Weekly Ponderings & Links: 12/10/17

Years ago, I would post a weekly round-up of links to varying articles and posts that had caught my attention for the week. It’s been a while, but I wanted to get back into the practice of such.

So here is my “Weekly Ponderings & Links” for Sunday, December 10, 2017.Over at Interner Monk, Chaplain Mike has written an Advent piece: Jesus’ “In-Between” Coming. In it, her proposes that there was a coming of Jesus (a “coming on the clouds”) that happened in between what we typically identify as his first and second coming. He states:

“This is what we say in the Creed. Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary. That was his first coming. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. That will be his second coming. But in between, we say that we believe he died, was buried, descended to the dead, rose again, and ascended to the right hand of the Father. There was a “coming” in between what we call the first coming and his second coming. There was a coming into heaven, when he took the throne and was declared Lord of all.”

I think if we faithfully read the Scripture in its historical-narrative context, we would conclude that Jesus did “come on the clouds” and reign as he said he would in Mark 13 / Matt 24. Read the full article here.

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Over at The Bible for Normal People, Pete Enns compares the national holiday of Christmas within America with how the Old Testament Israelites would have likely celebrated their own festivals and special days in their own time.

“I imagine that the ancient Israelites celebrated their rituals—festivals, sacrifices, regular times of worship—with the same lack of awareness for their deep religious significance as most American’s celebrate Christmas. Perhaps, like popular American culture, they sort of just went along with the momentum of their vaguely sacred holidays adapted to cultural norms of the day—if they observed them at all.”

I think Enns makes a fair comparison in his article, but it calls for a little engagement with some critical scholarship with the Old Testament.

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Roger Olson offers these thoughts on how Christians should celebrate Christmas:

“In my studied opinion there are, in America today, two “Christmases” and not one. One is the “Season of Advent” (whether called that or not) in which most Christians celebrate the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ two millennia ago. (Some Christians, following a Puritan tradition, do not celebrate it and I have no objection to that.) The other is the now entirely secularized, materialistic, popular culture celebration symbolized most vividly by Santa Claus.

I am not here interested in arguing against non-Christians celebrating “secular Christmas.” To them I say simply—go ahead and have fun with it.

My complaint is simply this: Too many contemporary American Christians, including Christian churches and explicitly Christian institutions and organizations, are dropping the Christian celebration of Christmas and are observing and celebrating what I am calling here “secular Christmas.”” (emphasis his)

If you are interested in learning how the church can celebrate the Advent season in the midst of the full church calendar, check out this post at Third Church. The image below shows the flow of the calendar cycle.Now to some less “theological” stuff and more fun.

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Wipf & Stock, the publishing company I work with, is having a 40% off holiday sale through December 19. Head over to their website and use code word GOODWILL in the online checkout. This means you can grab a copy of my book, Change for the First Time, Again, for only $10.80.

Here are three particular Advent / Christmas books that I want to point you to at the Wipf & Stock site.

About the Book: Christmas cheers the birth of Christ with a fresh look at the festive season. English engages the rich theological and biblical themes of Advent as well as family traditions, popular carols, and legends of the holidays. Topics range from a theology of the incarnation of the Word, the role of Mary, the historical origin of December 25, the significance of Bethlehem and the star, the plight of the holy family in a hostile world, and the place of American pop icons like Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus, and Buddy the Elf. Christmas brims with anticipation.

Grab a copy here.

About the Book: Current biblical scholarship tends to treat the nativity narratives as having little historical basis and to see in them illustrations of the particular theologies of Matthew and Luke. Nonbiblical scholarship sees in these narratives only an adaptation of traditional folklore themes relating to the birth of the hero. This leaves the ordinary Christian in a vacuum that the mass media and other commercial interests are only too anxious to fill.

‘Liberating Christmas’ shows that, regardless of whether the nativity narratives are rooted in actual historical situations, they do portray a particular network of social-political relationships. Thus Caesar ruled and taxed peoples, such as the Jews, through client-kings, such as Herod, who ruled with sharply repressive violence. But the narratives also celebrate the birth of a messiah who will finally liberate his people even though he and his family are driven into exile. The Christmas stories as reappraised by this book have, therefore, important political implications, implications not only about first-century Palestine but about contemporary history as well. These latter implications are brought out by an extensive analysis of the political-economic domination exercised in much of Latin America by the United States, domination maintained by “client” dictators who use death squads (paralleling Herod’s slaughter of innocents) to terrorize and control the exploited peasants while driving members of basic Christian communities into exile.

‘Liberating Christmas’ has as much to say about the ‘Pax Americana’ as the original nativity narratives had to say about the ‘Pax Romana’. The story of Jesus is as important to ordinary readers today as it was when it was first told centuries ago.

Grab a copy here.

About the Book: The Advent of Justice was first published in 1993 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the CJL Foundation and Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ). Responding to God’s call for love, justice, and stewardship, the CJL Foundation and CPJ have been at the forefront of research and advocacy in areas such as poverty and unemployment, economics, and social justice, aboriginal rights, refugees, energy policy and the environment.

The republication of The Advent of Justice celebrates more than 50 years of faithful witness for justice by CJL and CPJ.

In this book of reflections, four friends come together to lead us more deeply into Advent as a time of profound hope for the coming of God’s good kingdom of shalom while also a time of lament and anguish in the face of injustice.

Grab a copy here.

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This book is not under Wipf & Stock, but is one my friend had published last year. It’s called Underdogs and Outsiders. As author, Fuerst, says:

“This Advent study focuses on just a few of the broken branches: the unlikely heroines of the story. We don’t often hear these stories during Advent. But the stories of the five women in Christ’s lineage – Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and, Mary – embody the reality into which Christ came and the Advent hope we can find within it. Had Matthew wanted a cleaner, more clearly Jewish sampling, he could have worked with Sarah, Rebekah, Leah, or Rachel. But Matthew wants to show this Savior came for everyone, including underdogs and outsiders.” (p12)

Check out my review here.

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Lastly, if you are interested in Christmas music, check out this year’s release from Visible Music College – A Visible Christmas: Volume 6. There albums has both originals and classics. Only $9.99 for the 11 tracks.

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