I hope all the readers of I to the hills... had a great Christmas.
This was my first Christmas away from family. The only thing I missed was a turkey Christmas dinner. Beef and ham were on offer at the Christmas dinner I was invited to by Muriel Burrows. As you can read Muriel has a rather interesting life story. Conversation around the dinner table was interesting. There were four nationalities represented in a dinner party of eight. James Fowler was present too, he's a member at Witherspoon and a final year MDiv student at the PTS.
As well as two Christmas Eve services at Witherspoon Street church, I also attended a late night Christmas Eve service at Westerly Road Church. This was one of my best church experiences so far in the US. The church building felt like a typical independent evangelical, or open brethern, hall in the UK, so I didn't feel out of place. But the service contained the most interesting collection of readings I've ever heard in such a church. As well as the usual New Testament readings, there were readings from Anselm's Proslogion, Christmas by Augustine, (get this!) Charnock's Existence and Attributes of God, C.S. Lewis's 'The Grand Miracle', and Herbert's Love (III).
I think the service worked, although the Charnock reading was a little too ambitious. But, there was no sermon. I attended the service with my friend, Benjamin. Benjamin is a young RC scholar preparing for ministry in the RC church while completing his PhD. He and I have enjoyed several meals together over the Christmas period. Benjamin felt there was no explanation of the readings during the service.
I thought this was an interesting observation. How much do we rely upon the 'givenness' of the Christmas story? I could appreciate the readings because I knew the territory, I knew the language of Westerly Road's tradition. Benjamin's understanding of the church and of the gospel is really quite different. His persistent comment was that he couldn't understand how the readings were related to each other. For him, they didn't represent a coherent tradition of interpreting the incarnation. For Benjamin, there was no proclamation of the meaning of Christmas in the service.
Over the next few days I need to: write a sermon based on Luke 4:14-30; re-read Sandeen's The Roots of Fundamentalism (PTS library has recalled it); finish some draft papers on W.G.T. Shedd. I travel to Lancaster, PA, on the 31st Dec and return the next day to begin work on another paper and on notes for a Sunday School class I'm about to start teaching for 5 to 7 year olds. 5 to 7 year olds - help!!