The excerpt from Wendell Berry’s latest book was for me a Christmas gift to savor. It stirred memories and reflections about grandfathers. As Berry suggests, the grandparents of people my age lived in a different world from ours. They never boarded an airplane or booted up a computer. Before the days of joint replacement surgery, many were partially crippled and lived with pain.
I am probably not the only preacher who cringes every Good Friday as I read John’s passion narrative, with its relentless negative references to “the Jews.” As I read those passages I think of my friends Joe and Tony, Jews who are married to Presbyterians and are sitting in the pews. I want to interrupt the reading and say, “This doesn’t really refer to all Jews.
My neighborhood offers Christmas shoppers lots of help: the counters are full, and the windows have been elegantly displaying gift suggestions since mid-October. I am led to ponder the original gift that generated this phenomenon of Christmas—a small, quiet, intimate gift of love in the birth of a child.
It’s my favorite time of year—though I never heard the word Advent until my mother brought home an Advent calendar one year. Presbyterians didn’t observe Advent in western Pennsylvania in those days. I learned about it from the brightly decorated calendar with its tiny paper doors, one for each December day until Christmas.
I was fascinated to learn that New Testament scholar Barbara Rossing was first drawn to studying the book of Revelation because of her interest in environmental issues. Many of us are not much interested in apocalyptic literature, especially not as represented by the Left Behind novels.
When Muslims in Kennesaw, Georgia, applied to open a mosque in a strip mall, the city council voted 4-1 against it. Protesters, many of them from out of town, said the Muslims would try to impose Shari‘a law, and some claimed the mosque would serve as an outpost for the radical Islamic State. The Muslims said they had been living peaceably in the community for years and have condemned extremist Muslims. The attorney representing the Muslim group noted that a similar building request had recently been approved for a Pentecostal group. Threat of a lawsuit turned the Kennesaw city council around: the council members who voted against the mosque withdrew their votes (PBS Newshour, December 20).