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The center of the Traditional Anglican Communion; adhering to the Holy Bible (KJV) in all matters of Faith and Doctrine, a strict reliance on the Thirty Nine Articles of Religion, The two Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, the Two Creeds, and the Homilies and formularies of the Reformation Church of England.

Verse of the Day

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Secularization and Ultimate Denunciation of Christmas – 14 December 2017, Anno Domini

If you prefer, there is an easy to read and print READER version RIGHT HERE!

nd God spake all these words, saying, 2 I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.  (Exodus 20:1-3)

            Unless you have been in a coma for the past few decades, you will know that there has been an all-out attack against both the meaning and celebration of Christmas. Even if the exact date were proven to be uncertain (and I do not believe it to be uncertain), it would still be appropriate to celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ on any given date. The birth of our Lord Jesus Christ was considered so important to the early church that they began to date all historical events on the BEFORE (B.C.) and AFTER (A.D.) of that Holy event. Though atheistic science and geologist may deny the reality of the Birth of Christ, they cannot escape recognizing that date in the calendar year, even if they opt to call it B.C.E. (Before the Common Era) or C.E. (Common Era). That troublesome event that determines that calendar date keeps haunting them. 

           The hostility towards celebrating the Birth of Our Lord may have begun in the more innocent years of our history, but, today, it has grown to an outward hostility so intense that any mention of the word ‘CHRISTMAS’ draws the ire of those who consider themselves to be the Politically Correct Police whose job is to squelch any sign of faith or religion – but especially that of the Christian religion. While prayers to Dark Prince, Allah, are even being taught to students in many American public schools, even the mention of the Christian God is forbidden and cause for suspension. How did we arrive at this dilemma of faith and freedom FROM religion?

            I have read many well-meaning Christians (including even some clergy) who have attempted to defend the legend of Santa Claus and have even ascribed divine powers to him – such as the claim that he once walked on water. However, the real St. Nicolas was not such fellow. He was a good, kind, and generous bishop of Asia Minor who defended the poor and weak against exploitation. I have visited churches in the area that are named in his honor, but never have I heard or read, in the chronicles of those churches, the fads and fiction which the world lauds over this partly mythical character. I believe the real St. Nicolas would vigorously disclaim these stories that have come to be believed by millions of children.

           Santa Claus is simply a corruption of the name, St. Nicolas. When pronounced rapidly by Europeans and Americans, St. Nicolas evolved into Santa Claus.

            When I was very young, I remember my parents warning me about being good so that Santa Claus would bring me good presents. Santa Claus, like our Lord, seemed to know everything about me. He knew when I was good or bad. He knew my name and age. He knew where I lived, and even where I was on Christmas Eve even if not at home. He was able to fly in his sled just as an angel across the heavens. He was OMNISCIENT. He was also OMNIPRESENT since he was able to deliver gifts around the world, and to every child, in a short 12 hour travel. I never felt completely comfortable with the Santa Claus legend. I always preferred the classical Christmas story with its carols and wonderment to that of the false figure of Santa Claus. 

            When I grew to know for certain that there was no Santa Claus, I wondered what other things my parents had lied to me about. If I had been less informed on Holy Scripture, I may have even thought that they had lied to me about the baby Jesus, God the Father, and God the Holy Ghost. Thankfully, the truth of the meaning of Christmas was too powerful to be dismissed as legend. 

            The character of Santa Claus gradually began to take the place of Jesus Christ in much of our Christmas lore. If anyone denounces Santa Claus as a fraud, he is labeled a hateful killjoy. 

            The myth of Santa began to really gain prominence in 1823 with the publishing of Clement Clarke Moore’s “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” I am sure that Moore did not intend to usurp the place of Christ in Christmas, but that is certainly the result that came about. Drawings of our Lord do not elicit much commercial fanfare, but a red suited old bishop with a bag full of gifts certainly does. We celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas, yet He has been omitted by the commercial and social world. How sad! How much more beautiful (and TRUE) is the story of the first Christmas recorded in the Gospels, and particularly, the Gospel of St. Luke, Chapter 2. 

            Many pop songs have been recorded concerning the ‘season’ of Christmas without mentioning the name of the Lord whose day it is; songs such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, All I want for Christmas, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, White Christmas, Blue Christmas, etc. Jingle Bells was originally written as a Thanksgiving song, but was quickly adopted as a Christmas song without mention of Christ. Ironically, the song was written and first sung at a church in Savannah, Georgia where Pierpont relocated in the last years of his life. His nephew was J.P. (Pierpont) Morgan, the celebrated financier. Aren’t the true songs of Christmas far more appealing and beautiful – Joy to the World, Angels from the Realms of Glory, Noel, Silent Night, O Come all Ye Faithful, We Three Kings, Away in a MangerO Little Town of Bethlehem, etc.

            In the process of time, the secularizers of Christmas grew weary of the mere mention of the name Christmas even if Santa had become the central figure. Even though the central figure of Christmas (Jesus Christ) had been supplanted by Santa Claus and with musical works unrelated to the Christ of Christmas, this did not satisfy those who are offended at the mention of the Lord’s name. If they admit to their being a God in Heaven, and a Lord who must be followed, they would be forced to abandon their gay (old meaning) lifestyles. So, what could they do to eliminate even that allusion of Christ in the word Christmas?

            They concluded, “Let us change greetings cards from Merry Christmas to Happy Holidays” was one approach. Eliminate any scripture references in such cards. Commercialize the season to the point that everyone’s mind would be on glitter and not the Baby Christ-Child born at Bethlehem. Replace solemn Christmas worship services with drinking parties and banquets of gorging and feasting. Belittle anyone who even hints at “Merry Christmas.” Expunge any acknowledgement of the meaning of the season from all public proclamations. No longer would Washington, DC have a Christmas Tree, but rather a Holiday Tree. Thankfully, we have just rid ourselves of a man in the office of President who promoted that disavowal of Christmas. Our present President is very bold in proclaiming Christmas for what it truly is.

            When we celebrate Christmas, I hope we will teach our children whose birthday it is that we celebrate. I hope we will not lie about some mythical figure with powers very similar to those of God as one whom they must please. The beauty and wonder of the real Christmas story is far more compelling than a comic figure in a bishop’s suit with a bag on his shoulders delivering handouts. Tell them the truth! The child can accept truth far better than the seasoned adults whose lives are tainted with sin. If we are found to be liars in one matter so great, our testimony in every other arena will be subject to question. TELL THE CHILDREN THE TRUTH!

            Merry Christmas! May this Christmas be centered on the humble manger, a young and blessed virgin, the beasts of the field who were witness, and the lowly Joseph.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Hymns of the Church – Magnificat – The Song of Mary – 12 November 2017, Anno Domini (In the Year of our Lord)

If you prefer, there is an easy to read and print
nd Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever. And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house. (Luke 1:46-56)

The first Advent Song of Christmas is the Magnificat of Mary, page 26 of the Prayer Book, that begins with the words of Gospel of St. Luke 1:46-55:

One can sense the great joy and devotion of Mary in this instant of Thanksgiving Prayer.  As I was driving to my office a few days ago in the pre-dawn darkness, the air was cold and pristine. The stars sparkled from a cloudless sky. I began thinking about the innocent young Mary who was visited by the Archangel Gabriel so many years ago in a village called Nazareth. I thought about her being at home doing her daily chores - all alone. She must have been shocked at the warm Light that illumined her in her solace, but she was not overly fearful. I believe the approach of God always gives us a great peace. As I was contemplating this scene, I wondered, What would have happened had her parents been present? I'm sure the Angel would have deliberately chosen a time that would be a quiet, solitary moment when He could approach Mary alone. I believe that is precisely characteristic of God and His Holy Spirit. I believe He most often speaks to us when there are no others to distract our attention. His voice is soft and still toward those of His own choosing. Had her parents been present, it is unlikely that Mary would have seen or heard the voice and presence of the great Archangel Gabriel sent from the Father. As I thought on these things, my heart melted with love for her, and her Child, and the Father who demonstrated such great Love to us, and to her. (AOC Christmas Letter, 9 December 2006, Anno Domini)

            The birds of the morning sing most sweetly at dawn, and after refreshing Spring rains, too. The dawn of the Gospel follows the shadows and psalmody of the Old Testament. It is quite natural that the shadow should resemble the image of the true form. When we read the Magnificat of Mary, we are reminded of those gentle strains and shadows of the same given in the early scenes of Israel. 

 Please examine with me the words of the lovely Hannah after God granted her the desire of her heart (the baby Samuel):

My heart rejoiceth in the LORD, mine horn is exalted in the LORD: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation. There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God. Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength. They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased: so that the barren hath born seven; and she that hath many children is waxed feeble. The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD'S, and he hath set the world upon them. He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail. The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them: the LORD shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed. (1 Sam 2:1-10)

The most beautiful words follow beautiful experiences or thoughts. But beauty needs a purity of environment for its manifestation, and it has found its ultimate satisfaction in the gentle heart of a young Virgin. Her great joy could not have been fully realized at the abrupt revelations provided by the great Angel. But Mary has travelled into the hill country of Israel. On every hand of her journey, she has been reminded by the great and Godly heritage of Israel by the mementos along the way of prophets, kings, and mountains of exceedingly precious events. As she walks the rough terrain into these Great Lone Hills, her heart is fixed on the child conceived in her womb, of the Mighty Angel, and upon the Lord of her salvation! She is overcome with humility and love – humility because she is well aware of her shortcomings and seeming unworthiness for the great honor afforded her and, Love, because she has in her body the manifestation and meaning of Love Itself.

            And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.   Mary had a soul that magnified the Lord as a jeweler’s lens magnifies the excellence of a diamond. Observe that the lenses of a microscope do not alter the structural appearance of its object, but rather bears out the true structure and detail of it. Her soul was open to the nature of the Lord and made it appear large and clear to those who met her. Do our souls do this? Our souls are made magnifiers of the Lord whenever we rejoice in God our Savior! Have you had moments of despair turned suddenly into wonderful experiences of Joy in Christ? If I am sad and down, I can alter that emotion at any time by singing the great old hymns of the church. After a few lines of singing those spiritual and biblical lines, I have forgotten my sorrow and bask in the light and love of God. Try it, my friend!

            For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. Mary is perfectly satisfied to be only a handmaiden of the Lord. Did I say ONLY? Being a handmaiden, a doorman, a gardener, or a butler for the Lord surpasses the office of King in any of the great kingdoms of the world – past or present. Mary freely admits to her low estate and does not claim any higher position, but realizes her low estate has lifted her above the greatest of women in the eyes of the Lord. Though only a simple handmaiden, ALL GENERATIONS will call her blessed.

            For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. No matter how low our station and esteem among men, the Lord our God can do great things in and through us. He is not only Holy, but His name, too, is Holy. He is every whit Holy.

            And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. God’s mercy is not confined to a single people, or a single period of time. It encompasses every nation, tribe, and tongue; and it is eternal in its application. Note that the fear of the Lord will always precede his mercy, for His mercy cannot be granted to those who presume upon His grace with scorn or cunning.

            He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. Should we ever forget how God’s outstretched arm brought us over and through the waters to His haven of safety? And the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders. (Deut 26:8) Have we failed to witness the same on our own behalf? If so we have eyes to see and see not, and ears to hear and hear not. The proud He has scattered across the depths of the Red Seas of life. He vanquished the giant, Goliath, with a single smooth river stone from the sling of a young boy. He has confused the wisdom of the high and mighty and exalted the simple to the heights of His Love.

            He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. Belshazzar was deposed in a single stroke of the Finger of God. Ahab has God humbled and Jezebel has He made to be food for dogs. A shepherd boy has God exalted as King in Saul’s stead. A poor Moabitess widow has He lifted into the line of Christ and of David. Fishermen and publicans has He called to the Office of Apostles, the leper has He embraced and healed, the widow’s mites has He exalted to greater wealth than all the world can contain. If we shall be exalted, we must first and always seek the lower seats. Have you done so?

            He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. Our friend and brother, the beggar Lazarus, rest in the bosom of Abraham while the rich man of opulence begs for a drop of water in the fires of Hell where his money and filthy rags of sin will avail him no relief or comfort.

            He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy. The evidence of His mercy permeates the Bible account from beginning to end: Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of thy countenance. In thy name shall they rejoice all the day: and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted. For thou art the glory of their strength: and in thy favour our horn shall be exalted. For the LORD is our defence; and the Holy One of Israel is our king. Then thou spakest in vision to thy holy one, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people.  (Psalm 89:15-19)

            As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever. Have you been granted the grace of being called by that great name – the seed of Abraham? If you have not had, it is simply because you have refused to accept the promise and become a true child of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob, and ultimately of God.

            And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house. Can you imagine the blissful fellowship these two dear ladies enjoyed for those three months? It is very possible Mary remained with Elizabeth until her child, John, was born for Elizabeth, we are told, was six months with child at the moment of the Annunciation and, having remained three months longer would take us to the nine months for the normal course of the pregnancy of Elizabeth. Whether she was present at his birth or not, she certainly lived to see John a great prophet in Israel and her own Son, Jesus, as the Mighty Savior of all time and Eternity! Have you lived sufficiently to have seen Him? 

 (Jerry Ogles, Traditional Christmas Hymns Revisited, ©2014 Anglican Orthodox Church)