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Like Whitfield’s ignoring Wesley’s instructions concerning words, so Cummings ignored Mendelssohn’s directions concerning music. Therefore, for Christmas 1856, Cummings put Wesley’s words (as amended by Whitfield) to Mendelssohn’s tune, thus giving us the Christmas carol that we sing today.
Christmas is not simply a historical event that happened in a land far away a long time ago but is an event that actively and presently occurs in your life and throughout the Church here and now.
Just before Christmas 1868, Brooks wrote this carol about his experience that Christmas Eve night in Bethlehem. Brooks intended the carol to be sung by the children’s choir that Christmas.
Dissonance, however, resolves to consonance. How do we make sense of the angelic proclamation of peace and goodwill when that is not part of our observed reality?
“In despair I bowed my head; ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said . . . Then pealed the bells more loud and deep; ‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.’”
In following through these meditations, or at least following through the carol itself, we sing the gospel message. Singing half a carol is like reading only half a book or watching only half of a movie – we never truly get to the end.
Within this history of the carol, we should be able to see the history of the Christmas story itself – simple religious people, marginalized Jews, atheists, and censorious religious authorities all making their own contribution.
The Psalms of Thanksgiving
Therefore, if the Greek is simply understood differently, then the goats do not go into an “eternal punishment” (which itself is somewhat a contradiction since no one can learn from the punishment if it is eternal) but they are banished into “an age of correction.”
In his final analysis of the final parable, Capon takes us back to the four characteristics of all the parables – Catholicity, Mystery, Actuality, and Hostility and Response.
A buried faith, like a light under a bushel basket, is no faith at all.
God’s intentional tarrying damns the bridesmaids who trusted that God would show up on time. Why? The only answer that we receive from the parable is the same that Job receives from the whirlwind: Who are you to question my wisdom with your ignorant, empty words? Job 38:2.