The End…of the Year

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 22:13, ESV).

Thank you for reading Balaam’s Ass during this past year. We look forward to our blog conversations in 2005.

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The Feast of the Holy Family

According to my Book of Divine Hours (ed. Phyllis Tickle), today is the feast of the Holy Family. In honor of that day, G.K. Chesterton:

We can say that the family is the unit of the state; that it is the cell that makes up the formation. Round the family do indeed gather the sanctities that separate men from ants and bees. Decency is the curtain of that tent; liberty is the wall of that city; property is but the family farm; honour is but the family flag. In the practical proportions of human history, we come back to that fundamental of the father and the mother and the child. It has been said already that if this story cannot start with religious assumptions, it must none the less start with some moral or metaphysical assumptions, or no sense can be made of the story of man. And this is a very good instance of that alternative necessity. If we are not of those who begin by invoking a divine Trinity, we must none the less invoke a human Trinity; and see that triangle repeated everywhere in the pattern of the world. For the highest event in history, to which all history looks forward and leads up, is only something that is at once the reversal and the renewal of that triangle. Or rather it is the one triangle superimposed so as to intersect the other, making a sacred pentacle of which, in a mightier sense than that of the magicians, the fiends are afraid. The old Trinity was of father and mother and child and is called the human family. The new is of child and mother and father and has the name of the Holy Family. It is in no way altered except in being entirely reversed; just as the world which is transformed was not in the least different, except in being turned upside-down. The Everlasting Man, “Professors and Prehistoric Men”

Timotheos

Something Positive

Philip Melanchthon, 16th century classicist, often takes criticism from Lutherans for his apparent waffling between Rome, Geneva, and Wittenberg, the three cities representing Roman Catholicism, Calvinism, and Lutheranism. This critique of Melanchthon is warrented, but today, here is some good news on Luther’s assistant.

“Melanchthon was extremely popular as a teacher. In an ordinary year he would have about 800 students compared to Luther’s 400. In his long career, he delivered over 180 learned papers on many different subjects. Heading the list of Melanchthon’s work in theology certainly must go his efforts on the translation of the Bible” (J.A.O Preus, The Second Martin (St. Louis: Concordia, 1994) 64).

Sad Day

Reggie White, one of the greatest football players ever, died on Sunday.

Not only was White a great athlete, but he also openly talked about the person and work of Jesus Christ during his time in the National Football League. He spoke the truth to the members of this team.

After his professonal career, White continued to pursue the truth. In his last years of life, White began to study the Hebrew language in order to enhance his biblical studies. Not all retired football players do this. Not every pastor does this.

For all families who grieve over a death of a loved one, our prayers are with you today.

Can You Say Fr—?

So it appears, as Joel predicted on another post, that the Kleptocrats (I like that one, Joel) have done what seemed impossible a few weeks ago. Don’t win the first time? Or the second time? Well, third time’s the charm, apparently.
I’m just speculating, but look at these numbers from the recount.
Notice anything strange? How about the fact that two counties that Rossi originally won swung to Gregoire? How about the difference in votes in the counties where Gregoire won more votes than Rossi? For example, see Yakima County, where Rossi picked up fifteen more votes than Gregoire. That was the biggest difference in votes of any county where Rossi gained more than Gregoire.
Now, compare King, Pierce, or Snohomish counties; in King County (predictably liberal), Gregoire picked up double the votes of Rossi. (I believe all of those votes were the contested ones, which Gregoire won the right to have counted.) In Pierce County, they somehow “found” another 447 votes, and Gregoire got 31 more than Rossi. In Snohomish, originally a Rossi victory, Gregoire got 44 more than Rossi (again, of 194 “discovered” votes).
It’s just more than a little strange that after nearly two months of “recounting” votes that apparently did not exist during the machine recount, Gregoire somehow, some way, comes out on top by 130 votes. Hey, if you can’t win in the general election, or in the first recount: there have got to be more votes out there!
May Washington voters remember this in 2008.

Timotheos

Government on Christmas Eve Eve

I don’t think I would start a sermon this way, but Martin Luther did just that in this Christmas sermon.

“The birth of Christ took place exactly when the Emperor Augustus sent out a decree that all the world should be taxed. This was no accident. The birth of Christ was timed to coincide with the census because God wanted to teach us the duty of obedience even to a heathen government” (Luther, Martin Luther’s Christmas Book, p. 27).

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Cancel Christmas? What is this, a John Grisham book? No, it’s the Chicago Tribune‘s version of Christmas in Iraq.

Christian leaders estimate that 50,000 of Iraq’s nearly 800,000 Christians have fled the country since last year, mostly to Jordan and Syria.
And after a year of church bombings, death threats and assassinations, the Christians who remain have all but canceled Christmas.

Not only that, but Christmas just isn’t very merry for store owners:

Nestled off of a bustling shopping avenue in central Baghdad, Babylon Farms [is this name for real?] offers all the retail trappings of Christmas.
Baskets brim with glitter-dusted ornaments. A 4-foot Santa Claus doll towers over the cash register. Rows of decorated trees and plastic poinsettias line the shop.
The only thing missing? Customers.
“All the Christians have left the country,” said Saif Sadi, the manager of the store, where sales this season are down 75 percent.

Yep, those Santas really bring out the true meaning of Christmas in a land where Christians are persecuted.
Not only that, but we can’t have a story about Iraq from the MSM without a veiled reference to how much better things were under Saddam:

And after a year of church bombings, death threats and assassinations, the Christians who remain have all but canceled Christmas.
“Officially, we are not celebrating this year,” said Rev. Peter Haddad, head of the Virgin Mary Church in Baghdad.
Fearing insurgent attacks, Christian bishops across predominantly Muslim Iraq recently announced they would call off the usual Christmas celebrations. Some churches will forgo Christmas Eve mass, unheard of even during the Saddam Hussein regime.

Of course, it’s all the Americans’ fault.

Christians have lived in Iraq for hundreds of years, enjoying peaceful relations with Muslims for most of that time. But after the U.S.-led invasion, insurgents began targeting the community, accusing Christians of cooperating with American “infidels” by working as translators, house cleaners and merchants. Harassment became so bad that many Christian women began wearing a hijab, or Muslim head scarf.
“We are the agents of no one, and we don’t accept being linked to the occupiers because of our religion,” Louis Sako, the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Kirkuk, recently told parishioners as he announced the cancellation of Christmas celebrations in that northern city. “Blowing up our churches and frightening our sons will not solve the problems of Iraq.”

Trouble between Christians and Muslims? No, not until those Americans showed up with their so-called “freedom.”

Is there hope for Christmas in Iraq?

Haddad, who will keep his Baghdad church doors open for Christmas services, said the hard times would encourage Christians to reflect on the religious significance of the holiday, rather than on gifts and parties.

Don’t get too excited…

His Christmas Eve sermon will draw parallels between the U.S. occupation of Iraq and the Roman occupation of Jerusalem during the time of Jesus Christ, a message he said he hopes will inspire worshipers.

That should do it.

What in the world is going on? Are the quotes from people who are taking their cues from the American idea of Christianity? The only mention of the first syllable of the holiday is in the Reverend’s sermon about occupation “at the time of Jesus Christ.”
The one positive thing I can say is this: doesn’t this article make you thankful that the Christians of ages past cared more about their faith than about materialistic celebrations and their temporal conditions?

Timotheos

The Purpose of Church

This post was originally sparked by something Brandon (bad christian) said here, for example.
I recently had a discussion with the high school class that I was teaching about the purpose of going to church, which started because of the question I asked: When you’re a freshman in college and no one is there to wake you up on Sunday morning, will you still go to church?
Some of their answers to the purpose of church were these: It’s a place to learn more about God. Worship is really good. Christian fellowship. God told us to go.
Those are all aspects of going to church, but are they the purpose? Perhaps the way one answers the question determines one’s church attendance. In other words, if someone thinks that the purpose of church is something that can be done in other places (i.e., Starbucks, a bar, the gym, etc.), they will not be inclined to think that there is something unique about church that they are missing when they do not go.
So what is the purpose of church? The foremost purpose of meeting together in a congregation of believers is to receive the gifts God has promised to give: His Word in the forms of absolution, Scripture and preaching, and His Sacraments, most regularly in the form of His holy Supper. Those are things that cannot be received or experienced in any other place. They are what makes the gathering of the Body of Christ unique. If anything else is emphasized as the primary reason for gathering, church becomes expendable. It becomes a place to meet your friends (or meet your spouse), or essentially a support group. And if that is what church is, it should be expendable.

Timotheos

Jesus

“Let us, then, meditate upon the Nativity just as we see it happening in our own babies. I would not have you contemplate the deity of Christ, the majesty of Christ, but rather his flesh. Look upon the baby Jesus. Divinity may terrify man. Inexpressible majesty will crush him. That is why Christ took on our humanity, save for sin, that he should not terrify us but rather that with love and favor he should console and confirm” (Martin Luther, Christmas Book, p. 33).