Today’s Bible reading
Yet the rescuing gift is not exactly parallel to the death-dealing sin. If one man’s sin put crowds of people at the dead-end abyss of separation from God, just think what God’s gift poured through one man, Jesus Christ, will do! There’s no comparison between that death-dealing sin and this generous, life-giving gift. The verdict on that one sin was the death sentence; the verdict on the many sins that followed was this wonderful life sentence. If death got the upper hand through one man’s wrongdoing, can you imagine the breathtaking recovery life makes, sovereign life, in those who grasp with both hands this wildly extravagant life-gift, this grand setting-everything-right, that the one man Jesus Christ provides?
Here it is in a nutshell: Just as one person did it wrong and got us in all this trouble with sin and death, another person did it right and got us out of it. But more than just getting us out of trouble, he got us into life! One man said no to God and put many people in the wrong; one man said yes to God and put many in the right. – Romans 5:15-19 (The Message paraphrase)
More thoughts for meditation
There is probably not a more “pagan” holiday than New Year’s Eve (not that some Christians don’t try to redeem it). If you are likely to go off some deep end, it might be wise to avoid tonight. If you feel strong enough to have some fun with the national celebration of making it through 2021, enjoy!
As a day in the church year the 7th day of Christmas is the Feast of St. Sylvester, who was Emperor Constantine’s buddy and the pope who presided over the church becoming legitimate in the Roman Empire, along with managing some major building projects! [Irish video] The church calendar does not have a slot for New Year’s Eve or Day, that would more likely be Easter, if you need one — there’s a beginning to celebrate! The traditional church calendar begins with Advent.
In Europe, some places call New Year’s Eve “Silvester.” In several languages New Year’s Eve is known as “St. Sylvester Night” (“Notte di San Silvestro” in Italian, “Silvesternacht” in German, “Réveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre” in French).
Sylvester was leading the church when the Arian heresy came to a head [link to video about Arianism]. During Sylvester’s time, the church held big meetings of its leaders to clarify their theology in relation to Greek/Roman philosophy about how Jesus could be God and not just another created being.
Many people are content to leave the “how?” of the Trinity mostly to mystery and deal with the “fact” of relating to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Paul is looking through the Jesus lens, not the metaphysical lens, when he says in today’s reading, “If death got the upper hand through one man’s wrongdoing, can you imagine the breathtaking recovery life makes, sovereign life, in those who grasp with both hands this wildly extravagant life-gift, this grand setting-everything-right, that the one man Jesus Christ provides?” That is experience-based arguing.
The undeserved gift of grace from love that transcends understanding is what Christmas is all about. So, it is appropriate that the “secret” meaning of the Twelve Days of Christmas says for this day, On the 7th day of Christmas my true love sent to me… seven swans a-swimming.
In terms of extravagant gifts, seven swans would definitely be what rich people have gliding regally in their private lakes. When the carol was written, most people considered swans to be the most graceful and beautiful fowl of all. Supposedly, the Catholic catechists who were forbidden to teach publicly said the seven swans represented the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of God (others take elements of Bible lists to make the main seven gifts: prophecy, service, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership and mercy). Regardless of your list, the idea is to enjoy these gifts of grace moving in your life like a swan on a pond.
Suggestions for action
Pray: God gifting yourself in Jesus, I receive you by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are Arians who believe that Jesus is a created being who is therefore not eternal and not God. They specifically argue that Jesus was Michael the Archangel. Our era tends to solve the problems of heresies and pluralism, in general, by ignoring people or saying everything is fine as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. But our view of God matters. Your view may not be too metaphysical, but what is it? How do you see God, when you are just reacting, not thinking real hard? May I suggest a Jesus lens, regardless?
Answer this question from the reading today: “Can you imagine the breathtaking recovery life makes, sovereign life, in those who grasp with both hands this wildly extravagant life-gift, this grand setting-everything-right, that the one man Jesus Christ provides?” Journal what you are imagining. If you grasp the gift with both hands, what will that mean in 2021?