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We Are Suddenly Surrounded By Dead Trees

We Are Suddenly Surrounded By Dead Trees

For many of us in America, “the holidays” means erecting a tree. Usually from life from some woods or its simulation from a box that we assemble. But in any event, almost always, the icon we erect in our living rooms is “really most sincerely dead.” But that tree is evanescently sparkling and alive for this […]

Looking East

Looking East

Through accidents of First Worldness, I have come to spend much of my life in airports and on airplanes. I live in a city so small that its airport has flights to only one city—Philadelphia—and where there is active opposition to the idea of lengthening the runway so that we might be able to travel […]

The Helplessness of the God of Christmas

When I read this way back in September, I just knew I needed to come back to it for Christmas. This is from W.H. Vanstone’s Love’s Endeavour, Love’s Expense, a short reflection by the late English theologian-priest on the nature of God’s love. You can’t talk about God’s love becoming knowable without talking about Christmas, which is why Vanstone tells this simple story. What becomes clear though, is how this depiction of God’s love—which looks discomfortingly like helplessness—is evacuated from our usual understandings of Christmas. In the story, Vanstone is closing up the church in preparation for services the following day, and there meets a disruption to his pretty Christmas picture.

The Word of God discloses to us at Christmas the helplessness of love at the hands of its own creatures—the fact that it is in their hands, vulnerable to their hands, dependent upon their hands for its own triumphant or tragic issue. But the disclosure is made graciously, in the form and presence of a Child. The helplessness of a child is a manageable helplessness, about which we know what we may do, by which our heart and our will are touched. It is not a harrowing helplessness, before which one who saw it might stand appalled. The same truth, the tragic possibility of the love of God, might have been exposed to us in harrowing and appalling form.

On a certain night, shortly before Christmas, I stood in the beautiful church which, in due time, rose beside the commonplace building where, at the first, the people of a new community had worshipped. The Church was ready for Christmas; and the quiet light of candles enhanced its tranquility and beauty. It was very late: but the beauty of Christmas and of its symbols seemed peculiarly intense that night; and I was glad to receive it while I might. I was disturbed by a noise behind me—a dull thud: and I saw, against the glass door, a face pressed, and grotesquely distorted by the pressure. A man was half slumped, half kneeling against the door. He was drunk; and when we talked and he gradually became more sober, it was clear that, though he was quite young, he was already an alcoholic. His experience of life was nothing but the experience of conflict and squalor: and at Christmas he expected nothing different. When at last I retired to sleep my mind must have dwelt on the tragic and distorted face which had, so to speak, invaded the beauty of Christmas. For I dreamed: and in my dream a rubbish-collector came to me and told me that he had been clearing up after a riot; and I myself saw a huge pile of stones and cans and waste paper and scrap metal which he had collected. Then the man touched my arm and said, ‘But what am I to do? For deep within the pile, buried at the bottom of it, I have seen a living face.’ Though my own eyes did not see a face, I knew in my dream that it must be the face of God.

A few hours later, when I preached in Church, I was compelled to speak of my dream. For it seemed to suggest a different way in which the truth of Christmas might have been disclosed—a harrowing and appalling way. It made one newly sensitive to, and grateful for, the graciousness of the way in which the truth of Christmas is in fact disclosed to us. But, in substance, it was the same truth. It was the truth of a God Who, in love, is totally expended for the being of His creation—so that He is helpless under its weight and barely survives for its everlasting support; so that, in the tragedies of creation, in its waste and rubbish, God Himself is exposed to tragedy: so that the creation is sustained at the cost of the agony of the One Who is buried and almost wholly submerged within the depths of it.

Mary Definitely Knew

Mary Definitely Knew

They brought the baby to our doorstep. Five days old. Directly from the hospital. One outfit. Four pre-made bottles. A handful of diapers. A package of wipes. And a packet of papers that offered no definitive judgment on the proper pronunciation of her name. “I think it’s…” the social worker said. “I’m pretty sure.” A […]

Why You Should Spend Whatever You Like Buying Friends and Loved Ones Gifts They Don’t Expect (and Don’t Deserve)

Why You Should Spend Whatever You Like Buying Friends and Loved Ones Gifts They Don’t Expect (and Don’t Deserve)

This one comes to us from our friend Jason Micheli. I’ve grown wary of the Christmas “tradition” of bemoaning the commercialization of Christmas in our culture.  Too often, we begin Advent not with Isaiah’s laments or John the Baptist’s words of judgment but our own words of lament and judgment, criticizing others for being so […]

Prepare Him Room

Prepare Him Room

This Advent reflection comes to us from Grace Leuenberger. “Into this world, this demented inn in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ comes uninvited.” ― Thomas Merton “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She […]

Häve a Blessed Ådvent

Häve a Blessed Ådvent

Cozy up and enjoy this seasonal reflection from Ryan Currie: The New Yorker declared 2016 “The Year of Hygge”. I know, it’s 2018—leave it to church folks to get on trend two years late. ‘Hygge,’ for those who either missed it or already forgot, is a Danish word that doesn’t quite translate into English. When it […]

The Economics of the Incarnation

The Economics of the Incarnation

I don’t like the axiom, “Remember the reason for season.” While the commercialization of Christmas has superseded the meaning of the season, it’s not society’s job to get the season right — it’s the church’s. Instead of getting irate over a culture that fails to appreciate what Christmas means, perhaps it’s time to look in […]

I Have No Gift to Bring: Me and the Little Drummer Boy

I Have No Gift to Bring: Me and the Little Drummer Boy

Ever since I can remember, “The Little Drummer Boy” has been a Christmas favorite. When I was a kid, the fantasy of a cute boy drumming for Jesus made my pre-teen heart go rum-pum-pum-pum. I’ve always had a thing for musicians and he was just the sort of heartthrob Tiger Beat would have covered and […]

Hopelessly Devoted: Legal Christianity

Hopelessly Devoted: Legal Christianity

This reflection was written by Alexander Chapota. When I became a Christian nearly twenty years ago, I knew the run was over. I was tired of lying, life had become so heavy, and I badly craved relief. And so I repented of my sin and dedicated my life to Christ. And yet, not many months […]

O Come Thou Dayspring (and Grandparents, too)

O Come Thou Dayspring (and Grandparents, too)

“Would you like to see what you got me for Christmas?” Starting this time of year, this is the refrain in my home. I am a gift person. My husband is … not. I love selecting, buying, and wrapping gifts. He … doesn’t. I could blame the hectic Advent schedule at church (he’s clergy), but […]

Now Available! An Easy Stroll Through a Short Gospel: Meditations on Mark, by Larry Parsley

We could not be more pleased to announce the latest Mockingbird publication, An Easy Stroll Through a Short Gospel: Meditations on Mark, by Larry Parsley.

This accessible, down-to-earth devotional walks verse-by-verse through the shortest official take on the biggest life ever lived — the story of Jesus played out in the Gospel of Mark. You’ll follow in the footsteps of Jesus as he performs healings and preaches to crowds. Mockingbird writer Larry Parsley brings the story to life, offering approachable, personal, and insightful commentary along the way.

You can purchase An Easy Stroll through our newly redesigned bookstore (store.mbird.com) where you can also find all of Mockingbird’s other publications, along with seminars for purchase and a selection of merchandise…! Major thank-you to Brian M for the redesign.

As with all of our books, An Easy Stroll Through a Short Gospel is also available through Amazon—and all positive reviews help promote the cause!

“This is a short, meditative work that you will want to read slowly and repeatedly as you walk through the shortest and oldest canonical Gospel. As you do, significant—sometimes startling—insights await, as Larry Parsley gently, thoughtfully, and ably guides you through Mark. As it happens, Dr. Parsley has written his first book on the first Gospel. My hope is that this work is but the first fruits of future harvests from this gifted interpreter, storyteller, and teacher.” — Todd D. Still, Ph.D., Professor of Christian Scriptures in the George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University

A gentle journey… Larry’s wisdom and eye for beauty might readily serve as inspiration for daily spiritual exercises.” ― Dr. Paul Scott Wilson, Professor of Homiletics at Emmanuel College, Toronto, and author of The Four Pages of the Sermon

Wonderfully refreshing…compelling [and] down-to-earth…  It truly is ‘an easy stroll’ and a disarmingly profound one simultaneously. All I know is that I will never teach from Mark’s Gospel again without first consulting this book.” — Andy McQuitty, author of Notes from the Valley: A Spiritual Travelogue Through Cancer and The Way to Brave: Shaping a David Faith for a Goliath World

Find An Easy Stroll Through a Short Gospel in Mockingbird’s new online bookstore and on Amazon.