Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Christmas Eve

I did give in last Thursday and Friday evening, and like the rest of a certain portion of American humanity, raced over to see Return of the King. I'm not sure what the compulsion was. The movie was very good, but that's about it. No revelations. When people look into the movie and seek out Christian themes in Tolkein's work, I feel it is similar to exploring a # of works of fiction or cinema to make "Christian" connections. That is, inasmuch as a piece of art is "in the world" and available for reflection, one can find Christian themes. But I don't see how ROTK is any more incarnational or sacramental or theological than many other movies not based on the novels of an ostensibly Christian writer.

Which might be also to say this, that I enjoy the works Tolkein and Lewis produced, and have always appreciated writers of that ilk, le Guin especially, but I don't get very worked up by the connection between their fantasy/mythology and its connections to a Christian worldview. Give me Austen, Updike, Shakespeare, Giertz, for Christian literature, to name a few. For the fantasy genre, just make it good.

That's the view from over here. I'm currently blogging between afternoon and late evening Christmas eve services. It has been a puzzle how to prepare sermons on the birth of Christ, as strange as that sounds. Many other days of the year are easier to proclaim. To wrest the gospel out of the mess our culture makes of Christmas is a serious and difficult thing. Requires some good close reading of Scripture and the work of the Holy Spirit, to be sure.

I'm working with the idea that God "stumbles" into the Incarnation, not an accidental stumble, but the kind where, when you kneel, you end up falling on your face, closer to earth than originally imagined. Christ's birth in a stable and bed in a manger extends past humanity and into the very earthly, into creation. This incarnation reaches out to creation even beyond the human, and to those humans who tend (and attend to) the creation. It then reaches back to God in the praise of the shepherds and the angels, and the quiet contemplation of Mary.

And it proleptically imagines the Lord's Supper, the body of the baby Jesus bedded it's first night in a feeding trough. From His very birth we know His destination and what He does for us.

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