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Sorry to be late to the party with this item, but it was in our two-week Christmas issue of the Radio Times, Britain’s foremost television (and radio) guide.

In the 17-30 December 2016 issue, the back page interview was with Prime Minister Theresa May, also the MP for Maidenhead. She answered a variety of questions from reporter Michael Hodges. Excerpts and a summary follow.

On Christmas Day, she and her husband Philip go to church. Afterwards, they meet up with friends for a drink, then it’s off to an ecumenical lunch for the elderly, where May takes time to talk with her constituents.

The Mays return home where the Prime Minister roasts a goose for Christmas dinner. They haven’t had turkey for several years. Although others consider goose to be extremely fatty, May points out:

if you keep the fat, it makes wonderful roast potatoes for quite a long time thereafter.

Absolutely. We also have goose at Christmas, partly for that reason, and for the unctuous stock from the wings.

May, a practising Anglican, lent the Radio Times a photo of herself as a girl with her late father, the Revd Hubert Brasier. She told Michael Hodges what Christmas past was like:

Throughout my life I have been going to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and church on Christmas Day morning. As a child I had to wait until my father had finished his services before I could open my presents.

It felt like a very long wait. Others I knew would be able to open their presents first thing in the morning.

I’m an only child and my mother played the organ. So I would sit alongside her while my father was taking the service.

The interview did not mention that May’s parents died within a year of each other. Her father died just as she completed her studies at Oxford and her mother several months later. It can’t have been easy for her, especially with no siblings for support:

When you first lose your parents, Christmas is hugely, hugely important. Now I enjoy Christmas with my husband Philip and we keep up the tradition of going to church. But, of course, it does remind me of my parents.

During her childhood, she watched only the BBC, until:

one day, my mother managed to jiggle the aerial and we got ITV and I saw Robin Hood. That music and Richard Greene as Robin Hood really grabbed me.

This is the iconic theme to which May refers:

May’s other television favourites included early series of The Avengers with Diana Rigg, then Joanna Lumley, although:

I have never had a female role model — I’ve always just got on with doing what I am doing.

As an adult, she watched the ‘very evocative’ Das Boot. These days, she enjoys Scandinavian dramas Borgen and The Bridge. Christmas Day favourites include Doctor Who and David Suchet as Poirot.

She doesn’t take recommendations for television viewing:

My advisers don’t tell me what to watch on the television — I watch what I want to watch.

May ended the interview by saying she had no idea a year ago that she would be Prime Minister today.

What follows is her four-minute New Year’s message. If her father was as eloquent a speaker as his daughter is, he must have been a splendid vicar. May speaks of the change that Brexit will bring this year but also of the unity of the four nations of the United Kingdom and the shared values and experiences that make us one people:

This is very similar to the first speech she gave as Prime Minister outside No. 10.

She and Donald Trump will get on well. Of that, I have no doubt.

Br Guy in Lab.jpgBefore Christmas, SpouseMouse brought to my attention an interesting article from the London Evening Standard.

On Friday, December 16, the paper published ‘Can science explain the mystery of the Star of Bethlehem?’ on their op-ed page. Br Guy Consolmagno SJ, the author, is the director of the Specola Vaticana, the astronomical observatory of the Vatican City state.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We liked this for two reasons. One, it shows you can be religious and scientific:

At the Vatican Observatory, our work is the same as any other astronomical observatory. We take new data about things in space and try to devise explanations for how they behave. But we’re interested in the Star of Bethlehem for the same reason that everyone else is: it’s a fun mystery, a place where science and hope intersect.

Two, Br Guy goes through all the theories. Some you might like, some you might not. I did not agree with everything he had to say.

Regardless, his article will make you think more about the Star of Bethlehem, especially as he concludes (emphases mine):

Actually, to me the most astonishing part of the story of the Magi is not that they would predict the birth of a king from the positions of the planets; any fortune teller could have done that kind of calculation. Nor is it that they’d pull up roots and travel afar to find out if they were right; we astronomers do that all the time. Instead, it’s that they would be able and willing to recognise the king they were seeking in the child they found in a manger.

I thought a lot about that over Christmas. We still have time to ponder it, as Epiphany isn’t until January 6.

The following images come from #ChristmasMorning.

This was my favourite:

Donald Trump received applause and a standing ovation when he went to a Christmas Eve service. This is the Episcopal church where he and Melania were married:

Please note that the following film is not as billed. The young men in the film are not Muslim. They are Italians who pulled down a Wishing Tree in Naples — in 2015:

 

I hope everyone had an enjoyable Christmas!

Best wishes to all those who are celebrating Boxing Day!

File:Bartolomé Esteban Perez Murillo 008.jpg

This painting, The Holy Family with dog, hangs in Madrid’s Museo del Prado. Bartolomé Esteban Murillo painted it between 1645 and 1650. He was born late December 1617, baptised January 1, 1618 and died on April 3, 1682. Find out more here:

Thoughts on Christmas

December 26 is also the feast of St Stephen:

St Stephen, the first martyr

Learn about Boxing Day:

Boxing Day – a history

For those visiting family and friends today, have fun.

For those who are already back at work, may the Christmas spirit live on in your hearts.

May everyone reading this enjoy a very happy Christmas!

The painting above dates from 1622.  It is called Adoration of the ShepherdsGerard (Gerrit) van Honthorst, a Dutch Golden Age painter, studied in Italy and took his influences from Caravaggio’s use of chiaroscuro, as you can see from the way the light plays on the Holy Family and the shepherds.

You can find out more in the following post:

Happy Christmas, one and all! (John 1:1-17)

For more on John 1, see:

Christmas Day — John 1:14 (with commentary from Matthew Poole)

Lutherans might appreciate these posts:

Martin Luther on the birth of Jesus

A Lutheran defence of Nativity scenes and crucifixes

These are also helpful:

Christmas prayer intentions

Jesus’s nature as depicted in Christmas carols

The_Donald‘s contributors have been discussing our Lord Jesus in some of their posts. This year, a few of them have rediscovered Christianity. In this post (sadly, language alert), someone cited Isaiah 53:1-6:

53 Who has believed what he has heard from us?[a]
    And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
    and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
    and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected[b] by men,
    a man of sorrows[c] and acquainted with[d] grief;[e]
and as one from whom men hide their faces[f]
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

In the midst of our celebrations, may we always remember and be ever grateful for the one sufficient sacrifice our Lord made for us.

Let us pray that more people will come to Christ this year. I was moved by what The_Donald’s posters had to say. Here are five separate comments, the last of which is the Roman Catholic Grace:

Cold Case Christianity. Powerful stuff from a life long atheist and veteran homicide detective. Powerful evidence of Christ. I used to be hardcore atheist and specifically anti-theist. I couldn’t deny the evidence presented. And ultimately – what if someone is wrong about believing in God (for real) – worst case scenario you become a better person. Worst case scenario for atheism is way worse. That was only a small step on an ongoing walk but it spoke to me.

It’s really sad that someone who only desired the best in people would make people angry. He led such a life of self-sacrifice, that I desire my character to be like His.

And if God be for us, who can stand against?

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Bless us, o Lord, and these thy gifts for which we are about to receive. And from thy bounty, through Christ our Lord, amen.

Today’s painting is ‘The Nativity’ by Federico Barocci (Baroccio), who was born in the first half of the 16th century and died in 1612. He painted ‘The Nativity’ in 1597. I found this thanks to The Four Mass’keteers and featured it in my 2009 Boxing Day post.

All being well, we have now finished our Christmas cards and present wrapping. We can now focus on our Saviour’s humble birth on earth. Past posts of mine may be helpful in this respect:

The Christmas story in Matthew’s Gospel (hermeneutics)

Christmas Eve — Matthew 1:18-25 (with commentary from Albert Barnes)

The Christmas story according to St Luke

The Christmas story in Luke’s Gospel (hermeneutics)

Angel imagery in Christmas carols (Dr Paul Copan on how the Bible portrays them)

I hope your Christmas Eve is pleasant and peaceful.

https://a.thumbs.redditmedia.com/VSxB-oFgeCCNvj31vHSzz1JgIMSuVrhBBse5u37uCp8.pngToday, let’s look at the lighter side of Christmas.

The Trump as Santa image comes from one of his fans at The_Donald.

It has a lot of clever detail. Ted Cruz is the elf on the outside looking in. Below Cruz’s picture are images of Trump’s unofficial campaign mascots, Harambe the Gorilla and Pepe the Frog. Hillary is in the snowball on his desk. On the opposite side is Trump’s favourite beverage, Diet Coke. Slightly to the right of that is the little red Trump Train. One of the balls on the tree has Jeff Sessions’s picture (second from the top), and another Ben Carson’s (bottom). Santa Trump’s list has Rosie O’Donnell‘s and Megyn Kelly‘s names on the Naughty side. Mike Pence and Carrier made the Nice list.

Trump’s latest achievement was getting Boeing’s CEO to back down on the cost of the new Air Force One planes. Lockheed Martin also drew the president elect’s ire over the cost of the F-35 fighter jet project. Their CEO has also agreed to re-examine pricing.

Today, December 22, Trump appointed the first successful female presidential campaign manager Kellyanne Conway as counsellor to the president. The married mother-of-four said on December 20 that she and her family would be moving to Washington DC where she planned to work on behalf of Trump in some capacity.

Now on to posts about the secular nature of Christmas.

Historically, this time of year did not have a religious nature even when the Church took root across Europe. Efforts were made during the Middle Ages with Nativity Plays, but a widespread Christian focus occurred only in the 19th century. This eventually extended to Christmas cards, which were quite bizarre when they first appeared. My posts below explain more:

The Christmas tree — a history (related to Christianity)

Christmas gifts — a history (and a Christian defence thereof)

British attitudes towards Christmas

Bizarre Christmas cards from the 19th century

Louis Prang — father of the American Christmas card

Christmas feasting and revelry (the rehabilitation of Christmas)

In 2008, many voters who did not cast a ballot for Barack Obama were disappointed but philosophical.

Life must go on, we figured.

We then hoped that a Republican would defeat him in 2012, but such was not the case. Again, we were disappointed but philosophical.

Now, finally, a Republican has won the election. Donald Trump’s voters are cautiously optimistic about the Electoral College vote despite the Jill Stein recounts and look forward to a safe inauguration in January.

Trump voters bear no ill will towards Hillary voters. We understand that some people are lifelong Democrats who still romanticise the party, recalling the days of FDR and Harry Truman. That’s okay.

However, Hillary’s voters are still apoplectic. The_Donald has a full list (language alert in comments) of the violence angry leftists have committed against people of all ages — including children — who like Trump. There were also leftists who didn’t physically or verbally lash out but lied about Trump supporters attacking them.

One of the incidents on the list concerns a news item published on December 1 in the Observer-Reporter in Washington County, Pennsylvania. A 27-year-old man brutally assaulted his 69-year-old neighbour in a block of flats. This took place just a few days before Thanksgiving (emphases mine):

Matthew Pugh, 27 … was arrested Wednesday on a warrant obtained by Donora police on charges of attempted homicide, aggravated assault, simple assault and reckless endangerment.

Borough police were called to the apartment complex Nov. 20. Witnesses told police that Pugh and the woman, also a Donora Towers resident, were in the lobby when they got into a disagreement about politics, particularly the recent presidential election.

Pugh reportedly became enraged. He allegedly picked up a chair and hit the woman over the head, knocking her to the floor. The chair opened a gash on her head that bled severely, police said. The woman also suffered other injuries in the fall

The woman was taken to Monongahela Valley Hospital for treatment of her injuries. Police said Pugh was taken to the same hospital for an evaluation.

Pugh was arraigned before District Judge Larry Hopkins and placed in Washington County jail on $50,000 bond. He is scheduled for a Dec. 14 preliminary hearing before District Judge Mark Wilson.

An article by Dennis Prager for Townhall described the madness surrounding Thanksgiving celebrations. A number of Hillary voters decided to not participate with Trump-voting family members. This affected all generations and, yes, some parents disowned their Trump-supporting children.

This will probably recur at Christmas. I highly recommend everyone read Prager’s ’10 Reasons Left-Wingers Cut Trump Voters From Their Lives’. Excerpts follow:

… conservatives were not one whit less fearful of Clinton and the Democrats than Democrats were of Trump and Republicans.

Yet virtually no conservatives cut off contact with friends, let alone parents, who supported Clinton.

Exactly.

Here are 10 reasons left-wingers cut Trump voters from their lives.

1. Just like our universities shut out conservative ideas and speakers, more and more individuals on the left now shut out conservative friends and relatives as well as conservative ideas.

2. Many, if not most, leftists have been indoctrinated with leftism their entire lives …

There are far more conservatives who read articles, listen to and watch broadcasts of the left and have studied under left-wing teachers than there are people on the left who have read, listened to or watched anything of the right or taken classes with conservative instructors.

3. Most left-wing positions are emotion-based. That’s a major reason people who hold leftist views will sever relations with people they previously cared for or even loved. Their emotions (in this case, irrational fear and hatred) simply overwhelm them.

This is why I occasionally make the plea for less emotion, especially crying. It interferes with a rational thought process.

4. Since Karl Marx, leftists have loved ideas more than people. All Trump voters who have been cut off by children, in-laws and lifelong friends now know how true that is …

5. People on the right think that most people on the left are wrong; people on the left think that most people on the right are evil

That is a very important distinction: wrong versus evil. Wrong has to do with thoughts and beliefs. Evil implies dark immorality.

The next point elaborates on that notion further:

6. The left associates human decency not so much with personal integrity as with having correct — i.e. progressive — political positions. Therefore, if you don’t hold progressive positions, you lack decency. Ask your left-wing friends if they’d rather their high school son or daughter cheat on tests or support Trump.

That is an erroneous way of thinking — one that affects how leftists see others, including centrist or conservative family members.

There is more at the link.

Prager strongly encourages Hillary voters to make amends with those they have defriended and disowned.

I couldn’t agree more. Christmas is only a few weeks away. Advent is a time of preparation for Jesus’s earthly birth. John the Baptist exhorted his followers to repent and to exercise charity during this time. May we follow suit.

Most churches will be using readings for Epiphany this Sunday, as January 6 falls on a Wednesday.

For this reason, the readings for Christmas 2 — the second Sunday after Christmas — will be used by few congregations that follow the three-year Lectionary readings from The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

The Vanderbilt Divinity Library is a useful resource for Lectionary readings. I highly recommend it. Catholic readings are included.

The Gospel reading is John 1:18, used on Christmas Day, about which you can read more here:

Christmas Day — John 1:14 (with commentary from Matthew Poole)

Happy Christmas, one and all! (John 1:1-17)

This is verse 18, another to remember:

No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

The first reading is Jeremiah 31:7-14:

7 For thus says the LORD: Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, “Save, O LORD, your people, the remnant of Israel.”

8 See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here.

9 With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back, I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I have become a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.

10 Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, “He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.”

11 For the LORD has ransomed Jacob, and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.

12 They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the LORD, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall become like a watered garden, and they shall never languish again.

13 Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.

14 I will give the priests their fill of fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty, says the LORD.

Jeremiah, John MacArthur explains, prophesied during a horrible period in the history of the Jews, the Babylonian captivity and slaughter:

Jeremiah was 80 to 100 years later than Isaiah. Everything that Isaiah said was going to happen did happen at the end of Jeremiah’s time. Isaiah, you remember, had said that judgment was coming and Jeremiah says it’s here. Jeremiah says the Babylonians are going to arrive and the Babylonians are going to slaughter you. And the Babylonians are going to take you into captivity and that is exactly what happened. Jeremiah stood on the edge of the holocaust. Jeremiah was the prophet of the end of the glory days of Israel.

The late Dr. Morehead said it was Jeremiah[‘s] lot to prophe[s]y at time when all things in Judah were rushing down to the final and mournful catastrophe. When political confusion was at its height, when the worst passions swayed the people’s hearts and the most fatal counsels prevailed to see his own people whom he loved with the tenderness of a woman plunge over the presuppose into the wide weltering ruin, that was Jeremiah’s lot.

Jeremiah was the prophet of Judah’s midnight hour. Isaiah prophesied at 11 o’clock and Jeremiah prophesied at midnight. Jeremiah preached for 42 years, 42 years. During the reign of five kings Jeremiah preached.

Jeremiah might as well have been talking to a wall, because practically no one paid him the blindest bit of attention. Those few who did, loathed his warnings. In fact, MacArthur says:

tradition says Jeremiah died in Egypt killed by his own countrymen. 

Despite this, during his lifetime Jeremiah had God-given hope:

God said the captivity of the people is only gonna last 70 years.  It’s gonna be brief and I’m gonna bring them back.  I’m gonna bring them back.  And there was hope.  And so Jeremiah preached with hope.  There would be a remnant.  There would be some who would believe.  There would be a recovery in the future.  God was not permanently through with Judah.  God had not alienated Judah ultimately.  God had not violated his covenants.  He would bring them back and there would be restoration. 

In Chapter 31, Jeremiah receives God’s message of the covenant to come:

The time when God writes the law in the hearts.  Chapter 31.  Not on stone.  The coming of the new covenant in the Messiah.  The Redeemer … Jeremiah didn’t know how far ahead that was.  He couldn’t see into the chronology of the future.  But that hope compelled his heart. 

Matthew Henry makes these points:

God shall have the glory and the church both the honour and comfort of this blessed change (Jeremiah 31:7): Sing with gladness for Jacob, that is, let all her friends and well-wishers rejoice with her, Deuteronomy 32:43. Rejoice, you Gentiles with his people, Romans 15:10. The restoration of Jacob will be taken notice of by all the neighbours, it will be matter of joy to them all, and they shall all join with Jacob in his joys, and thereby pay him respect and put a reputation upon him …

… in order to a happy settlement in their own land, they shall have a joyful return out of the land of their captivity and a very comfortable passage homeward (Jeremiah 31:8,9), and this beginning of mercy shall be to them a pledge of all the other blessings here promised …

… here is a reason given why God will take all this care of his people: For I am a Father to Israel, a Father that begat him, and therefore will maintain him, that have the care and compassion of a father for him (Psalm 103:13) and Ephraim is my first-born even Ephraim, who, having gone astray from God, was no more worthy to be called a son, shall yet be owned as a first-born, particularly dear, and heir of a double portion of blessings. The same reason that was given for their release out of Egypt is given for their release out of Babylon they are free-born and therefore must not be enslaved, are born to God and therefore must not be the servants of men. Exodus 4:22,23, Israel is my son, even my first-born let my son go that he may serve me. If we take God for our Father, and join ourselves to the church of the first-born, we may be assured that we shall want [for] nothing …

He summarises the remaining verses as:

publishing to the world, as well as to the church, the purposes of God’s love concerning his people. This is a word of the Lord which the nations must hear, for it is a prophecy of a work of the Lord which the nations cannot but take notice of. Let them hear the prophecy, that they may the better understand and improve the performance and let those that hear it themselves declare it to others, declare it in the isles afar off. It will be a piece of news that will spread all the world over. It will look very great in history …

The Epistle is Ephesians 1:3-14:

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,

4 just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.

5 He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will,

6 to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace

8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight

9 he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ,

10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will,

12 so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.

13 In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit;

14 this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

MacArthur explains (emphases mine):

I want you to look at verses 3-14 and understand here the idea of the church and what it says about us as the church. Now, remember the word church needs to be replaced in your mind by the word called. We are the called ones. And there are a series of propositions from verse 3 to 14 that define this calling … Starting in verse 3 we’re going to understand our calling and that is synonymous with being a church. We have been called by God. We’ve been summoned by God. We are a gathering of people that have been brought together by divine supernatural power through the work of God in salvation …

In verse 3 blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who’s blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world. We were called before. This association of believing people was called by God initially chosen by God before the foundation of the world

The passage literally tells us, verse 4, he chose us. He picked us out for himself. In eternity pas[t], God chose his church. Here is the first cause of our existence … The first cause of the existence of this church, the first cause of the blessing of this church, the first cause of everything that’s happened in this church is God’s sovereign, independent, unaffected choice.

In verse 5, he predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to himself according to the kind intention or good pleasure of his will. He proorizod us[,] in the Greek. He predetermined. He predestined us. This obviously speaks of the great doctrine of election. The doctrine of predestination. We were called before the foundation of the world in the purposes of God …

In verse 7 in him we have redemption. Through his blood the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of his grace … Called out[,] that’s redemption. We have been called out of darkness. We have been called out of sin. We have been called out of death. We’ve been called out of hell. We’ve are the regenerate church …

Verse 8 talks about the riches of his grace in verse 7, which he lavished on us and then he says in verse 8 in all wisdom and insight, he has made known to us the mystery of his will according to his kind intention, which he purposed in him. Now let me ask you a question. You tell me, where has God made known the mystery of his will? Where? Scripture. Scripture. Our relationship to God is a relationship of authority. We are not the authority. We are under authority. We have been called under. All wisdom and all insight has been known to God and revealed to us according to his kind intention and of course it has been revealed to us in scripture. That is the only source of that revelation

Henry also has excellent insights, citing the King James Version:

Another privilege which the apostle here blesses God for is divine revelation–that God hath made known to us the mystery of his will (Ephesians 1:9), that is, so much of his good-will to men, which had been concealed for a long time, and is still concealed from so great a part of the world: this we owe to Christ, who, having lain in the bosom of the Father from eternity, came to declare his will to the children of men …

Union in and with Christ is a great privilege, a spiritual blessing, and the foundation of many others. He gathers together in one all things in Christ, Ephesians 1:10. All the lines of divine revelation meet in Christ all religion centres in him. Jews and Gentiles were united to each other by being both united to Christ. Things in heaven and things on earth are gathered together in him peace made, correspondence settled, between heaven and earth, through him …

… In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, Ephesians 1:11. Heaven is the inheritance, the happiness of which is a sufficient portion for a soul: it is conveyed in the way of an inheritance, being the gift of a Father to his children. If children, then heirs. All the blessings that we have in hand are but small if compared with the inheritance. What is laid out upon an heir in his minority is nothing to what is reserved for him when he comes to age. Christians are said to have obtained this inheritance, as they have a present right to it, and even actual possession of it, in Christ their head and representative

… In this revelation, and in his making known unto us the mystery of his will, the wisdom and the prudence of God do abundantly shine forth. It is described (Ephesians 1:13) as the word of truth, and the gospel of our salvation. Every word of it is true It is the gospel of our salvation: it publishes the glad tidings of salvation, and contains the offer of it: it points out the way that leads to it and the blessed Spirit renders the reading and the ministration of it effectual to the salvation of souls. O, how ought we to prize this glorious gospel and to bless God for it! … The seal and earnest of the Spirit are of the number of these blessings. We are said to be sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, Ephesians 1:13. The blessed Spirit is holy himself, and he makes us holy. He is called the Spirit of promise, as he is the promised Spirit. By him believers are sealed that is, separated and set apart for God, and distinguished and marked as belonging to him.

The Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, Ephesians 1:14. The earnest is part of payment, and it secures the full sum: so is the gift of the Holy Ghost all his influences and operations, both as a sanctifier and a comforter, are heaven begun, glory in the seed and bud. The Spirit’s illumination is an earnest of everlasting light sanctification is an earnest of perfect holiness and his comforts are earnests of everlasting joys. He is said to be the earnest, until the redemption of the purchased possession. It may be called here the possession, because this earnest makes it as sure to the heirs as though they were already possessed of it and it is purchased for them by the blood of Christ. The redemption of it is mentioned because it was mortgaged and forfeited by sin and Christ restores it to us, and so is said to redeem it, in allusion to the law of redemption. Observe, from all this, what a gracious promise that is which secures the gift of the Holy Ghost to those who ask him.

These readings really do resonate and make the meaning of Christmas come alive. May we remember this message throughout the year and reflect on it often.

I realise not everyone has the inclination to read the Bible. However, I hope that John MacArthur’s and Matthew Henry’s explanations give us a better idea of what Christianity and our life in Christ really mean.

As Christmastide closes, I pray that more Christians will read the Bible and use good commentaries in their private study. May the Holy Spirit bless them with wisdom and discernment.

Forbidden Bible Verses will return next week.

Christmas cardsAs December 28 is the last of the Christmas holidays here in the UK and a few Commonwealth countries, let’s have a final look at seasonal traditions.

The French newsweekly L’Obs (Le Nouvel Observateur) has put together a collection of some of the most bizarre Christmas cards from the Victorian period through the early 21st century.

I would encourage everyone to look at the 14 eye-openers — nearly all with English ‘greetings’.

L’Obs borrowed some of their card photos (as have I, above) from a BBC article published on December 21, 2015. You will not believe the sinister and strange images.

Most people who exchanged paper greetings chose conventional illustrations, which, as I have written before (here and here), were often of animals, none of which were terribly Christmassy. Alternatively, idealised well dressed girls and boys graced the greeting. Other images were more seasonal depicting people enjoying Christmas dinner.

Stephanie Boydell, curator of special collections at Manchester Metropolitan University, told the BBC that some of the common animal illustrations would have appeared elsewhere and the general public would have recognised them. Christmas card printers reused these pictures. Many of these printers had collections of such images which they used throughout the year for other greetings or cheap prints.

Nativity scenes did not appear until much later.

Boydell explained that this is because the Victorians, like their antecedents, did not consider Christmas to be a religious feast day but rather a secular festival:

The Victorians had a different idea to what Christmas was about – not particularly Christian, but a time of good humour.

Consequently, a number of cards were made for people who enjoyed an absurdist or a dark sense of humour. Pictures of animals or humans doing strange and criminal things were popular with this market.

One card (5/14 in the L’Obs collection) features a frog who has just stabbed another in the heart and runs off with his money. The greeting reads:

A Merry Christmas to you.

Another card (3/14) shows a dead robin with this wish:

May yours be a Joyful Christmas.

A French card depicts a mouse riding a lobster, using its antennae as reins. The mouse has a piece of paper which, translated, reads:

Peace, joy, health, happiness.

Of this image, Boydell says:

You may find a mouse riding a lobster strange – I find it funny. It’s horses for courses.

Humans in this genre are in unsettling situations. In addition to the one shown above with two women rollling the poor man into a snowball, the BBC page has a few other cards. One upper-middle class boy threatens a middle-class lad with a horsewhipping. Another shows an upset boy stuck in a teapot. A third shows a clown ready to stick a red hot poker up a policeman’s posterior, unaware that another constable is coming round the corner.

Other cards reflect a moralistic theme in an absurdist way. At L’Obs, the first image shows four frogs who disobeyed their mother’s instruction not to play on the ice. They all landed on their backs. The eighth card, ‘”X”mas RAYS’, features an unlucky boy who ate the Christmas pudding. His x-ray shows that the guilty cannot hide!

These cards are a useful introduction to the Victorian mindset, not nearly as pious as we like to think it was.

They also remind me that when a couple we know send us a Christmas greeting with a skull and crossbones, they are merely upholding a longstanding tradition. They think they are being clever. I might just send them these links.

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