As Auden put it in his "Sonnets in Time of War":  "Maps can point to places where life is evil now."  But here comes the roundhouse punch:

Let's suggest that rather than easy, government is hard. Decisions are difficult. Problems are complex. Often there is not an easy answer. But again, sitting at home it is easy to not just make decisions but pass judgment on others who do.

Often when we think the government is most broken, it is working as the Founding Fathers intended. But then when we insist it is broken, claim it doesn't represent us, that given the poor choices it is more important to vote our conscience than care about the future government of this country, then it becomes broken, because we break it.

Unfortunately the claim that there is no real difference between the parties is going to be seriously addressed. Having overly obsessed on the Democratic Party's imperfections and failures, tired of waiting for them to offer a more perfect vision, folks helped hand the country to Trump. I'm pretty sure that quite dramatically he will be schooling us in the difference between the two parties.
And then we see it land:

NOW we are likely to see the championing of reactionary politics, the deliberate destruction of the social safety net, the privileging of big money and big business over most Americans, the turning of citizen against citizen, and the acceptance of a gospel of exclusion and discrimination. The dark shadow nightmare of the progressive agenda. A half-century of progress is likely to be wiped out. Parts of the population will be heavily discriminated against. But at least we know there are a lot of proudly progressive, even radical citizens who refused to legitimize the corrupt Democratic Party. And are feeling very good about their vote. 
I've encountered several people on the web I'd like to present the full column to, secure in the knowledge it would sail right past them.  Oh, well.  Truly you can't go home again; but you can enjoy the view from time to time.

Concluding Unscientific Postscript:

As Charlie Pierce (also) puts it:

There is no question that Hillary Rodham Clinton won the popular balloting by almost three million votes. There is no question that she did this despite extraordinary media malpractice dating back 25 years, that she did this despite the unprecedented meddling of the director of the FBI, and that she did this despite the (allegedly) unprecedented meddling of the Russian government. Now, though, these unique factors are simply being lumped in with the fact that she didn't visit Wisconsin after the convention and that she gave speeches for money to rich people.

Or, you know, that fact that she wasn't Bernie.

Charlie's dissection of Chris Cillizza is a pleasure in its own right.

The O Antiphons in 2016


"The antiphons are, in fact, a collage of Old Testament types of Christ. Their predominant theme is messianic, stressing the hope of the Savior's coming. Jesus is invoked by various titles, mainly taken from the prophet Isaiah. The sequence progresses historically, from the beginning, before creation, to the very gates of Bethlehem."

In that they connect the Easter Vigil with Christmas in a lovely way.

O Wisdom, O holy word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care; Come and show your people the way to salvation.

O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: Come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.

O Flower of Jesse's stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; rulers stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.

O Key of David, O royal power of Israel, controlling at your will the gate of heave: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and lead your captive people to freedom.

O radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal night, sun of justice: Come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

O Ruler of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart, O Keystone of the mighty arch of humankind: Come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.

O Emmanuel, ruler and lawgiver, desire of the nations, savior of all people; Come and set us free, Lord our God.

Because this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture

 "Way too often, people pull out their insurance card and they say 'I don't know the difference or cost between an X-ray or an MRI or CT Scan.' I might make a little different decision if I did know [what] some of those costs were and those costs came back to me," he said.
This in the context of stating his young son broke an arm, but they didn't want to incur the cost of the ER, so they treated it like a sprain until they could go to the doctor the next day.

I don't know what insurance this idiot uses, but my insurance lets me know real damned quick the cost difference between an X-ray, an MRI, or a CT scan.  Because some they'll cover, and some they won't, and my large deductible means I'm paying anyway.

He also says the current health system "continue[s] to squeeze providers."  With absolutely no awareness that, without health insurance covering everything from hospitalization to office visits to prescriptions, providers would be back to what they were in the 1940's movie of Dr. Kildare:  hoping to marry rich after med school, instead of get rich after med school.  And most patients would be doing without the drugs that keep them healthy (and the drug companies "healthy," too).

In a similar vein, and proving he really is as dumb as a box of rocks:

“In the case of the president, he has a broad ability to organize the White House the way he wants to. He also has, frankly, the power of the pardon,” [Newt] Gingrich told WAMU’s Diane Rehm on Monday morning. “It is a totally open power, and he could simply say, ‘Look, I want them to be my advisers. I pardon them if anyone finds them to have behaved against the rules. Period.' Technically, under the Constitution, he has that level of authority.”

No, the President doesn't.  Among other reasons, because the courts would not recognize that as the proper use of the pardon power, and besides, the rest of the government has to decide the President can set aside any law he doesn't like (there is no criminal sanction to hiring a family member under the applicable law.  It's simply a non-event, like same-sex marriage was in most states before Obergefell.  Such a person simply can't become a government employee.  The President could have pardoned the Lovings for violating Virginia's anti-miscegenation statutes (they were arrested), but the President couldn't pardon a same-sex couple into marriage under state laws that didn't recognize such a union.*)  Contrary to what Nixon asserted, if the President does it it can still be illegal; and "illegal" doesn't just mean "you will go to jail."

Gingrich is not a lawyer, and doesn't even play one on TV.  He's just a guy who runs off at the mouth, which seems to be a commonplace with GOP public figures.

In other news, the only electoral votes to defect from Trump came from Texas.  Makes me quietly proud, in some strange way.  Was it a surprise no one else voted against the popular vote in their state, except petulant Democrats?

No.  This isn't, after all, a Hollywood movie.  And yet they really are all the mole people....

*I suppose Trump could pardon them for violating the laws on receiving classified information, but how long would it be before no one in the White House would let such persons anywhere near discussions of such information, and even Trump would face overwhelming pressure to comply with the laws?  No, there is no universe where Gingrich's thought experiment finds purchase....

Monday, December 19, 2016

Picture...thousand words...



Blah, blah, blah....

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Fourth Sunday of Advent 2016: "When you are old and grey and full of sleep"

Isaiah 7:10-16
7:10 Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying,

7:11 Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.

7:12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.

7:13 Then Isaiah said: "Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also?

7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

7:15 He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.

7:16 For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
80:1 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth

80:2 before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh. Stir up your might, and come to save us!

80:3 Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

80:4 O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people's prayers?

80:5 You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in full measure.

80:6 You make us the scorn of our neighbors; our enemies laugh among themselves.

80:7 Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

80:17 But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand, the one whom you made strong for yourself.

80:18 Then we will never turn back from you; give us life, and we will call on your name.

80:19 Restore us, O LORD God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Romans 1:1-7
1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,

1:2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures,

1:3 the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh

1:4 and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,

1:5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name,

1:6 including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

1:7 To all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Matthew 1:18-25
1:18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

1:19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.

1:20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

1:21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."

1:22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

1:23 "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us."

1:24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife,

1:25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

I've thought more and more lately, as I enter "old age," as I care for my elderly parents and see my future in their lives, what Joseph would have appreciate the words of his son at the end of John's Gospel:  "...when you have grown old, you'll stretch out your arms, and someone else will get you ready and take you where you don't want to go."  Because it's pretty clear from Matthew's account that the angel is telling Joseph to go somewhere he doesn't want to go.

Joseph here is Abraham.  Mary is pregnant, and that means someone else has been with her.  But the angel of the Lord tells Joseph a story, and Joseph accepts it without question.  He is Abraham, being told by God to leave his people and go where God will lead him, and with no more assurance than that, Abraham goes.  With no more reason to believe than that, Abraham believes.  Joseph is Abraham.  Israel's history is repeating itself.  Maybe Abraham didn't want to go there; but he did.  Maybe Joseph doesn't want to do this; but he does.  Your betrothed is pregnant, but it's okay, it's not the child of another man, but of God?  Sure, why not?

And notice it is Matthew who changes "young woman" to "virgin."  There are endless discussions about why that happened, ranging from historical accuracy to an unfortunate misquote, maybe even a poor transition from Hebrew to Greek.  No matter; it suits Matthew's story that Jesus of Nazareth was not merely human; it suits Matthew's claim that Jesus came directly from God.  And it keeps Joseph in charge, even though Joseph is only the father legally.

But it isn't at all clear this is where Joseph wants to go.

When Joseph was an old man, an old man was he
He married Virgin Mary, the Queen of Galilee
He married Virgin Mary, the Queen of Galilee

But was Joseph an old man?  Tradition says so, but again, it doesn't matter.  We have him fixed in our minds that way; better to leave him there.  Did he object to his wife's pregnancy?  Matthew implies a mild objection, but one aimed at protecting Mary.  Tradition, again, embellishes:

Then Joseph flew in anger, in anger flew he
Let the father of the baby gather cherries for thee!
Let the father of the baby gather cherries for thee!

Isaiah writes before the Exile that is coming; the Psalmist writes from that Exile; they both await a very real, very physical salvation from the Lord.  Matthew writes in the aftermath of that exile and the failure of Israel to continue as a sovereign nation.  If he uses the words of Isaiah for his own purposes, who can blame him?  If we add details to the bare bones of his nativity story, who can blame us?  We need to understand this.  We need to make these people, people we recognize.  "The Cherry Tree Carol" does that with a miracle, an act of power (dounamis in the Greek, the word used for "miracle" in Matthew, Mark, and Luke) which is also a semeia, a sign (John's "miracle").  What do we do to make this story human, in our terms?

We see Joseph trying to be a good man, and to protect Mary if he can.  We see Joseph accept the word of a dream that he can adopt the son as his own; and that will protect Mary, too.  We see Joseph name the child, which makes the child his own.  Already we see they were "each one quite odd:  a mensch, a virgin, and a god."

And he does what he is asked, because he accepts the word of God.

There is much we can learn about faith from Joseph.  We only know that, like Abraham, he accepts what he is told.  We never learn why.  The story doesn't penetrate to his psyche, to his inner dialogue. He doesn't even question the angel, or declare himself a servant of the Lord.  He just does as he is told.  But just as Mary does before Gabriel, Joseph accepts.  His actions speak for him.

There are things we consider commands in the scripture; the angel's word to Joseph is not one of them, anymore than God's word to Abraham to leave his land and people and go to where God will lead, is a command.  If Abraham were commanded rather than directed, if he acted in response to an imperative rather than chose to act in faith, how would Abraham be an example to us?  Where would his trust, his faith, be?  If Joseph had no choice but to follow the angel's words, what credit would that be to him?  We have commands in Christianity; this time of year, especially, we even talk about them:

WHAT keeps you from giving now? Isn't the poor person there? Aren't your own warehouses full? Isn't the reward promised? The command is clear: the hungry person is dying now, the naked person is freezing now, the person in debt is beaten now-and you want to wait until tomorrow? "I'm not doing any harm," you say. "I just want to keep what I own, that's all." You own! You are like someone who sits down in a theater and keeps everyone else away, saying that what is there for everyone's use is your own. . . . If everyone took only what they needed and gave the rest to those in need, there would be no such thing as rich and poor. After all, didn't you come into life naked, and won't you return naked to the earth?

The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry person; the coat hanging unused in your closet belongs to the person who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the person with no shoes; the money which you put in the bank belongs to the poor. You do wrong to everyone you could help, but fail to help.

--Basil, 4th century
We need to make the concerns of the hungry, the naked, the prisoner, into commands; and even then we can't seem to follow them.  Perhaps we need to learn to let someone else get us ready, and let someone else take us where we do not want to go.  Perhaps, for at least the rest of Advent and Christmastide, we should ask ourselves:  What would Joseph do?