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Walking in the Light

The light of Christ illumines the dank cellar of our human condition. And not surprisingly we find ourselves shrinking back, pulling into the shadows, suddenly aware of the dirt, the smudges, the overall ugliness of our own sinful selves. Thus comes Advent, the last of the three winter seasons to develop in the Christian calendar. It is a time of preparation leading to the appearance of the light. Indeed, for the early Christians it was a penitential season like Lent. You dared not approach the light without first searching your soul, cleaning up the mess, preparing yourself for its sanctifying presence.

During Advent, we make way for the coming of a Savior for whom the world is not worthy. And not only that, we brace ourselves for his coming again in judgement one day. We rehearse both the first and second coming, juxtaposed against a backdrop of the world’s longest night, all creation holding its breath for the final turn, the last and best sunrise.

As I write early on this December morning, snow lies deep in my garden. Night retreats westward; stars slowly start to fade. Two small boys sleep across the hall, resting in the grace-filled inertia of the very young. Many, many things must be done today, not only to sustain a household but to navigate the cultural expectations surrounding the coming holidays. But I will choose—if you do—to sit. I will choose to breathe in the words of others who celebrated the Word made flesh. Here in the dark I will seek points of light that cannot be extinguished, no matter how frenetic the world.

So let it begin.

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How Fidel Castro's Death Will Affect Cuba's Christian Revival

It won't. And that's (mostly) a good thing.

The remains of Fidel Castro are being displayed in Havana as part of Cuba’s nine days of official mourning for the deceased dictator. Many world leaders will not attend the funeral next week for the man who raised literacy rates but kept a rigid grasp on civil rights.

For Cuban Christians, his death isn’t likely to be a sea change in how the island nation’s Communist government approaches religion.

Like most Cubans, Castro himself was raised Catholic, educated by Jesuit priests as a child. He rejected his faith during the 1959 revolution, after the church rejected his movement toward atheism and socialism. Priests were killed and deported, while Christians (and other groups) were discriminated against and banned from joining the Communist Party.

But Castro—and his brother, current ruler Raúl—softened with time. Some credit the Catholic Church and its popes with influencing Cuba’s slow turn from Marxism.

They were also good for religious holidays. Pope John Paul II visited the country in 1998; the next day, Castro reinstated Christmas. In 2012, Pope Benedict visited; soon after, the government allowed Good Friday observances.

This year, Cuba was the site of a historic step toward religious reconciliation: Pope Francis sat down with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in Havana in the first meeting between Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox heavyweights since the Christian church split into West and East in 1054.

Even though Castro’s last writings recalled the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark, and God’s provision of manna, the level of his faith remains a mystery, reported Crux.

Despite the tension between church and state in Cuba, Christianity there has been undergoing ...

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Trump Stacks Prayer Service Lineup with Evangelicals

Southern Baptists, Graham granddaughter to pray at Saturdays National Cathedral event.

Donald Trump has tapped a record number of evangelical leaders to participate in the interfaith prayer service held at the Washington National Cathedral the day after his inauguration.

The National Prayer Service, hosted at the Episcopal cathedral Saturday morning, will feature two former presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention, the granddaughter of Billy Graham, and Greg Laurie, the evangelist behind the popular Harvest America crusades, among a total of 26 faith leaders.

Representatives from Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Mormon, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, and Bahá’í traditions are also participating in the event [full list below].

Jack Graham, Ronnie Floyd, and David Jeremiah are all Southern Baptists and members of the president-elect’s evangelical advisory board, and Cissie Graham Lynch stated during the election that she would be “unapologetically voting for Trump.” Her father, Franklin Graham, is among the clergy praying at the inauguration ceremony held at the National Mall on Friday. Trump opted to include a half-dozen religious leaders in the official Capitol lawn ceremony, instead of the customary one or two.

The century-old National Cathedral has served as the go-to site for presidential funerals, prayer services at times of national tragedy, and public inauguration prayer services. Billy Graham gave a sermon at Ronald Reagan’s inaugural service there in 1985.

In the years since, presidents George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama expanded the scope of the customary National Prayer Service to feature well over a dozen faith leaders representing various traditions. Such events included a few evangelical pastors and organization leaders, including the Grahams, ...

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How Trumps Inauguration Will Catalyze Christian Witness

Now is the time for the church to embrace the radical, ordinary influence of faith.

Today, on the steps of the United States Capitol, Donald John Trump will place his left hand on a Bible and swear to “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States for the next four years.” Most incoming presidents in US history have done the same, although each has chosen his own passage to swear by. 1 Corinthians 13 was the choice of Franklin D. Roosevelt at all four of his inaugural ceremonies. Jimmy Carter chose to swear on the exhortations of Micah 6:8. At his second inauguration, Abraham Lincoln, keenly aware of the disgrace of brothers and neighbors turning their weapons on each other, chose not one but three passages concerning the judgments of God.

That the Bible appears at such a momentous national ceremony testifies to the United States’ broad Judeo-Christian heritage. It also serves to remind those with eyes to see that no ruler rises or falls except by the hand of God, who judges the nations and will continue to judge ours over the next four years. Watching the televised ceremony with its pomp and circumstance, we might begin to believe that political leaders hold the keys to the future and to our fate, as Americans and as Christians. But the ceremony belies the reality that all power of earthly rulers is fleeting. They and their campaigns can be laid to waste by a mere word from the Lord (Isa. 40:23; Isa. 34:12; Ps. 107:40; Luke 1:52).

Inauguration Day comes for many Americans with hope that our political leaders will redirect the country in the right direction. For many other Americans, the day seems a harbinger of violent ideologies that will pose a real threat to their livelihood in the next four years. But for Christians of all political stripes, the day is simply a new ...

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Jesus Family Tree Shows Us He Is Worth the Wait

It's okay that most of us want to skip through the genealogy of Jesus—but we should still read it.

In the first episode of the twentieth season of TheSimpsons, Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus (Matt. 1:1-17) finally makes prime time. Ned Flanders, the Simpsons’ good-hearted evangelical-ish neighbor, tries to redeem the time by reciting the New Testament while he and Homer stand stuck in concrete. As Ned launches into the genealogy on the opening page of the New Testament, viewers are expected to cringe at the prospect of a lengthy genealogical recitation.

Many contemporary Christian readers will either read the genealogy during Advent this December or as they start a Bible reading plan on January 1. I suspect that most of us aren’t that different from The Simpsons’ audience. We can scarcely wait to finish the genealogy to get to “the good stuff.” Of course, Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus turns out to be much more interesting than we suspect, but the feeling that we’re still “waiting for the good stuff” is an ironically appropriate response to reading through Jesus’ family tree.

Waiting to Arrive

From time to time, Christians take to the airwaves and bulletin boards to tell us that Jesus’s return is right around the corner. Churches or movements find themselves captivated by a vision of some grand new season or some fresh work that the Holy Spirit is about to produce. There’s a tendency to flock to ministries that seem to have it made. We dream about what God might do for us or through us if we could only touch the hem of a ministry’s robe. But these seasons seem to pass without a sense of arrival. It can make the rest of us feel like we haven’t quite made it yet, like we’re not really firing on all cylinders or ticking all the boxes. ...

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