Sunday, December 31, 2023

Before You Go: The Year In Review (Sort Of)

Is that a threat? Or a curse? 

Just to ruin everyone's evening, Twitter brings us the 21st century version of L’Histoire d’O, with the aid of modern pharmaceuticals. Ain’t capitalism grand? I’ll be apologizing for that well into the new year, but that’s as grotesque an ad as I’ve ever seen. And misery loves company. Right? Well, at least we know who they are. What’s on the internet is forever, so we can always get back to them. Speaking of which: (Trust me, it's worth it.)

It also makes this true for yet another year:
Same reason people try to argue the law with real lawyers on Twitter, I guess.

“A President Who Sells Nuclear Secrets…”

Not to mention raises some interesting questions: Interesting, indeed (Quasi-) legal Twitter will be all over the idea this is an “Easter egg” for the MAL case. When they finally get around to noticing this as an “Easter Egg.”

This is a lot more fun than that:
It’s not dispositive, but it does raise the question of which position is the real Trump position? The Courts won’t dispose of Trump in that statement, but it weakens his position almost to a nullity. Not that he had a strong position to begin with. That’s more likely the argument that wins the case. But anything you can do to undermine Trump’s position, is good for your side. (The Court may even take this as the “out” to sidestep the immunity question and simply toss Trump’s claims on their lack of merit. Either way is fine (Presidents do not earn a “Get Out Of Jail Free Card”), but the more deliberate way is to be preferred. It’s when the Supremes junk deliberation in favor of outcome (the modus operandi of the Roberts Court), that the judiciary goes to shit.)

First Sunday of Christmas 2023

 Isaiah 61:10-62:3 61:10 

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

 61:11 For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.

 62:1 For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch. 

 62:2 The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give. 

 62:3 You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

Psalm 148 

148:1 Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights!

 148:2 Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host! 

 148:3 Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars! 

 148:4 Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! 

 148:5 Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created. 

 148:6 He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed. 

 148:7 Praise the LORD from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, 

 148:8 fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!

 148:9 Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!  

148:10 Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds! 

 148:11 Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!

 148:12 Young men and women alike, old and young together! 

 148:13 Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven. 

 148:14 He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the LORD! 

Galatians 4:4-7 

4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 

 4:5 in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. 

 4:6 And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!"

 4:7 So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

Luke 2:22-40 2:22 

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 

 2:23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord"),  

2:24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons." 

 2:25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him.

 2:26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Messiah.

 2:27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law,  

2:28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

 2:29 "Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; 

 2:30 for my eyes have seen your salvation,

 2:31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

 2:32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel."

 2:33 And the child's father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 

 2:34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, "This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 

 2:35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed--and a sword will pierce your own soul too." 

 2:36 There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 

 2:37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 

 2:38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

 2:39 When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 

 2:40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Looking backwards with Matthew we see the footprints of his Magi, and the reason we came to call them the “Three Kings.” Not exactly three kings from Orient are, but there’s a reason the church calls the 12th day of Xmas and the season between Xmas and Lent, Epiphany.

The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give.

Not exactly three kings from Orient are, but there’s the reason the church calls the 12th day of Xmas and the season between Xmas and Lent, Epiphany. Well, and the Psalm:

148:11 Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!

 148:12 Young men and women alike, old and young together! 

 148:13 Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven. 
Arguably Luke’s Gloria is in the opening of the Psalm, too. At least that’s why these verses are here for this Sunday.  I don’t think they have to be read this way, but I think Matthew and Luke had them in mind. And it useful to let them elucidate our reading of Matthew and Luke.

Matthew makes the Magi the highlight of his story, and the central figures who bring Herod into the story, prove the importance of this child. Why else is Herod so upset? Why else does the Holy Family flee to Egypt? And who is the pivot upon which Matthew’s nativity turns, but the Magi who reveal Israel’s vindication and are the first to acknowledge God’s glory in the birth of the Messiah?

Compared to Luke’s complex tale of the family of John the Baptist, the annunciation to Mary, journey to Bethlehem, the visit of the shepherds, and finally the presentation in the Temple, and all the songs between; Matthew’s story is succinct. The angel visits Joseph; the child is born; the Magi arrive…and things start happening.

Luke’s Roman census forces the family to travel while Mary is pregnant. In Matthew, Herod forces the family to move to Egypt. Political power responds to the birth of the Christchild, which you would expect in an age where political power was wielded from the blade of a sword.⚔️ If kings are going to praise you, other kings are going to be concerned.

But Matthew ends his nativity off stage, with the Holy Family fleeing to Egypt then returning to Nazareth when Herod dies. Mostly this last detail serves to explain why Jesus was a Nazarene born in Bethlehem. Luke ends his birth story with the Holy Family together for the last time: and despite all they’ve been through so far, they are amazed at what is being said about their son. He also ends it with two new characters , and a fourth song.

We’ve had the old couple, too old to have a child, find out they’re going to have a child; the young woman who has never known a man, but is herself pregnant; the shepherds who are first to get the message (Matthew’s Magi, who get the message from the stars, not angels). And now, just before we leave Jesus to “grow in wisdom,” we have the wisdom of Simeon and Anna to put a capstone on this story that is all about revelation. And the final reversal of Luke’s nativity, as two elderly people find their patience rewarded.

Funny how we never get away from epiphany in this story. Maybe that’s why it never wears out.

Simeon names the very theme of Luke’s gospel and Acts of the Apostles: 

 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.

His message to Mary is purely foreshadowing within Luke’s narrative, just like the three gifts of the Magi prefigure the crucifixion (emphasizing that the baby is human, and will be murdered by the state eventually). And Anna becomes the Christ’s first disciple, which is another theme of Luke’s gospel, which really began with the annunciation. That theme? The equality of women and men in the basileia tou theou. It’s Mary who sings of revolution and reversal, and Anna who explains to everyone what old Simeon is on about.

Funny how we never get away from epiphanies in this story.  How epiphanies come from reversals and revelations from songs and truths are told in metaphors. And how if such is the word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

Good words, but in which lectionary?

Revised Common Lectionary  

Saturday, December 30, 2023

When Reality Trumps (!) Parody

NYTimes Pitchbot. NOT the NYTimes Pitchbot. 

But authentically the NYTimes. So good, indeed.

Narratives And Stories

That is a good prΓ©cis of Trump’s “strategy.” But Trump never had a snowball’s chance in hell of presenting that strategy in a courtroom. He will argue, outside the courtroom, that he’s being denied his First Amendment rights. But courts are not town halls or candidate debates. They are hermetically sealed to only consider facts relevant to the charges, which includes facts presented in defense. And whether or not there were errors in the 2020 Presidential election (but no other race on the ballot, anywhere in the country?), Trump did not use his lawful authority to investigate those alleged errors.

The only question in court is: did the things he did constitute crimes, as defined by law?

The DOJ’s Motion in Limine is a perfectly ordinary practice in criminal court. Smith is not “obliterating” Trump’s “strategy.” Smith is simply trying a criminal case. 

Trump is eating the pieces.

Maybe we should stop letting Trump frame this narrative?

I wanted to add I don’t know of any American politician convicted of crimes and and sent jail who ever said: “It’s a fair cop. I done it all.” No, they insist on their innocence, at least as long as they are in the public eye. I really don’t understand why Trump, as a former president, can’t go to jail for his crimes, even as he rails against the process. Holding Trump accountable to the law doesn’t undermine the Presidency, it upholds the rule of law and the concept of a government of law, not of persons.
So, no, I don’t think Biden will make Gerald Ford’s mistake (which, contrary to Ted Kennedy’s acceptance of it, only served to comfort the powerful and afflict the powerless. Two-tiered justice, indeed.) In the French manner, corrupt leadership needs to be punished so the state can thrive.

Let justice be done though the heavens fall. Because they won’t. Trump is not the anointed of God.
Despite whatever The Economist (!) might find.

"The Greatest Economy On Earth:" A Timely Reminder from Christmas Eve 2020

"Christmas a humbug, Uncle? You don't mean that, I am sure." "I do," said Scrooge. "Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You're poor enough."

"Come, then," returned the nephew gaily. "What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You're rich enough."

Scrooge, having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said, "Bah!" again; and followed it up with "Humbug!"

"Don't be cross, uncle!" said the nephew. 

"What else can I be," returned the uncle, "when I live in such a world of fools as this? Merry Christmas! Out upon merry Christmas! What's Christmas-time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, and not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books, and having every item in 'em through a round dozen of months presented dead against you? If I could work my will," said Scrooge indignantly, "every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!"

I'm going to spend the day re-reading Dickens.  Something of a Christmas Eve tradition for me.  It's not like I have anything important to do.

In case you're wondering, this is what else Trump is doing today:
And apparently he's through playing golf. Good to know he's on top of the vital issues that concern most Americans. Especially the ones who are poor enough, after this hellacious year. Trump beat him to it?


Sixth Day of Christmas 2023

The threefold terror of love; a fallen flare
Through the hollow of an ear;
Wings beating about the room;
The terror of all terrors that I bore
The Heavens in my womb.

Had I not found content among the shows
Every common woman knows,
Chimney corner, garden walk,
Or rocky cistern where we tread the clothes
And gather all the talk?

What is this flesh I purchased with my pains,
This fallen star my milk sustains,
This love that makes my heart’s blood stop
Or strikes a sudden chill into my bones
And bids my hair stand up?

--W.B. Yeats