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  • The Angel Announcing Good News of Great Joy (Original image has been cropped) “To you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:1-14) That says it all. That’s the Christmas truth. It’s the only thing that needs to be said or really even can be said. And it’s the only thing I have to tell you tonight. Nothing more, nothing less. They are the angel’s words to the shepherds. “To you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” They are words of “good news of great joy for all people.” Tonight Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 9:2-7) is fulfilled. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined.” Tonight Gabriel’s words to Mary (Luke 1:26-38) come alive. They are flesh and blood real. Tonight “a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger” is our sign that “nothing will be impossible with God.” Every year I come to this...

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  • Two worship celebrations down and one more to go! Earlier today I celebrated a quiet midday Eucharist with two friends. We found ourselves bathed in the joy and challenge of Mary's canticle (my soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.) Then at 5 pm, I vested in my black robe for a very traditional liturgy of Carols and Candle Light Communion. It, too, was a joy - well attended and moving in a tender and loving way. There were lots of babies and small children sharing their little whoops and coos along with old timers and new friends from all walks of life.A particular joy for me was sharing the readings with Ted and Ethan. When I arrived in the Berkshires, Ethan was a little boy. Eight years later he is a young man - an excellent musician growing in stature and skill every month - and a loving presence of hope to me in these trying times. To have him read with his poppa was one of the treats I have come to cherish doing parish ministry. It was awesome...

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  • Head and Heart

    photo by h.kopp delaney / flickrIf Christmas is anything it is hope. I love Emily Dickinson--but hope is much, much more than even the feathered bird she envisioned. Unfortunately for many of us today hope is a bucket with a hole in it. I think this is certainly true of the United States today. My prayer is that we can all rediscover hope. The President... Mr. McConnell.. Mr. Boehner... Harry Reid...Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin--though that really is a stretch. Speaking of stretches maybe I also ought to include Ted Cruz. I would throw in immigrants, scared and frightened this holy season. Those without a job and many wasting away in some nursing home. I'd leave nobody out--which means I would also include all the churches where the poor preachers are hanging on by their fingernails hoping they can endure all the pleas for praise bands and blue-jeaned preachers that say "Dude" constantly.  But more I would corral up all the atheists and say they need, like the rest of us...

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  • Nikos

    [Pictured (from left) are: Bill Haase, rotarian; Donna Stalter, Rotary president; Rev. Robert McDowell, First United Methodist Church Senior Pastor; and Kristin Ankrom, Information and Referral executive director and rotarian.]Christmas came early for Sharing Hope, a county-wide program that seeks to eliminate local poverty. Initiated two years ago by Rev. Matthew Richardson of First Presbyterian Church in Lancaster, Sharing Hope brings people together from various socio-economic backgrounds.Participants come together twice a month at our church's Crossroads facility on W. Fair Avenue for a meal, group discussion, an educational piece regarding poverty, and small groups that offer peer support and encouragement. The program is helping people to move toward long-term financial stability."We utilize the Bridges Out of Poverty and Getting Ahead in a Just Getting By World curriculum to build relationships between the community members who want to be a part of the solution...

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  • Don't Eat Alone

    This story is not new, but then neither are the feelings it names. Thanks for making the journey with me this Advent. A Faraway Christmas by Milton Brasher-Cunningham A Faraway Christmas As we gather together on this Silent Night, To sing ‘round the tree in the soft candlelight, From a Faraway Christmas, from time that’s […]

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  • Carol What is Christmas without snow? We need it as bread of a cold climate, ermine to trim our sins with, a brief sleeve for charity’s scarecrow to wear its heart on, bold as a robin.” from Later Poems (1983) Hill Christmas They came over the snow to the bread’s purer snow, fumbled it in their huge hands, put their lips to it like beasts, stared into the dark chalice where the wine shone, felt it sharp on their tongue, shivered as at a sin remembered, and heard love cry momentarily in their hearts’ manger. They rose and went back to their poor holdings, naked in the bleak light of December. Their horizon contracted to the one small, stone-riddled field with its tree, where the weather was nailing the appalled body that had asked to be born. –from “Laboratories of the Spirit” (1975)

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  • Cathedral Films producer James K. Friedrich on the set of Child of Bethlehem (1940) My mother Elaine, pregnant with her firstborn child Marilyn, rode to Bethlehem on a donkey (in 1936 around Jerusalem, cars weren’t safe – they attracted gunfire). My father, the Rev. James K. Friedrich, made biblical films, including several on the birth of Jesus. In Holy Night (1949), I was a shepherd boy at the manger, with a stupefied look on my face from the blinding lights behind the camera. But no one could top my sister Martha, who played the baby Jesus in Child of Bethlehem (1940). You could say the Nativity story runs in our family. Even the Episcopal parish church of my childhood was a converted stable. The thing about Christmas, though, is that everyone gets to be in it. By virtue of the Incarnation, our human nature, our human stories, have become the place where God chooses to dwell. Meister Eckhart put this claim most vividly in the fourteenth century: “There is only one...

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  • Head and Heart

    I really can't say Christmas better than this. "On one night of all nights Christ did it, coming down the stairs of heaven with a child in his arms."                                                     --Paul Scherer, Love is a SpendthriftPrayer"Almighty God, who now in thy Son art ever ready to bestow upon us thy very life, give us grace so to receive thy gift that we may bear in our own hearts that immemorial pain which is thy yearning for all humankind. Through him that is born Jesus, the Christ and our Lord. Amen."--Paul Scherer--RogerLovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com

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  • Reflectionary

    It was a cold winter’s afternoon, one of those days when you can hardly believe it could be much darker and still be called daytime. Joe and Mary left Pittsburgh on the Greyhound bus that morning. They were hoping to get to Baltimore, where his family came from, but the bus was late, and they missed […]

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  • I am disappointed whenever a student of mine includes in an assignment the profoundly mistaken notion that the Bible we have today is “a translation of a translation of a translation.” But it is all the more disappointing that we find the same idea in Kurt Eichenwald’s Newsweek article which is titled “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin.” It is thus ironic that an article about how frequently the Bible is misunderstood gets such basic things wrong.It does make some useful and accurate points, however. Here’s a quote from the article:The Bible is not the book many American fundamentalists and political opportunists think it is, or more precisely, what they want it to be. Their lack of knowledge about the Bible is well established. A Pew Research poll in 2010 found that evangelicals ranked only a smidgen higher than atheists in familiarity with the New Testament and Jesus’s teachings. “Americans revere the Bible—but, by and large, they don’t...

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  • Originally posted on A Peculiar Prophet: We declare to you what was from the beginning, that we have heard, what we’ve seen with their eyes, what we have looked at in touched with our hands, concerning the word of life – this life was revealed, and we’ve seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the father and was revealed to us – we declare to you what we’ve seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the father  and with his son Jesus Christ.” (First John 1:1 – 3) Martin Luther (in his Larger Catechism, 1529) said he felt sad for those who follow faiths other than Christianity.  Even though they might worship the one, true God, they had no way of knowing God’s attitude toward them. “They cannot be confident of his love and blessing,…” because… View original 557 more words

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  • We declare to you what was from the beginning, that we have heard, what we’ve seen with their eyes, what we have looked at in touched with our hands, concerning the word of life – this life was revealed, and we’ve seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the father and was revealed to us – we declare to you what we’ve seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the father  and with his son Jesus Christ.” (First John 1:1 – 3) Martin Luther (in his Larger Catechism, 1529) said he felt sad for those who follow faiths other than Christianity.  Even though they might worship the one, true God, they had no way of knowing God’s attitude toward them. “They cannot be confident of his love and blessing,…” because they do not know God Incarnate. The Incarnation not only tells us who God is but also God’s intentions for us. I asked a distinguished new church planter what...

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  • Tamed Cynic

    It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted any money quotes from DBH’s The Beauty of the Infinite. Since Christmas is a time not only for exhausted credit limits and maxed out parents but also a time for sloppy Christian thinking, in which it’s often implied, if not downright said, that God taking flesh in Jesus indicates a change in God’s identity or disposition, I thought I’d post this to mark the holy day. Of course, were it true that God changes at all or in the incarnation specifically, we’d all be committing idolatry on Christmas. For a god who changes is, by definition, not God. Take it from DBH. “The Church Fathers were anxious to reject any suggestion that God becoming human was an act of divine self-alienation, a transformation into a reality essentially contrary to what God eternally is: for this would mean that God must negate himself as God to become human- which would be to say God did not become human. Hence, a strict...

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  • This episode focuses in flashbacks of Ana-Lucia’s life, as a police officer who is currently off work because of something that happened. The “old habits” part of the title is immediately seen as Ana holds everyone at gunpoint, after she shoots Shannon and then Sayid charges her with a gun. She has Sayid tied up. Eventually, when the other tailies ask her what her plan is, Sayid says she has no plan – she only has her guilt, and her gun. Ana asks for ammunition and clothing, planning to go off and live alone. Eventually everyone else refuses to be part of what she is doing, leaving to find the camp.We learn that Ana’s mother was her captain. After whatever the incident was, Ana deals with a domestic disturbance by drawing her gun. Later we learn that someine tried to kill her, shooting 4 hollow point bullets through her vest. When they catch the guy, Ana says it wasn’t him.In the hatch, Locke is doing a crossword puzzle, filling in Gilgamesh as the...

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  • Larry Patten

    Hospice ADLs:  My Adventures of Daily Learning.101 Her child was stillborn. It’s a year since the death. His grandmother died from dementia. It’s a year since the death. Their teen was killed in a traffic accident. It’s a year since the death. Children gather to honor a father’s birthday. It’s a year since the death. She lays a Christmas wreath on her husband’s grave. It’s a year since the death. Robin Williams: like a “dear friend,” or just another celebrity death in the news? Which death is the most difficult to death with? Which person, a year after a loved one has died, should be in “better shape” and “moved on” in their life? How would you rank them? (Should you rank them?) Unfortunately I think many folks—including me—rank the severity of another’s person’s situation. We do that with most of life: comparing jobs, homes, our child’s successes, the cars we drive, the vacations we take, and so forth. Advertising relentlessly reinforces comparison, from the new solar...

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  • Journeys Home

    A popular post from 2012: http://paulstroble.blogspot.com/2012/12/santa-took-train.html

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  • And what about the kid who stayed behind while the rest of the shepherds took off for Bethlehem? They had to leave some poor soul back in the hills to tend the sheep. Maybe it was the rookie--the last one hired. I bet it was the kid. I mean, as compelling as all those luminescent heavenly robes and all that divine music must have been, somebody had to stay back with the sheep and mind the store.Every last one of them must have wanted to go to Bethlehem. After all, angels didn't mince words--it was the Messiah. We're not talking about some media star, but the savior of the world, the Messiah, the one all the books are written about--that Messiah.  Someone had to stay with the sheep that night, probably the guy who'd came on the job just this December.So there he sat alone, that incredible star's intensity never waning. There he sat, listening to the sheep rustle and some occasional braying. Nothing else out of the ordinary that night, I bet. Peace on earth...

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  • The Rev'd. Edmund Hamilton Sears was a Unitarian pastor who lived in the first half of the nineteenth century. He was born in the Berkshires on April 6, 1810 and during his ordained life served congregations on Cape Cod and in Central Massachusetts. He wrote “It Came Upon The Midnight Clear” in 1849.It came upon the midnight clear, That glorious song of old; From angels bending near the earth To touch their harps of gold. “Peace on the earth good will to men, From heaven’s all gracious King!” The world in solemn stillness lay To hear the angels sing. Sears suffered from depression, or as it was called in the middle of the nineteenth-century, “melancholy.” At the time he wrote this hymn the world was a mess: Europewas at war with itself, and the United States was at war with Mexico. Of course that was nothing compared to the deep national divide over slavery and the Civil War that was lurking over the horizon. Sears was feeling that the world was “dark and full of sin and...

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  • Allan R. Bevere

    The basis for this tremendous annual burst of gift buying and parties and near hysteria is a quiet event that Christians believe actually happened a long time ago. You can say that in all societies there has always been a midwinter festival and that many of the trappings of our Christmas are almost violently pagan. But you come back to the central fact of the day and quietness of Christmas morning-- the birth of God on earth.It leaves you only three ways of accepting Christmas.One is cynically, as a time to make money or endorse the making of it.One is graciously, the appropriate attitude for non-Christians, who wish their fellow citizens all the joys to which their beliefs entitle them.And the third, of course, is reverently. If this is the anniversary of the appearance of the Lord of the universe in the form of a helpless babe, then it is a very important day.It's a startling idea, of course. My guess is that the whole story that a virgin was selected by God to bear His Son as...

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  • Lottie Moon was easy to miss in a crowd: she was only 4'3" tall and very slender. But, her personality and passion for missions and the rights of women to be missionaries are not easy to miss when we look backward across the annals of history. She was born to a slave holding family in Virginia and lived on the 1,500 acre plantation for the early parts of her life. She was the third of seven children and showed an aptitude toward languages and education. As she grew older, she had the opportunity to continue her education at an all-female school in Charlottesville, Virginia, because her family placed a very high value upon education because of its ability to promote the affluence and influence of those who obtain it. Lottie obtained it well and soon received a Master of Arts degree--one of only a few given out to women in the south in the middle of the 19th century.Her faith had always been a cultural thing when she was growing up but while she was in school...

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  • "Help us, O God, to rightly remember the birth of Jesus that we may share in the songs of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship of the magi. Close the door of hate and open the door of love around the world. Let kindness come with every gift and good desire with every greeting. Deliver us from evil by the blessing that Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clear hearts. May the Christmas morning make us happy to be your children, and the Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven for Jesus' sake. Amen." - Robert Louis Stevenson(HT to Brian McLaren)

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  • It is Christmas Eve.  For me and my family the day will punctuated by participation in our congregation's Christmas Eve service. I of course will have a part to play in the service -- being that I am the preacher.  In doing this I will do my part in affirming the "religio" part of the Christmas event.  But as we all know Christmas isn't just a religious holy day, it is also a secular holiday.  Apparently Bill O'Reilly has declared the War on Christmas to be over -- but from all signs it appears that the secular side of the coin may have the upper hand.  White Christmas and Rudolph more likely will grab our attention than the Babe lying in the Manger.  But if that is so, especially for those who have some connection to the faith, well we have only ourselves to blame.  In any case, Martin Marty offers us a postmortem on the post-War on Christmas.  Take a read!  And of course, Have a Merry Christmas!  ***************** Post-War on...

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  • John Dickson writes in response to Raphael Lataster’s recent article:As his former lecturer, I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that Raphael’s 1000 words on Jesus would not receive a pass mark in any history class I can imagine, even if it were meant to be a mere “personal reflection” on contemporary Jesus scholarship. Lataster is a better student than his piece suggests. But the rigours of academia in general – and the discipline of history, in particular – demand that his numerous misrepresentations of scholarship would leave a marker little choice but to fail him.Click through to read the whole thing.

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  • Doug's Blog

    These are my top 10 posts from the past year (posting today obviously assumes I won’t be writing a blockbuster in the coming week). If you missed one of them the first time, please have a look now. Links are provided in blue. 1. Holy Saturday (This was a re-post from the previous year.) 2. What we […] The post Top 10 posts of 2014 appeared first on Doug's Blog.

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