Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas from the Lutheran Confessions

From the blog of William Weedon, via CyberBrethren, a Lutheran Blog.

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary – Apostles’ Creed

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man. — Nicene Creed

But it is also necessary for everlasting salvation that one faithfully believe the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is the right faith that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is at the same time both God and man. He is God, begotten of the substance of His Father before all ages; and He is man, born of the substance of His mother in this age: perfect God and perfect man, composed of a rational soul and human flesh; equal to the Father with respect to His divinity, less than the Father with respect to His humanity. Although He is God and man, He is not two, but one Christ: one, however, not by the conversion of divinity into flesh but by the assumption of the humanity into God; one another, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person. — Athanasian Creed

Our Churches teach that the Word, that is the Son of God, assumed the human nature in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. So there are two natures – the divine and the human – inseparably joined in one person. There is one Christ, true God and true man, who was born of the Virgin Mary… – Augsburg Confession

The human nature is assumed by the Word into the unity of His person. — Apology to the Augsburg Confession

The Son became man in this manner: He was conceived, without the cooperation of man, by the Holy Spirit, and was born of the pure, holy, [and ever] Virgin Mary. — Smalcald Articles

I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord… – Small Catechism

We see how completely He has poured forth Himself and withheld nothing from us. – Large Catechism

So we believe, teach, and confess that Mary conceived and bore not merely a man and no more, but God’s true Son. Therefore she is rightly called and truly is “the mother of God.” – Formula of Concord

On account of the personal union and communion of the natures, Mary, the most blessed Virgin, did not bear a mere man. But, as the angel Gabriel testifies, she bore a man who is truly the Son of the most high God. He showed His divine majesty even in His mother’s womb, because He was born of a virgin without violating her virginity. Therefore, she is truly the mother of God and yet has remained a virgin. – Formula of Concord

Consider this majesty, to which Christ has been exalted according to His humanity. He did not first receive it when He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. He received it when He was conceived in His mother’s womb and became man, and the divine and human natures were personally united with each other. – Formula of Concord

He employed this mode of presence when He left the closed grave and came through the closed doors, in the bread and wine in the Supper, and as people believe, when He was born in His mother. – Formula of Concord

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Birth of Jesus Foretold, Luke

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed [2] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” [3] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” [4]

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born [5] will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant [6] of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. ESV on line

Isn't that just the lovliest passage? This Advent season our whole church is listening to Handel's Messiah. We have personal devotional booklets, Wednesday and Thursday services at which the music is played, and small groups like my Monday book group, are pausing their usual order to focus on this wonderful story.

Yesterday a group from the Visual Arts Ministry drove to Akron, Ohio to visit the new museum just opened about 2 years ago, and to see "Familiar Faces:
Chuck Close in Ohio Collections." I've seen a lot of art shows in the last 50 years, but nothing quite like this. His style is photorealism based on a grid system and he uses all media--etchings, linoleium block, paper pulp, photography, finger prints in ink, lithograph, silkscreen, etc. Close works with faces, which is odd, because he has a disability that prevents him from recognizing faces, prosopagnosia, and since 1988 he has been confined to a wheelchair with very limited mobility, using a braced arm to hold his brush.

Close's disabilities require him to break down the whole into manageable parts. Handel's vision is somewhat like that. And any separate part of the Messiah is lovely. Together they are magnificient. On the way to Akron, we listed to the entire first part of Handel's Messiah. It was a glorious sunny day--a wonderful trip. On the way back to Columbus, we listened to a disc of different Handel selections.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Are you ashamed of your roots?

This may be the all time favorite e-Christmas card going around. It's from 2004, but never gets old. One of the lists from my high school (Bill L.) sent it this year. It comes from Ashland University here in Ohio, and I think may be one of the best PR tools a school could have. Great links, easy to read web-page.

But checking those links, it's really difficult to find that Ashland was the only college supported by the Brethren Church after the big break in the 1880s which split the German Baptist Brethren. When I have mentioned to fellow Ohioans that Church of the Brethren and Brethren Church are "sister" denominations (just try to get a librarian to straighten out the subject headings) and that Grace Brethren is the child and niece, they don't believe me. Well, it's true. That tiny group of anabaptists has had numerous splits, often dividing over minor issues, just like other denominations. But the big one was in the 1880s, a division three ways. To this day, they do little together, not even "good works." They did celebrate their 300th anniversary together in 2008 (founded in 1708 in Germany).

Back in the 90s when I was doing some research on Brethren roots for a publication project, I travelled to Ashland, because the library has great resources for all members of the German Baptist groups. Sometimes in genealogy searches you find some folks you'd rather not claim, but I know of nothing that Ashland needs to hide about its Brethren founding and roots. Yes, it was a family fight, but lots of churches did that. You'd have to know about Ashlands religious founding before coming to their excellent website, because I went through various links and clicked in pretty far, and found nothing obvious. There seem to be some active Christian groups on campus, but I didn't find anything related to the Brethren Church (Ashland).