Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I think I say this every year...

...but "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" is my favorite Christmas carol. It's my favorite for these lines:
And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."
Even at Christmas, it is easy to despair. Hate is strong and it mocks the song. The world we live in is continually coming unscrewed. As a pastor I have a front-row seat to the destructiveness of sin and see proved each day that "the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy," just like Jesus said. And in such times as these, it's easy to believe that, if there is a God, then He is on leave. For the world cannot exist as it does and there be a God out there who loves us and is strong enough to deliver, can there?

And yet...And yet...there is a Christmas, an annual reminder that we do not believe in a God who remained remote from His creation, who knows nothing of suffering and the hardness of the world. Rather, we embrace Jesus, the God-man, the God who came in the flesh, experienced all the worst the world has to offer, from grinding poverty, to disease, betrayal, torture, injustice, suffering, mockery, and death and yet through all that is bringing redemption to the world. It is not fully redeemed yet, nor will it be until judgment comes, but Christmas is our annual reminder that the world as it is is not how it will be and that we have a God of love and power who has not only experienced life like us, but loves us too much to let the world forever continue as it is. God is not dead and he does sleep. Do you hear the bells this Christmas?

Art and the common man

I've long suspected that most of what we call "art" in the modern era is unworthy of the term. And every now an then, you run across someone saying something you believe better than you ever could. Here's Jonah Goldberg, from his latest G-File:
I once read somewhere that architecture is the best example of an "artistic" school that has completely broken with popular tastes. Architects certainly seem to design buildings to please each other and the critics and not the public. The average intelligent person goes to the Louvre in France and marvels at the beauty of the 17th-century buildings. The average architecture critic yawns at the musty old antiques and gushes over I.M. Pei's glass pyramid. I don't hate the glass pyramid (okay, maybe I do a little). But I don't go to Paris to see a structure that I could see at a relatively upscale suburban mall. The phenomenon is even more pronounced when you look at modern architecture in more conventional businesses and houses. What's more appealing to the eye, stately Wayne Manor or the Hall of Justice?

Still, I don't know if architecture is the best example of the phenomenon. Modern art caters to popular tastes just as little as architecture. A great deal of performance and installation art strikes most normal people as a colossal joke or a straight-up con. And please don't tell me that my failure to appreciate three squares and a triangle or a blob of paint on a canvas is my shortcoming. If something isn't aesthetically pleasing or interesting, doesn't require skills I do not have, and makes a stupid point stupidly, I don't appreciate it as art. That doesn't make me a philistine. It makes me a non-rube.

Anyway, it seems to me that the more a relatively artistic field of endeavor caters to critics over consumers, the worse it gets. You can see this all over the place, from haute cuisine to music. Some of my best friends in college were music majors, and they would ramble on about how Philip Glass is a genius. Maybe he is. But I'll take Beethoven or the Beatles over him any day. I don't follow the literary world too closely these days, but my impression is that the same is true in the world of fiction. If you write for the critics, only the critics will read you.

Deer season

Deer season ended not with a whimper, or even a bang, but by simply ending. Tag sandwiches don't taste very good, and this is the first time I've eaten one in a while. Still, in a thought familiar to Cub fans everywhere, "There's always next year!"