The Easter Message

 

dominus-flevit-mt-of-olives.jpg 

 

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God,
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down,
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o’er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

—– Isaac Watts, 1707

 

   ***

Photo: Dominus Flevit Church, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem.  Taken by Arti of Ripple Effects, www.rippleeffects.wordpress.com, November 2007.  All Rights Reserved.

The Message of Christmas

Hopefully by now, the dust has settled, and frantic frenzies can now be turned into some placid ponderings…

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965 TV) remains my all time favorite Christmas special.  Charles Schulz has wittingly shrunk all humanity into his pint-sized Peanuts gang.  Aren’t we all but tiny specks in the vast universe, and yet our strives and questions are ever so close and immediate.

And for Charlie Brown, little did he know that by throwing up his arms and ranting his disappointment and frustration, had asked the existential question for us all:  “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”

And for Linus, little did he know that by answering this question, had delivered not only the Message of Christmas, but the crux of Christianity, pointed us all, the peanuts of the universe, to the way of reconciliation and redemption.

…Out of the mouth of babes (Psalm 8:2)…

A blessed Christmas to all!

Amazing Grace for Christmas

 Amazing Grace

This is one amazing film about an extraordinary man’s fight against slavery in 18th Century England.  The story chronicles Christian Parliamentarian and social reformer William Wilberforce’s mammoth battles in the British political arena to abolish the slave trade.

At that time, slaves were shipped from Africa to the West Indies in appalling conditions, many arriving dead.  They were chained to work on sugar plantations of British owners. Abolishing the slave trade meant a threat to the very economy of Great Britain.  William Wilberforce had given up twenty youthful years and his health to champion the anti-slavery cause.  Three days before his death, he saw his life-long advocacy triumphant as the abolition bill passed in the House of Commons, demolishing the institution of slavery in all of the British Empire.

The film is a display of superb artistry.  First of all, it benefits from a well-written screenplay by Steven Knight.  The award-winning Knight’s other film Eastern Promises (2007) has just garnered 3 Golden Globes nominations including Best Picture.

The exceptional cast is most satisfying to watch. Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd is William Wilberforce, whose performance is intelligent and engaging.  He is effectively supported by a mass of extraordinary British actors, among them the veterans Albert Finney and Michael Gambon.

Albert Finney plays John Newton, the Pastor and mentor of Wilberforce.  It is from Newton that Wilberforce draws his inspiration and strength for his cause.  Newton himself used to be a slave trader.  His ephiphany came during a deadly storm while he was on a slave ship. The tempest he encountered reflected the torrents of guilt billowing in his own conscience.  Ultimately yielding to a merciful God, Newton was totally changed.  He abandoned the slave trade, his own livelihood, and became a Christian Pastor, spreading the message of God’s love and the freedom God had intended for all people. His writing of the tune and lyrics of Amazing Grace summed up the poignant conversion in his life.

The meticulously researched and designed period costumes and set, together with the fine cinematography bring out a beautiful and engaging film.  In many scenes, I feel like I’m looking through a portal of Rambrandt and Vemeer’s paintings in motion. 

The DVD is packed full of commentary and background information.  The music video of Chris Tomlin playing the piano and singing his contemporary version of Amazing Grace is both a visual and audio delight. 

One note of caution though, the film follows closely the British Parliamentary proceedings and political debates of the time.  Those anticipating a more romantic rendition may not have their expectation met.  However, I find the film very educational, informative, as well as inspiring.  What better gift to give this Christmas than the message inspired by the song Amazing Grace:

Chris Tomlin – Amazing Grace

(My Chains Are Gone)

Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, Amazing grace

~ ~ ~ 3 Ripples