Blog Archives

Flotsam and jetsam (12/9)

In his famous essay “A Plea for Excuses,” the Oxford philosopher J. L. Austin complained that philosophers of art typically spent too much time focusing on beauty, when most people’s aesthetic interests are less grand. Austin expressed the hope that “we could forget for a while about the beautiful and get down instead to the dainty and the dumpy”! Maybe some creative theologian looking for a new topic could take a hint here and get down to talking about cuteness. Babies and kittens are cute, and they get a lot of attention from many people—the evidence is there at YouTube.

  • K.C. Hulsman presents a pagan perspective on why Christmas is not the reason for the season. I happen to think that his presentation is wrong, but it’s a well-written explanation of the argument that Christmas is essentially a pagan holiday.

Most of the Christmas traditions that exist — gift-giving, the hanging of the evergreens, Christmas trees, feasting, Santa, caroling — all originated from Pagan practices. While I can understand that to some Christians this is a holy time of reflection as they celebrate their God, Christ, let us remember we were here first. And Christ is not the reason for the season. He’s just a latecomer to the party.

Since ancient times, Christians have used the Christian calendar (also called the liturgical year) to orient themselves to the two most significant seasons in the yearly Christian cycle of time: Christmas and Easter. Within such a calendar, every day has a vital and traditionally sacred place relative to the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Christ.

Flotsam and jetsam (12/8)

I’ve been busy wrapping up the fall semester for the last couple of days, but here some interesting links you might want to check out.

  • Brian LePort is wrestling with his Christmas Conundrums. (I vote “no” on lying to your kids about Santa, “yes” on Christmas trees, and “sort of” on buying gifts).

Handel’s Messiah in a food court

Why doesn’t anything cool like this ever happen when I’m in the mall? Oh wait, that’s probably because I’m never in the mall.


HT James McGrath

The 20 Worst Nativity Sets

Mark Oestreicher has posted a list of the 20 Worst Nativity Sets (HT). And, it’s hard to disagree that his first one is pretty bad.



Cats? Seriously? I could see using cats to symbolize the fall, the ten plagues, or various scenes in Revelation, but not the nativity. That’s just wrong.

And, although this one wasn’t about the nativity, it’s disturbing enough to warrant mention. What kinds of people actually put these things in their lawns?



You’ll have to check out his post to see the rest. But, although he did a great job compiling this list, I think he missed one. What Christmas would possibly be complete without a bacon and sausage nativity?



Flotsam and jetsam (12/1)

In our world, quiet is counter-cultural. I’m not only referring to quiet on the outside, but also quiet on the inside. In fact, it may be easier to shut out the external voices than it is to silence the internal noise. It’s often those inner voices, especially the unacknowledged ones, that compel us to fill our lives with movement and agendas and spending and eating. Our behaviors and hurry are echoes of our inner doubts about our worth. Sadly, in many ways the nature of our holiday celebrations reveal how incompletely we have embraced the actual message of Christmas.

It can be frustrating living in-between. Any blessing, sustenance, attainment, contentment, or security we latch on to now is imperfect, incomplete, and temporary. That’s not to say we can’t enjoy the crumbs we taste now, it’s just to look at them honestly and identify them for the crumbs they are. And when we or others around us don’t even get to enjoy many crumbs at times, it casts a shadow on the whole enterprise.

Google Editions will have a significantly different sales model from most competitors, such as Amazon’s Kindle store or Apple’s iBookStore. Instead of purchasing books through a single online store, Google will let users buy them either from Google or from independent bookstores and then tie them to a Google account, which will enable them to read the books anywhere and on any device they please.

When God was born

Many thanks to Jonathan for finding this one and passing it along. It’s too cute to pass up. And, I love the look on the little boy’s face when they get to the part where “Jesus popped out.” There’s all kinds of deep theology in here that needs adequate appreciation.


A prayer for the first Sunday of Advent….Bernard of Clairvaux

Let Your goodness Lord appear to us, that we
made in your image, conform ourselves to it.
In our own strength
we cannot imitate Your majesty, power, and wonder
nor is it fitting for us to try.
But Your mercy reaches from the heavens
through the clouds to the earth below.
You have come to us as a small child,
but you have brought us the greatest of all gifts,
the gift of eternal love
Caress us with Your tiny hands,
embrace us with Your tiny arms
and pierce our hearts with Your soft, sweet cries.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)

Early adopters through time has a very funny and interesting video on “early adopters through time.” The video actually works on two levels. On the one hand, it makes fun of people who refuse to buy new technologies because they’re just going to come out with something new later. (I fall into this trap regularly.) But, you can also watch it as a critique of consumerism (hence why I’m posting this on Black Friday), with the constant appeal to buy the latest and greatest new toy.

I couldn’t embed it, so you’ll have to head over there to watch. Here are some of my favorite lines:

Early adopters in the stone ages: “What – this? Oh, it’s my bone. It makes hunting for food way easier. You should get one.”

The never-ending quest: “All I’m saying is that if you buy this thing, it will be the last thing you need to buy. Ever.”

And, a nod to Planet of the Apes: “Trust me, if I’m going to get a servant gorilla, it’s just going to gather dust.”

Consumerism is the reason for the season

Since it’s Black Friday today (one of the busiest shopping days of the year in America), I thought it would be good to remember  the real reason for this holiday season – rampant consumerism.



What else could possibly explain the long lines of people, sometimes camping out for hours at a time, waiting for stores to open so they can continue the unnecessary accumulation of “stuff”?