Wednesday, December 08, 2004

"You know the time;it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep."

In all the runup to Christmas, you never hear messages like this:

The large rooms of which you are so proud are in fact your shame. They are big enough to hold crowds--and also big enough to shut out the voice of the poor....There is your sister or brother, naked, crying! And you stand confused over the choice of an attractive floor covering. (Ambrose, 4th century)

In all the talk about "Christianity," you seldom hear a statment like this:

In an age which offers a variety of escapes from the human condition, Christians are more than ever a sign of contradiction. They continue to believe that the search for God must begin with the acceptance of the human. They believe this because it is in the stable of humanity that God has come in search of us.

In the human experience of Jesus, God became available to us as the depth of human life. Thus, a Christian believes that the experience of ultimate meaning comes not from a leap out of the human condition, but a journey through its dark waters. (John Heagle)

The "battle for Christmas" goes back to the very recognition of the holiday (literally, in the beginning, "holy day." But how many Christians will keep it by going to church?) In this country, the Puritans considered it too "Roman" to observe. Clement Moore's poem, according to at least one historian, protrayed Santa as a harmless peddler, and did as much to tame the excesses of the celebrations that finally occurred, as Dickens did to drown it in treacle. It is supposed to be the day of the Lord, but Amos warns us that day is apocalyptic: "Woe to those who yearn for the day of the Lord! What will this day of the Lord mean for you? Darkness, and not light!" And the first public celebration, according to Luke, involved shepherds, not rich men; outlaws, not pillars of the community. The people naturally drawn to apocalyptic; not those of us with the leisure to read and write on blogs like this.

Leave the apocalyptic for tomorrow, then. One last mention of that, before the middle days begin; the rorate coelie, and John the Baptist, and God's good dream. Tomorrow. Back out on the dark waters.

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