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The Burning Focus

Over the past few weeks, Greer and I have been preparing to make this Advent season a sort of mini-Lent.  We both observed the Lenten season intensely this year, and Easter morning was consequently one of the most meaningful days of my whole history with God.  There are things about celebrating Christmas that are distinctly different from Easter, of course: at Easter we focus on Christ's death and anticipate his resurrection; at Christmas we focus on God's human life and anticipate His death (and subsequent resurrection, of course).

I should note that I am particularly excited to celebrate Jesus this Christmas.  I love my class about the Hebrew Scriptures, but the amount of required reading from the Old Testament uses up my scripture-reading energy and I have thus failed to even crack open the New Testament since classes began.  Last week in my Aquinas class we read Thomas' close reading of the part of the Gospel of John that recounts people's first encounters with the risen Christ, and I spent the whole morning weeping at my desk.  After months of slogging through hundreds of stories about murder, rape, incest, adultery, genocide, betrayal, slavery, and a whole lot of strange behavior on the part of God Himself, I can't say that I have ever understood our need for a Savior in this way.  

Watching the formation of the Israelite people has renewed my comprehension of why this event of salvation is as much corporate as it is individual.  I wrote in my last post about Genesis that the failings of the earliest Bible characters made me feel bonded to them through our shared ineptitude.  These are the foundations of a fallen people, and, like it or not, our moral failures bind us together.

While leaving the Divinity School the other day, I passed by a few shelves of discounted books and found Friedrich Schleiermacher's book Christmas Eve Celebration.  I picked up a copy to see if it would be a good sort of devotional for Greer and me to read together, and whoa.  This book is fantastic.  Schleiermacher is one of those names you hear a lot in the dining room at a divinity school, one that I'd never heard before I got here, and it's most often used in sentences like "my Schleiermacher paper," or "don't go all Schleiermacher on me."  I hope I can keep up posting about this book as I make it through, because now I am so hung up on something from the editor's introduction that I can't even address the text yet.  

From the introduction (by Terrence N. Tice):

"On November 26, 1805, [Schleiermacher] wrote to this close friend, Ehrenfried von Willich, that in spending a 'wonderful hour' with his closest Halle friend, Henrik Steffens, he had felt 'embraced within me the deepest pain and the purest joy.'  Then he immediately went on to say: 'Yes, dear brother, I very profoundly feel that as myself I no longer really exist; I am instead the organ of so much that is beautiful and holy, the burning focus from which all the joys and sorrows of my beloved friends radiate.  And that I take note of within me, and therefore I live on.' On October 25, he had written to Georg Reimer: 'my calling and my friends, those are the two hinges on which my life turns.'"

My calling and my friends.  Those seem to be two great starting places as we head into Advent.  Thanksgiving and Christmas are two special times when the two seem especially intertwined.  The parties, the meals, the concerts, the festivities - this time of year we celebrate our calling to live in Christ with our friends.  Christ's entrance into the world allows us the bliss of submitting our selves to erasure - to become "the burning focus from which all the joys and sorrows of my beloved friends radiate." 

I so look forward to attempting this over the coming weeks.  I strongly embrace my own need of Christ, our corporate need of Christ, and I anticipate his arrival on December 25 hand in hand with all those others who need Him too.  

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