Faith: December 2003 Archives

A travel guide to heaven


National Review Online has a great interview with the author of A Travel Guide to Heaven. DeStefano is not writing some New Age nonsense that sprang full-grown from his own imagination. He is attempting to present orthodox Christian doctrine about heaven in a manner accessible to mainstream readers. When asked when and why he decided to write the book, here's his reply:

A hymn for Advent


Coventry Chorale is rehearsing for a traditional Advent Service of Lessons and Carols at Grace Episcopal Church in Ponca City. (5 p.m., Sunday, December 14.) Tonight we rehearsed a hymn for Advent that was new to most of the singers but was well-received for its text and lyrics.

Here is the first verse:

The people who in darkness walked
have seen a glorious light;
on them broke forth the heav'nly dawn
who dwelt in death and night.

It is a metrical paraphrase of Isaiah 9:2-7 by John Morison (1749-1798), set to the tune Dundee, from the Scottish Psalter of 1615. The text, as altered in the 1982 Episcopal Hymnal, is here. An evidently older version, perhaps closer to the original, is in the 1961 Trinity Hymnal. The original seems to be here, in the Scottish Psalter and Paraphrases. (CyberHymnal also has that version.)

What I like about this song is that it is truly a hymn for the Advent season, not just a Christmas carol we sing early. It is a paraphrase of a prophecy of the coming Messiah. It expresses a central theme of Advent -- the contrast between the darkness and light -- between the darkness of mankind's rebellion against God and the light of Christ, which has pierced the darkness. Each night as our family lights the Advent candles we read the passage from Isaiah 9, as part of a devotional prepared by our pastor. Now we can sing it as well.

Advent is mostly forgotten or observed as an extended Christmastide. Traditionally, Advent was a penitential season, like Lent, signified by the liturgical use of purple, in contrast to the white of Easter and Christmas. Advent is a time to reflect on our own brokenness and sinfulness, to renew our yearning for redemption and reconciliation with God, a time to retrospectively look forward with the saints of the Old Testament, longing for the redemption which came in Christ's first advent, and a time to look forward to the consummation of all things and our ultimate deliverance from sin and death at our Lord's second advent. Advent is a time to build up an appetite, to hunger and thirst for righteousness, so that we can properly appreciate our hunger's fulfillment in the miracle of the Incarnation.

Evangelicals at MIT


A major part of my college experience was my involvement with Campus Crusade for Christ, an evangelical interdenominational outreach to college students. The Sunday's Boston Globe has a story on the growth of evangelical groups at Harvard, MIT, and other Boston campuses.

There are 15 evangelical Christian fellowship groups at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology alone. This is a pretty stunning development for a university where science has always been god, where efficiency and rationality are embedded in the DNA of the cold granite campus. Hundreds of MIT students are involved in these fellowships -- blacks, whites, Hispanics, and Asians, especially Asians. Some of the groups are associated with powerhouse national evangelical organizations, like Campus Crusade for Christ and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Others are more home-grown. Either way, the ranks are multiplying. ...

And somewhere along the way, evangelical Christianity -- which a generation earlier had been a mark of embarrassment, a sign that you had checked your brain at the gate -- became not just tolerated but cool.

You can see this in the throngs of students from around Boston who cram into Harvard's Science Center on Friday nights to sing, "We are hungry for more of You/We are thirsty, oh Jesus." The event is called RealLife Boston, which is Campus Crusade's name for its 500-student Boston-area ministry, and the SRO crowd is made up of well-built athletes, attractive faces, even artsy types with chin hair and trendy black glasses. The emcee is Aaron Byrd, an easygoing junior from Abilene, Texas, who plays safety on the Harvard football team.

Sounds like the evangelical groups are approaching or surpassing the level of 20 years ago, when I was on campus.

It's an interesting profile, from the Globe's left-wing, secular perspective, but fairly balanced nonetheless.

(Link via Instapundit.)

UPDATE 6/2/2005: I'm sure the article is long-gone from the Globe's website, but you can still read it here, on the website of Brian Ellis, a CCC staffer based in Cambridge.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Faith category from December 2003.

Faith: October 2003 is the previous archive.

Faith: March 2004 is the next archive.

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