Allelulia! Humbug!

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boxOn NPR’s All Things Considered, 2 December 2004 (broadcast in Australia on ABC Newsradio), John Boykin asked, “Can the ‘Christ’ Be Kept in Christmas?” For years, the retail aspects of Christmas have overwhelmed its religious significance. Boykin shares this frustration and proposes a radical solution. He proposes making Christmas into a gift-giving secular holiday, and moving what little of Christ is left over to Easter.

I agree with his purpose, especially if all Christmas did was to mark the birth of Jesus. But it also celebrates the idea of ‘incarnation’, God come to us in human flesh—Imanuel, ‘God with us’. And for this, I would still like to be able to sing the Christmas songs and go to midnight Eucharist on Christmas eve. I’m never quite sure whether Christmas is “Allelulia!’ or ‘Bah, humbug!

Do the Canadian Mennonites have the right idea with their Buy Nothing at Christmas campaign?

The God who suffers

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The recent (2013) typhoon in the Philippines, the tsunami disaster of 26 December 2004 and other similar catastrophic events provoke questions about “Why does God permit such suffering?” or “How can God exist, in the face of such evil?”

I am not sure that the early deaths of a lot of people in a flood of seawater or a terrible storm are more or less evil that that of thousands of AIDS sufferers in Africa or just one person in a city road accident. But the suffering of those left to grieve demands a response.

(Read more . . .)

We don’t have a helpful or even reasonable answer to the “why?” of suffering. But God offers solidarity with the sufferer and the oppressed. In the cross of Jesus Christ, God shares in our pain and suffering. In the resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has achieved liberation and new creation.
Where was God when the tsumani struck? With the dead, the injured and the heartbroken.

Rudd’s tragedy

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Kevin Rudd’s story in politics has the elements of a classic tragedy, expect that he is, thankfully, still living (though dead politically?). His rise was due to his own strengths and his downfall at the hand of former allies the result of his own fatal flaws.

Like so many, I had high hopes when Mr Rudd and his team were first elected in 2007. They achieved much, but there were some monumental failures as well. And way, way too much noise and sheer busyness. A calmer, more measured, approach would have been more successful, dampening down the 24-hour news cycle, not fueling it with perpetual ‘announceables’.

Just before the 2013 election, academic David Burchell wrote:

For the past seven years of our national life, he has played the role not so much of a political leader as of the central character in a literary tragedy of his own writing […] It has been the personal trajectory, and now the personal tragedy, that has held our attention – the meteor that is now plummeting to its fiery end. […]

It is impossible to forget the spirit of hope that spread across much of the nation [in 2007]. That is an achievement too often overlooked: it is rare that an individual can instil that sense of excitement in a country of such practised laconicism. And with that talent—the first sign that he could turn history to his own ends—Rudd became only the third Labor leader since the Second World War to take Labor from opposition into government. […]

It is a truth well known to the scripters of mythology: our greatest strengths are often our greatest weaknesses.