Christmas
Christmas in July: In Celebration of the Copycats and Original Cover of All Things

Christmas in July: In Celebration of the Copycats and Original Cover of All Things

When you watch a movie that’s a re-make of an older movie (which was also probably adapted from a musical adaptation of a novel) – do you ever mope and wonder if anything out there is original anymore? Is there really nothing new under the sun? I like to be cynical and sleep bitterly in this camp from time to time, sure that our collective imaginations are being mercilessly wiped away by some Never Ending Story-esque of a Nothing. “This is all that’s left of Fantasia!?” But then I consider the very concept of originality and I start to chuckle…

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The Burning Babe – Robert Southwell (1595)

Burning_Low_-_Adventure_Time_005_1_0006As I in hoary winter’s night stood shivering in the snow,
Surprised I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow;
And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,
A pretty babe all burning bright did in the air appear;
Who, scorched with excessive heat, such floods of tears did shed
As though his floods should quench his flames which with his tears were fed.
Alas, quoth he, but newly born in fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel my fire but I !
My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns,
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns;
The fuel justice layeth on, and mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought are men’s defiled souls,
For which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath to wash them in my blood.
With this he vanished out of sight and swiftly shrunk away,
And straight I called unto mind that it was Christmas day.

Another Week Ends: Reciprocal Favors, Atheism’s Biggest Challenge, The New Yorker Profiles Francis I, Declining WASPs, Social Media Christmas Cards, Ascendant Meritocracies, and Simon Pegg

Another Week Ends: Reciprocal Favors, Atheism’s Biggest Challenge, The New Yorker Profiles Francis I, Declining WASPs, Social Media Christmas Cards, Ascendant Meritocracies, and Simon Pegg

1. New Year’s Resolutions: we’ve said about all we’re going to say concerning a yearly ritual of personal bootstrapping, but some great articles this year from Tullian Tchividjian (on the spiritual side of things), from Woody Guthrie’s Sermon-on-the-Mount-standard life guide (pictured below), and finally, a wonderful Quartz article about how to make resolutions you can keep. After long study, they basically reverse-engineered the historically Christian approach to behavior change, from one perspective:

Losing weight, drinking less alcohol, and spending more time with family tend to top New Year’s resolution lists—but they are also among the most commonly broken resolutions. Although about 40% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, only 8% of us manage to achieve these goals…

I have…

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From The New Yorker

sidney-harris-now-we-ll-need-a-sitter-for-new-year-s-eve-new-yorker-cartoon

Hopelessly Devoted: Emmanuel Ransoms Captive Israel

Hopelessly Devoted: Emmanuel Ransoms Captive Israel

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Who is Jesus? Simple: Jesus Christ is Emmanuel, God with us. If Jesus Christ is Emmanuel, God with us, then where are we?

According to the portion of lyrics I just read to the Christmas Hymn “O come, O come Emmanuel” we are in captivity, in lonely exile, in mourning. And it’s true. Apart form what Christ has done for us we are held captive and in exile. We are in chains, imprisoned; we are in a…

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Another Year Ends: Best Teacher Ever, Instagram Envy, Tyson on Kierkegaard, Elf Code Origins, Johnny Football, DFW Cobainification, Atheist Gospel

Another Year Ends: Best Teacher Ever, Instagram Envy, Tyson on Kierkegaard, Elf Code Origins, Johnny Football, DFW Cobainification, Atheist Gospel

1. Grab your kleenex, cause here comes the one way love, ht JZ:

2. The NY Times lobbed one straight over the plate last Sunday with “The Agony of Instagram,” a look into “an online culture where the ethic is impress, rather than confess.” It’s fairly one-sided of course–Instagram is just as much an outlet for inspiration and creativity as it is identity curation and law–but still, a few of the soundbites are just too tempting not to reproduce:

For many urban creative professionals these days, it’s not unusual to scroll through one’s Instagram feed and feel suffocated by fabulousness: There’s…

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Andy Griffith Spends Christmas in Prison

If you’re having trouble getting in the spirit, take 20 minutes and watch this delightful little parable of Law and Grace (and changes of heart) on Christmas, ht TS:

Bridging the Empathy Gap: Pap’s New Judge and a Man from Nazareth

Bridging the Empathy Gap: Pap’s New Judge and a Man from Nazareth

This piece on empathy comes from our friend (the inimitable) Michael Bender:

Grace in the face of alcoholism is not a new theme on Mbird, but I thought I might add to the literature with a brief anecdote from Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. At the beginning of the novel, Huckleberry spends some time describing his father, and Pap’s tendencies towards whiskey and debauchery. Huckleberry describes his father’s typical life cycle:

Pap took [some money] and got drunk and went a-blowing around and cussing and whooping and carrying on; and he kept it up all over town, with a tin pan,…

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A Very Merry Viral Christmas: 2013’s Six Best Christmas Vids

A Very Merry Viral Christmas: 2013’s Six Best Christmas Vids

Something about the holidays brings out the very best (and worst?) in the creative juices, and this year in particular is inspiring a very creative mix of yule-tide youtube videos to warm the heart on cold winter nights. Here’s my compilation of the 6 theologically noteworthy Christmas videos of the 2013 holiday season (so far!):

This little ditty out of Chicago makes me chuckle, even if it does feel a little staged. A piano that makes with you music regardless of age, skill, genre, or life situation.

 

I hope I can check in with this family in a decade to see if…

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Descending Theology: The Nativity – Mary Karr

Descending Theology: The Nativity – Mary Karr

She bore no more than other women bore,
but in her belly’s globe that desert night the earth’s
full burden swayed.
Maybe she held it in her clasped hands as expecting women often do
or monks in prayer. Maybe at the womb’s first clutch
she briefly felt that star shine

as a blade point, but uttered no curses.
Then in the stable she writhed and heard
beasts stomp in their stalls,
their tails sweeping side to side
and between contractions, her skin flinched
with the thousand animal itches that plague
a standing beast’s sleep.

But in the muted womb-world with its glutinous liquid,
the child knew nothing
of its own fire. (No one ever does,…

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Another Week Ends: Francis I and God as Love, Llewyn Davis Is a Failure, More Brene Brown, Questing Against the Wind, the Horror of Breakfast Meetings, Christmas Is Alright, and the Death of the Funeral

Another Week Ends: Francis I and God as Love, Llewyn Davis Is a Failure, More Brene Brown, Questing Against the Wind, the Horror of Breakfast Meetings, Christmas Is Alright, and the Death of the Funeral

1. Reflections on Pope Francis continue, with the increasingly-familiar tension between acclamation for the Pope’s compassionate, grace-focused tone and suspicion, from another camp, concerning his lack of doctrinal rigidity. Enter Rod Dreher, the prolific ex-Catholic writer, who published a while back in Time an essay saying the following:

I fear his merciful words will be received not as love but license. The “spirit of Pope Francis” will replace the “spirit of Vatican II” as the rationalization people will use to ignore the difficult teachings of the faith. If so, this Pope will turn out to be like his predecessor John XXIII: a dear man,…

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The Secret Santa-Sower and the Heroin Addict

The Secret Santa-Sower and the Heroin Addict

I lead a Thursday morning Bible study. Recently, we have been working our way through the parables (often using the backdrop of Robert Capon’s amazing Kingdom, Grace, Judgment), and this morning, it was time for The Parable of the Sower. You can imagine how happy I was when fellow Mbirder, Ethan Magness posted this clip on Facebook last night, understating, “it’s a nice portrait of imputation.”

The Secret Santa is a perfect analogy for the Sower, who scatters seed willy-nilly across all types of ground. As a group this morning, we were struck by just how strange it is that the…

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A Quick Calvin and Hobbes

calvin-hobbes-christmas

As good a time as any to link to my (second) favorite Xmas-related C&H strip of all time, “Calvin Dreams of a Gracious Santa”. Those who received our year-end appeal/newsletter will be familiar with number one.

In Search of Lost Time: Reflections on Memory and the First Christmas

In Search of Lost Time: Reflections on Memory and the First Christmas

Memory and imagination work to give us experiences outside of the present moment, whether through recorded sensations (the low lights and taste of dinner yesterday), images of things past (the 2013 State of the Union on Youtube), or stringings-together of bare words: “at that time a decree went out…” We’re indisputably determined by our own pasts and our relation to them, and Christianity makes the distinct claim that we’re fundamentally determined by another’s past, a story we remember at this particular time of year. Though our past(s) – and our relations to the past, are opaque, I think one of…

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Top 10 Things I Wanted to Blog about in 2013 but Was Too Lazy

Top 10 Things I Wanted to Blog about in 2013 but Was Too Lazy

I happily come across more pieces of culture than I know what to do with each year (or month, or week, or day) that speak to the Christian Message. This is a good problem to have–it means a blog like Mbird or a preacher like me will never run out of new material. Not using it can feel burdensome though, because I want to talk about it all—and sometimes I just procrastinate and never get around to it. I lumped some highlights together here in truncated form, keeping this list limited to the top ten (maybe 11) things I wanted to…

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