Monday, January 7, 2013

that they turn not again unto foolishness

i am a creature of habit and ease. once i made a regular habit of blogging, not because i thought the world was waiting to hear what i had to say, but because i found it a disciplined way for me to listen to what was going on, to be obedient.

facebook has become such a set of ears on the world that it has been easy
to skip blogging. still, sometime in the middle of a cold night in the middle of the advent fast, i made the above photograph, intending to blog about the darkness of the world into which we were expecting, once again, the light to shine. i have protestant friends who were preparing to hold 'blue christmas' services for folks who weren't expected to get so many of the world's goodies as average in fat rich america, or who had been unable to deny recently that all men are mortals. i find the 'blue christmas' movement yet another example of how thin the gruel of meaning has become in what passes for christianity these days, in which the twelve days of christmas are twelve days of overeating and overspending in which we more or less pretend all is well, and ignore the phrase from the anglican morning canticle, the venite, 'for he cometh to judge the earth, and with righteousness to judge the world, and the peoples with his truth'. (the revised book of common prayer has of course removed this reminder of judgment.)

ah, but in my seeking the life of ease it has become my habit to read morning prayer online from a  convenient site ( ) which posts the propers from the 1928 prayerbook with the readings from the 1943 lectionary. oh. my. once again that great psalm of the incarnation, 85, with it's call to obedient listening, 'i will hearken what the LORD god will say;* for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints, that they turn not again unto foolishness'. and from isaiah, chapter 42: 'behold my servant . . .: he shall bring forth judgment to the nations. . . . i the lord have called thee to righteousness, and will hold thy hand and keep thee and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the nations;  to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.'

then i checked my news feed on facebook, and pulse. we still don't seem to have headed the message of the angels to 'fear not'. leonard peltier is still in prison less he scalp the speaker of the house, i guess, and guantanamo remains as a monument to our fear. one of my facebook friends has just learned of our drone attacks in yemen, and thinks if more people knew of them, we would end them: ah, the hopefulness of youth. and another facebook friend reported on the lacklustre sermon he had heard on epiphany, having 'the overall sense that the minister was ready for it to be all over'.

ah, there's the rub of this whole incarnation thing, isn't it? if it's true what isaiah says about the holy one, that 'he . . . created the heavens, and stretched them out; that he spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it . . . ', then it isn't all over. we who claim the benefits of the birth in the manger, even if 'it was a long time ago now', as t. s. eliot reminds us, are still called to live fearlessly, to seek that righteousness which can let prisoners free, which can indeed free us from the dungeons of darkness in which many of us live rather than let the light shine in all the corners of our lives.

i, and many of my friends, are happy nerds. it's hard to recognize that the birth--and yes, the death, our own baptismal death--that the magi sought might be even  ore important than the upcoming consumer electronic show in las vegas. but i think it's safe to suggest that our ultimate happiness will not depend on whether we are running windows 8, or have downloaded the newest episode of the doctor, or--well, you can fill in your own favourite distraction. rather it will more likely depend upon our willingness to 'abide in the fields by night'. again, eliot says it as well as anyone:
'Quick now, here, always--
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manners of things shall be well
When the tongues of fire are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.'

it's not all over. it's here, now, always, and costing not less than everything.