‘Animal Nativity’, by Les Murray

starving_dogThe Iliad of peace began
when this girl agreed.
Now goats in trees, fish in the valley
suddenly feel vivid.

Swallows flit in the stable as if
a hatching of their kind,
turned human, cried in the manger
showing the hunger-diamond.

Cattle are content that this calf
must come in human form.
Spiders discern a water-walker.
Even humans will sense the lamb,

He who frees from the old poem
turtle-dove and snake,
who gets death forgiven
who puts the apple back.

Dogs, less enslaved but as starving
as the poorest human there,
crouch, agog at a crux of presence
remembered as a star.

Les Murray, ‘Animal Nativity’, in Collected Poems (Melbourne: Black Inc., 2006), 374–75.

Simeon’s Song

Rembrandt - Simeon With Christ ChildMalcolm Gordon, a dear friend of mine and the engine behind the very exciting One Voice Project, wrote and recorded a new song last night based on Luke 2.25–31. It’s called ‘Simeon’s Song’, and about which he writes:

‘I wrote it for the youth group who are having a worship night tonight and wanted to reflect on this story as a turning point between anticipation and celebration. I’ll probably play it at the midnight Christmas Eve service at St Peters too, hence the night/darkness themes’.

I thought it was worth sharing here too; so, with Malcs’ permission, here ‘tis:

Rembrandt - Simeon's Song Of Praise 1661I’m just an old man
With an ancient conviction
That God is troubled by our pain

I have no wisdom
Just a fool’s expectation
That God will come to our aid

Through prayer and through pain
My hope has not strayed
Keep watch with me
My soul aches for dawn
My heart stretched and worn
Keep watch with me
O my Lord
O my friend

I’m just a lone voice
Frail in the darkness
But the night can only last so long

I’m just a watchmen
Eyes to the distance
Waiting for heaven’s light to show

Through prayer and through pain
My hope has not strayed
Keep watch with me
My soul aches for dawn
My heart stretched and worn
Keep watch with me
O my Lord
O my friend

He’s just a small child
From nowhere special
But something tells me, this is it

My heart’s desire
My world’s salvation
A candle in this darkness has been lit

Through prayer and through pain
My hope has not changed
Keep watch with me
My soul aches for dawn
My heart stretched and worn
Keep watch with me
O my Lord
O my friend

God can I go to sleep now
I’ve stayed awake to the sunrise
With my failing eyes
I see through Love’s disguise
In my arms I hold the world.

Note: Malcolm has made the link to the song downloadable so if folk want to use it (or one of the other songs available here) for a church service, or for personal reflection, it’s there to be had. Share the love!

On the twelve days of curry

Tonight, when I was supposed to be reading William Stringfellow’s Conscience and Obedience, I found myself somewhat distracted by the thought of two other great passions of mine – Indian cuisine and my wonderful partner Judy. The result was this little song:

Now, with that out of my system, I can return to Stringfellow, and to ‘the impending devastation of political authority’.

On Handles Messiah

Mr Richard Starnes’ intelligent and delightful piece, which appeared in the Friday Morning edition of The Spartanburg Herald on 13 December 1963, is without doubt the very best article that I’ve ever ever ever ever read, or am likely to read, on Handles Messiah. And it was too good not to share, particularly at this time of year:

Handles Messiah

advent: two poems

‘Advent’, by Donald Hall

When I see the cradle rocking
What is it that I see?
I see a rood on the hilltop
     Of Calvary.

When I hear the cattle lowing
What is it that they say?
They say that shadows feasted
     At Tenebrae.

When I know that the grave is empty,
Absence eviscerates me,
And I dwell in a cavernous, constant
     Horror vacui.

– Donald Hall, ‘Advent’, in The Back Chamber: Poems (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011), 22.

‘A Praise in Advent’, by Arnold Kenseth

See, as we stumble in the Advent snows,
God comes to fathom us. He sends his Son,
A gentleness by whom our fear’s undone,
A jubilance who overcomes our woes.

At first, we hold him in the ancient picture:
Skoaled by great angels, crooned by watching beasts,
Thick-footed shepherds by his side, deep frosts;
Love’s history: for you and me hope’s texture.

Now he is with us, at our village stones,
Fingering the mortar, testing. His mirth
Assaults our streets, and daily he goes forth
Troubling our elegant houses with unknowns

That were and are before whatever is
Began to be. By him was made the air,
Sparrows, eagles, Asias, the sweet despair
Of the free mind. All honest things are his.

He is the holy one we waited for, the Word
Who speaks to us who stammer back, the plot
Against the rich and poor, the Gordian knot
Our wit cannot untie. He is time’s Lord.

Thus, shall we sing him well these Christmas days
And at his birth-feast practice with him praise.

– Arnold Kenseth, ‘A Praise in Advent’, in The Ritual Year: Christmas, Winter, and Other Seasons: Poems (Amherst: Amherst Writers and Artists Press, 1993), 90.

Some stuff on the stove

wood-stove

Shouldn’t Baptist churches retrieve the practice of venerating the saints, that is, engaging in corporate worship acts designed not to worship the saints, but to remember, honor, learn from, and celebrate saints from our Baptist family and from other Christian communions? Until we regularly include commemoration of the saints in our worship celebrations, we will continue to neglect the opportunity to give proper value to those from our past who have borne courageous witness to faithful discipleship. Commemorative acts done in our Sunday morning services would provide a suitable accompaniment for the tradition some have already developed as part of their Vacation Bible School program, in which stories are told of great spiritual leaders worthy of emulation … [HT: Steven Harmon]

[Image: from Old Picture of the Day]

Forsyth’s plea for an All Creatures’ Day

cow‘Now what day should we have for All Creatures’ Day? You will not find that in the almanack either. But what better day could we have than this selfsame Christmas Day? For was Jesus born among other children? Was He born into a nursery? Was there a crowd of other children all eager to see the new baby, and all clapping their hands when they did? Nothing of the kind. You know He was born in a stable, with a horse-trough for a cradle, with straw for a bed, and the cattle for company. There was the ass on which His mother rode, there were the asses of the other travellers who had got rooms in the inn; there were the cows belonging to the farm, and the fowls pecking in the straw; and there were the sheep—well, the sheep, of course, were in the fields, where the angels’ message came to the men who were taking care of them. The animals were nearer to the infant Jesus than any children were. And how often He spoke of the animals when He grew up; and He never spoke as if he despised them, but always as if He watched and loved them. And how very much the animals owe to Jesus! How much better the religion of Jesus has made people treat animals! The animals owe Jesus a great deal, if they but had a tongue to tell it. Yet they have tongues. I once saw a very old carving of the Nativity over a great church door. Now, I have seen several old pictures of the Nativity with the animals standing by or looking in with great interest at the stable window. But in this case they were still more interested; they were very affectionate to the baby, and their tongues expressed it. For it was two cows, and they had come up to the manger. You may know, perhaps, how curious cows are about clothes. They eat the cottage wash sometimes when it is hung out on the hedge. Well, among the swaddling clothes they found the baby; and they were so far from being disappointed that they felt quite loving, and they were licking it with their great rough tongues. I often think cows very kindly animals, but I never thought so more than then. Very likely the artist, with a kindly humour, wished to represent the homage of the creatures for the little Jesus. And he knew that they could not speak and praise with their tongues like men. So he made them worship in the only way their tongues could’.

– P. T. Forsyth, ‘Dumb Creatures and Christmas: A Little Sermon to Little Folk, 1903’ in Descending on Humanity and Intervening in History: Notes from the Pulpit Ministry of P.T. Forsyth (ed. Jason A. Goroncy; Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2013).

Setting Out into the Dark with God: A Christmas Meditation

The Nativity‘And the angel said to them,

“Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you Good News of a great joy that will come to all the people: for to you is born this day in the city oft David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” ( Luke 2:10–12).

On Christmas night the shepherds are addressed by an angel who shines upon them with the blinding glory of God, and they are very much afraid. The tremendous, unearthly radiance shows that the angel is a messenger of heaven and clothes him with an incontrovertible authority. With this authority he commands them not to be afraid but to embrace the great joy he is announcing to them. And while the angel is speaking thus to these poor frightened people, he is joined by a vast number of others, who unite in a “Gloria” praising God in heaven’s heights and announcing the peace of God’s goodwill to men on earth. Then, we read, “the angels went away from them into heaven.” In all probability the singing was very beautiful and the shepherds were glad to listen; doubtless they were sorry when the concert was over and the performers disappeared behind heaven’s curtain. Probably, however, they were secretly a little relieved when the unwonted light of divine glory and the unwonted sound of heavenly music came to an end, and they found themselves once more in their familiar earthly darkness. They probably felt like shabby beggars who had suddenly been set in a king’s audience chamber among courtiers dressed in magnificent robes and were glad to slip away unnoticed and take to their heels.

But the strange thing is that the intimidating glory of the heavenly realm, which has now vanished, has left behind a human glow of joy in their souls, a light of joyous expectation, reinforcing the heavenward-pointing angel’s word and causing them to set out for Bethlehem. Now they can turn their backs on the whole epiphany of the heavenly glory for it was only a starting point, an initial spark, a stimulus leading to what was really intended; all that remains of it is the tiny seed of the word that has been implanted in their hearts and that now starts to grow in the form of expectation, curiosity and hope: “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” They want to see the word that has taken place. Not the angel’s word with its heavenly radiance: that has already become unimportant. They want to see the content of the angel’s word, that is, the Child, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. They want to see the word that has “happened”, the word that has taken place, the word that is not only something uttered but something done, something that can not only be heard but also seen.

Thus the word that the shepherds want to see is not the angel’s word. This was only the proclamation (the kerygma, as people say nowadays); it was only a pointer. The angels, with their heavenly authority, disappear: they belong to the heavenly realm; all that remains is a pointer to a word that has been done. By God, of course. Just as it is God who made it known to them through the angels.

So they set off, heaven behind them, and the earthly sign before them. But, Lord, what a sign! Not even the Child, but a child. Some child or other. No special child. Not a child radiating a light of glory, as the religious painters depicted, but on the contrary: a child that looks as inglorious as possible. Wrapped in swaddling clothes. So that it cannot move. It lies there, imprisoned, as it were, in the clothes in which it has been wrapped through the solicitude of others. There is nothing elevating about the manger in which it lies, either, nothing even remotely corresponding to the heavenly glory of the singing angels. There is practically nothing even half worth seeing; the destination of the shepherds’ nightly journey is the most ordinary scene. Indeed, in its poverty it is decidedly disappointing. It is something entirely human and ordinary, something quite profane, in no way distinguishedexcept for the fact that this is the promised sign, and it fits.

The shepherds believe the word. The word sends them from heaven and to earth, and as they proceed along this path, from light to darkness, from the extraordinary to the ordinary, from the solitary experience of God to the realm of ordinary human intercourse, from the splendor above to the poverty below, they are given the confirmation they need: the sign fits. Only now does their fearful joy under heaven’s radiance turn into a completely uninhibited, human and Christian joy. Because it fits. And why does it fit? Because the Lord, the High God, has taken the same path as they have: he has left his glory behind him and gone into the dark world, into the child’s apparent insignificance, into the unfreedom of human restrictions and bonds, into the poverty of the crib. This is the Word in action, and as yet the shepherds do not know, no one knows, how far down into the darkness this Word-in-action will lead. At all events it will descend much deeper than anyone else into what is worldly, apparently insignificant and profane; into what is bound, poor and powerless; so much so that we shall not be able to follow the last stage of his path. A heavy stone will block the way, preventing the others from approaching, while, in titter night, in ultimate loneliness and forsakenness, he descends to his dead human brothers.

It is true, therefore: in order that he shall find God, the Christian is placed on the streets of the world, sent to his manacled and poor brethren, to all who suffer, hunger and thirst; to all who are naked, sick and in prison. From henceforth this is his place; he must identify with them all. This is the great joy that is proclaimed to him today, for it is the same way that God sent a Savior to us. We ourselves may be poor and in bondage too, in need of liberation; yet at the same time all of us who have been given a share in the joy of deliverance are sent to be companions of those who are poor and in bondage.

But who will step out along this road that leads from God’s glory to the figure of the poor Child lying in the manger? Not the person who is taking a walk for his own pleasure. He will walk along other paths that are more likely to run in the opposite direction, paths that lead from the misery of his own existence toward some imaginary or dreamed-up attempt at a heaven, whether of a brief pleasure or of a long oblivion. The only one to journey from heaven, through the world, to the hell of the lost, is he who is aware, deep in his heart, of a mission to do so; such a one obeys a call that is stronger than his own comfort and his resistance. This is a call that has complete power and authority over my life; I submit to it because it comes from a higher plane than my entire existence. It is an appeal to my heart, demanding the investment of my total self; its hidden, magisterial radiance obliges me, willy-nilly, to submit. I may not know who it is that so takes me into his service. But one thing I do know: if l stay locked within myself, if I seek myself, I shall not find the peace that is promised to the man on whom God’s favor rests. I must go. I must enter the service of the poor and imprisoned. I must lose my soul if I am to regain it, for so long as I hold onto it, I shall lose it. This implacable, silent word (which yet is so unmistakable) burns in my heart and will not leave me in peace.

In other lands there are millions who are starving, who work themselves to death for a derisory day’s wage, heartlessly exploited like cattle. There too are the slaughtered peoples whose wars cannot end because certain interests (which are not theirs) are tied up with the continuance of their misery. And I know that all my talk about progress and mankind’s liberation will be dismissed with laughter and mockery by all the realistic forecasters of mankind’s next few decades. Indeed, I only need to open my eyes and ears, and I shall hear the cry of those unjustly oppressed growing louder every day, along with the clamor of those who are resolved to gain power at any price, through hatred and annihilation. These are the superpowers of darkness; in the face of them all our courage drains away, and we lose all belief in the mission that resides in our hearts, that mission that was once so bright, joyous and peace bringing; we lose all hope of really finding the poor Child wrapped in swaddling clothes. What can my pitiful mission achieve, this drop of water in the white-hot furnace? What is the point of my efforts, my dedication, my sacrifice, my pleading to God for a world that is resolved to perish?

“Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you Good News of a great joy … This day is born the Savior”, that is, he who, as Son of God and Son of the Father, has traveled (in obedience to the Father) the path that leads away from the Father and into the darkness of the world. Behind him omnipotence and freedom; before, powerlessness, bonds and obedience. Behind him the comprehensive divine vision; before him the prospect of the meaninglessness of death on the Cross between two criminals, Behind him the bliss of life with the Father; before him, grievous solidarity with all who do not know the Father, do not want to know him and deny his existence. Rejoice then, for God himself has passed this way! The Son took with him the awareness of doing the Father’s will. He took with him the unceasing prayer that the Father’s will would be done on the dark earth as in the brightness of heaven. He took with him his rejoicing that the Father had hidden these things from the wise and revealed them to babes, to the simple and the poor. “I am the way”, and this way is “the truth” for you; along this way you will find “the life”. Along “the way” that I am you will learn to lose your life in order to find it; you will learn to grow beyond yourselves and your insincerity into a truth that is greater than you are. From a worldly point of view everything may seem very dark; your dedication may seem unproductive and a failure. But do not be afraid: you are on God’s path. “Let not your hearts be troubled: believe in God; believe also in me.” I am walking on ahead of you and blazing the trail of Christian love for you. It leads to your most inaccessible brother, the person most forsaken by God. But it is the path of divine love itself. You are on the right path. All who deny themselves in order to carry out love’s commission are on the right path.

Miracles happen along this path. Apparently insignificant miracles, noticed by hardly anyone. The very finding of a Child wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger is this not a miracle in itself? Then there is the miracle when a particular mission, hidden in a person’s heart, really reaches its goal, bringing God’s peace and joy where there were nothing but despair and resignation; when someone succeeds in striking a tiny light in the midst of an overpowering darkness. When joy irradiates a heart that no longer dared to believe in it. Now and again we ourselves are assured that the angel’s word we are trying to obey will bring us to the place where God’s Word and Son is already made man. We are assured that, in spite of all the noise and nonsense, today, December 25, is Christmas just as truly as two millennia ago. Once and for all God has started out on his journey toward us, and nothing, till the world’s end, will stop him from coming to us and abiding in us’.

– Hans Urs von Balthasar, ‘Setting Out into the Dark with God’, in You Crown the Year With Your Goodness: Sermons Throughout the Liturgical Year (Ignatius Press, 1989).

Howick Christmas Cake

Aunt Daisy's Book of Selected Special RecipesSomething beautiful happened to me this week. What was conceived as a brief Twitter conversation a few weeks ago came full term yesterday when a friend of mine baked a Christmas cake and then shared it not only with me, but with my family too. It was what the ancients called ‘Yummy’.

Of course, I just had to get the recipe. As it happens, it comes from The Twelve Cakes of Christmas: An Evolutionary History, with Recipes by Helen Leach, Mary Browne and Raelene Inglis (Otago University Press, 2011), and is adapted from the Howick Christmas Cake recipe which was first published in Aunt Daisy’s Book of Selected Special Recipes from California, Canada, France, Australia and New Zealand (1935). Anyway, the cake tastes wonderful, or at least my friends’ effort at it did, and I thought it worth sharing the recipe here. I also think that I’ll have to give it a go myself over the next few days. I don’t really do desserts, so this is a big step up for me.

Ingredients

450 g bread flour
340 g raisins
340 g sultanas
340 g currants
225 g peel
225 g crystallised ginger, chopped
115 g walnuts, chopped
115 g almonds, chopped (no need to skin)
340 g butter
340 g sugar
6 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons treacle
1 cup black currant jam

Royal icing
350g icing sugar
1 egg white
3-4 tsp lemon juice

Method

Prepare a 25 cm diameter-round pan or 23 cm-square pan by lining with a double layer of brown paper and a single layer of baking paper. Preheat the oven to 130˚C with a shelf in the middle or slightly below.

Weigh the flour and set aside. In a large bowl place the raisins, sultanas, currants, peel, ginger, walnuts and almonds. Add 2 tablespoons of the weighed flour and stir through, separating any clumps of dried fruit.

Soften the butter in a large bowl and cream with the sugar until light and fluffy. In another bowl beat the eggs until foamy. Add to the creamed mixture a little at a time and continue beating. If the mixture shows signs of curdling add a spoonful or two from the weighed flour. Beat well. Sift the remaining weighed flour with the salt and baking soda. Fold into the creamed mixture.

Add the treacle and jam to the fruit and stir to mix thoroughly. Lastly add the creamed mixture and fold through gently but thoroughly.

Spoon into the prepared cake pan. Smooth the surface with a wet hand. Place in the oven and bake for 4 to 4 1/2 hours. (Details on how to test when a cake is cooked are given below.) Remove from the oven, cover with a teatowel and leave in the pan until cold. Turn out on to a rack or tray. Remove brown paper and baking paper. Wrap in greaseproof paper and store in an airtight cake container or wrap in foil.

When you’re ready, it’s time to tackle the royal icing. Place sugar, egg and 3 tsp of lemon juice into a bowl and beat until smooth. Add the extra lemon juice if the mixture is too stiff. Spread generously on the top of the cake, and be sure to lick up any leftovers.

Hint

During the cooking check that the surface of the cake is not browning too much and if so cover with a double piece of baking paper. Bake the cake for the shorter time specified in the recipe and test for doneness. When cooked, a cake will have shrunk slightly from the sides of the cake pan, the middle will be firm when gently pushed at the centre and the colour will have darkened. If these criteria are met then use a warm skewer or wire cake tester to insert into the middle of the cake. It should come out with no uncooked mixture adhering to it. If necessary, continue to bake for another 10–15 minutes and test again.

‘Christmas’, by John Paisley

As promised in my previous post, here’s a poem by John Paisley. It’s titled ‘Christmas':

Out of a light preceeding
Light, into a darkness which is ours,
A spark, an ember from His fire
Falling, breathed on by lips invisible,
Fuel for a furnace tended by
Viewless hands and deep
Inside, molten like steel,
Plastic like clay,
This glowing, throbbing lump,
This helplessness, this
Hope, this fancy.

Did the mountains bow their peaks
Aged with snow, or the black
Earth heave for joy?
Did the rivers pause in their
Headlong rush to the sea?
Nothing spoke the immutable
Hills or the sky,
And the world moved on
Relentless, making its money and its
Love, minding its own business.
Even that brilliant star tracking
Across the night was observed
By few, and three unknown
Astrologers in a distant land were
All that thought to follow it.

Out of a light preceeding
Light, into a darkness which is ours,
He came, and still he comes;
Silently, imperceptibly: and
At that moment a world is born
Anew, while knowing nothing
Of its own deliverance.

‘The Coming’

And God held in his hand
A small globe. Look, he said.
The son looked. Far off,
As through water, he saw
A scorched land of fierce
Colour. The light burned
There; crusted buildings
Cast their shadows; a bright
Serpent, a river
Uncoiled itself, radiant
With slime.
……        ………..On a bare
Hill a bare tree saddened
The sky. Many people
Held out their thin arms
To it, as though waiting
For a vanished April
To return to its crossed
Boughs. The son watched
Them. Let me go there, he said.

– RS Thomas, ‘The Coming’, in Collected Poems, 1945–1990 (London: Dent, 1993), 234.

Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, ‘Simeon with the Christ Child in the Temple’

Rembrandt, 'Simeon with the Christ Child in the Temple', c. 1666-69.

How light he lies
in these ancient arms.
The infant’s eyes open
to meet the old man’s
as they close.

I have seen his eyesight fade.
I have wept some days to watch
his long waiting, sonorous mumbling
prayer trailing into sleep. For many
months he has wished to be
dismissed in peace.

Now, holding this child,
he can let go.

Glad for his good release, I mourn
the mother’s pain, the child’s plight,
the loss that comes
for me in this: no longer to see him
on the temple steps, old eyes glittering
with hope, always ready to retell
the ancient tales while doves coo
in the courtyard and chattering housewives
pass in the street and within
the drone of prayer turns story into song.

What darkness comes with this light
burden he bears now, gurgling
his brief contentment. Glory of Israel,
Revelation to the Gentiles, this little gift
of God will cost us all we know. I see
the sword in his mother’s heart,
and in his own – and mine, too,
as the old man, his log watch ended,
speaks his fateful benediction.

– Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, ‘Simeon with the Christ Child in the Temple’, in Drawn to the Light: Poems on Rembrandt’s Religious Paintings (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2003), 37–8.

‘Hill Christmas’, by RS Thomas

They came over the snow to the bread’s
purer snow, fumbled it in their huge
hands, put their lips to it
like beasts, stared into the dark chalice
where the wine shone, felt it sharp
on their tongue, shivered as at a sin
remembered, and heard love cry
momentarily in their hearts’ manger.

They rose and went back to their poor
holdings, naked in the bleak light
of December. Their horizon contracted
to the one small, stone-riddled field
with its tree, where the weather was nailing
the appalled body that had asked to be born.

– RS Thomas, ‘Hill Christmas’, in Collected Poems, 1945–1990 (London: Dent, 1993), 290.

Pathetic Christmases

Happy Christmas to all readers of Per Crucem ad Lucem. Here’s PT Forsyth singing his constant song, and reminding us again of why today the Church might sing Joy to the World, and of the ‘wonders of [God’s] love’ :

‘Without [the] cross and its Atonement we come to a religion of much point but no atmosphere, much sympathy and no imagination, much kindness and no greatness, much charm and no force—a religion for the well-disposed and not for the rebel, in which we love our neighbour, but not our enemy, and not our Judge; a religion for the sensitive, but not for the world. When the world-cross goes out of the centre of religion, religion in due time goes out of the centre of man’s moral and public energy. The public then goes past the preacher because he is not strong enough to arrest and compel them. He has too much to say and too little to tell. He hangs to his age by its weakness, and not by its strength. He does not reach its soul with such gospel as he has. The pathos of Christ takes the place of his power. We canonise the weak things of our Christian world in our haste for rapid success with the many. Religion becomes too aesthetic, too exclusively sympathetic, too bland, too naturalistic. Our very Christmas becomes the festival of babyhood, Good Friday the worship of grief, and Easter of spring and renewal instead of regeneration. To use the old theological language, under an obsession of culture and its pensive delicacies we become dominated by the passive obedience of Christ instead of His active. We treat the cross as a passion only, instead of a principle, or as a moral principle instead of a decisive deed. Christ becomes a pathetic, tender, helpful and gracious figure rather than a mighty … But the great dividing issue for the soul is neither the Bethlehem cradle nor the empty grave, nor the Bible, nor the social question. For the Church at least (however it be with individuals) it is the question of a redeeming atonement. It is here that the evangelical issue lies. It is here, and not upon the nativity, that we part company with the Unitarians. It is here that the unsure may test their crypto-unitarianism. I would unchurch none. I would but clear the issue for the honest conscience. It is this that determines whether a man is Unitarian or Evangelical, and it is this that should guide his conscience as to his ecclesiastical associations. Only if he hold that in the atoning cross of Christ the world was redeemed by holy God once for all, that there, and only there, sin was judged and broken, that there and only there the race was reconciled and has its access to the face and grace of God—only then has he the genius and the plerophory of the Gospel. If he hold to Christ as this head, then, whatever views he may hold on other heads, he is of the Gospel company and the Evangelical pale. Only thus has he a real final message for the age. Only thus is he more than one that has a lovely voice and can play well on an instrument for the ages’ pleasure and its final neglect’.

– PT Forsyth, The Cruciality of the Cross (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1910), 27, 73–4.

 

Christmas with a kiwi accent

Mike Crowl posts a wonderful wee Christmas video produced by St Paul’s Anglican Church in Auckland: