Episode: Episode 6: Christmas Day!


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Episode 6: Christmas Day!

We give our take on the readings for Christmas day, year A. We're talking Isaiah 52:7-10, Hebrews 1:1-6, and John 1:1-14.

Despite the New Testament’s assertion that the coming of Jesus was the fulfillment of ancient Israel’s religious hopes for the future, religious Jews find the Christian celebration of Christmas based on a belief that stands in direct opposition to the most fundamental of Jewish tenets: the oneness of God (see Deut. 6:4). Still, the church continues to find in the Old Testament words of spirit and life. Today’s lesson from Isaiah reaffirms the church’s belief that judgment is not God’s final word. The good news is that God’s movement into our lives is to accomplish salvation (v. 7). The experience of ancient Israel exemplifies that “good news.” The judgment that Israel experienced as a consequence of its infidelity was not God’s final word, for God comes to comfort Judah and redeem Jerusalem (v. 9). The coming of Jesus, then, needs to be understood against the backdrop of ancient Israel’s religious experience. It is the decisive movement of God in the world, insuring that the world will become what God always intended it to be. God will not allow our selfishness and sin to frustrate the divine will for creation. In Jesus, God has become part of creation to transform it from within. God’s self-communication, begun in creation and continued through the experience of ancient Israel, comes to perfection in the incarnation. In Jesus, God has become a human being. That is the “good news” that the church proclaims today.
-Leslie J. Hoppe

Let’s think first about the song. During a discussion in his excellent book on preaching Tim Keller uses “Let It Go” as a prime example of the the way contemporary culture “enthrones our passions”:

The song is sung by a character determined no longer to “be the good girl” that her family and society had wanted her to be. Instead she would “let go” and express what she had been holding back inside. There is “no right or wrong, no rules” for her. This is a good example of the expressive individualism [sociologist Robert] Bellah described. Identity is not realized, as in traditional societies, by sublimating our individual desires for the good of our family and people. Instead we become ourselves only by asserting our individual desires against society, by expressing our feelings and fulfilling our dreams regardless of what anyone says. (134)

But we must also think about the movie as a whole, and not merely the song in isolation. As Trevin Wax of The Gospel Coalition has pointed out, the heroine of the movie, Anna, rescues her sister from the selfish, solo life she gives into by Letting It Go. (Greg Forster has made a similar argument.) The movie’s story ends up undermining and then jettisoning the “expressive individualism of the sovereign self” Elsa tries on for size while striding up the North Mountain. I agree. Anna’s love for her elder sister, despite years of apparent coldness from her, is one of the more beautiful redemptive loves I’ve ever seen in film. And in the end, Elsa submits again to “right and wrong,” even “rules,” by taking up her queenly responsibilities in the land of Arendelle. This the movie portrays as good, not as a constriction of her individual rights. I love the love of Anna for Elsa. Romantic love isn’t the only true love, and it isn’t even always true. I want my little girl to know this. It’s the major reason I let my kids watch Frozen.

So what does the song mean? Does it undermine or does it support the expressive individualism of the sovereign self? Was Tim Keller interpreting and applying “Let it Go” according to the authorial intentions of the now-famous duo who wrote it?
-Mark Ward, full article at https://blog.logos.com/2016/12/pop-music-can-teach-us-interpreting-scripture/

The Gospel according to John was written out of the thrill of actual contact with its leading figure, and one senses the tremors of this contact on every subsequent page. John's phrase "full of grace and truth" is exactly synonymous with ancient Israel's frequent celebration of the Lord God's "steadfast love and faithfulness" (hesed we'emet). With the word "grace" one thinks of the wide horizontal beam of the cross and of the wide-outstretched world-embracing arms of the all-merciful, all-compassionate God, the major longing of the human heart. With the word "truth" one thinks of the vertical beam of the Cross going down deep and up high to suggest the power of straight, real, honest truth, the major longing of the human mind. This truth is powerful enough to support the wide horizontal be a of God's Grace that stretches round the world.
-Dale Bruner, The Gospel of John, A Commentary



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