the Christian Paradox

“We live in an age when unnecessary things are our
only necessities.”

Oscar Wilde


(the sad little cherub birdbath has seen better days / Julie Cook / 2017)

Reflecting back over this past and most chaotic year—chaotic on so many levels….
As it has been chaotic, yes, personally but perhaps the correct word there
would be difficult….

Yet chaotic is what it has been, none the less and more importantly, on
a National and Global level….
thus making it more acute because its a sort of chaotic which affects us all.

It has been a year which has seen its fair share of words and acronyms,
some tried and true, some new and biting…each having left us changed.

Words and letters such as BREXIT, Tweet, Trump, Merkel, May,
Hillary, Russia, Putin, LBTGQ, ISIS, snowflakes, cupcakes, harassment,
sexual, misogynist, tolerance, intolerance, conservative, media, fake news,
liberal, Socialist, Nazi, Communist, accept, Democrats, Homophobic, Republicans, e-mails,
leaks, white supremacist, racist, walls, migrants….

On and on the list has grown….
so perhaps the ending of this particular year is coming none too soon.

It has certainly been perplexing watching the shift in dynamics within our Nation
as well as within the world at large.

It has been disconcerting watching this shift in Culture—
particularly in and with what we thought we knew.

It is maddening to be called “phobic” when one simply disagrees with a sinful
lifestyle.

In the latest posting of Anglican Unscripted, Bishop Ashenden was also opining
the same sorts of issues but with a more keen eye on the shift within Christian
Culture and the Church….

The good Bishop notes that there are all sorts of calls emanating from various pulpits,
all the way to Canterbury itself, the ancient seat of the Anglican Church—

Calls are being made for a total acceptance, absolute tolerance and drastic change….
Coupled by the actual accusations towards those who opt not to get on board with the
acceptance, the tolerance and the change….
Actually accusing those who cling to Scriptural Authority as being outdated,
out numbered and flat out wrong.

I can remember when words from various pulpits were words of God, Salvation, Fatih, Sacrifice, Obedience, Jesus, Love, Grace—
not this modern mantra of jumping on the culture train or else…….

Bishop Ashenden notes that it seems as if the majority of the English Clergy,
(and I would include their kissing cousins of the Episcopal Church), are
either outright socialists or of socialist leanings.
While frustratingly the more Orthodox remain silent for fear of reprisals.

As it appears that the majority of both clergy and laity have lost confidence in the Spiritual message of Salvation, that which calls for all humans to repent,
having rather “transferred their allegiance to a political solution.”
Because who wants to be told to repent from a lifestyle that society has
deemed worthy as God has succinctly and resoundingly deemed as sinful?

And what we the Faithful must note….is that within that notion of all things
of a political solution, there is absolutely no call to or for repentance.

Anglican unscripted:

And now we look to the paradoxical…

We look to the counter balance to all of the liberal heavy handed hullabaloo
with the story of the ancient Coptic Church in Egypt.

It is a church whose roots are found in St Mark who brought the Gospel to Egypt
during the reign of the Emperor Nero.
A long suffering church body of Believers who have suffered at the hands of Islam
since Muslims invaded their homeland in 641.

Believers who do not adhere to the cultural gods, but rather adhere only to the
Word of the One Almighty and Omnipotent God…

For there is no demand for change, or tolerance of the sinful, or acceptance of
society’s demands.


(Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Church of Egypt)


(The Amir Tadros coptic Church in Minya on Sunday.
The building was set ablaze on Aug. 14)

Consider the following comment….

What kind of faith makes people go back to church immediately after that
church was bombed?
What kind of faith makes people chant the Nicene Creed right after their church
was bombed?
What kind of faith makes a community continue liturgy outside because their church
wasn’t yet safe enough to be in?
What kind of faith makes one go on national TV and tell persecutors that they
are loved and forgiven after they just attacked and killed 28 Christians?
The unshakable faith of Christ.

We mourn.
We are in pain.
We are angry.
We have lost many brothers and sisters in Christ, and their blood continues to flow.
But many of us neglect to remember something –
the Coptic Christians remain undefeated.
They continue to grow.
They continue to inspire and strengthen the faith of Christians around the world.

https://howtoreligion.wordpress.com/2017/12/29/coptic-orthodoxy-and-self-defense/

And so will round out these thoughts with the words of the late Orthodox monk and saint,
Saint Paisios…..

“[St. Paisios responds to the question: ‘Geronda, what is this joy that I feel?
Can it be that I am not aware of my sinfulness?’]

No, my child!
God gives you a chocolate here and there, in order to give you joy.
For now, it’s chocolates; later, it will be wine —
like the wine they drink in Paradise.
Do you know how sweet is the wine they drink there?
Oh my!
If God sees a little philotimo (*), a bit of good disposition,
He offers His Grace abundantly, and it intoxicates you —
even from this life.
The spiritual delight one receives, and the transformation he feels in his heart
when the Grace of God visits him, cannot be given…
even by the best cardiologist in the world.
When you feel such joy, try to hold on to it for as long as you can.”
~+~
(*) – Philotimo, is the spontaneous, self-sacrificing love shown by humble people,
from whom every trace of self has been filtered out,
full of gratitude towards God and their fellow man.
Philotimo comes from a deep, abiding connection with God,
so that one is constantly moved to do and seek that which is good,
right and honorable.
(Although this definition has been repeated many times during these teachings,
the last time was 5 months ago,
I feel it is never too often to remind us of its awesome meaning!)

From Discerning Thoughts

And so we end this year of the humanly chaotic being warned.
For we the faithful are being called.
Called not to be quiet, not to fear reprisals, not to accept that which is wrong
but to hold up to the world the Image of God incarnate in His only begotten son….

His duality is seen in the oldest documented Icon of Christ the Pantocrator.
One side of his face is the Christ who is benevolent, kind and loving,
the other side is of the Christ who sits in judgement….judgement of all mankind.

What those who clamor for all things cultural and accepting have chosen to ignore
that Jesus will indeed sit in judgement.

We are called to repent.
To be repentant.
For in that repentance and in that the turning away from sin is found
the true acceptance of Salvation.


(Christ Pantocrator, the oldest known Icon of Christ, 6th Century AD / St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai)

repentance, forgivness and forgetting…..

“If you are renewed by grace, and were to meet your old self,
I am sure you would be very anxious to get out of his company.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon


(Scrooge and the Spirit of Christmas Past / A Christmas Carol / 1951)

I recently caught a news story this past week coming out of the Vatican,
and thankfully this story had nothing to do with the wording or
re-wording of the Lords’ Prayer.

Pope Francis is criticizing journalists who dredge up old scandals and sensationalize the news, saying it’s a “very serious sin” that hurts all involved.

Francis, who plans to dedicate his upcoming annual communications message to “fake news,” told Catholic media on Saturday that journalists perform a mission that is among the most “fundamental” to democratic societies.

But he reminded them to provide precise, complete and correct information and not to provide one-sided reports.

The pope said: “You shouldn’t fall into the ‘sins of communication:’ disinformation, or giving just one side, calumny that is sensationalized, or defamation, looking for things that are old news and have been dealt with and bringing them to light today.”

He called those actions a “grave sin that hurts the heart of the journalist and hurts others.”
ABC News (ironically enough)

The News media does seem to really enjoy the digging up of the past, particularly if
said past was a sensational sort of past—
heinous, gruesome, odious, or simply grievous.

Never mind that whatever it was has been dealt with and is now left in
the past… as those involved have either healed and or moved on—
The Media must be bored or simply enjoys opening old wounds.
They can’t seem to move on….let alone, dare it be said, forgive and then forget.

Watching one of the most recent episodes of Anglican unscripted,
Bishop Gavin Ashenden was addressing the latest befuddlement plaguing the
Church of England.
It seems that the current powers that be, i.e. the Archbishop of Canturbury,
Justin Welby, has been racing to cast judgement on one of their own, now long dead
yet greatly esteemed, clergy members, The Rt Rev George Bell (1883-1958),
former Archbishop of Canterbury.

The story is playing out that a now elderly woman, who doesn’t exactly have all her ‘remembrances’ in order or even in the right places or buildings, etc seems to
recollect that perhaps a member of the clergy had molested her when she was a
young girl and maybe it was Archbishop George Bell.

Well rather than sorting through the facts and accusations and remembrances….
or questioning the very murky recollections of a now very elderly woman, the current Archbishop and others have raced to cast judgement on this long deceased but highly esteemed clergyman.

And Bishop Ashenden, for one, is crying foul.

Bishop Ashenden, who does have a background and degree in Law, points out that
much of the logic here is all wrong. The handling of all of this by the Church has
been all wrong. And the reaction by the current sitting Archbishop is all wrong.

There is not nor has there been any corroboration to this woman’s story as others who,
now equally as elderly, in the same care of the Archbishop at the time—
as it was during the War and many displaced and refugee children had been taken in by
the Church with Archbishop Bell acting as overseer, do not ever recall any such
instances let alone remember this woman.

So Bishop Ashenden is publicly demanding that Archbishop Welby apologize for racing to
damning the dead while exploiting the troubled “remembrances” of an elderly woman.

The good Bishop notes that as Christians, repentance is such an integral part
of our faith.
“It is what sets us apart form all other religions other than perhaps Judaism.”
Yet to be able to acknowledge a wrong seems to be one of the most difficult things
for human beings to own up to. Just as it is equally difficult to utter
those three little words— “I am sorry.”

But what is “genius” about our faith, the good Bishop extols, is indeed that very fact
of repentance and forgiveness—as that is the very reason Jesus came into the world…
That we should repent and forgive, just as our Father in Heaven forgives us.

Yet how hard it is for us to ever admit that we have erred, that we have made a mistake,
that we were wrong and are heartily sorry…and so in turn, please forgive me.

So where the current Archbishop has not afforded a fair critique of this matter but
rather has raced to the shut and closed condemnation, before even having sorted
fact from fiction,
is incredulous as he now owes everyone on every side of this story,
an apology–

Yet that very act, that very Christian of acts, appears to be far from the
ability of this very prominent vicar of Christ…

If an Archbishop can’t say that he is sorry or that he has perhaps over reacted or not thought something thoroughly through, how on earth can he ever ask the same,
that notion of repentance and forgiveness, from others….

Anglican Unscripted – commentary on Welby’s intransigence on +George Bell – and Dame Sarah Mullally, ‘bishop-to-be’ of London.

And as I had just finished watching the video segment about this story on Anglican Unscripted, I went on to find the following observations by St John Kilmakos—
a commentary of points on that very thing…the remembrance of wrongs and
the ultimate in forgiveness.

2. Remembrance of wrongs is the consummation of anger, the keeper of sins, hatred of righteousness, ruin of virtues, poison of the soul, worm of the mind, shame of prayer, stopping of supplication, estrangement of love, a nail stuck in the soul, pleasureless feeling beloved in the sweetness of bitterness, continuous sin, unsleeping transgression, hourly malice.

3. This dark and hateful passion, I mean remembrance of wrongs, is one of those that are produced but have no offspring. That is why we do not intend to say much about it.

4. He who has put a stop to anger has also destroyed remembrance of wrongs; because childbirth continues only while the father is alive.

5. He who has obtained love has banished revenge; but he who nurses enmities stores up for himself endless sufferings.

6. A banquet of love dispels hatred, and sincere gifts soothe a soul.
But an ill-regulated banquet is the mother of boldness, and through the window of love gluttony leaps in.

—St. John Klimakos
The Ladder of Divine Ascent.

And so it is….we find in our repentance and sincere sense of regret and sorrow
for our misdeeds coupled by our forgiveness—
forgiveness from God which in turn produces forgiveness from one another
as well as from ourselves….and it is here where true Love is really to be found.
That Jesus Christ was born to save us from our constant state of wrongdoing…
otherwise known as sin.
And as we are forgiven, we in turn are to forgive—
and as is with the Father…He forgives and He forgets…..

I thank him who has given me strength,
Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful,
appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor,
and insolent opponent.
But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief,
and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance,
that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,
of whom I am the foremost.
But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost,
Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who
were to believe in him for eternal life.

1 Timothy 1:12-16

selling out to the cultural hurricane

“As the family goes,
so goes the nation and
so goes the whole world in which we live.”

Pope John Paul II


(the Canterbury Cross plaque inside Christ Church Cathedral / Dublin, Ireland /
Julie Cook / 2015)

The above image is of a plaque that adorns a wall in the sanctuary of Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland. It is a plaque that also hangs within the sanctuary
of the Episcopal Cathedral I grew up attending in Atlanta.

The original image of the Canterbury Cross, which is believed to be from the
VIIIth century, was found beneath a street in Canterbury, England.
Today replicas are placed on fragment stone from Canterbury and are hung in
various Cathedrals throughout the world as a reminder of the binding link to the the
Mother Church of the Anglican Communion.

And thus a common thought might readily be that if goes the Church of England,
then so goes the worldwide Anglican Communion…
in turn taking the Episcopal Church right along with it.
This as we are currently caught in the maelstrom of a cultural hurricane
that is at present plummeting the collective Christian body.

And I must say that I sadly agree with that notion.

There was once upon a time when “the Church”— that universal Christian body,
was the guiding force behind so much in our lives.
We turned to the Church just as a child would turn to a parent or other guiding
figure of authority.
We did so with respect and appreciation and we did so with a sense of security…

Yet that time is now long past.

In recent years the faithful have been rocked by various scandals and corruption
emanating from deep within the Church herself.
And yet this should come as no new sort of shock or surprise considering the
Church’s long history, as those are issues, adding heresies and schisms, which have plagued her since her very inception.

But the one fact that we do know and continue knowing, a fact we find great comfort
in, is that despite the sinful shortcomings of man, God’s word to her Church remains unchanged.

The trouble however is currently found in the fact that the governing body of the
church is not holding true to that very Word.

One of my favorite Anglican Vicars, The Reverend Gavin Ashenden,
is one of those lone remaining clerical voices of authority which is remaining
firmly planted in the Word of God. I’ve made mention of Rev. Ashenden before
as I have found a ray of hope within his fast rooted footing.

“This is a warning that the Archbishop is under notice that unless he leads the
Church in a way that remains consistent with the values and authority of the bible
as opposed to progressive secularism, he will risk some kind of revolt in the form
of an independence movement.
We are saying if you don’t draw a halt at this point the same thing will happen here
and there will be a significant number who will secede and reconstitute an
Anglican church to keep faith with authentic Anglican Christianity”

The Rev Gavin Ashenden

Rev Ashenden readily admits that there was indeed a time in which he was
“spiritually mistaken while reading the bible wrong” and that he at one point
did support the LGBT communities.
But through discernment of God’s word, he sees the sinful nature found in
the living of a life counter to the Word of God….in which homosexuality
runs counter to the very Word.

He points out that what we are currently witnessing is part and parcel of living in
a society rife with post modernism and cultural marxism as our societal ethics are
no longer grounded in our faith— but rather that faith, along with our ethics,
have become fluid—or what we see to be in a state of constant fluctuation and
movement.

Rev. Ashenden also notes that the “Ten Commandments have always been the glue to our
society and they are now being rapidly unglued” as we currently watch “a meltdown of personal identity”— with an ever-growing notion of victimhood which is now only begetting more victimhood….all as our culture is caught up in a form of gross idolatry and narcism. And all the while our culture works to over turn Christian ethics.

Rev. Ashenden concludes that “if more Christians, across our confused
culture of ours, were willing to stand up at critical moments”
then we might stave some of the rapid bleeding we are currently witnessing.

The following youtube interview with Rev. Ashenden is produced by
Anglican unscripted, whose mission is “to provide news and commentary
important to the 77 million Anglican Christians worldwide;
to educate and train church laypersons in video and Internet technology;
and to build up the Body of Christ through the creation, distribution,
and promotion of multimedia content.

Please see the following link to Rev Ashenden’s latest blog posting…
regarding Australia and her soon to be vote on same sex marriage.

Beware the Oppressive ‘Rainbow Wooden Horse’.

sinking ships

Democracy requires common ground on which all can stand,
but that ground is sinking beneath our feet, and democracy may be going
down the sinkhole with it.

Pat Buchanan


(Canterbury Cathedral)

I grew up in a very large church in a rather large denomination in an
increasingly large city.

The Cathedral of St Philip.

A beautifully large Episcopal, southern Gothic, church reminiscent of something that
should have been found somewhere in the UK rather than Atlanta, Georgia.

The Cathedral is the diocesan seat of the North Georgia chapter
of the Episcopal Church in Georgia.

The Episcopal Church of America, in a nutshell, is a part of the World Wide Anglican Communion and is basically a sibling to the The Church of England.

Many consider the Episcopal and Anglican Churches kissing cousins to the Catholic
Church. And perhaps there is a good bit of truth to that as we are each liturgical
churches that follow a similar service format with very similar
creeds and doctrine.
Yet whereas the cousins are related, they are also different.
The cousins have a pope and we have the Presiding Bishop in American and the
Archbishop of Canterbury in the UK.

Confused yet?

It is not my intention to give a history lesson here as I’ve done that in the past.
I don’t want to have a theological discussion as I’ve done that in the past as well.

But what I do want to do is share a bit of sad frustration that just might have
finally found a slight ray of hope.

Have you ever found yourself on a sinking ship?
Probably not, but stay with me for a minute…

It is a ship that is actually on fire.
In the middle of a moonless night out upon a vast body of water.
You know the ship is burning as well as sinking…
plus you know you need to get off ASAP!

Problem is there are no lifeboats, no fire extinguishers…
the water is dark and cold as well as shark infested.
Your options are limited.
Things just aren’t looking too good.

I have felt this way for a good many years now.

Both The Episcopal Church and the Church of England have become that sinking
ship.

It’s a long story which I suppose got really going in the late 60’s
and early 70’s.

We may remember that we were coming off a very difficult time in the country.
Vietnam had been a mess, women were burning bras,
demanding equal rights, demanding the right to abortions,
while the youth had enjoyed a “season” of open and free love as we had witnessed
the demand for birth control and open sex.

That was also about the time women were wanting into the priesthood.
Then came the openly gay and practicing clergy.
Then came the approval of same sex marriages within the church.
Ad nauseum it goes.

I’ve spent my life as an ardent Christian and ardent church member who has always
clung to God’s word…as in His word is actually the final word…

As His word has been and will continue to always be that final word….
Yet that Word is basically being chopped to bits by the church…..
while the sinking has been hard.

That is part and parcel as to why I quit attending long ago as
I found it increasingly hard to reconcile myself with leadership of a church body
that made decisions that I believe run counter to the Word of God.
Yet my heart remained with the liturgical church.

I am a person who has always liked, as well as admired, those lone voices among
the noise.
Being a person who actually yearns for such voices.
Because I believe those voices speak of our hope.

The voices of those who stand alone in the desert while shouting to the moon
and back as to what is Truth.
Those who speak Truth while the entire world is losing its mind and running
like freaking lemmings to the cliff.

Think John the Baptist.

Think the early Christians persecuted by Rome.

Think even Winston Churchill in our more modern times.

Think anyone who has seen the reality of the times and dares to speak up
by saying so.

I’ve just recently happened upon the blog of an Anglican priest who just so
happens to be one of those lone voices.

A single thread of sanity found in the middle of the madness.

His name is Gavin Ashenden and he is the former chaplain to the Queen…
a position he held until he could no longer support the direction in which the
Anglican Church was going…
that being to the cliff with the other lemmings.

Yesterday Father Ashenden posted a column by the a catholic priest, Fr Ed Tomlinson,
which has hit the nail squarely on the head for both these kindred siblings and cousins.

For you see what is happening in the Episcopal and Anglican Churches is just
a reflection of what is actually taking place on a larger stage.
It is a reflection which mirrors what is actually happening in both the
United States and Great Britain as a whole…
as we are currently watching both our Governments capitulate to all things
Politically Correct, those things deemed holy only by man and a blatant
refusal to acknowledge the Christian foundations of Western Civilization.

The ship is on fire, it is sinking fast and those of us who know better,
have got to get off ASAP but there are no lifeboats….

Below are a few key points from Fr. Tomlinson’s column along with a link to the
full post:

“Highly political synods shattered Anglicanism’s fragile unity.
Catholics should take note”

“A former Anglican Chaplain to the Queen, the Revd Gavin Ashenden,
is spearheading a revolt in the Church of England Synod over the thorny issue
of homosexuality.
Anglicans are talking openly about schism.
Catholics the world over should be watching very carefully.”

Anglicanism’s real problem has always been a theological schizophrenia –
the result, perhaps, of it having formed to appease a lusty monarch rather
than to preach a creed with clarity. Ask a hundred Anglicans what
Anglicanism actually is and expect a hundred answers.
The Church of England isn’t, really, one Church at all.
It’s an Erastian umbrella organisation holding together,
by virtue of the Crown, a huge range of competing theologies.

“And it didn’t take long for the liberal lobby, strengthened by trends
in society and over-represented on the bench of bishops,
to realise synod worked in their favour.
Did the Holy Spirit say no to women priests in July’s Synod?
Fret not: table the motion again in February, then repeat ad nauseum,
until the Holy Spirit finally gets the message!”

The second development which disrupted Anglican unity occurred when the
Book of Common Prayer became optional not mandatory.
You are what you pray: lex orandi, lex credendi.
With the shackles removed, parishes started to go their own way.
Today, there is almost no common ground between an evangelical parish
on one side of town and its liberal counterpart on the other.
This represents a massive problem for the Church of England:
how can you bring people together in love when there is zero shared praxis
between them?
The situation has become so grave that the Lambeth Conference can no longer be held,
due to deep divisions even at the level of the episcopacy.

So it is that the Revd Gavin Ashenden finds himself embroiled in this final
battle for the soul of modern Anglicanism. He and a few others are making
their last stand against the powerful modernist liberal consensus
that dominated the most recent Synod.

http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/commentandblogs/2017/07/26/the-lesson-of-anglicanism-liberalism-will-tear-you-apart/

So I am somewhat hopeful when I read the tales that there are a few lone
voices still out there that have yet to be silenced by the masses…voices who
know the truth for what it is….
God’s Truth…

Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying,
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ;
and He will reign forever and ever.”

Revelation 11:15

Unconditional invitation to love

To give and not expect return,
that is what lies at the heart of love.

Oscar Wilde

Love means to love that which is unlovable;
or it is no virtue at all.

Gilbert K. Chesterton

We are called to show utter commitment to the God
who is revealed in Jesus and to all those to whom
His invitation is addressed.

Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

DSCN2710
(blooming quince / Julie Cook / 2016)

Like a flower, it opens regardless…whether you want it to or not…
It opens.
The heart of God opens…
It opens for you, toward you, for you… whether you want it to or not…
It opens.
You didn’t do anything, of your own accord, to warrant its opening…
On the contrary…
It opens with or without you..
You ignored it.
It opened.
You disregarded it.
It opened.
You never much cared for it.
It opened.

It beckons to you…
Asking you…
Inviting you…
Wishing only to woo you…

The invitation stands…
Wide open…

Credo quia absurdum

Crucifixus est Dei Filius, non pudet, quia pudendum est;
et mortuus est Dei Filius, prorsus credibile est, quia ineptum est;
et sepultus resurrexit, certum est, quia impossibile.

— (De Carne Christi V, 4)

“The Son of God was crucified: there is no shame, because it is shameful.
And the Son of God died: it is by all means to be believed, because it is absurd.
And, buried, He rose again: it is certain, because impossible.”

Based on the writing of Tetullian

DSCN0264
(stain glass window Christ Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

“I believe that Christ died for me because it is incredible; I believe that He rose from the dead because it is impossible”
A.W. Tozer

“Let me seek Thee in longing…let me long for Thee in seeking; let me find Thee in love, and love Thee in finding”
St Anselm

It is indeed incredibly impossible, absurd and even implausible that we Christians believe what we believe—certainly in the eyes of the non believer but actually…even to ourselves.

Anyone who stops long enough to actually ponder Christianity, the faith, as well as the inception of that faith which actually began, not so much with the earthly three year ministry of Jesus, but rather on the day that his tomb was found empty.

It begins with us now, during this time of Advent.

We, the Christian faithful, now expectantly and vigilantly wait and watch….

We wait and watch along with three Wisemen, who came from all we know to be the East…
We also wait with a handful of desert shepherds…
All of whom had each seen signs and had visions of something miraculous, life changing and unbelievable that was soon to take place…
Taking place in the far flung regions of poverty on the outer reaches of the Roman Empire…in the middle of nowhere.

We anxiously wait with a simple an honest man named Joseph— the young nervous husband chosen by the Creator of the Universe to be the earthly father to a heavenly king.

We expectantly wait with a young Jewish woman who is pregnant with her first child, yet she has never had sex. Instead she was visited by an angel who told her that she had found favor in the sight of God…and now she is alone, only with her husband, as they are on the road traveling and she is ready to deliver in the middle of nowhere.

We look for the star, a sign, a seemingly tangible apparition in the heavens—a sign that something monumental is about to rock the very foundations of humankind.

Later in the story, we follow the words of a crazy zealot who lives in a desert, eating bugs and wearing next to nothing…who preaches to any and all who would give him ear. Preaching to the birds and animals when no people come to listen. He tells both man and beast that God will send a savior for all mankind. He tells those who listen that in order to be “saved” all must be baptized, first by water, than by the Spirit—being born once again.

We believe the words of a 33 year old man who preached, healed and taught to whomever would listen. We believe he walked on water, made the dead rise, made the blind see, the lame walk and the possessed free.

We choose to follow him along his journey… all the way to his death— brutal and barbaric as a death could be.
And we believe that when he says he will be back…from the gates of hell and death itself…he will indeed, be back.

And we believe when a woman finds an empty tomb…

2000 years pass and we are still believing.

Absurd, impossible, implausible, incredible…

All the better reason to believe…

I acknowledge, Lord, and I give thanks that you have created your image in me, so that I may remember you, think of you, love you. But this image is so obliterated and worn away by wickedness, it is so obscured by the smoke of sins, that it cannot do what it was created to do, unless you renew and reform it. I am not attempting, O Lord, to penetrate your loftiness, for I cannot begin to match my understanding with it, but I desire in some measure to understand your truth, which my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to undertand in order that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this too I believe, that “unless I believe, I shall not understand.” (Isa. 7:9)
St Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury 1093