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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas 2005, Tucson AZ

Sunday, December 25, 2005--I'm posting this predated, though right now it's actually the afternoon of December 31, a.k.a. New Year's Eve, and I'm back in San Diego.
Another Christmas in the Sonoran desert, another remembering the old plus more new occasions of God's paradoxical Self-revelation, hidden yet now and again surprisingly discovered in, with and under the most mundane, the most common stuff of creation! Martin Luther, theologian of grace - and of the cross - so loved Christmas: he insisted that to see the fullness of God's Self-revelation we need to look to the Bethlehem manger and to the cross of Calvary. According to Luther, the humanly always-popular theology of glory amounts to lies and untruth, while theology of the cross is about the cutting-edge of Divine grace, mercy and truth. Uncovering the Divine in the desert's crazily beautiful bleakness is akin to finding the depth of God's sovereignty in subtleties rather than in sensations.

With at least a moderate flight of ideas, this is becoming as close to pure blog as I ever get, so I'll tell my readers my Advent email signature includes the second stanza of Philipp Nicolai's, "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme"; since it first published in a 1599 collection, it's later than Luther, but how he would love "the strong in grace, in truth victorious!"
Zion hears the watchmen singing,
And all her heart with joy is springing;
She wakes, she rises from her gloom;
For her Lord comes down all glorious,
The strong in grace, in truth victorious.
Her Star is risen, her Light is come.
Ah come, Thou blessed One, God’s own beloved Son:
Alleluia! We follow till the halls we see
Where Thou hast bid us sup with Thee.
It seems as if I've spent too much of the past baker's dozen years (yes, it has been that long) attempting to rebuild some kind of life. But for the past few days I've been contemplating and working on my sermon for New Year's day, 2006, and as usual, I'm mainly preaching about realities I need to hear! The RCL-designated pericope from Revelation 21:1-6 includes the spectacular vision of a new heaven and a new earth--a New Creation--the New Jerusalem, the new City of God:
Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. ...Then I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem...
The text includes the extravagant promise only God can ratify,
Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new."
I started this blog by including what continues as disappointing news to me (actually more like olds than news), that still my life has not rebuilt and renewed in even the remotest sense of again being full of the meaningful service for which I prepared and schooled. Seriously (am I ever much other than serious? Well, yes, often I'm casual or informal and almost never stand on ceremony), but I feel I've been existing on the boundaries of reality rather than living in the center! A while ago I took part in more than one discussion about center, heart, and periphery. The poet, prophet and theologian speak most authentically from the margins--have I not mentioned that almost too often lately? Sometimes I come close to angry at God for knowing I always think theologically and for giving me so many opportunities to be the theologian I hadn't seriously intended to become, but when life happened to me a little more intensely than I'd anticipated, I gave in and started doing lots more formal theology than planned (planned by me, that is). But I am incredibly looking forward to preaching death and resurrection on New Year's day, 2006, even though liturgically it's not Easter Sunday!

Continuing the Nativity facet of this article: Friday evening, December 23, I came into Tucson a few hours later than my usual flight into the southwestern sunset; night had descended, and despite Tucson's dark sky agreement, city lights shone and stars radiated clear in the cloudless desert cold. The following day, on Christmas Eve, at the start of 11 pm worship at St. Francis in the Foothills UMC, the pastor announced a theologian from HDS was visiting (that was me, believe it or not!). But back to the New Year's Day text from Revelation: And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the dwelling-place of God is with humanity, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people." Next Sunday I'll be preaching death and resurrection; on a closely related note, I'm also planning to quote from this song written by Buddy Greene and Mark Lowry, which, by the way, was one of the many wonderful musical offerings on Christmas Eve:

Mary, Did You Know?

Mary, did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered will soon deliver you?

Mary, did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little boy you've kissed the face of God?

Mary, did you know?
The blind will see, the deaf will hear, and the dead will live again
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak the praises of the Lamb?

Mary, did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding is the great I AM?

...the dead will live again, because this baby boy is the great I AM, the Word of Life that created us, redeems us, and continues sanctifying us, making us holy to stand before the Throne of Grace! Amen!

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