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The Christmas Night (a sermon by Isaac the Syrian)

The following is one of my favorite poems; rather, it could be rightly called a Sermon on the Nativity – originally preached some 1,300 years ago by Isaac the Syrian.

This Christmas night bestowed peace on the whole world;
So let no one threaten;

This is the night of the Most Gentle One –
Let no one be cruel;

This is the night of the Humble One –
Let no one be proud.

Now is the day of joy –
Let us not revenge;

Now is the day of Good Will –
Let us not be mean.

In this Day of Peace –
Let us not be conquered by anger.

Today the Bountiful impoverished Himself for our sake; 
So, rich one, invite the poor to your table.

Today we receive a Gift for which we did not ask;
So let us give alms to those who implore and beg us.

This present Day cast open the heavenly doors to our prayers;
Let us open our door to those who ask our forgiveness.

Today the Divine Being took upon Himself the seal of our humanity,
In order for humanity to be decorated by the Seal of Divinity.

[This is a guest post by Michael Fletcher, a Th.M. student at Western Seminary.]

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Saturday morning fun…Jedi Ninjas

Just because it’s Christmas Eve today, that doesn’t mean we can’t still have a little Saturday Morning fun! So here’s a great video of Jedi Ninjas in action. The fight sequences are actually rather well done. And make sure you stick around for the surprise ending!

Flotsam and jetsam (12/20)

a christmas wish

Good Reads

  • Is Video Preaching on the Decline? “Eventually, however, the wired generation will desire a more local, personal touch than the man-on-the-screen. By 2020, more campuses at multi-site churches will feature a campus pastor who teaches, and more people will seek out this type of local connection.”
  • Why Santa Belongs in Your Kids’ Christmas. This is a good post for reflecting on the power and importance of “myth” as a way of communicating values. I disagree that you have to get kids to “believe” in Santa for the myth to work its magic, but it’s a good reflection nonetheless.
  • Christianity Goes Global as the World’s Largest Religion: “Christians are by far the largest religious group on the planet, and the religion has gone truly global over the past century, according to a new report out Monday, which finds some of the world’s biggest Christian communities in surprising places.”
  • Christianity and the Future of the Book:  In this history one can discern many ways in which forms of religious life shape, and in turn are shaped by, their key technologies. And as technologies change, those forms of life change too, whether their participants wish to or not.

Other Info

 Just for Fun     

  • The first Hobbit movie trailer is out

Another Big Book Giveaway

Western Seminary’s Trans·formed blog is giving away 6 books from IVP. You can enter using the normal methods (subscribing, Facebook, and Twitter). But you can also enter by filling out a brief survey or by getting other people to enter and mention you as the person who referred them. (The last one means that your opportunities to enter are limited only by the number of people who like you well enough to mention you as their referrer.) So go check it out. You can always use more books, right?

Help! Vote for the title of my book

I need some help with the title for my gospel book. It’s time to start sending proposals to publishers, and I need to have something to put on the top of the proposal. Apparently they want something a little more creative than “You Really Need to Read This: Trust Me.”  So I’ve listed some options below and I need your input.

You don’t need to know much about the book. This is a poll about titles. So it’s really a question of which title (if any) would catch your eye and make you more likely to check the book out more closely. The basic gist of the book is to tell the broader story of the Bible as the context for understanding the gospel, but to tell it in a slightly different (i.e. quirky) way. And it’s geared primarily for younger Christians (teens and twenties) and people who still like to think that they’re “younger” Christians (like me).

Okay, enough background. Here are the polls. The first one offers some suggestions for the main title, and the second lists possibilities for the subtitle. You can only vote for one each, but feel free to leave comments.

November’s Top Posts

Since I’ve been busy with the launch of Western Seminary’s new blog Trans·formed, I haven’t been posting here as much for the last few weeks. But November still saw some popular posts, particularly with the end of the heresy series and my summaries of a few ETS papers.

So here are the top 5 posts from November:

Why academics annoy people

Academics annoy people. There’s just go getting around it. We can be smug, self-righteous, know-it-alls. We don’t mean to. But it happens anyway.

I’m sure we do this in lots of little ways that I never notice. But I think one of the more common mistakes is when we forget that what might be common knowledge to those with our particular research interests may not be (i.e. almost certainly isn’t) common knowledge to everyone else. So we make some off-handed comment about something that “everybody knows,” unintentionally making everyone around us feel stupid because they have no idea what we’re talking about.

I was reminded of this when I ran across a quote from Peter Leithart’s book Defending Constantine. Now I enjoyed Defending Constantine and wrote a fairly positive review some time back. But here’s the quote that got my attention.

Every schoolchild knows that shortly after his victory over Maxentius, Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, giving freedom to Christians to worship as they pleased.

Statements like this come from losing touch with that the average person actually knows. And this quote makes it worse by claiming that these are facts known not just by your average adult, but by your average schoolchild. Let’s count all the facts in this one sentence that are not in fact known by your average schoolchild.

  1. They have no idea who Maxentius was. They’ll probably be able to figure out that he was a Roman, but only because his name sounds like the guy from Gladiator.
  2. They probably don’t even know who Constantine was. They may have heard the name, but good luck getting any details.
  3. From the sentence, they’ll be able to figure out that Constantine defeated Maxentius, but they won’t know why or how.
  4. They’ve never heard of the Edict of Milan, so they have no idea what it was or what it supposedly accomplished. And, if you’re talking to schoolchildren in America, there’s a good chance they won’t even know where Milan is.
  5. I think your average Christian schoolchild will know about the persecution of the early church. So they’ll probably be able to figure out from the reference to “freedom” that the Edict of Milan has something to do with that. But I’m not sure that your average non-Christian schoolchild has heard those stories.

That’s pretty good. In one short sentence, Leithart has managed to insult quite a large number of people because they don’t know as many as five different things that any schoolchild should know. This is why I think it’s important for academics to interact regularly with those outside their field. We need to be familiar with the “average person” (as if there is such a creature) so we can work to connect our research with their needs and interests. Instead, we routinely imply that they’re not very smart simply because they don’t happen to be experts in our particular fields of interest.

No wonder we annoy people.

Saturday morning fun…10 Awesome “Science” Tricks

I’m definitely going to try some of these with my girls. But not the last one.

Flotsam and jetsam (11/7)

Good Reads

  • Here are some good tips on Preaching Mark. Everyone should preach through Mark on occasion, if for no other reason than that he has the coolest name of the bunch. (HT Mike Bird)

Other Info

 Just for Fun     

  • Here’s a video with an amazingly seamless medley of pop songs from 2011. If you know the songs, the combination is even more impressive. If you don’t, consider this a short primer on pop music.

October’s Top Posts

I’m quite pleased with this month’s top posts. There’s a good mix of humor with the posts on Siri and teaching theology, as well as two posts from my heresy series, which I’ve enjoyed writing. And, the Forced Choice between Eastern Orthodoxy and Catholicism generated enough interest that it even made the list. All in all, it was a good month.

The Top 5 Posts from October