Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Christmas C.M. Countdown, Day 12

Hark! The herald angels sing,
"Glory to the newborn King,
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!"
~~ Charles Wesley

Let's look at the "You are Here" map for Ourselves Book II.  We have almost completed Part I: did you even remember there was a Part I? Part I is The Conscience, Part II is The Will, and Part III is the Soul. In Part I, we have read Section I.--Conscience in the House of Body, Section II.--Conscience in the House of Mind, and we are almost finished with Section III.--The Function of Conscience. Section III is only three chapters long. We have skimmed through "Conviction of Sin" and "Temptation"; today we finish with "Duty and Law." 

I chose the above verse after thinking through recent events in my own town. Short version: a church with an a somewhat outspoken pastor was participating in a public music-food-and-shopping Christmas event, and they got themselves into hot water by doing a little off-the-cuff Bible reading and preaching...at least what the organizers considered preaching. From what I heard later, it sounded like they were just reading the Christmas story and something from Isaiah. It made me wonder if Charles Wesley, or his preaching brother John Wesley, would have been welcome at such an event. Probably not.

And as I'm writing these posts, which seem at first so much not about Advent and Christmas, I think more and more that that's exactly what they are. Charlotte Mason does not shy away from the big questions:
"Sin, temptation, repentance, throw us back upon something behind them all. Why is it wrong to do wrong? And, what is wrong?" (p. 121)
She calls our awareness of law and evil, and the feeling that we ought to do something about it--make a sacrifice, appease a god--a "restless uneasiness in the dark" (p. 122). Mason doesn't specifically refer to Yule logs, holly, greens and the rest of those Solstice/Saturnalia symbols, but they're not far from what she's describing. We want warmth, light, and protection. The difference today may be that, like an eradicated disease, we think the threat of "sin" lurking out there is gone, or the gods attached to it never existed, so we can just enjoy the band music and the hot chocolate. The only 'sin" now is telling people that they are sinful. "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" still squeaks in uncensored, maybe because it's sung at the end of It's a Wonderful Life, the Number One Christmas Movie. Can't tamper with Jimmy Stewart. (Did you know an earlier script of that movie ended with the Lord's Prayer?)

Charlotte Mason has a word of agreement for those who resent being "guilted" or judged. "Law, existing by itself and for itself, without any to will or desire, is a monstrous thought––a thought to chafe our spirits and take the heart out of all our strivings––because there is no comfort of love in it and no reasonable conviction" (p. 123). Even Christians get confused and disagree about what the Bible and their churches say about law and sin and grace. But think of Law, just for this moment, as a positive description of a universe where everything moves, sings, and even laughs in harmony. Kind of like the last scene of It's a Wonderful Life. Think of the one character, Mr. Potter, who's not there at George Bailey's house laughing and singing: he's the one who "set the law" on George, but he's also the one missing the "Higher Law" Christmas party.

Those who do acknowledge the Creator and also His Law, Charlotte Mason describes with an astronomical twist:
"As the planets revolve round the sun in obedience to their law, so he revolves in the orbit of his life, and his deepest joy is Duty. Not that he fulfils the law which is within his heart. Like the planet on which he lives, he is constantly pulling away from the law he owns [acknowledges, confesses]; but he is as continually recovered, so that he does indeed finish his course" (p. 123).
I think she might have been drawing her illustration from the Wordsworth poem she quotes at the end of the chapter. Read this, if you will, with the image of the Nativity and the words of Charles Wesley in your mind. "Glory to the newborn King."
          "Stern Lawgiver! yet thou dost wear
          The Godhead's most benignant grace;
          Nor know we anything so fair
          As is the smile upon thy face:
          Flowers laugh before thee on their beds,
          And fragrance in thy footing treads;
          Thou dost preserve the stars from wrong,
          And the most ancient heavens, through thee, are fresh and strong."
~~ William Wordsworth, from "Ode to Duty"        

2 comments:

Annsterw said...

Beautiful!

Mama Squirrel said...

Thank you! I'm glad you stopped by!