The Seventh Day in the Octave of Christmas, Year I
today we reprise the prologue of St. John’s Gospel, which we read on
Christmas. The Word became flesh “and we saw his glory.” All the ways
that the Old Testament spoke of God’s involvement with the world come
together in this description of Jesus Christ. He is the powerful Word
that will not return without accomplishing his purpose.
what is his purpose? Look to the prophet Isaiah. “The Lord has bared
his holy arm in the sight of all the nations. All the ends of the earth
will behold the salvation of our God.” Saying that Yahweh has bared his
holy arm means that Yahweh is rolling up his sleeves to get on with the
take a look now at the manger at Bethlehem. Perhaps we see a tiny arm
reaching out at random from the manger. “The Lord has made bare his holy
arm.” And this anticipates another baring of that holy arm, when it is
stretched out on the wood of the cross, revealed to all nations, just as
Isaiah said. God’s power would be revealed in the powerlessness of love
unto death. This is what became flesh on Christmas day
week brought further evidence that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump is
open to the clash of civilizations idea, even if not fully committed to
it. If Trump does embrace the approach, the results would lead to the
most far-reaching transformation of U.S. strategy since the outset of
the Cold War.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had hoped that his dogged approach to engage
with Russia might help reach a long elusive deal on the disputed
Southern Kurile Islands. Abe’s optimism seemed misplaced, as Russian
President Vladimir Putin poured cold water on the idea of a breakthrough
at their recent summit.
recent bombings in Turkey suspected to be carried out by an offshoot of
the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) were a grim reminder that the PKK is
far from broken. In fact, it appears that the election of Donald Trump
as president of the United States has made a bad situation even worse
for the PKK.
Donald Trump’s campaign promises and tax cut plans show him partial to
Reagan-era supply-side economics—a commitment confirmed by his early
Cabinet appointments and proposed increases in defense spending. Is
there any reason to believe these economic policies would be effective
this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein,
and senior editor, Frederick Deknatel, discuss Turkey’s agenda in the
Syrian civil war. For the Report, Ciara Long talks with Peter Dörrie
about the impact of austerity on higher education and social mobility in
By: Robbie Corey-Boulet | BriefingProtests
in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions against the use of French in
courts and schools and the marginalization of the minority Anglophone
population have revived a decades-old source of tension. But President
Paul Biya’s government has responded with symbolic half-measures and a
Dec. 5, Mexico held its first-ever auction for deepwater oil blocks in
the Gulf of Mexico, which brought some much-needed economic relief.
Mexico faces the most severe crisis originating in the United States
since the 2008 financial meltdown, in the form of Donald Trump’s
this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein,
senior editor, Frederick Deknatel, and associate editors, Maria Savel
and Karina Piser, discuss the biggest events of 2016, including the rise
of populism, China’s growing assertiveness, and the election of Donald
often inchoate and contradictory, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s
recent comments about nuclear weapons have caused great concern among
observers, not to mention many within the U.S. government. It is worth
demystifying some of what Trump has said and putting this nuclear debate
Yesterday was one of the most dispiriting days in
the history of U.S. foreign policy. In a long valedictory speech,
secretary of state John Kerry told Americans what was preventing peace
in the Middle East: unending Jewish settlements in the fragment of
historic Palestine that Palestinians accepted as theirs. The speech was
more blunt than any earlier pronouncement from this administration about
the end of the dream of a Palestinian state; afterward people praised
Kerry’s passion and personal engagement, and a leading editor said he should receive the Nobel Prize.
in today’s Gospel we see Joseph receiving the Lord’s direction for his
care of Mary and Jesus. Joseph listens to God’s word in a dream. Dreams
play a very interesting role in the Bible. In the Old Testament Joseph
is an interpreter of dreams and successfully reads the dream of Pharaoh;
the wise men in the New Testament are redirected to their homeland
because an angel appeared to them in a dream. In one of the psalms, we
find this line: “even at night, he directs my heart.”
does it mean that Joseph is willing to listen to the wisdom of a dream?
It means that he is willing to go beyond the strictures of the rational
mind. Not repudiating them, but going beyond them, thinking in new
ways, entertaining unexpected possibilities, plumbing deeper and richer
dimensions of his soul. When Joseph and Mary bring the infant Jesus into
the temple, therefore, we are meant to appreciate that the prophecy of
Ezekiel is being fulfilled. The glory of Yahweh is returning to his
favorite dwelling. And this is precisely what Simeon sees.
we stymied sometimes because we cannot think out of the box? We can’t
expect the impossible? We can’t dream? And is our openness to God’s
direction not dependent upon just this capacity? That God becomes one of
us in order to save us from our sins. Who would ever even consider this
possibility? What an absurdity! Only dreamers.
quarter-century after the dissolution of the Soviet Union Russia has
moved away from Europe. Russian leaders regard their country as a
self-sustained civilization related to Europe yet clearly separate from
Tamar, Judah, Solomon, and company are not exactly the ideal ancestors
of the King of Kings; but in this video, Fr. Mike Schmitz shows how God
can write straight with crooked lines, even when the line happens to be
Jesus’ blood line. Join Fr. Mike in this Christmas special, wherein he
makes the monotonous genealogy of Christ in Matthew’s Gospel more
intriguing than an epic movie trailer.
Have we seen this before?Informed by the same intelligence officials of ill repute who were responsible
for the fraudulent evidence concocted to explain the need for war on
Iraq, the U.S. is preparing to “retaliate” against Russia for leveraging Donald
Trump into the presidency. The
difference this time around is that the deluge of evidence-free,
pre-retaliation propaganda has been so effective that those lusting for
“retaliation” are getting a totally free pass in virtually all U.S. media.The government is not required (or even
asked) to provide ANY evidence – real or fraudulent – beyond what anonymous CIA
officials whisper to tame media stenographers.Yesterday, Ray discussed media reports of imminent U.S. “retaliation.”
Is Netanyahu sacrificing Israel on his crusade against Obama?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows that Israel will pay,
diplomatically and politically, for its over-the-top response to the
anti-settlement UN Security Council resolution, but it seems he doesn't
we were asked to explain Christmas, we would probably have to think for
a while, then we would say something about Jesus being born in
Bethlehem. Perhaps the best explanation of what Christmas is all about
is given by St. Paul, in the briefest, simplest form. "He was rich. He
became poor for your sake." He goes on, "Though He was in the form of
God, He did not deem equality with God as something to be grasped at,
rather He emptied Himself and took the form of a slave being born into
the likeness of men." At one point in history, at one place on earth, He
made himself known to us in a form that we could grasp.
there were no Christmas, our idea of God might be a God of power and
might. A God who only revealed himself in suns and star systems. He
would be a remote God, never intimately near, never close by. It is
true there is a revelation of God in nature, but often nature conceals
as much as she reveals. A writer once wrote how he had spent the day in
the Canadian Rockies. The scenery was so magnificent that he could not
put it into words. So majestic that it was indescribable, but he said he
felt very small and insignificant. When he returned home, his wife
welcomed him with a kiss. His children gave him a big hug. Then he knew
what had bothered him about his day on the mountain. Yes, he had felt
God in nature, but he had wanted something more. Amidst all that
grandeur, he had wanted a touch. He had wanted to be noticed. He had
wanted some human contact. That is what the incarnation means. That is
what the birth of Christ is all about.
glory of God comes into our human nature, and it speaks to us within
intimacy which it is not within the power of sea or sky or mountain to
convey. In Jesus Christ, God is made clear and concrete. He is made
available so that we can grasp Him when we fall; bow before Him when we
want to adore; kneel to Him when we want to pray; live in communion with
became poor for our sake. Born in a borrowed barn, His teaching and
preaching was done on foot. If a feast had been set before Him, it was
in another's house. He had no home of His own. When He died, He was
buried in the tomb of another. He laid aside His omnipotence, Creator
of all, He became like one of His creatures.
is all through the bible a kind of Cinderella theme in the story of
God's dealing with us. Again and again, it is the lowly and despised,
the unlikely and insignificant people, from whom light and salvation
come. And so it is with the Christmas story. A teenage girl living in a
small corner of the world is told that she is to be the mother of God.
Then we have shepherds, not as the painters and poets have idealized
them, but rough, uncultivated, boorish and despised as outcasts. But it
was to them the angels came. These men who were looked upon as sinners
and outcasts by the religious establishment, only they had their ears
attuned to the music of the angels singing "Glory to God in the Highest
and on Earth Peace." And as St. Paul tells us, it was for your sake
that this all happened, the self-emptying God.
meant a laying aside of glory. A voluntary restraint of power.
Acceptance of hardship. Isolation. Ill treatment. Malice and
misunderstanding. All for your sake, that by His poverty you might
of Mary, Bethlehem was a place of birth, but each heart is a Bethlehem,
is a place of birth. And each heart can be a Calvary, a place of death.
It's up to you whether your heart is a place of birth or death,
whether you allow God to come to you and live in you. You have the free
will to accept God or reject him.
then is the purpose of Christmas? What was Christ's own Christmas
dream? Simply this. Christ was born to bear other Christs. Christmas
is meaningless, unless it means not merely God in a stable, but God in a
heart. In your heart.
is the birth of the Son of God on Earth and yet only the first
Christmas took place in a stable. Every Christmas since then has taken
place in human hearts. Only the first Christmas recorded the birth of
Christ in Bethlehem. Every Christmas since then is significant in so far
as it records the birth or the rebirth of Christ in us.
John tells us the word was made flesh. That line takes the human beauty
of the Christmas story and links it with the Divine, it puts God in the
straw, and the hands that hold Him are those of a human who is the
mother of God, and caroling angels are the servants of the Child. And
the shepherds were made by Him. The Christmas star is His toy, and He
alone is true King. We can see our God in a child because the word was
made flesh and dwelt among us.
birth of Jesus is not only an event which happened in the past at a
certain time and place. It is also an experience which is capable of
unlimited repetition. It we want to carry the spirit of Christmas into
the whole year, then Christ must be born anew in us, that we may say
with the Apostle Paul, "It is not I that live, but it is Christ that
lives in me, then there will be peace on earth and peace in our hearts.