You’ve probably never heard this, but this past year was unprecedented… Anyway, instead of the pleasantries and pontificating, let’s get on to what was interesting this past year.
Music My two favorite albums this year were Wild, Free by Acceptance and What’s New, Tomboy? by Damien Jurado. Both albums show significant departure of style from previous works. I miss the power pop of Acceptance, and some of Jurado’s other albums had more singles that I loved. Nevertheless, I found myself listening to these over and over. There are a number of stand out tracks on each album. For Acceptance, “Cold Air” is an obvious single, but “Wildfires” is where its at for my money.
On the Jurado album, “Arthur Aware” is my favorite offering:
From the Bidding prayer, the opening prayer in the liturgy of the Lessons & Carols:
Beloved in Christ, be it this Christmas Day our care and delight, to prepare ourselves to hear again the message of the angels, to find our life in the Lord of the Manger, let us go with one heart, with one mind, to the Maker of Heaven and Earth, and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, truly Man and truly God, and His holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life – one God in three persons, in a holy Christmas prayer, as the Lord bids you to come when He promised, “everyone who calls upon the Name of the Lord shall never be put to shame, and shall be saved.”
And I still love the words of Augustine at this time:
Man’s maker was made man,
that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast;
that the Bread might hunger,
the Fountain thirst,
the Light sleep,
the Way be tired on its journey;
that the Truth might be accused of false witness,
the Teacher be beaten with whips,
the Foundation be suspended on wood;
that Strength might grow weak;
that the Healer might be wounded;
that Life might die.
– Augustine of Hippo (Sermons 191.1)
Finally, I hope the words of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” encourage you during your holy reflections:
And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men
Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor does he sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men
You should take a few minutes this weekend and read one of the last stories Flannery O’Connor wrote, “Revelation.” You can download the PDF here, or read it in Everything That Rises Must Converge or her Collected Works. It isn’t a long read, but it is provocative.
Main character Ruby Turbin is both someone who is brusque, and is treated brusquely. The oft-quoted line from O’Connor is very true here: “All my stories are about the action of grace on a character who is not very willing to support it, but most people think of these stories as hard, hopeless and brutal.” As you read, consider a theme of pity: Ruby pities Mary Grace, but her final experience is an act of pity/mercy for her.
The castes of Ruby’s world are very offensive to our modern, PC-culture. But I find that reading “Revelation” is revelatory in a very personal way. Tolle lege!
Back in 2000 (twenty years ago!!), both John Piper and Doug Wilson were panelists at a Ligonier conference. Wilson made some remarks on rhetoric, satire, and taking the fight to the pagans. Strikingly – and from what I can tell, completely out of keeping with the rest of the kid-glove discussion – Piper challenges this at the 24:02 mark, “to balance it.”
Wilson published his book A Serrated Edge: A Brief Defense of Biblical Satire and Trinitarian Skylarking in 2003, just shortly after this. In the subsequent seventeen years, I would argue that this satire has not had the triumphant effect that may have been desired.
A few remarks in light of the video:
Distinctions Piper notes some important distinctions we must bear in mind. The first difference is between Christ as holy (in his divine nature & unfallen human nature) and my sinful inclinations (post-lapse humanity). Wilson had earlier noted how Jesus could skewer self-righteous Pharisees (many old Credenda readers or current Blog & Mablog subscribers will think of his “righteous horse laugh”). Piper’s point is valid, since Jesus possesses both the foresight and insight to know when such barbed rhetoric will be useful. It is precisely at this point where our sinful nature obscures us, making us liable to hurt more than help.