Friday, December 19, 2014

Advent / Is so cozy

As the nights get longer and longer, the house gets cozier and cozier.  I wish you could come and sample the cookies and tea.  The advent wreath is more like a minimalist advent ring, this year.   I like it.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Advent / "Analysis Paralysis" / What to do?

Somewhere I heard this terms "Analysis Paralysis".  You think and think and research and plan, and rethink, and just get more and more stuck.

It can happen.
To me.
I think.

Here are a couple of things I wrote in a notebook.

"When your passions lead you astray, go with what is needful and the Lord gave you to do.  You may be just too lazy to follow the path laid out for you."  

"Man's plans and design often don't work out.  It is all in the Lord's hands.  But lack of counsel and wisdom ruins most things."

I do not recall where the quotes come from,  but they are not my own sayings, I know that.

Advent / Finished the movie

Last night, I finished the Gospel of John movie on Netflix.  Overall, I would say that is it definitely worth watching, once.  I am fairly imprinted onto the Jesus of  "Jesus of Nazareth", movie of several decades ago, however.

In the Netflix show, I  find this very intense, argumentative looking Jesus both attractive and repulsive.  The acting is probably off, a little weird.  But you can see, that Jesus engaged everyone he met where they needed to be met.  He "knew" what was "in a man" --or woman.  It really is amazing.  He did do all things well.  It makes you wonder what he would say to you exactly, if you met him on the road or in the market place, just now.

O Lord, how shall I meet you, 
How welcome you aright? 
Your people long to greet you, 
My hope, my heart's delight! 
Oh, kindle, Lord most holy,
Your lamp within my breast
To do in spirit lowly 
All that may please you best.

Paul Gerhardt

Christmas Markets / Germany

Two couples I know, at this very moment, are visiting Germany from Canada, just to see the Christmas markets.  It is news to me that this is a touristy thing to do.  But they invent new ways to make money and grow the economy, all the time. In that respect, ingenuity knows no bounds.

I do marvel, because, in spite of growing up to Germany, I have never really been to a Christmas market.  It was just not something we did, just like we did not go to any Oktoberfest in Munich.  It was just something for the heathen out there, for spending money that could be saved and sent to the overseas mission society.  Seriously.  We did buy ice cream at the parlor on the market square, in summer.

But look at this lovely picture.  The old houses, the market place, the statue of someone famous, the big Christmas tree, the inviting stands, somewhere a fountain--what could be merrier. -- My father saved his money for traveling to Canada.  That was the other thing.  We went to different countries to see things.  This would be the same reason Canadians go to Christmas markets in Germany, where it is probably raining and gloomy.  We have nicer sun and snow here...

I have an aunt in Germany who sometimes writes me about the Christmas activities in these public places.  She is not a regular church attender, but she always moans:  there is nothing "Besinnliches." -- Now, how would you say "besinnlich" in English?  "Besinnlich" is something away from the bustle, something for going inside yourself and contemplating, something meaningful to ponder, something more deeply human and godly. Something you hope to find in Advent and Christmas;  the quiet wonder at the miracle of God loving man, or even man loving man, in spite of the conditions of the world.

Could one find this on this square?  Is the problem with the market?  With the money-making motive?  With our selfish need to find something that hits us the right way?  Our expectations?   Where will my aunt find something "besinnlich" in the German Christmas experience?  Or any Christmas experience?  Or, for that matter, any experience?

Where will we?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Advent / Sunday of Joy

Today was the Sunday of Joy, in Advent.

I love "Joy".  Joy is the best.  "Freude schoener Goetterfunken"--we used the melody today for a hymn.  You can have joy in any circumstance, happy or sad, sickness or in health.  You can also have depression in all of those...  The most joy I have these days is when singing.  I could really go along with that picture of eternity being nothing but choir singing.  It would be delightful to sing praises to God forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever.  Hallelujah!

But we are not there yet, and I am beginning to feel a kind of Christmas panic.  Checking off that list of what all needs to be done right away and for the last few days, and then thinking about everyone's expectations.  I feel sad that none of my ancestors are with me any more.  None of the people who really, really, really loved me, adored me:  my mother and father, and all my grandparents.  There is my husband, but that is different. My godmother is still alive.  I will call her.  She is in Germany.

Joy.  Union.  Reunion.  Praise.  Wedding garments.  The Bridegroom will rejoice over us.  Things will happen and we will be glad.  (Isaiah reading for today.)  Rejoice in all circumstances.  (Epistle reading.)  Joy is so good.  Joy is ours.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Advent / hubbub

With all the shopping and Black Friday ( I tried three times to not have that capitalized), and all that, you wonder what Jesus would say.  The gaudy decorations multiplying every year, the arguing over the greetings, the meaning of it all--he would say something.  Would it be like the clearing of the temple?  "This is supposed to be about my coming but is anyone praying?"

Here is an interesting take on the matter.  What does it mean to have festivities?

The thing is that Christmas has been high-jacked.  It is no longer a feast day on the church calendar, it is one of the successive occasions for which one has to decorate one's yard and house--competitively--shop, spend money, keep the economy going.  Of course, it's all for fun and the good of the family.  But something calls for a right measure, a right way, as something feels wrong about our compulsive and compulsory excesses which occlude get rather than underline meaning.

One thing is needful, Jesus said to Martha and Mary.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Advent / The Son of God

I watched a little bit more of the Gospel of John movie on Netflix.

It strikes me that the entire book strives to prove through Jesus' own actions and words that he is indeed God come as man among us.  He argues, he shows, he explains, he heals, he loves, he illustrates, he provokes, he corrects, he suffers human life and humiliating and unjust death.  And still some of the disciples say:  "Show us the Father".  And he says:  "Have we not been together all this time, and you still say 'Show us the Father?'"  Then he also rises from the dead.  That is the clincher.

Same with us, as with the disciples.  Do we get it?  Can it be?

The church is built on its confession and its answer to this question.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Q. What does this mean?
A. I believe that Jesus Christ is truly God, born of the Father in eternity and also truly human, born of the Virgin Mary. Christ is my Lord! Christ redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, bought and won me from all sins, death, and the authority of the Devil. It did not cost him gold or silver, but his holy, precious blood, his innocent body -- his death! Because of this, I am Christ's very own, will live under Christ in his kingdom and serve Christ righteously, innocently and blessedly forever, just as Christ is risen from death, lives and reigns forever. Yes, this is true!

(Luther's Small Catechism)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Advent / The Time is Short

The other day we had a tremendous snowfall, and I got to my yoga-class late.  Even though the roads were terrible, the instructor had locked the doors.  Here I stood.  I had braved the weather, had to put the truck in four-wheel drive and so on, and I could see the class, through the crack in the door, on its back having its "what's it called", some sort of breathing-relaxing-quite time, with no interruptions allowed.  I was peeved and knocked quietly.  Nothing.  I wasn't going to bang on the doors.  In the end I went home deflated and a little angry about the inflexibility of the situation especially in light of the piles of snow that had not been cleared, yet.  I suppose I should have known it would take me twice as long to get there.

It made me think of the virgins at the wedding banquet, whose lamps had gone out.  They were shut out of the wedding for lack of preparation at the prolonged waiting period.  A disappointment of cataclysmic proportions happened.  I just got a very small taste of it that day.  The Yoga instructors are very picky of their start times.  You must not interrupt the what's-it-called.

Similarly, now is the time to turn, to watch, to hurry, to get done what needs doing--a little adrenaline to get the move on.  The Lord is at hand.  Let your moderation be known unto all men.  Rejoice in the Lord.  The thing that needs doing, is really no thing that needs doing.  It is just a focusing on the Savior's work that is already done for us.  But we are easily distracted.  Clear the rubble, clean the glasses, get a better view, raise the valleys, make the paths straight, lift the gates... so the king may come in.  When the Son of Man comes will he find faith on the earth?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Advent / Gospel of John on Netflix

On Netflix, there is a new movie "The Gospel of John", which is a reading from the King James Version.  Jesus looks very intense most of the time, but since the actor does not speak he does not have many options besides looking intense.

I watched about 30 min. last night and thought about it quite deeply after.  It came to me that the veracity of it all hinges so completely on the person of Christ.  Was he God as John testifies and as he has Jesus self-identify?  It really all depends on this.

I tried to look at it from both sides.  What if John made it up (a preposterous idea from a variety of angles)? --  But what about Jesus?  What does he say and do;  what kind of character do we find here?  Did he do, as the martyrs confessed, no wrong, but has only ever done us good, deserving our loyalty?

I must say that he has only ever done me good.  I must say that the character in the Bible is just and genuine, intelligent and warm, surprising and bold, engaging and fair, loving both high and low, the sick, the healthy, participating in the community, promoting a full view of humanity.  He has done and said nothing wrong, only good.  And it was written down well, too.  You can't make this up.  The gospel witness is faithful.

I am even surer of it, after reading Plato, last year (see Plato posts).  Plato is supposed to have been the most intelligent fellow around, and read what kind of nonsense he wrote half of the time, suggesting the most bizarre arrangements for family life and the sexes, to pick one major thing.

Then there are people who are real heroes to me:  let's say Luther, or Chesterton.  Well, they on occasion have put their respective feet in their mouths quite decisively.   Or look at the patriarchs. --What a motley crew. --  I mean we won't even mention Mohammed.  Half the world swears by his name and he said and did such awful things commanding his followers do the same.

So, I have to say, that even with allowing a measure of doubt, Jesus stands entirely on his own--one of a kind perfect.  I will trust him, and not another.

Advent / Saved by Faith Alone

"It is natural that wherever Law and good works are, there will also be zeal and quarrels among people.  When one wants to be better than the other;  but especially there will be zeal against faith, which has no regard for their works and boasts only of God's grace.  Wherever Christ is, there are always such zealots..."

(Luther, Church Postil II, p. 245)

Supporter of Ansar al-Sharia in Libya carries the group's flag saying: "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger."

Monday, December 8, 2014

Advent / Glory and Honor

We all want glory and honor.

We all want to be loved, but not in spite of our shame and guilt but because of our glory and honor.

We have lately had so many people whom we kept on pedestals toppled off them--Bill Cosby.  Gian Gomeshi.  Pedophile priests.  Obama. Unfair officials.   Racist police officers...

I was driving along downtown Edmonton, past the main police station, the other day.  At an intersection an older looking policeman was waiting to cross on foot, while I had to wait in the car.  I looked him over.  He was well dressed with a black tie and seemed in good shape.  He looked the elder gentleman, who had served his time well.  He had garnered his share of glory and honor, no doubt.  But what would it take to embarrass him?  What could be brought to light?  Something?  Nothing?

Jesus was put to the cross, like a common criminal, dishonored, a prophet who had come to naught.  Reza Aslan lables him a Zealot, who died and that was it.  We are deemed fools because we believe in him and call him God.

The fact is that ALL  honor and glory are due him who has love the unpraiseworthy.  If we have done anything right, we are to call ourselves unworthy servants who have only done their duty.  It is really quite a relief to let the glory and praise thing go altogether.

In the end however, as we see in Revelation, all glory will finally come to Him, as is due him, and we, in the church, have already begun to praise him.  As the Lord said, He will not give His glory to another.  He Himself has done it all.

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”


Advent / Baking / Maria G.'s Lebkuchen recipe

To bake or not to bake, that is the question.

We are all eating too much rich food and not moving enough.  What about our Christmas baking?  When we were children we had cake on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.  During Advent we had cookies every evening after lighting the candles and singing our hymns.  It was such a lovely and magical time.  We still remember helping our mother with her voluminous baking and we still remember which were her favorite songs.  And we still remember how we had to sing before we got any cookies.

Singing and cookies:  my favorite drugs of choice.  Somewhere I read:  the poor man's arts and pleasures.  Indeed, every peasant could sing and bake.  Not to be spurned, though.  "He is the richest whose pleasures are the cheapest."  We shall indulge a bit.

I will bake one recipe of my husbands favorite, jam-filled's.  See the previously blogged recipe.   They are from the Dr. Oetker baking book.

Also, I will make one recipe's worth of Lebkuchen, I just copied down from my sister-in-law, yesterday.  She got it from Maria G.  We will henceforth call it Maria G.'s Lebkuchen recipe.

Here it is:

1.  Mix til foamy:  2 cups flour
                              2 cups brown sugar
                              4 eggs
                              1/2 cup honey

2.  Add:  1/4 cup ground nuts
               1/4 cup chopped, candied orange and lemon
               1 teaspoon ground cloves
               1 teaspoon cinnamon
               1 teaspoon ginger
               1 teaspoon baking soda

Cover cookie sheet with wax paper or parchment... bake at 350 degrees Farenheit,  in a mass like brownies,  slice while warm.

Pour on icing while warm:  (100 gr. icing sugar, with 1 tablespoon lemon juice and one table spoon water.)