Prayer for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

We beseech thee, Almighty God,
to purify our consciences by thy daily visitation,
that when thy Son our Lord cometh
he may find in us a mansion prepared for himself;
through the same Jesus Christ our Lord,
who liveth and reigneth with thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer, 1789

Soundtrack Giveaway 2012 Winner

And the providential winner of this year’s soundtrack giveaway is… Matt! Congrats, man! I’ll contact you by e-mail and get your prize sent to you as soon as possible!

To everyone else who participated… thanks and thanks again. This is the third time I’ve done this. The first time, 8 people participated. The second time, 34 people participated. This time, 60 people participated. Pretty cool, I think. I’ll be hosting this giveaway annually, so be sure to stick around (and spread the word).

Book Review: God Rest Ye Merry

god-rest-ye-wilson-201x300To begin with, here’s wishing you a merry Christmas.

And if you’re wondering why I wished you a merry Christmas, or why Christmas is worth being merry about in the first place, then you’re in luck: there’s a book for that.

In God Rest Ye Merry, Douglas Wilson seeks to rekindle the Christian’s understanding of why Christmas really is “the foundation for everything.” He tears down false reasons for the season (and false objections to it); reflects upon the oddness and beauty of the Incarnation; explains why the first Christmas was “a political event of the first order”; shows us how to celebrate like true Puritans; and examines the theology behind gift-giving. All in less than
one hundred fifty pages.

He’s efficient, this Wilson is.

I’ve got gifts to wrap and halls to deck, so I’ll just cut to the chase: God Rest Ye Merry is a terrific book. I loved it. You should read it. Better yet, you and your family should read it. (The Advent meditations included at the back of the book are perfectly suited to family devotions.) Here are a few standout passages to whet your appetite.

From Lesson Two, The Politics of Christmas:

The message of Christmas is politically incendiary, when you think about it, and it is not for nothing that secularists are trying to get us to forget Jesus with their C.E. (Common Era) and B.C.E. (Before Common Era), and seasonal conifers instead of Christmas trees. Nice try, but we aren’t buying any…

The Anti-Christian Liberties Union (ACLU) knows that getting Christmas trees off public property is well worth fighting for. This is why we as Christians have to learn that saying “merry Christmas” is an act of insurrection. How do we define our lives? More than this, how do we define our lives as a people? Far from retreating into a minimalist celebration, or no celebration at all, we as Christians must take far greater advantage of the opportunity we have in all of this. Now the Lord Jesus is on His throne. And His government will continue to increase. But He works through instruments, and one of His central instruments for establishing His kingdom on earth is the faith of His people. Why is it that Christians shopping at WalMart are being reminded over the loudspeakers that “He comes to make His blessings flow, far as the curse is found.” Why are they telling us this? It’s our religion. Why don’t we believe it? But if you believe it, then say merry Christmas to somebody. (pp. 59, 61)

From Lesson Three, Celebrating Like A Puritan:

Some may object to the fact that the suffix -mass is still in the name. But the objectionable doctrine of transubstantiation was not codified by the Roman church until the thirteenth century (A.D. 1215) at the Fourth Lateran Council. The word mass originally came from the fact that in the ancient church catechumens were dismissed from the service before the Lord’s Supper was observed. “Ite, missa est,” which roughly translated means  that “you may go now.” We see it still in our word dismissed. (p. 92-93)

From Daily Meditations for Advent, Day Twelve:

We forget that Rachel weeping for her slaughtered children is very much a part of the Christmas story – as much a part of it as the shepherds, and the angels, and the star, and the wise men. This is a story of the infants who were butchered by a tyrannical king, and the one infant who was spared in order to grow up and die for the sins of His people.

This story has death woven through it – the backdrop is death, and sin, and tyranny. We celebrate at this time, not because we live in a sentimentalist paradise where there has never been any evil, but only gently falling snow and the sound of sleigh bells in the distance. We celebrate the birth of the one who overthrew the principalities and powers. This is not a holiday that commemorates the essential sweetness and goodness of man. It is a holiday that commemorates the beginning of the story of how it came about that death finally was killed, and how the Warrior who did this great thing was spared in His infancy.

This is why the continued celebration of Christmas is a standing threat to the secularists who want to remove every vestige of it from the public square. I dare say they do. They understand it better than we do. Merry Christmas really means tyranny is dead. (p. 126)

2012 Year in Review: Movies

Top Ten

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1. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012)
Artistically and thematically brilliant, Nolan’s final Batman film is a triumph of superhero storytelling: ambitious, thought-provoking, emotional, and redemptive. A spectacular achievement on every level. When I say the trilogy couldn’t have ended any better, I mean the trilogy could not have ended any better. I could go on and on about how amazing it all is, but ultimately, my verdict can be summed up as follows: not only is this the biggest, boldest, and best Batman movie of them all, it’s the most magnificent superhero film I have ever seen. Simple as that.
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2. LOOPER (2012)
A carefully constructed sci-fi action-puzzler that runs as smoothly as clockwork. Thrilling? Yes. Action-packed? Yes. But look beneath the guns and gadgets and you’ll see something even better: a thinking brain and a beating heart. Bravo, director Johnson. Bravo. You’ve given us a sci-fi film for the ages.
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3. THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY (2012)
It’s good to be back in Middle Earth again. There are a few minor technical missteps – and some (understandable) liberties are taken with the original material – but the overall result is so sumptuous, so exciting, and so impressive that any flaws are easily forgiven or forgotten. This is epic fantasy filmmaking at its very, very finest. Jackson has laid a terrific foundation for the rest of the trilogy, and I’m looking forward to Part II.
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4. THE AVENGERS (2012)
The finest film Marvel has yet produced. Flawless casting, spectacular set pieces, thrilling action, clever writing, and an enthralling story – all revolving around superheroes that are truly super. Forget big, dumb fun. This is big, smart fun. Big, smart, explosive fun.
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5. THE MAN FROM NOWHERE (2010)
Not for the weak of heart (or stomach), but a powerful film nonetheless. The story itself isn’t new or incredibly original, but it gains a lot of emotional heft from the bond between the two lead characters: a thing of beauty amidst so much ugliness. The performances of Bon Win and Sae-Ron Kim are understated yet wonderful, and the action is brilliantly done, making most Hollywood stunts look silly by comparison.
Continue reading 2012 Year in Review: Movies

2012 Year In Review: Fiction

Top Ten

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1. CRIME AND PUNISHMENT by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Now that I’ve finally read this, I can’t help but recommend it to every single person who crosses my path. It is at once a gut-wrenching morality play, a brilliant psychological study, and a gripping crime thriller (not to mention a stunning refutation of Frederic Nietzche’s “Superman”). It’s dark and heavy, yes, but also shot through with hope; a story that affirms both the lostness of the human condition and the power of Christ to save.
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2. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee
This acclaimed novel is ostensibly a courtroom drama, but such a description does not really do this profound and multifaceted book justice. Through the eyes of a child, Lee explores the evils of racial prejudice with subtlety and power, gracing her story with an elegance so unspectacular it’s spectacular. More than once, I had to pause and read passages aloud, just for the pleasure of rolling them off my tongue. Full review
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3. ENDER’S GAME by Orson Scott Card
As far as science fiction goes, Ender’s Game isn’t good, nor is it great – it’s brilliant. Winner of the Hugo and the Nebula awards, this bestselling novel by Orson Scott Card is a stellar fusion of action and ideas; a story as intellectually challenging as it is relentlessly entertaining. (The sequel, Speaker for the Dead, is also terrific). Full review
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4. THE THINGS THEY CARRIED by Tim O’Brien
This is not a novel, nor a memoir, nor a short story collection: it is, instead, an exquisite combination of all three. Through this unique but effective merging of fact and fiction, the author paints a picture of his life (and the lives of his fellow soldiers) before, during, and after the Vietnam war. And what a picture it is. Full review
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5. THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald
It’s either one of the best novels I’ve ever read… or it’s one of the best novels I’ve ever read. They call ‘em classics for a reason, and this one is no exception. Beautiful writing, thought-provoking story.
Continue reading 2012 Year In Review: Fiction