The Smiling Heretic's Blog

Advent 4 :: The most difficult time of the year!

With apologies to Andy Williams:

It’s the most difficult time of the year.
With end times’ foreboding fuss
Angel choirs goading us:
“Have you no fear!”
It’s the most difficult time of the year.

It’s the sap, sappiest season of all.
With Gabriel’s telling
a poor virgin’s dwelling
with God is no ball!
It’s the sap, sappiest season of all.

Isn’t that how the song goes? Maybe not, but it’s sometimes how this stretch of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas seems to go for many people: a mixture of end time prophecy of doom and gloom with smarmily sweet, overly sentimental tales of a baby born in a manger of a virgin girl and her beloved. And let’s not forget the hubbub of shopping, baking, cleaning, decorating, partying, squabbling, over-indulging, and general craziness that the commercialization of the season has morphed into. In just a few short weeks the carcass of the yule tree will replace that of the Thanksgiving turkey in the dustbin of memory of yet another holiday season we’ve barely survived.

Advent 3 :: Who's Number One?

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John the baptizer would never have made it in the 21st century. People nowadays are too narcissistic, too ego-driven, too concerned about appearances. Anyone who is not into some kind of self-promotion á la “whoever-happens-to-be-the-latest-celebrity-wanna-be” is just out of the loop. Perhaps, when dealing with a population of over 6 billion people, it pays to stand out in the crowd just a bit so that folks will take notice of you, but we’ve gone way beyond that. We don’t just want to stand out: we want to be NUMBER ONE!

Okay. This might all be a bit overly dramatic, but look at JTB. Here’s a guy who obviously cared nothing about personal celebrity, or for personal hygiene for that matter [Have you ever taken a whiff of sweaty camel hair, or locust breath?]. He appeared as a crazy man in the desert yelling at people to get ready for the judgement day. He didn’t care what people thought about him. He spoke the truth to power and lost his life as a result. The only thing he was about was the proclamation of the coming of Christ. He would’ve been a PR firm’s worst nightmare.

Advent 2 :: Crying in the wilderness?

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It is interesting how a slight change in punctuation can alter the meaning of a message. Take John the Baptist’s proclamation in our Gospel reading for today:

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord.’” [Mark 1.3]

This quote comes from the prophet Isaiah, but note the change in punctuation:

“A voice cries out: In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD.” [Isaiah 40.3]

Mark has the “voice” crying out in the wilderness. Isaiah doesn’t place the “voice” anywhere in particular, but tells his audience that the wilderness is where we are to prepare the way of the Lord’s coming. A slight change in meaning perhaps, and one that can be explained by a total lack of punctuation in the earliest texts, thus leaving it for later editors to determine. But one wonders about such changes and how they might effect the meaning of a text.

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