November 30, 2008

Advent 2008 - First Sunday

Today is the first Sunday in Advent. We attended a choral Evensong service earlier tonight and I found it both interesting and a little challenging. It was dark and cold as we entered the church. The processional music was an improvisation. The liturgy began with a confession. The scripture readings were on the tough-minded side. We were asked to chant some of the sections, incuding the Lord's Prayer (if I recall correctly). Overall, the music was challenging, but not soothing. What gives?

Since it was Evensong, we had no sermon. Seeking guidance, I thought to check with the good Rev. Donald Sensing and found this from a while ago:

Surprisingly, the point of Advent is not Christmas. It is expectation, hope and preparation for the coming of Christ. The celebration of Christís birth comes during the Christmas season, which begins, as you might expect, on Christmas day.

The Scripture for the first Sunday of each Advent season always looks forward to the return of Christ. The Advent season, celebrating Christís incarnation, is always begun with passages to remind us that the reign of God over human affairs is ultimate and for all time. Advent thus does not celebrate only Christmas, Christís first coming among us. It also looks ahead to the completion of Godís redemptive acts in the coming again of Christ in judgment. Adventís first question is quite properly, ďAre you ready for Christ?Ē rather than ďAre you ready for Christmas?Ē

Yet the coming of Jesus in the manger and Christís coming again in judgment are not so very different. The world of two thousand years ago was one of business as usual. After all, Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem in the first place because their taxes had been raised. There sure isnít anything unusual about that!

The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem was an act of Godís judgment on the world. No savior would have been born if the world had no need for a savior. When we celebrate Christmas we are celebrating the judgment of God on each of us. To visit the manger is both to be "indicted and invited" - indicted by God for our fallen world but invited by God to be reconciled.

Hence, the passages for first Sunday of Advent always emphasize to some degree the judgment of God, because the coming of a savior into the world is proof that the world needs saving. We who are being rescued from sin and death are under prior judgment as being in danger.

What to think about it?

Even in the darkest hours of human history, God is mighty to save. The promises of God are true and the word of the Lord stands forever. This is not to say that all will be sweetness and light for Christian people; Jesus never promised that Ė quite the opposite in fact. It is to say that even violent times and uncertain hours, we are still expected to live according to Christís example and commands. We are not to put our ultimate trust in any power or principality of this world Ė not the government, not the United Nations, not one political party or the other, nor even in the Church itself. Our ultimate trust can only be in the Lord. It is Christ, wrote the apostle Paul, who will strengthen us to the end, so that we may be blameless at the end, whenever that comes.

Thus, to keep awake, as Christ admonishes, is more than simply being alert. It is to stay the course of discipleship, to be bold in our faith rather than cower in uncertainty.

Indeed. We each do our best, with God's help.

Posted by Alan at 10:06 PM

November 11, 2008

Veterans Day 2008

Today is Veterans Day. If you want to honor the sacrifices of those who have served in our military, often at great personal cost, consider donating to the Wounded Warrior Project.

As they say on their site, "the greatest casualty is being forgotten."

Posted by Alan at 07:22 AM

November 08, 2008

Chandrayaan 1

Congrats to India for this engineering achievement.

India is celebrating the arrival of its Chandrayaan 1 spacecraft at the Moon.

An 817-second burn from the probe's engine on Saturday slowed Chandrayaan sufficiently for it to be captured by the lunar body's gravity. The craft is now in an 11-hour polar ellipse that goes out to 7,502km from the Moon and comes as close as 504km. Further brakings will bring the Indian satellite down to a near-circular, 100km orbit from where it can begin its two-year mapping mission.

I just we were looking up at it from our lunar base.

Posted by Alan at 02:13 PM

On the record

National Review's Rich Lowry, doing a bit of what journalists are supposed to do, has checked on the record with an actual eyewitness to Sarah Palin's policy prep sessions.

I talked to Steve Biegun, the former Bush NSC aid who briefed Sarah Palin on foreign policy, and he considers the leaks against her on the international stuff "absurd." [...] "Somebody is taking a conversation and twisting it maliciously," he says.

In general, according to Beigun, Palin had a steep learning curve on foreign issues, about what you would expect from a governor. But she has "great instincts and great core values," and is "an instinctive internationalist." The stories against her are being "fed by an unnamed source who is allowed by the press to make ad hominem attacks on background." Biegun, who spent dozens and dozens of hours briefing Palin on these issues, is happy to defend her, on the record, under his own name.

So, maybe the story here isn't the array of demeaning and untrue accusations against Palin, but rather who is behind the smear campaign, and why. Any takers among the investigative pros out there?

Posted by Alan at 01:37 PM

November 07, 2008

What's to come?

Peggy Noonan is hopeful for a moderate Obama presidency.

Americans want change, and they just voted for it, but in times of high-stakes history they appreciate stability. And while we love drama in our movie stars and on our television sets, we don't love unneeded drama in our government and among our govern-ors. This is already a dramatic timeótwo wars, economic collapseóand people are rattled. "Moderation in all things." It should be noted here that the split in the popular vote was 53% to 46%. That is a solid seven-point win for the new president elect, but it also means more than 56 million voters went for John McCain in a year when all the stars were aligned against the Republicans. (Though it is also true that many of the indices for the GOP are dreadful, especially that they lost the vote of two-thirds of those aged 18 to 29. They lost a generation! If that continues in coming years, it will be a rolling wave of doom.)

Mr. Obama has a significant portion of the nation to win over. He acknowledged this in his sterling victory speech, when he spoke of "those whose support I have yet to earn." He does have yet to earn it. Hint: They want peace, progress in the economy and nothing socially extreme. And they want to respect their president. Forget "they want to have a beer with you." That was yesterday, when beer was cheaper. They want to respect you and look up to you; they want you to be a positive, not negative, role model for their children; they want to know you can lead as you ran, capable, Cool Hand Luke.

And they want you to handle whatever history sends over the transom, and that will be plenty dramatic enough, as everyone knows.

There are plenty of reasons to think we're getting King Barack the Lefitst instead, but I'd prefer to wait (warily) and see what happens in the coming days before driving off the edge of the road.

Posted by Alan at 08:20 AM

November 04, 2008

Election Day 2008

It's Election Day - vote if you haven't already. And remember what's at stake before you make your final decision.

On the most recent anniversary of 9/11, both candidates walked side-by-side into Ground Zero, presumably to underscore some baseline commonality of purpose. This was appropriate, but it was also in some ways misleading.

The animating impulses of Mr. McCain's life have always revolved around the act of confrontation: against the traditions and methods of the Naval Academy; against his captors in Vietnam; against "special interests," especially those connected to his own party; against Saddam Hussein, Vladimir Putin and the general threat posed by radical Islam. Most, though not all, of these were fights worth having, and 9/11 is a reminder of what happens when they are avoided.

By contrast, Mr. Obama's candidacy rests on the promise of transcendence, though in practice that often seems like a form of slipperiness. He has campaigned on the theme that the old categories no longer apply: not of race or class, or of blue and red states, or of left and right. And in the matter of race, the transcendence Mr. Obama offers is genuinely wonderful.

But not everything is susceptible to transcendence. Terrorists will not be less dangerous by being contextualized in a matrix of threats that includes climate change and global poverty, or because they will be mollified by Mr. Obama's middle name. Nor will Iran be deterred from developing nuclear weapons because a President Obama will restore faith in "brand America."

A global financial crisis has now given voters a fresh reason to turn the page on the 9/11 era and attend to a different set of fears. Electing a "transformational" president might even ease the transition. But it bears keeping in mind that America's second Pearl Harbor only took place when we were well on the road to forgetting about the first one.

Posted by Alan at 11:10 AM

November 03, 2008

A vote earned under fire

Apparently, this is the most-watched political video on YouTube this year. If you're not one of the 11 million who've already seen it, watch it now. It's a highly personal testimony.

Posted by Alan at 05:59 AM

November 02, 2008

Open and shut

Last week Charles Krauthammer made the open-and-shut case for electing John McCain to the presidency. How many Americans, agitated and frightened by en passant economic problems, will vote instead for the smooth-talking O-leftist? Enough people know better - enough to make a difference, if they will just go to the polls on Tuesday.

The case for McCain is straightforward. The financial crisis has made us forget, or just blindly deny, how dangerous the world out there is. We have a generations-long struggle with Islamic jihadism. An apocalyptic soon-to-be-nuclear Iran. A nuclear-armed Pakistan in danger of fragmentation. A rising Russia pushing the limits of revanchism. Plus the sure-to-come Falklands-like surprise popping out of nowhere.

Who do you want answering that phone at 3 a.m.? A man who's been cramming on these issues for the past year, who's never had to make an executive decision affecting so much as a city, let alone the world? A foreign policy novice instinctively inclined to the flabbiest, most vaporous multilateralism (e.g., the Berlin Wall came down because of "a world that stands as one"), and who refers to the most deliberate act of war since Pearl Harbor as "the tragedy of 9/11," a term more appropriate for a bus accident?

Or do you want a man who is the most prepared, most knowledgeable, most serious foreign policy thinker in the United States Senate? A man who not only has the best instincts but has the honor and the courage to, yes, put country first, as when he carried the lonely fight for the surge that turned Iraq from catastrophic defeat into achievable strategic victory?

There's just no comparison. [...]

Today's economic crisis, like every other in our history, will in time pass. But the barbarians will still be at the gates. Whom do you want on the parapet? I'm for the guy who can tell the lion from the lamb.

Posted by Alan at 03:13 PM

November 01, 2008

Media matters

Ouch.

"The media congratulates itself on its courage, bravery, fearlessness, etc, more than any other profession. Yet, in the end, as I said to Hugh Hewitt the other afternoon, to be the eunuchs in Sultan Barack's harem."
Posted by Alan at 06:40 PM

Gimme shelter

The majority of the national media has overwhelmingly prostrated itself before Barack Obama's candidacy, and willingly suffered both contempt from the Obama campaign and the shredding of what had remained of its reputation with the public. To what end?

Jay Tea makes a powerful analogy.

Ever since he first announced his candidacy, Obama has enjoyed tremendous support from the press. They've touted him, glorified him, praised him, and covered for him. They've also fought his battles for him, taking on such presumptuous upstarts like "Joe the Plumber" and Stanley Kurtz and anyone else who dares risk embarrassing Obama so he won't have to sully his saintly hands.

And in return, how has this slavish devotion worked out for them?

Ask any woman in a relationship with an abusive man.

This election year is becoming more and more like a sad, bizarre addendum to Atlas Shrugged. Only a McCain victory stands between us and a dangerous future.

Posted by Alan at 10:44 AM