Archive for the ‘December 30: Sixth Day of Christmas’ Category

Devotion for the First Sunday After Christmas (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:  Jethro and Moses, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

A New Year Resolution

DECEMBER 29, 2019

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Exodus 18:13-24

Psalm 69:30-36

1 Timothy 3:1-13

Matthew 1:1-17

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The Gospel of Jesus Christ is one of inclusion–inclusion of all the faithful regardless of gender, ethnicity, national origin, et cetera.  In Matthew 1, for example, the author mentions four women (although we know there were more females than that involved in all that begetting), one of whom was a foreigner and three of whom had dubious sexual reputations.  Even the aliens and the objects of gossip have vital roles to play in the unfolding of divine purposes.  Furthermore, nobody can do everything (as Moses learned), but the division of labor and the faithful attendance to duty can enable the faith community to function as well as possible.

The author of Psalm 69 hates his enemies (who hate him) and asks God to smite them.  We tend to omit such angry portions of the Psalms, do we not?  They frequently make us squirm in our seats as we identify with those passages and feel less than holy as a result.  We prefer to read the other passages–such as the assigned portion of Psalm 69–as we ignore the anger and frustration elsewhere in the same poem.

We cannot become the new creations in Christ we ought to be and fulfill our divine vocations as long as we embrace the desire for revenge.  I write from experience.  We need to acknowledge that anger and vengeance then give it over to God.  We must detach from them if we are to grow fully in Christ, who prayed for the forgiveness of those who crucified him and consented to that execution.

This Sunday falls in the vicinity of New Year’s Day.  Therefore I offer a proposed resolution: may we abandon revenge and the desire for it in the new year.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 30, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF JAMES MONTGOMERY, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN ROSS MACDUFF AND GEORGE MATHESON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTERS AND AUTHORS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/04/30/a-new-year-resolution/

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That Old Sweet Song of Angels   Leave a comment

nativity-and-annunciation-to-the-shepherds

Above:  Nativity and Annunciation to the Shepherds

Image in the Public Domain

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Long ago the angels vanished–

But their song is sounding still!

Millions now with hope are singing,

“Peace on earth, to men good will.”

Sing, my heart!  Tho’ peace may tarry,

Sing good will mid human strife!

Till that old sweet song of angels

Shall attune to heav’n our life.

–William Allen Knight (1863-1957), “Come, My Heart, Canst Thou Not Hear It” (1915), quoted in The Pilgrim Hymnal (1931/1935), Hymn #77

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Part of the mystery of the Incarnation is its counterintuitive nature:  a vulnerable baby was God incarnate.  This truth demonstrates the reality that God operates differently than we frequently define as feasible and effective.  Then again, Jesus was, by dominant human expectations, a failure.  I would never claim that Jesus was a failure, of course.

If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat;

and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink;

for you will heap coals of fire on their heads,

and the LORD will reward you.

–Proverbs 25:22, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Speaking of counterintuitive ways of God, shall we ponder the advice of St. Paul the Apostle in Romans 12:14-21?

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.  Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.  If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  No, if your enemies are hungry, feed them, if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

That old sweet song of angels will not attune to heaven our life if we ignore this sage advice–if we fail to overcome evil with good.  How we treat others indicates more about what kind of people we are than about what kind of people they are.  If we react against intolerance with intolerance, we are intolerant.  We also add fuel to the proverbial fire.  Is not a fire extinguisher better?

As the Master said,

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others?  Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

–Matthew 5:43-48, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Perfection, in this case, indicates suitability for one’s purpose, which is, in the language of the Westminster Shorter Catechism,

to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

–Quoted in The United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, The Book of Confessions (1967)

As the annual celebration of the birth of Christ approaches again, may we who follow him with our words also follow him with our deeds:  may we strive for shalom on a day-to-day basis.  Only God can save the world, but we can leave it better than we found it.

Merry Christmas!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 21, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Devotion for December 30 and 31, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Temple of Solomon

Above:  The Temple of Solomon

Scan (from an old book) by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Discomfort with Scripture

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2018, and MONDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2018

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you gave us your only Son

to take on our human nature and to illumine the world with your light.

By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit,

through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 3:10-17 (December 30)

1 Kings 3:5-14 (December 31)

Psalm 147:12-20 (Both Days)

Mark 13:32-37 (December 30)

John 8:12-19 (December 31)

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Psalm 147 is a happy hymn of praise to God.  Reading, chanting, or singing that text makes people feel good and holy.  But what about other psalms and parts thereof?

O daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction,

happy the one who repays you

for all you have done to us;

Who take your little ones,

and dashes them against the rock.

–Psalm 137:8-9, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

The pericopes for these days constitute a combination of the comfortable and the cringe-worthy.  King Solomon, after obeying his father’s advice and conducting a royal purge after his accession, allegedly received wisdom from God.  He also built a beautiful Temple in Jerusalem, financing it with high taxes and using forced labor.  The Temple was, in the Hebrew religion of the time, where people found reconciliation with God.  And it existed courtesy of the monarchy.  Solomon was using religion to prop up the dynasty.  Meanwhile, the details of Solomon’s reign revealed a lack of wisdom, especially in governance.

Jesus as the light of the world (John 8:12-19) fits easily inside the comfort zones of many people, but the entirety of Mark 13 does not.  That chapter, a miniature apocalypse, proves terribly inconvenient to those who prefer a perpetually smiling Jesus (as in illustrations for many Bibles and Bible story books for children) and a non-apocalyptic Christ.  Yet the chapter is present.

The best approach to scripture is an honest and faithful one.  To pretend that contradictions which do exist do not exist is dishonest, and to lose oneself among the proverbial trees and therefore lose sight of the continuity in the forest is faithless.  Many authors from various backgrounds and timeframes contributed to the Bible, that sacred anthology.  They disagreed regarding various topics, and theology changed as time passed.  Yet there is much consistency on major topics.  And, when certain passages cause us to squirm in discomfort, we are at least thinking about them.  Bringing one’s intellect to bear on scripture is a proper thing to do, for higher-order thinking is part of the image of God, which each human being bears.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 24, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARTHOLOMEW, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/08/24/discomfort-with-scripture-2/

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Devotion for December 30, Year B (ELCA Daily Devotion)   1 comment

Charles Finney

Above:  Charles Finney (1792-1866), Who Considered Eating Meat, Drinking Tea, and Reading Secular Novels to Be Self-Indulgent Activities Which No Christian Should Commit

Image in the Public Domain

Two Banquets

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2017

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The Collect:

All-powerful and unseen God, the coming of your light

into our world has brightened weary hearts with peace.

Call us out of darkness, and empower us to proclaim the birth of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 9:1-12

Psalm 148

2 Peter 3:8-13

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Kings of the earth and all peoples,

princes and all rulers of the world;

Young men and women,

old and young together;

let them praise the name of the Lord.

–Psalm 148:11-12, Common Worship (2000)

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As I read the pericope from Proverbs 9 closely, I noticed two issues regarding it:

  1. Verses 7-12 do not flow naturally from verses 1-6, and
  2. Verses 1-6 and 13-18 constitute a contrast.

One should in fact, read verses 1-6 and 13-18 together.  To do so is to read descriptions of two very different banquets.  One is public, but the other is private.  The first leads to spiritual life, but the second leads to spiritual death.

Divine wisdom, which wisdom literature personifies as a woman, prepares and hosts a banquet for the benefit of the simple.  A banquet is a recurring theme throughout the Bible.  Often the feast functions as a metaphor for the eschaton, as in canonical gospels.  I, a serious student of the Bible, recognize eschatological passages as containing both divine judgment and mercy.

Eschatology is in the foreground in 2 Peter 3:8-13.  The author is arguing against scoffers.  Proverbs 9:7 says that he was calling down abuse on himself, but the author of 2 Peter 3:8-13 was encouraging the faithful to lead good, disciplined lives.  God will establish justice, but that constitutes no excuse for us to become discouraged and lapse in our spiritual discipline, he writes.  Yes, we Christians ought to lead disciplined, not self-indulgent, lives, but that mandate is no reason for us to fall into other errors.  I have read of overly strict Christians (often from the nineteenth century) condemning activities such as reading secular novels, eating meat, drinking tea, and playing chess as self-indulgent and therefore sinful.  These critics needed to relax.  There is, fortunately, a sensible middle ground safely distant from both legalism and an “anything goes” attitude.

Each of us should, of course, enjoy many pleasures sensibly, without idolizing any of them.  And all people have responsibilities to God and others.  We humans are responsible to and for each other.  We are responsible for the ways we treat the environment.  God has given us free will with the responsibility to use it wisely.  May we attend the proper banquet.  May we enjoy and glorify God forever.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 8, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN VON STAUPITZ, MARTIN LUTHER’S SPIRITUAL MENTOR

THE FEAST OF JAMES THEODORE HOLLY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF HAITI

THE FEAST OF JOHN MILTON, POET AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/two-banquets/

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An Invitation to Observe a Holy Christmas   1 comment

church-of-the-common-ground-december-24-2011

Above:  Episcopal Church of the Common Ground, Atlanta, Georgia, December 24, 2011

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

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Merry Christmas!

One of my fellow parishioners observed that a local radio station ceased to play Christmas music early in the afternoon one Christmas Day a few years ago.  David remarked sarcastically that Christmas must have ended at that time.  I know that he was sarcastic because he observes all twelve days of Christmas–through January 5.

The twelve days of Christmas, when one observes them with the assigned biblical readings for the holy days, take one on a tour through joy and abject grief, through love and hatred, through tenderness and violence.  The Feasts of St. Stephen (December 26) and the Holy Innocents (December 28) function as counterparts to the joy of December 25.  The whole picture tells us that God became incarnate in the form of a helpless infant born into a violent world in which people threatened his life.  Young Jesus survived, of course, but others died because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness is menacing indeed.  Yet, as we read in John 1:5 (The New Jerusalem Bible),

…and the light shines in darkness,

and darkness could not overpower it.

That is an excellent reason to celebrate.  Merry Christmas!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 9, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN CHEMNITZ, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF BARTON STONE, COFOUNDER OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH (DISCIPLES OF CHRIST)

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A Christmas Message: Come, My Heart, Canst Thou Not Hear It   1 comment

come-my-heart

Above:  Part of a Certain Hymn from Pilgrim Hymnal (1935)

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.

–Luke 2:8, The New Revised Standard Version

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I collect hymnals and service books.  Exploring them and finding treasures is a wonderful hobby, one which brings joy to me.  And sharing those gems sheds that joy abroad.  That is the rationale for my GATHERED PRAYERS weblog, which links into this one.  Some hymns, however, are not prayers, so I seek and fine other venues for sharing them.

William Allen Knight (1863-1957) was a U.S. Congregationalist minister and author.  Yesterday, for example, I found some books he wrote available at archive.org:

Knight also wrote the following Christmas hymn in 1915:

Come, my heart, canst thou not hear it,

Mid the tumult of thy days?

Catch the old sweet song of angels,

Join thy voice to swell their praise!

Hast thou never shared the blessing,

Never known kind Heaven’s gift?

Bethlehem thy Saviour cradled!

Heart of mine, a song uplift.

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First to hear were watching shepherds,

Sore afraid that winter’s night;

Soon their Bethlehem’s low manger

Changed the song to wondrous sight!

Ever since, all they who hear it

Find a Saviour where they dwell;

Sing it, heart!  Who knows what toilers

Thou the Christward way shalt tell!

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Long ago the angels vanished–

But their song is sounding still!

Millions now with hope are singing,

“Peace on earth, to men good will.”

Sing, my heart!  Tho’ peace may tarry,

Sing good will mid human strife!

Till that old sweet song of angels

Shall attune to heav’n our life.

I keep hearing about a war on Christmas.  Yet I note that many, if not most, of those who speak and write at length on that subject seem oblivious to the liturgical calendar and many well-documented facts.  “Xmas” is not a way to remove “Christ” from Christmas.  No, “X” is an abbreviation derived from the Greek alphabet.  I have, for example, squeezed “Xian” into a tiny gap when taking notes and meaning “Christian.”  And I do not hear many of these self-appointed defenders of Christmas against the great secular hordes speak of Advent or twelve days of Christmas often.  Thus many self-appointed defenders of tradition violate the tradition they claim to affirm.  I love the irony.

Talk is cheap and frequently annoying.  But keeping holy seasons quietly and sincerely is where, as an old saying goes, the rubber meets the road.  We can start by dropping out of the rat race or never entering it.  And we can live daily in the awareness that time is sacred–something of which the older, more formalistic Christian denominations tend to engender better than the iconoclastic schools of Protestantism.

The angels’ song is sounding still.  Thanks be to God!  But do we hear it over the din of pointless arguments and of hustle and bustle?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 23, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-THIRD DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF KANTY, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHARBEL, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MONK

THE FEAST OF GERALD R. FORD, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

THE FEAST OF PERCY SUTTON, CIVIL RIGHTS PIONEER

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Adapted from this post:

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/12/23/a-christmas-message-come-my-heart-canst-thou-not-hear-it/

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Advent and Christmas Message   1 comment

advent-and-christmas-message

Above:  The Beginning of the Draft of This Post

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And Mary said,

My soul magnifies the Lord,

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior….

–Luke 1:46-47, The New Revised Standard Version:  Catholic Edition (1993)

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One of the great virtues of High Churchmanship is having a well-developed sense of sacred time.  So, for example, the church calendars, with their cycles, tell us of salvation history.  We focus on one part of the narrative at a time.  Much of Protestantism, formed in rebellion against Medieval Roman Catholic excesses and errors, has thrown the proverbial baby out with the equally proverbial bath water, rejecting or minimizing improperly the sacred power of rituals and holy days.

Consider, O reader, the case of Christmas–not in the present tense, but through the late 1800s.  Puritans outlawed the celebration of Christmas when they governed England in the 1650s.  Their jure divino theology told them that since there was no biblical sanction for keeping Christmas, they ought not to do it–nor should anyone else.  On the other hand, the jure divino theology of other Calvinists allowed for keeping Christmas.  Jure divino was–and is–a matter of interpretation.  Lutherans, Anglicans, and Moravians kept Christmas.  Many Methodists on the U.S. frontier tried yet found that drunken revelry disrupted services.  Despite this Methodist pro-Christmas opinion, many members of the Free Methodist denomination persisted in anti-Christmas sentiment.  The holiday was too Roman Catholic, they said and existed without

the authority of God’s word.

Thus, as the December 19, 1888 issue of Free Methodist concluded,

We attach no holy significance to the day.

–Quoted in Leigh Eric Schmidt, Consumer Rites:  The Buying and Selling of American Holidays (Princeton, NJ:  Princeton University Press, 1995), page 180.  (The previous quote also comes from that magazine, quoted in the same book.)

Many Baptists also rejected the religious celebration of Christmas.  An 1875 issue of Baptist Teacher, a publication for Sunday School educators, contained the following editorial:

We believe in Christmas–not as a holy day but as a holiday and so we join with our juveniles with utmost heartiness of festal celebration….Stripped as it ought to be, of all pretensions of religious sanctity and simply regarded as a social and domestic institution–an occasion of housewarming, and heart-warming and innocent festivity–we welcome its coming with a hearty “All Hail.”

–Quoted in Schmidt, Consumer Rites, pages 179 and 180

Presbyterians, with their Puritan heritage, resisted celebrating Christmas for a long time.  In fact, some very strict Presbyterians still refuse to keep Christmas, citing their interpretation of jure divino theology.  (I have found some of their writings online.)  That attitude was more commonplace in the 1800s.  The Presbyterian Church in the United States, the old Southern Presbyterian Church, passed the following resolution at its 1899 General Assembly:

There is no warrant for the observance of Christmas and Easter as holy days, but rather contrary (see Galatians iv.9-11; Colossians ii.16-21), and such observance is contrary to the principles of the Reformed faith, conducive to will-worship, and not in harmony with the simplicity of the gospel in Jesus Christ.

–Page 430 of the Journal of the General Assembly, 1899  (I copied the text of the resolution verbatim from an original copy of the Journal.)

I agree with Leigh Eric Schmidt:

It is not hard to see in this radical Protestant perspective a religious source for the very secularization of the holiday  that would eventually be so widely decried.  With the often jostling secularism of the Christmas bazaar, Protestant rigorists simply got what they had long wished for–Christmas as one more market day, a profane time or work and trade.

Consumer Rites, page 180

I affirm the power of rituals and church calendars.  And I have no fear of keeping a Roman Catholic holy day and season.  Thus I keep Advent (December 1-24) and Christmas (December 25-January 5).  I hold off on wishing people

Merry Christmas

often until close to Christmas Eve, for I value the time of preparation.  And I have no hostility or mere opposition to wishing anyone

Happy Holidays,

due to the concentrated holiday season in December.  This is about succinctness and respect in my mind; I am not a culture warrior.

Yet I cannot help but notice with dismay the increasingly early start of the end-of-year shopping season.  More retailers will open earlier on Thanksgiving Day this year.  Many stores display Christmas decorations before Halloween.  These are examples of worshiping at the high altar of the Almighty Dollar.

I refuse to participate in this.  In fact, I have completed my Christmas shopping–such as it was–mostly at thrift stores.  One problem with materialism is that it ignores a basic fact:  If I acquire an item, I must put it somewhere.  But what if I enjoy open space?

I encourage a different approach to the end of the year:  drop out quietly (or never opt in) and keep nearly four weeks of Advent and all twelve days of Christmas.  I invite you, O reader, to observe these holy seasons and to discover riches and treasures better than anything on sale on Black Friday.

Pax vobiscum!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 25, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SQUANTO, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

THE FEAST OF JAMES OTIS SARGENT HUNTINGTON, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE HOLY CROSS

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https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/nineteenth-century-evangelical-support-for-a-secular-christmas/

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Adapted from this post:

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/11/25/advent-and-christmas-message/

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