“A Truer, Better Anxiety”

Advent Candle Week TwoYesterday marked the beginning of the second week of Advent.  Different churches mark the weeks differently, some leaning into themes like hope and love but in different orders, others revisiting key moments in the biblical story.  I like the approach that roots the time in expectation not just of the Christmas season but of the second coming of Christ, the event that will bring this part of the biblical story to an end.

I finally got around to reading Matthew Lee Anderson’s first Advent “newsletter” yesterday morning.  Written at the beginning of the season, Anderson had this to say:

We marked the beginning of Advent today, and as happens, we begin with the end—by turning our hearts and minds to the return of the Lord Jesus, so that we might be prepared for the celebration of his Incarnation. It is an odd thing to begin by looking beyond Christmas; the Christian story, after all, seems like it begins in a manger. Only it doesn’t: it begins instead at the beginning, when the Word was with God, and the Word was God, and when all things were made through Him, without whom nothing was made that has been made. Christmas happens in the middle of an ongoing narrative of Christ’s redemption—a narrative that has its conclusion at the end of all things. By seeing Christmas in light of the end, we also see it in light of the beginning—and so see it as it truly and properly is.

We will spend the next few weeks deliberately and intentionally waiting for the return of the Lord. The season of expectant hope is one in which the anxiety about all our projects and plans can be expunged with a peace that has a truer, better anxiety built in: will we be ready for that return? Whether we shall save enough for retirement matters little next to the question of whether the Son of Man shall find faith on the earth.

I really like that phrase, “a truer, better anxiety.”  You definitely get a sense of it when reading the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ return.  Without that second coming, the first coming (and subsequent descension and double-ascension), as important as it is, would be incomplete.

It is good and necessary, then, to “look beyond Christmas” even as we look towards it.  It’s not something we do all that well or all that often, really; it’s a horizon recedes too quickly for us.  I’m grateful for a season of the year that points us intentionally in that direction.

You can subscribe to Matthew Lee Anderson’s newsletter (or at least find out more about it) here.

(image from worshiphousemedia.com)

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Sunday’s Best: Expectations and Reality

Once again, Calvin has the opportunity to learn a good and vital lesson . . . though I doubt it will take.  It’s the kind of thing you struggle with even in adulthood, and often.

Calvin's Expectations(image from gocomics.com)

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Cinematic Review

As we enter a short dry spell before the Rise of Skywalker and other Christmas movie fare, it’s good to acknowledge that November was a great month for movies.  For me, at least.  It’s been something of a weak year at the cinema for me.  Maybe it’s because I, like so many others, have fallen to the wiles of the comic book movie, which often has the right double-punch of humor and action.  Smaller movies, slightly different movies of good quality with a certain kind of buzz, seem a little harder to come by.

Parasite movieNovember started with Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite.  Even though it has two very different families at the heart of its story, it’s far from family fare.  In the story, Ki-woo plays a young man who takes a job as the tutor for a wealthy family even though he’s not really qualified.  Over the next thirty minutes, the remainder of Ki-woo’s family infiltrates the Park family, in ways both humorous and haunting.  Things go seemingly well for the interlopers until one rainy weekend, when the Parks leave for a trip and things fall completely and utterly apart.  Parasite is the closest thing you’ll see to a horror-tinged thriller . . . and it mostly takes place within one sprawling house.  Parasite fulfills its promise to give you a tense cinematic experience.

Jojo Rabbit MovieThe second week of November brought Taika Waititi’s latest satire to the silver screen.  Jojo Rabbit is the awkwardly funny, ultimately heart-breaking story of a young boy in Nazi Germany who has a comedic version of Hitler as his imaginary best friend.  The movie feels a lot like a Wes Anderson flick, as there’s something slightly magical and farcical about the proceedings.  Waititi plays Hitler to much effect, which is part of what makes the experience awkward.  But then, as needed, the movie turns dark and sobering.  A number of well-known actors take part in the story, including Scarlet Johansson, Rebel Wilson, and Sam Rockwell.  Thankfully, none of them “take you out of” the movie, which can easily happen in this kind of piece.

Ford v Ferrari movieThe third quality movie in the month of November for me was Ford v. Ferrari starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale.  Racing isn’t really my form of entertainment, but the reviews were good and the actors and director had earned my trust, so I gave it a try.  It was quite brilliant, a great picture of people who are passionate about things and who don’t quite know how to navigate the world between work and people all that well.  I found myself tearing up a little at odd places, moments that weren’t particularly telegraphed to evoke emotion.  And when you finally get to the moments that do want to evoke something?  Yeah.  Beyond that, FvF is a period piece of a kind, too, one that is just out of reach for many of us.  Bale, as always, is brilliant.  And Damon, as is often the case, plays someone you’re not sure you should feel much sympathy for, and yet he gets it out of you yet again.

Knives Out MovieWhile I was in Victoria for Thanksgiving break, I took at an afternoon to see Rian Johnson’s Knives Out at the local Odean theater.  I’m so used to a certain kind of cinema seating that it’s always a little jarring to have nice seats that don’t shoot up steep like a mountainside.  Still, the experience was good . . . mostly because the story is so well-told.  It’s a who-dun-it story that is just enough Clue the Movie to keep it light while still treading in some heavy moments.  It’s the kind of story that gives you just enough but doesn’t tell you what to do with it.  Because even if you know the who, you’re still not quite sure about the dun-it.  Knives Out is a great late autumn/early winter movie, as it evokes a kind of place and time that is both cozy and obviously dangerous.

And so now we wait for The Rise of Skywalker.  Part of me wants to see the new Mr. Rogers movie, but a part of me just doesn’t want to.  Last year’s documentary was enough for me . . . at least for now.  Beyond Skywalker, 1917 is the only other movie that’s really on the radar for me as the year comes to a close.  I’m sure that others will pop up, but they haven’t yet.  I’m grateful, though, for a good and diverse cinematic experience in November.  That kind of streak is becoming all too rare.

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The Coming Crisis

Many years ago, the DC Comics universe consisted of a multitude of universes, all separated by vibrational frequency, that housed multiple versions of beloved characters.  Then, in an attempt to streamline things, DC Comics experienced its Crisis on Infinite Earths, which left one universe standing with one timeline.  Over the last few years, something like that has happened with the DC Comics shows on the CW.  Shows like Arrow and The Flash happen in the same universe, but they have to travel across dimensions on order to engage with Supergirl or Batwoman.  That changes this Sunday, it seems, when the CW stages its own Crisis on Infinite Earths.  They’ve been building to it for some time.  Here’s the final trailer.

There’s a lot going on in the trailer . . . and a lot that the showrunners have NOT revealed to those trying to piece things together, particularly in what kind of other characters might appear (and what universes they hail from).  That, I think, will be part of both the joy and the heartbreak of the story.  Worlds will live . . . worlds will die.

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How You Remind Me

hope candleWe’re a few days into the Advent season.   I think maybe it’s my favorite season of the church calendar, as it’s a kind of mellow, reflective time that looks forward to something amazing breaking into history not once but twice.  I also love the Scripture read throughout the season.

This week, the second letter of Peter has been a chosen text.  This time around, I’ve noticed some wording that I really like.  Consider:

12 So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. 13 I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, 14 because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things. (2 Peter 1:12-15)

and then

Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles. (3:1-2)


But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (3:8-9)

I like Peter’s insistence that he is reminding his readers of things.  These are things that they already know, that they have already been taught, that they must remember.  The first passage connects to the believers’ election and calling  . . . and the evidence of those things through faith and goodness and self-control (as three of a few).  The second passage is to stimulate thinking that is “wholesome,” thinking that is rooted in previous revelation from the prophets, the apostles, and Jesus himself.  And finally, the reminder is about the timing of God, something particularly potent during the season of Advent.

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These last few weeks have been packed at school.  After three months at work, our new Christian Ministries coordinator decided to leave, so I’ve picked up the chapel piece again.  Beyond that, it’s winter banquet season AND the end of the semester, which is always a wild, untame time.  Last week’s annual getaway to Victoria, British Columbia was really nice, but it kind of exists as a bubble (which I am more convinced most “rest” ends up being).  I find myself, more than usual, packing things into the work day and then vegging out at night.  I’m grateful to have this weekend to get some routine and breathing space.

(image from worshiphousemedia.com)

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Sunday’s Best: Frazz on Leading

Yesterday I saw Ford v. Ferrari, which tells the story of Ford’s attempt to win the Le Mans back in the sixties.  One of the nicest scenes in a movie with many loud moments involved Ken Miles explaining the contours of the race to his son.  Positioning is key.  Which makes today’s Frazz by Jef Martlett both timely and funny.

Frazz on LeadingFord v. Ferrari is a great movie.  Difficult to watch at times, particularly in the struggle between the corporate and the personal.  That’s why it translates into such a great story, though.

(image from gocomics.com)

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Sunday’s Best: The Point of History

You know it’s been a week when you don’t post a “Sunday’s Best” comic until Wednesday evening.  But that’s the kind of week it has been. Good but packed.  I’ll get to the reasons for that sometime soon.  Until then, here’s this Sunday’s classic Calvin and Hobbes.  I have a Calvin and Hobbes strip posted in my room each day, but rarely do I show a Sunday strip.  This one got some special viewing treatment and discussion as it connects directly to one of the major worldview questions: what is the point of human history?  Turns out Calvin has known the answer all along . . .

calvin history(image from gocomics.com)

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