Ayn Rand and the Christian

Howard RoarkRecently the thought and writings of 20th century philosopher Ayn Rand have seen something of a revival. Politicians claim to have derived inspiration from her thought and to be guided by her principles of “Logical Positivism.”

Like many, I first encountered Rand in my college years and read The Fountainhead voraciously. I did not know at the time that Rand was more philosopher than novelist, and moved on to her larger work, Atlas Shrugged. There is a stark contrast between these two, and I will admit never finishing the 1,000+ pages of Atlas. I don’t remember exactly why, but I’m sure my college-aged self had many other things it thought were more important, and Atlas is nothing if not tedious.

But I learned from a friend that Ayn Rand had written philosophical essays, too, and went to the University library to read some of them (pre-internet, no Kindle yet). As a Christian, I was appalled by what I found.

In Fountainhead, the brave hero, Howard Roark, presents his worldview as a society made up of “creators” and “parasites.” The creators, people like himself, are individuals who think in new ways and refuse to compromise. These are the men and women that move society forward, that achieve greatness. The parasites are those who ride the coat tails of the great ones, stealing credit for their ideas, stifling their initiative, blocking their innovations, hating their independence. Current Roarkism I now hear is that society is made of the “makers” and the “takers.” Government is the enemy of the “makers,” who need to be freed from pesky regulations and especially from taxation in order to exercise their individualism.

I am left wondering, then, if there is any room for a Christian response to Randism and Roarkism, which is seemingly embraced by many national leaders (from both parties) who also claim to support Christian values. Let me offer three things to ponder in this area:

  1. Ayn Rand was an avowed and unapologetic atheist. There is no getting around this. She considered people of faith to be fools. If you don’t believe me, watch her interview on the Phil Donahue show here. She was hostile to the church and to the Christian faith. To me, her philosophy has much more affinity to that of Friedrich Nietzsche (or perhaps Voltaire) than Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, or to St. Augustine. The philosophers have identified Jesus’ core teachings as based on “altruism,” the idea of self-sacrifice and love for others. Altruism is the great enemy of Rand.
  2. Rand’s great existential dichotomy between individualism (Roark) and collectivism (Ellsworth Toohey in Fountainhead) grew out of the 20th century battle between communism and democracy. Rand was a powerful anti-communist voice until the day she died, but these battles don’t resonate as strongly today. China is the rival of the USA not so much because it is ruled by a communist party as because it is competing fiercely in the market economy arena that is supposed to be the foundation of democracy. Not every anti-communist is automatically a friend of Christianity.
  3. I am left to wonder if Rand’s embrace of selfishness has found its voice again in the narcissistic and self-centered culture we now have. I have long thought that selfishness is the logical outcome of atheism, for to believe there is no Ultimate Judge leaves us to our worst impulses with no external restraint. With Rand, it almost seems that atheism is the logical outcome of selfishness, but the result is the same. I find it interesting that Rand’s fellow-atheist, Christopher Hitchens, lampooned her in this area, saying:

I don’t think there is any need to have essays advocating selfishness among human beings. I don’t know what your impression has been, but some things require no further reinforcement.

So I don’t quite know what to think in this area. I realize that it is possible to choose some things from Rand’s philosophy and reject others, but I wonder if we have Christians who are doing this as much with the essentials of the Christian faith when they marry the two.

A recent article pointed out that Evangelicals are now unpredictable and seem to no longer be making political decisions based on what should be expected from conservative Christians. The article concluded that there is no real contradiction here, because many who claim to be Evangelicals are not strong in their biblical faith commitments. This was summarized by saying that for such self-identified Evangelicals,  “their faith is now more political than theological.”

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College

 

It Is Not Finished

577For me, Easter Sunday is the most significant celebration of the year. It brings together everything that makes us Christians: faith, hope, and love.

In the time of Jesus, Jerusalem was considered to be the holiest city in the world. It was the location of the Jewish temple, but it fascinated Romans and Greeks. It had been rebuilt, starting with King Herod, and the lavish scale and costly accouterments would astound us, even today. The temple was one of the grandest buildings of the ancient world, and would surely have been on Herodotus’ list of the Seven Wonders if it had existed in his day. The temple was made to be the focal point of grand festivals, much beloved by the Jewish people. It had a spacious courtyard and covered porticoes, capable of holding hundreds of thousands of pilgrims for the festivals.

The biggest and most important annual festival was Passover, celebrated each year on the 15th day of the spring month of Nisan (the Jews had a lunar calendar of 28 day months). Every Jew in the cities all over the Roman Empire desired to be in Jerusalem for this festival. (Today, some observant Jews still end their Passover celebration by saying, “Next year in Jerusalem.”) Josephus, the Jewish historian of this period, claims that one year there were 100,000 lambs slaughtered for Passover in Jerusalem. If each lamb serviced a meal for ten men, Josephus’ implicit claim is that over a million pilgrims had packed the city for the celebration. Imagine a city of maybe 50,000 people swollen to twenty times its usual population! (like Los Angeles, 4 million people, ballooning to 80 million in the summer!)

Raising suitable lambs and having them available for sale was big business in those days for the villages surrounding Jerusalem (including the shepherds of Bethlehem). It was like the Christmas season for merchants today, they could make a year’s income in a few days. There was one special lamb, though. On the 10th of Nisan, the High Priest would go outside the city to a lamb seller and choose a perfect lamb to be the Lamb of Israel. One tradition says that this lamb was led by the High Priest into the city in great ceremony, with pilgrims lining the streets, singing, shouting, and waving palm branches in worship. Traditionally, they sang the lines of Psalm 118, “Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord.” This Lamb for Israel would be penned within the Temple courts, and during the week of Passover, all the visitors in town could go and view it. It had a huge role as a “celebrity” lamb, scheduled to die by the hand of the High Priest.

On the week of Jesus’ death, he ate a Passover meal with his disciples on Thursday night, a meal he modified to become our basis for the Lord’s Supper. He went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, and there Judas, the betrayer, led a squad of temple police and other rabble to arrest him. Jesus was seized, and given a series of trials. He was condemned and led to the place of the Skull, and there he was crucified. His nailing to the cross took place about 9:00 a.m. on Friday morning.

Meantime the Temple was buzzing with activity. Thousands of pilgrims were bringing their Passover lambs to be ritually killed and this went on for hours with gallons of blood being spilled. The blood ran out the Temple’s drain system into the Kidron, the little stream between the Temple and the Mount of Olives, turning into a crimson flow. The killing of these lambs went on for six hours, until about 3 p.m. At that time, all the lambs were sacrificed except one, the Lamb of Israel. With great pomp and ceremony, this lamb was brought to the High Priest himself. He stood before the great altar and taking the ceremonial knife, he killed the final Passover lamb, proclaiming in a loud voice, “It is finished.”

At about the same time, there was a small group of Jesus’ disciples who gathered around his cross on a hill called Calvary. They had witnessed Jesus’ agony on this evil tree for about six hours. Then, about 3 in the afternoon, Jesus raised himself one last time and wheezed, “It is finished.” The perfect Lamb of God had been slain, not just for Israel, but for the sins of the world. Jesus statement meant both that death had come and that his mission of atoning sacrifice had been accomplished.

But it was not the end. Jesus died, and was buried, but on the following Sunday, God raised him from the dead. He who was dead lived again. Death had not won and our world will never be the same. It is not finished. Celebrating the Resurrection means it is only beginning.

Mark S. Krause
Nebraska Christian College

The Future of the Restoration Movement, Part 3

thefutureIn my earlier posts on this topic, I pointed out two trends I see for the future of the Restoration Movement. My observations were:

First: the institutions of the Restoration Movement are undergoing massive shifts and changes.

Second: the Restoration Movement is becoming less about principles and more about people. 

My third observation is: the people of the Restoration Movement will be important players in the new movement for a unified church.

What, you say, there is a new movement for a unified church? You hadn’t heard about it?

Let me offer you a parallel from my field, biblical studies. In 1906, a great German scholar, Albert Schweitzer, published a book entitled The Quest for the Historical Jesus. Briefly, this was the culmination of 19th century efforts to sort through the theological formulations about Jesus and recover the story of the man who lived in Galilee in the first century. Schweitzer was a brilliant mind, having the equivalent of doctoral degrees in music, philosophy, theology, and medicine. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952. However, many believed that his “Quest” book left many questions unanswered. He lost interest in biblical studies soon after the publication of this important and controversial book. Schweitzer’s work spurred many other books, but little consensus. It marked the end of the first “quest.”

In 1959, James Robinson published A New Quest for the Historical Jesus. Robinson noted that the “quest” had been revived and had shifted from a rigorous historical investigation to one based on the philosophical driver of the day, existentialism. This is not the place to trace the developments of this second quest, but simply to say it quickly reached dead ends (or drove over cliffs, depending on your chosen metaphor).

In 1993, an evangelical British scholar, N.T. Wright, announced that a “Third Quest” had begun, what I remember hearing described as the “New New Quest for the Historical Jesus.” This time, conservative and not-so-conservative scholars plunged headlong into analyzing and debating every piece of evidence about Jesus and his world, both from the Bible and other ancient sources. The results were things like Wright’s colossal series, Christian Origins and the Question of God, now at four volumes out of a projected six. The second volume, Jesus and the Victory of God is a hefty 700 pages and is the epitome of this third quest, exploring every possible avenue to recover the best and most accurate picture of the man, Jesus.

Three quests pursuing the historical Jesus, all having the same goal but different presuppositions and results. Each was a product of its historical context.

The Restoration Movement as envisaged by the Campbells and Barton Stone was a quest for Christian unity. They saw this as possible if Christians would abandon divisive creedalism and look to the Bible as the sole source of doctrine. However, even among the ranks of their immediate followers, complete consensus concerning the doctrines of the Bible was never reached. Alexander Campbell and Barton Stone themselves disagreed over something as central as the nature of God, Stone being semi-Arian and Campbell being clearly Trinitarian. Yet they agreed in principle to cooperate and have their churches be united. After their passing, the movement was split over things that seem almost comic in retrospect. Using pianos in worship? Paying ministers? Observers of the Restoration Movement in the first half of the twentieth century must have been amazed the a unity movement had so many hard-line sectarians.

In the 1980s and 1990s, there was a second quest for unity. This seemed to be motivated partly out of the dismay that the Restoration Movement had splintered so badly and needed to restore its own unity if it had any hope of being an example to the church at large. Several things happened, including the founding of the Stone Campbell Journal, a publication that had writers from all three branches of the movement. But while on a scholarly level the SCJ was a success, the churches were still separated. Perhaps they had lived apart for too long, a little like childhood friends reunited in old age who have little in common but distant memories.

I think there is now a third quest for Christian unity underway and it has little to do with the Restoration Movement. The sectarianism that has so permeated the church in America for 300 years makes little sense to many today. The megachurch phenomenon has congregated Christians of many backgrounds served by pastors with equally diverse educations and experiences. As I have said for twenty years, it is not about doctrine anymore and certainly not about doctrinal warfare. There are a few essentials: the authority and value of the Bible, the divinity of Christ, and the necessity of faith for a saving relationship with God. But no one wants to fight over premillennialism anymore.

There is a growing sense that Christians should be active agents for good in their communities, far beyond just inviting people to Sunday services. If the church is to matter to the next generation, it must do things that matter. Social justice is high on the agenda of the millennial generation, and this will not go away.

I believe the churches and the leaders of the Restoration Movement are poised and able to make a substantial contribution to this new quest for unity. Can we truly be Christians only again? Can we quit drawing lines that divide and find reasons to unite with other Christians?

There are some big issues here, and they are found throughout the evangelical community. Can we quit treating Catholics as sub-Christian enemies? Can we leave our right-wing or left-wing politics at home and no longer let our churches be political tools? Can we finally banish racism from our churches and accept people of all skin colors and ethnicities as brothers and sisters, even as church leaders?

The result of this may be that the Restoration Movement becomes a footnote in church history books. But it may be that its influence will be evident in a more unified church for the next century. That would be a good outcome, I think.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College

The Future of the Restoration Movement, Part 2

In my last blog I wrote about the new day for the Restoration Movement and began to give observations about the current state of such. I promised to give three observations. The first one was that the institutions of the Restoration Movement are undergoing massive shifts and changes. The things that seemed rock-solid thirty years ago are reorganizing, teetering, and disappearing. The landscape is changing and the pace of change is accelerating.

My second observation is that the Restoration Movement is becoming less about principles and more about people. 

In the twentieth century, there seemed to be consensus concerning the doctrinal positions of the “Independent Christian Churches and Churches of Christ,” the third wave of the Restoration Movement (sometimes shorthanded as the 4Cs). This group broke from the Disciples of Christ in a semi-official way in 1927 with the beginning of the North American Christian Convention. One of the leaders of this new direction was P.H. Welshimer, the preacher of the First Christian Church in Canton OH. This church was considered by some to be the largest church in American at the time, surely the largest Christian Church.Facts concerning NT Church Welshimer served as the first president of the NACC in 1927 and also was the president in 1929 and 1940, the only person to serve as president of the NACC more than once. His leadership and voice were unquestioned. But perhaps more significant was the tract-writing career of Welshimer. He produced a 20-page tract entitled Facts Concerning the New Testament Church that once was ubiquitous in Christian Church literature racks in a yellow cover version produced by Standard Publishing. Welshimer laid out his case for what many believed to be the necessity of baptism by immersion for salvation, saying, “… we believe baptism is an act of obedience commanded by Christ in order to receive salvation.” The tract also pointed to the scriptural pattern of celebrating the Lord’s Supper. These two things, baptism for salvation and weekly Lord’s Supper, were the distinctives of the 4Cs, and woe to anyone within the ranks who deviated from Welshimer’s clear and logical presentation.

Yet I’m not so sure that the Restoration Movement has ever simply been a movement of ideas. I think it has always been a movement of people, of strong leaders who left their marks in many ways. Welshimer is one example, a man who cast a giant shadow for fifty years. The leaders of the late twentieth century also had their impact. Many of them were my friends: LeRoy Lawson, Allan Dunbar, Sam Stone, Don Wilson, Gene Appel and many others. Yet I don’t know if you got all of them in a room and asked for doctrinal consensus, you would find it. Not even on baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

The Bible is surely the touchstone for Restoration Movement and for the larger Evangelical Community. But we should admit that sincere students of the Bible have read the same texts and disagreed over their meaning, importance, and application. This has been going on for years. The Naive Realism (Scottish Common Sense Philosophy) of the Campbells did not give us consensus on doctrine.

We have always been followers of people, not doctrinal warriors. We have wanted leaders who upheld our cherished past, but also ones who would lead us to new locations. This will become even more important in the future with the many venues for opinions and critics. We need strong and courageous leaders.

This is also why some of you have heard me say, “I am the Restoration Movement.” This is not because I think I am the king-emperor of the 4Cs (or would ever want to be). It is because a movement is about people and leaders as much or more than it is about ideas.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College

The Future of the Restoration Movement, Part 1

The Restoration Movement Marker (Side A)

The Restoration Movement Marker (Side A)

The beginning of a new year is always an optimistic time for me. Let’s put the past behind us as much as possible and look ahead! The poet of Lamentations, having lived through the most horrific events imaginable with the destruction of Jerusalem, was still able to say:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

For me, each year is like a new morning, a fresh start in many ways. The solar eclipse, the nadir of short days, is now past and hours of increasing sunshine await us.

Having said that, what is the future of my Restoration Movement as I look ahead? For my readers who do not know what I am talking about, the Restoration Movement began in early 19th century America as an attempt to break down denominational barriers in the Christian world. The central idea was that Christian unity could be achieved if the church was “restored” to patterns of the first century church as taught in the New Testament. The movement was, therefore, concerned with both biblical truth and Christian unity. The result, however, was not the uniting of various Christian factions, but the establishment of a new tradition, the churches of the Restoration Movement.  Even these churches divided into three major streams: the non-instrumental churches of Christ, the Disciples of Christ (Christian Church), and the independent Churches of Christ and Christian Churches (my group), leaving the goal of unity unfulfilled in many ways.

What is the future of this tradition? Will it be dissolved into the larger stew of evangelicalism. Or, as with the Disciples of Christ, will it continue to decline along with most mainline denominations and focus on local congregations rather than national organization?

Let me offer three observations that end with predictions about the Restoration Movement as we move into 2016 and are now ankle-deep in the 21st century.

  1. The institutions of the Restoration Movement are undergoing dramatic change. 2015 saw the Standard Publishing group reorganized in ways no one would have expected a few years ago. Standard Publishing, including the highly successful Standard Lesson Commentary (the best-selling adult Bible school curriculum in the world) was sold to David C. Cook and is in the process of moving operations from Cincinnati to Colorado Springs. The Christian Standard magazine (recently changed from a weekly to a monthly) was spun off with the Lookout and the VBS curriculum to become Christian Standard Media. Cincinnati Christian University has slashed staff repeatedly and is no longer the powerhouse voice it once was in the Restoration Movement. The idea of the city of Cincinnati as a de facto headquarters for the Christian Churches seems to be imperiled.My own school, Nebraska Christian College, is merging to become a branch campus of Hope International University, something that may be replicated with other schools in the next couple of years. Many of the Christian Church colleges are having a difficult time and may not survive another downturn in the economy. At the same time, churches seem no longer to look to the regional Christian college or Bible college they once supported as a place to send their children to be trained for ministry and missionary work.This is just the beginning, I think. Higher education is changing rapidly and there is no end in sight that will produce anything like the stability of the past. The presidents of the Christian Church colleges, once considered important voices in the Restoration Movement, have become increasingly irrelevant on the national scene.Prediction: The next five years will see massive reordering of institutions that have been seen as the foundation of the independent Christian Churches and Churches of Christ. The millennial generation has little loyalty to these decades-old entities, and all colleges/universities, publishing houses, para-church ministries, church-planting organizations, and missionary societies will find themselves increasingly fighting for survival. Old-timers like me will be shocked and saddened at some long-time organizations that will cease to exist.
  2. To be continued …

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College

Christmas Meditation: Of the Father’s Love Begotten

Birth of ChristIn the church’s engagement with Islam, a major point of contention is the idea that Christ is the Son of God. Muhammad, Islam’s prophet, rejected any sort of notion that there could be a “son” of God. In my study of Islam, this appears to be both because of his rejection of pagan myths that told of gods having sex with human women to produce god-man offspring, and because of his insistence on monotheism (belief in one God). Christians would agree with both of these points. There is no hint of Mary having a sexual encounter with a deity. And we are monotheists, too.

But Christians believe that God has revealed himself to us in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is the mystery of trinitarian faith. It defies logic despite many learned treatises written to explain it. The core paradox may be expressed in what might be called trinitarian arithmetic:

1 + 1 + 1 = 1

But how can we understand this?

Aurelius Clemens Prudentius was a Spaniard, trained as a lawyer. He rose through the ranks of the empire as a judge and became one of the chief officials at the court of the Christian Emperor Theodosius in Constantinople. At age 57, in AD 405, at the pinnacle of his career as one of the most powerful men in the Empire, he retired from civic life to write religious poetry. At this time he wrote:

Now, then, at last, close on the very end of life,
May yet my sinful soul put off her foolishness;
And if by deeds it cannot,
yet, at least, by words give praise to God,

His greatest work was the Liber Cathermerion. It is a collection of 12 long poems, one for each hour of the day. The ninth of these has these words:

Corde natus ex parentis, ante mundi exordium

In 1854, the Englishman John Mason Neal translated this as “Of the Father Sole Begotten.” Neal used a beautiful medieval plainsong as the setting for his translation of Prudentius’s words, creating a Christmas song for his time. In 1861 this was revised by another Englishman, Henry Williams Baker, as “Of the Father’s Love Begotten.”

Of the Father’s love begotten, Ere the world’s began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega, He the Source, the Ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been, And that future years shall see,
Evermore and evermore!

O that birth forever blessed, When the Virgin full of grace,
By the Holy Spirit conceiving, Bare the Savior of our race;
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer, First revealed His sacred face,
Evermore and evermore!

O ye heights of heav’n adore Him; Angel host, His praises sing,
Pow’rs dominions, bow before Him, And extol our God and King;
Let no tongue on earth be silent, Every voice in concert ring,
Evermore and evermore!

Christ to Thee with God the Father, And O Holy Spirit to Thee,
Hymn and chant and high thanksgiving, And unwearied praises be;
Honor, glory, and dominion, And eternal victory,
Evermore and evermore!

Prudentius’s works were appreciated by that great 20th Century scholar, C.S. Lewis. I, too, love the words of this song, one of the most profound of the Christmas collection. It give clear, simple answers to some of the dilemmas of trinitarian theology. Consider:

  • How was Christ conceived? By the Father’s love.
  • What is the proper response? Unwearied praises.
  • Where do we direct praise? To Christ with God the Father.
  • What is the end of all things? Eternal victory.
  • How long should we celebrate? Evermore and evermore!

Let no tongueCelebration of the birth of Christ should be done with great joy, but also with an appreciation of the mystery of the incarnation. But never forget the center of it all: the Father’s Love!

So merry, blessed Christmas to you, all my friends.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College

Advent Week 4: Melancholy Christmas

gemini viiIt was fifty years ago, December 1965, when Gemini VII was finishing its record-breaking 14-day mission orbiting the earth. Astronauts James Frank Borman and James Lovell requested that mission control play a Christmas song for them, Bing Cosby’s rendition of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”

I’ll be home for Christmas, you can plan on me.
Please have snow and mistletoe, and presents on the tree.
Christmas Eve will find me, where the love light beams.
I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams

The song falls into the category sometimes called “melancholy Christmas.” It speaks to the lost spirit of Christmas, claiming that Christmas happiness and joy is only an illusion, only a dream.

Christmas is not a happy time for everyone, even for many faithful Christians. Sometimes we are acutely aware of our losses, of those who are not here with us. 

Christina RossettiChristina Rossetti was a member of the famous Rossetti family. Her brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, became a celebrated artist during this period, the late 19th century. Christina was born in London, but her family was Italian. Her father was a university professor, but died early and left the family in great financial distress. She thus grew up in a very educated and cultured but very poor family. In her poetry, it can be seen that she longed to marry and become a mother, but she spurned two men who apparently loved her deeply because of her very strict religious beliefs. She was a devout evangelical. She sacrificed love for faith. Her health declined for many years, eventually causing her to be housebound. She died from cancer in 1894, only 64 years old.

Her Christmas poem, “In the Bleak Midwinter,” was written sometime before 1872, before the worst of her health problems, but was not published until after her death in 1904. In this striking poem, one can sense her loneliness and disappointment with life.

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Life is hard and cold. Snow and winter is unending. The only way to describe it is “bleak.” Although Rossetti portrays this as “long ago,” one senses that it is a present reality for her, and for her readers. As Amy Grant once sang, “Life’s hard!”  It can seem like misfortune piles on top of misfortune. We moan for loneliness, for our melancholy.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Although Rossetti’s faith in the glorious nature of her God is strong, the reality of this world is harsh. There is a great contrast here between the two Advents of the Christ. His second Advent, the second coming, would be with power and renewal. But the first Advent was stark and humble. It was at a bleak time in a stable. Rossetti does not try to explain this, but allows the paradox to stand, “The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.” Such is the mystery of the incarnation.

Enough for Him, Whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, Whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

The paradoxical nature of Jesus’ birth is continued in these verses. Rossetti pictures the deserved worship and acclaim due to the Son of God, and given to him by unimaginable hoards of angels and archangels. Despite the invisible presence of these heavenly beings, it is quiet in the stable. The animals make their contented sounds. The only “worship” given the newborn king is the greatest thing in all the earth, the kiss of his mother.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

One can sense the lost motherhood of Rossetti at this point. She wants to give something to the precious babe. She cannot emulate the rich Wise Men, or even the humble shepherds. She is poor, and would never have even modest wealth to lavish on the Savior. She is left with but one gift that has any significance: her all, her very being, her heart.

Christmas will doubtlessly be both a sad and happy time for you. I have two dear friends I am praying for who will celebrate the first Christmas without their beloved mother. I know what that is like. But even if your Christmas is melancholy, please, please don’t turn away from the Christ. Give him your heart. Even in the bleakest times, we can find joy. The joy of the Gospel often comes through the darkness of the blues.

Give him your heart!

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College