Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Other Side of Humbug

We need Christmas to inspire real faith as well as joy. Real faith that embraces real truth. The real truth about Christmas establishes fundamental qualities of real Christian religion and salvation.
C.S. Lewis objects to overly simplistic worldviews, including a pseudo-Christian one he calls, “Christianity-and-water, the view which simply says there is a good God in Heaven and everything is all right – leaving out all the difficult and terrible doctrines about sin and hell and the devil, and the redemption.” This is a dangerous overtone to popular Christmas beliefs that promote a playful idea of God’s love and the Christ-child without substance. Not unlike the make-believe Santa Claus.
Lewis explains in his book Mere Christianity, book 2, chapter 2, “The Invasion”:
“It is no good asking for a simple religion. After all, real things are not simple. They look simple, but they are not. The table I am sitting at looks simple: but ask a scientist to tell you what it is really made of – all about the atoms and how the light waves rebound from them and hit my eye and what they do to the optic nerve and what it does to my brain – and, of course, you find that what we call ‘seeing a table’ lands you in mysteries and complications which you can hardly get to the end of. A child saying a child’s prayer looks simple and if you are content to stop there well and good. But if you are not – and the modern world usually is not – if you want to go on and ask what is really happening – then you must be prepared for something difficult. If we ask for something more than simplicity, it is silly then to complain that the something more is not simple.
“Very often, however, this silly procedure is adopted by people who are not silly, but who, consciously or unconsciously, want to destroy Christianity. Such people put up a version of Christianity suitable for a child of six and make that the object of their attack. When you try to explain the Christian doctrine as it is really held by an instructed adult, they then complain that you are making their heads turn round and that it is all too complicated and that if there really were a God they are sure He would have made religion simple, because simplicity is so beautiful, etc. You must be on your guard against these people for they will change their ground every minute and only waste your time. Notice, too, their idea of God ‘making religion simple’: as if ‘religion’ were something God invented, and not His statement to us of certain quite unalterable facts about His own nature.”
Since Dickens wrote Scrooge proclaiming “Humbug!” to Christmas in a time when the depth of the Birth was not so disputed, when good will included God’s good will to a mankind that desperately needed that good will… since then, moderns have lost that important bit and think humbug is one sided – a silly objection to a happy celebration of happiness. The other side of humbug is setting aside the essence of the Christmas story, the Biblical one, as archaic and useless, as if modern mankind has ever crafted a more useful Truth.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

The Mediator/King is Our Creator

Another nuance to the incarnation story for our advent season: our Mediator/King is the Creator.
In the New Testament book of Hebrews the author takes time to compare Jesus Christ with other biblical mediators including angels, Moses and Aaron. At the close of the first chapter, as he writes about the Son and the angels, he quotes from the Old Testament (the Hebrew scripture) in verses 7-14 (CSB):

And about the angels he says:
He makes his angels winds,
and his servants a fiery flame,
but to the Son:
Your throne, O God,
is forever and ever,
and the scepter of your kingdom
is a scepter of justice.
You have loved righteousness
and hated lawlessness;
this is why God, your God,
has anointed you
with the oil of joy
beyond your companions.
10 And:
In the beginning, Lord,
you established the earth,
and the heavens are the works of your hands;
11 they will perish, but you remain.
They will all wear out like clothing;
12 you will roll them up like a cloak,
and they will be changed like clothing.
But you are the same,
and your years will never end.
13 Now to which of the angels has he ever said:
Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies your footstool?
14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve those who are going to inherit salvation?

Here we learn that angels are God’s ministers to help us. Quotes in this section are from Psalm 45 and Psalm 102, written centuries before the Birth and both considered to be messianic by the Jews. And we learn that the Messiah was identified as Creator long before Christian authors had the chance to teach us this. The Babe worshipped as King in the manger is the Intelligent Designer as well.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Collecchio Italy 1945

Four days before the Axis surrendered in Italy in 1945, the Força Expedicionária Brasileira (Brazilian Expeditionary Division) made a push for the Allies in the Taro river area near Collecchio.

A swirling breeze lifted scattered leaves into a shrinking spiral against a cloud bedecked blue sky that spoke of ascending hope. Sargento Zenóbio da Silva, 6th Regimental Combat Team, 1st Division closed his eyes against the momentary grit, opened again to the ocular lens, resumed his breathing, tightened his tension on the trigger and waited.

Hidden in a young orchard to the west, scanning through his binoculars Oberleutnant Frederich Schmidt, 242nd Sturmgeschütz Battalion, 90th Panzergrenadier Division saw a flicker of breeze-born leaves rise above the stone wall lining the street exiting the town. The gaps in the stones would make excellent sniper hides.

Stabsgefreiter Oskar Hinkel, knelt at the Fiume Taro’s edge, filled their canteens and returned, distracted by the glory of the mid-day sun, walking upright through the trees.

“Get down, Hinkel, get down! The sun is bright and betrays us,” hissed the Oberleutnant. Hinkel instantly dropped, scattering the canteens as he hit the grassy earth.

Studying the orchard eight hundred yards across the river, Sgt Zenóbio thought he saw movement in the trees while their branches briefly bobbed up and down as if waving to him. There! A semicircle by a tree trunk betrayed a partial silhouette of an enemy’s helmet. His rifle cracked like a splitting rock and the telltale spray glinting in the sun confirmed another casualty. Oddly, though, it had no color as if the light stole it away.

Schmidt called in the coordinates at that edge of the town. Da Silva quickly withdrew under cover knowing artillery would soon obliterate his position.  StGefr Hinkel picked up the canteens and crawled back.

When he reached their position Hinkel held up the canteens and over the roar of exploding artillery exclaimed, “Heir Oberleutnant! He’s killed your canteen!”

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Onto The Frozen Lake

Onto The Frozen Lake

Eight years old I’m ever ready for adventure
Dad takes the fam out onto a frozen lake
Not just any lake, Lake of the Woods, Oregon
One of God’s jewels of nature, a sapphire
Mounted in the malachite forest
And azurite of a cloudless sky

In the deep dark days of chicken-feather snow
The lake didn’t just freeze but hibernated
Under a layer of downy flakes of such
Even depth, it looked one of Gram’s quilts
Stippled with the stitches of tiny feet
Wondering about in search of food

Now winter has been taking a break and
The sun bares its chest to dip into icy waters
A day or two before out in the middle of the lake
It melted a pool to swim in and the sleepy
Kokanee wondered why snow mosquitos never
Landed on the still surface of the dense water

Then last night ice trolls from the north pole
Descended on the lake for a long drink of Cascade
Waters leaving as mysteriously as they came
The lake pool was now a looking glass of the
Purest emerald green ice with a flawless
Reflection of all the surrounding ridges and pines

Eight years old with hockey skates laced up tight
Gliding by the awkward strokes of a novice
Yes it feels like flying while Mom watches from
Her folding chair ready with hot chocolate
And my older sister carves her own patterns
Dad is wary but sees no cracks, smiles all around