Monday, December 22, 2014

"Sind die Lichter angezündet"

There is a beautiful little Christmas song that is not heard much outside of the eastern part of Germany. It is one of those little gems of GDR culture that never influenced anywhere else, and would have died with the country, except that people still live there and still feel a bit nostalgic for the nicer things from that time. This song is certainly one them. The music is lovely, and the text is also inspiring. From a Christian perspective, one is reminded of the hope and joy of the season. However, when the culture that produced the song is considered, another interpretation comes to mind; one that is secular where hope is a wish and assurances are as vacant as the ideology that dominated that country for half a century.

I prefer the Christian sentiment that my perspective adds to the song. Here is a loose translation:

Lights are lit, candles aflame
Joy glows on every tree
Christmas joy is proclaimed
Everywhere nativity
Lights, light, so brightly beaming
Everywhere, everywhere joy is gleaming

Sweet confections, pretty presents
Exchanged and passed from hand to hand
Ev’ry kid feels joy from heaven
Ev’ry kid in ev’ry land
Lights, light, so brightly beaming
Everywhere, everywhere joy is gleaming

Lights are lit, candles aflame
All around radiating
Christmas peace is proclaimed
Around the world mediating
Lights, light so brightly beaming
Everywhere, everywhere peace is gleaming

Sind die Lichter angezündet,
Freude zieht in jeden Raum;
Weihnachtsfreude wird verkündet
unter jedem Lichterbaum.
Leuchte, Licht, mit hellem Schein,
überall, überall soll Freude sein.

Süsse Dinge, schöne Gaben
gehen nun von Hand zu Hand.
Jedes Kind soll Freude haben,
jedes Kind in jedem Land.
Leuchte, Licht, mit hellem Schein,
überall, überall soll Freude sein.

Sind die Lichter angezündet,
rings ist jeder Raum erhellt;
Weinachtsfriede wird verkündet,
zieht hinaus in alle Welt.
Leuchte, Licht, mit hellem Schein,
überall, überall soll Friede sein.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Additional Material (Mark 16:9-20)

It may come as a surprise to some (particularly those who do not read for themselves, so many) that The Gospel of Mark has three alternate endings. In some of the manuscripts, things end with verse 8 “they were afraid.” Others have a longer ending containing what is today verses 9-20. Others have a shorter ending that is usually tacked on to the end of today’s printings. Still others do what most Bibles do today, which is include both endings. Even the old manuscripts tend to indicate that both longer endings are likely not original. The problem is that we do not have the original copy of Mark, so no one knows what the real ending looked like.

None of that is a problem.

Even if Mark stopped at “they were afraid,” there are multiple accounts of the Gospel, so we know that was not the end. Just a natural reaction to the events. And, the additions that are found on what persisted do not necessarily change the other accounts. It is just a good reminder to keep Biblical teaching in context and to not build entire doctrines from single verses in isolation.

Those sorts of interpretations—and the dangers there inherent—are seen in groups who take this passage to mean that believers must test their faith through stupidity. Handling snakes and drinking poison is no test of trust, but more like an ultimatum or dare thrust in God’s face. Akin to forcing God to prove Himself by keeping us from harm while we are walking down the middle of a busy highway or throwing ourselves from a plane with no parachute. That is silly.

However the other danger here is evident. We all too often add things to scripture and then lose the capacity to distinguish between God’s word and our own. Like when editors inserted marginal notes claiming that the creation occurred around 4004 BC. Sometimes these additions are not even in print, but merely a pet interpretation. Too many people have lost the ability to read God’s word because they only see their own ideas or understanding. While it is a good idea (in my opinion) to make notes in one’s Bible when insight and enlightenment are given, it is also a good idea to read scripture without those notes in place from time to time. Past messages tend to inhibit fresh readings.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Yes, I Will Rejoice Part 4 (Philippians 1:12-18)

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much bolder to speak the word without fear.

Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,

When Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians, he was a prisoner for his witness. And yet the focus of the epistle is joy in Christ. Paul was able to have joy in the midst of suffering because he knew that his suffering, much like that of the Savior, was contributing to making the world a better place. It was helping others to find the love of God. It was and still is advancing the story of Christ.

Even as some people in Paul’s day were sharing the Gospel from selfish reasons, they were sharing the story. The Gospel is the most amazing and important story ever told. It is the most joyful story. And, it is a story in which every believer plays a part. We all have our own chapter to share. We all have a unique experience in which Jesus has saved us. Our lives are immeasurably better for having Jesus in them. We can rejoice.

Share His story! Tell others your story!

Friday, December 19, 2014

"Babadook" (2014)

Even this early in the process for me, it is clear that “Babadook” likely will be in my top ten films of 2014. It is exactly what I look for in a horror film: unsettling, smart, horrific without being merely shocking or gory, and centered around ideas and messages not jumps or scares alone.

“Babadook” tells the story of a widow raising a six-year-old son, Samuel. Her husband died in a car crash while taking her to deliver. The intervening six years have been the typical stress of a single parent—intensified because her son is understandably dealing with issues that six-year-olds don’t generally have to deal with. He is obsessed with monsters and dangers, and is constantly getting into trouble and scaring people with his violent ways. As the story progresses, we begin to see that it is more than the absence of a father that is affecting him. The mother clearly has issues.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Furthermore... Rejoice! Part 3 (Philippians 3:1, etc.)

Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.

To the annoyance of some, I can be known to play Christmas music outside of the season. Or, what is just as annoying to my German friends, I will eat gingerbread before the Advent Season. I do understand that there is a value in saving things for their appropriate time. However, when it comes to Christmas, I try to celebrate the story every day all year round. My father used to read us the Christmas story from Matthew and Luke, bit by bit, every day of the week leading up to the 24th. Even with that tradition, which I uphold, I still read those passages throughout the year as well.

Eating a Christmas cookie before advent is most annoying to those for whom all of the joy of Christmas lies in the anticipation. As believers, our joy lies only partially in the anticipation of what is to come. We also have the assurance of what has occurred. Christ has come and sin is defeated. We do not need to develop systems of behavior, to deprive ourselves of certain joys to create levels of suffering in order to earn the love of God. It has been freely offered to all who will believe.

To some degree though, that is the goal of every religious system. They attempt, through moralistic measures, to please an image of a deity that is angry. They try to develop and force rules designed “for peoples’ benefit” that will make their lives better through their own efforts. This is a moralistic, therapeutic approach to spirituality and faith.

It is enough to know that the grace of God is ours. His love sees us through everything we encounter along this way to the world as God intends it to be. We will encounter enough suffering as a result of the evil and sin in the world. We do not need religious systems to inflict some sort of “suffering as purification.” We do not need a cost-benefit analysis to convince us to do the things that please God. As His people those things should be our pleasure as well.

More than anything else, Christmas is full of joy because it is a part of the most joyful story ever told…
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