Does Jesus exclude?

In the last few months, I have become increasingly involved in diversity and inclusion work within the Quaker community. Although challenging and emotionally demanding, this work is bringing lots of really important questions to the fore. One cluster of questions that has emerged is: Is Christianity by its very nature exclusive? Is a universalist Quakerism (which emphasises the commonalities between all religious paths) inherently more inclusive than a distinctively Christian Quakerism? When Jesus says ‘I am the Way’, is that not an exclusive statement?

Over its long history, the Christian church (including the Quaker community) has certainly proved itself to be painfully and sinfully exclusive in many ways, but in response to whether the heart of the Christian message is exclusive, I think the answer is both ‘no’ and ‘yes’.

No, because Jesus’ good news is the way of radical inclusion, and the church does not have a monopoly on this way of life.

Jesus’ ministry is one of radical inclusion. Jesus spent a lot of time in intimate company with those on the margins – women, children, the disabled, the ritually unclean, foreigners, etc. His message was one of reversal – the first will be last and the last will be first (Mk 10:31). The people with the least power in society are those that God gives the most honoured place to at the table (Lk 14:12-13). Jesus includes all the people that the rich and powerful want to exclude.

‘Christianity is not a notion but a way’. These words from ‘Advices and Queries’ No.2 remind us that Christianity is not intellectually assenting to certain statements about Jesus. Christianity is about a way of life. When the writer of John’s gospel says that Jesus is ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life’ (Jn 14:6), he is not saying ‘and unless you believe x y and z you’ll burn forever’. He is saying that in Jesus we see what a truly human life looks like. A life obedient to the God who is Love, a life lived free of deception, even to the point of persecution and death, is a life fully lived. The Christian tradition says that we are empowered to live this Way now by the Spirit of Christ, and this Spirit is not confined by the boundaries of the church. Where ever people live in obedience to the promptings of Love and Truth, the Spirit of Christ is at work. The early Quaker Robert Barclay described these people as the ‘church invisible’. You can be a Christian without believing non-Christians are excluded from the Way that Jesus embodies.

Yes, because in order for there to be justice for the marginalised, certain behaviours and attitudes must be excluded.

The gospel is divisive. Creating an inclusive community isn’t easy. Jesus said ‘do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword’ (Matt 10:34). In the book of Revelation, Jesus is represented as having a sharp two-edged sword coming from his mouth (Rev 1:16). The message that Jesus brings, the life he lived, is one of peace and justice, but this is an incredibly divisive message. It threatens the power and privilege of those at the top of the pile. In order for every valley to be lifted up, every mountain and hill must be made low (Isa 40:4). In order for the lowly to be lifted up, the powerful must be brought down from their thrones (Lk 1:52). Jesus was executed by the Imperial powers for the trouble his ministry caused. The early Quakers suffered imprisonment and death for their message of spiritual equality. The message of radical inclusion, whether spoken in words or actions, is incredibly divisive. The powerful must learn to let go of their power, and many won’t let go without a fight.

There is no justice without judgment. The way of inclusivity is the way of humility, and to be truly humble we need to see ourselves as God sees us, as both a deeply loved part of God’s good creation, and as people infected by and colluding with a fractured and sinful world. To see rightly means to submit ourselves to God’s judgement, to the sword of Jesus’ mouth. In order for their to be justice for all, all must face the wrongs they’ve been party to and attempt to make things right. The ‘Day of Judgement’ is often thought of as something that happens after death, but there is a tradition within Christianity (which Quakers share) of the ‘Day of Judgement’ being an inward experience available to us now. When we are faced with the fire of God’s Love, illuminating our darkness and burning away our impurities, it is a painful experience: ‘But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire…’ (Mal 3:2). This is not about separating sheep from goats, arbitrarily consigning some to eternal conscious torment in Hell. This is about a process we all need to go through in order to shed our delusions and enter the Kingdom of God.

True inclusion requires repentance. When we are shown our darkness, we have the opportunity to be brought to new life. We have the chance to turn around, to change direction, to repent. Change, even change for the better, always involves loss, the letting go of something. A truly inclusive community, paradoxically, cannot include everyone just as they are. Everyone needs to be open to change. Separation and division comes from rigidity, and unwillingness to leave things behind. A community cannot be truly inclusive of LGBT+ people, if those who dismiss and denigrate LGBT+ people are not required to let go of their prejudice. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), the rich man still expects Lazarus to serve him after death. The rich man cannot let got of his own power, and so is excluded from community with Lazarus. His refusal to change is the great chasm between them.[1]

560849636_842fd89e5f_b
Lazarus and the rich man, taken by Nick Thompson.

In C. S. Lewis’s ‘The Great Divorce’, where he imagines the inhabitants of Hell taking a bus trip to Heaven, he writes that ‘You cannot take all luggage with you on all journeys; on one journey even your right hand and your right eye may be among the things you have to leave behind… A sum can be put right: but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on.’[2] In this story, the travellers on the bus are free to stay in Heaven, but there are things they must first let go of, particularly their pride and their need to control others. The book of Revelation closes with a vision of the renewed community, the ‘New Jerusalem’, stating that: ‘Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood’ (Rev 22:14-15). This is a community from which some are excluded, but it is because they will not let go of evil. They self-exclude. The gates of the city are never shut (Rev. 21:25), so they are free to enter at anytime, but first they must lay down that which endangers the safety and wellbeing of the cities inhabitants.

A Christian approach to inclusion is one that does not separate mercy and judgement. A truly inclusive community is both compassionate and just. The Way of Jesus is one of radical inclusion – it is open to everyone – but no-one can follow that Way and remain the same, especially the people with the most to lose.

[1] I first came across this interpretation in William R. Herzog, Parables As Subversive Speech: Jesus as Pedagogue of the Oppressed (Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994).

[2] C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce: A Dream (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001), viii.

Advertisements

Answering That of God in Everyone?

I recently helped organise and co-facilitate a British Quaker diversity and inclusion national gathering at the Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre. It was challenging and rewarding in equal measure, and I’ve put together some thoughts on the event for the Woodbrooke blog, which you can read here.

Thank you to my readers in 2018

Dear readers and followers of Jolly Quaker,

2018 has been a quieter year on the blog than I’d anticipated, and I haven’t produced the bumper crop of posts I’d hoped for, but in many ways this has been a good year for the blog behind the scenes. I’m still operating on the principle that when a blog post needs to be written, it’ll get written, rather than tying myself to monthly deadlines, and I’m very happy with my output. I’ve continued with my series on Advices and Queries, now having got up to number 12. I’ll definitely continue with this in 2019 – I find it a really enjoyable project.

My post ‘Words and Wounds: Reflections from Britain Yearly Meeting‘ has been the most widely read, and it felt like an important piece to write for myself personally. BYM in 2018 was a significant moment for me in understanding how to be a Quaker who works in a Quaker institution, and writing about it was part of that reconciling process. I’m at my best as a theologian and a teacher when I’m my most authentic self.

I attempted to start a new series of posts called ‘Threshings‘, which so far hasn’t gone any further than one post, but I still have plans for it. I want to ask questions about gnostic tendencies in contemporary Quakerism, and whether ‘A Course in Miracles’ is truly compatible with Quaker theology. I’ve already written a lot on these questions, but these feel like more challenging posts, and the right moment to publish them hasn’t arisen.

This year has also seen me reading more theology blogs, and a particular favourite of mine is The PostBarthian. It was this blog that introduced me to German theologian Jürgen Moltmann, inspiring me to begin reading Moltmann’s series of ‘systematic contributions’. It was this in turn that led me to my dissertation topic for my MA in systematic and philosophical theology, which I will complete in 2019. It’s this dissertation that’s the main reason for the scarcity of blog posts. All my reading, writing and thinking has been happening elsewhere. For my dissertation I’m asking: ‘What, according to George Fox, is the Quaker hope? Is that hope good enough in a time of disastrous climate change?’ Moltmann is known as a theologian of hope, and I’ll be bringing Moltmann into dialogue with Fox. I’m finding it all very exciting!

So I hope that throughout 2019 I can share the fruits of my studies with you through the blog, and continue to offer reflections that are relevant and useful for the contemporary Quaker community. Even if I had no readers I’d still write, but having readers makes it so much more enjoyable. Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to my posts. Thank you for following and engaging with me on Twitter. I really appreciate it! I wish you all a new year fortified with faith, hope and love.

Do Quakers have souls? (Threshings #1)

This is the first in a short series of theological ‘threshings’. In the Quaker tradition, threshing is a lively process of getting to the heart of an issue, separating the wheat from the chaff. When a theological problem bugs me, I want to thresh it out! I may not come up with an answer, but hopefully I’ll bring out some important points. If the word ‘theology’ puts you off, think of theology as a tool that should improve the way we talk about our religious and spiritual experience. It’s not about giving definitive answers, it’s about speaking with integrity in an informed and inspiring way.

Do Quakers have souls? You may think the answer is ‘obviously yes’, or you may think this question is akin to ‘how many angels can dance on the head of a pin’. I hope to show that this question isn’t merely abstract speculation, but actually impacts on how we live our lives.

The problem with being two things (dualism)

I have become increasingly interested in what it means to ‘have a soul’. I think many people take it as read that the religious understanding of what it means to be a human is that we are a body inhabited with a soul or spirit – an invisible thing that is the real ‘self’. However, two things have gotten me thinking that this could be quite a problematic belief.

The first involves my experience as a gay person. Attending an evangelical church, I once asked for prayer concerning my sexuality. I had the opportunity to travel to a country where homosexuality was prohibited, requiring me to go back in the closet. I wasn’t sure I was able to do this. One of the people praying over me said words to the effect that my true identity in Christ wasn’t located in my sexuality. There was a sense that somehow the ‘real’ me could be separated from the ‘gay’ me. Afterwards, I thought ‘that was a really ‘straight man’ thing to pray!’ In my experience, I can’t make that separation. My original coming-out at 17 was accompanied by an intense spiritual coming-out. I was only able to embrace a relationship with God once I was honest about who I was. So for me, I can’t separate ‘gay’ me from ‘real’ me; and what would it mean to be gay without a body?

The second involves my on-going exploration of what it means to be white. I have increasingly come to realise that being a white body has impacted on my experience of the world. Like being gay, I can’t imagine what it would be like to be something other than a white body. However, in conversations with some white Quakers, one of the barriers to recognising the impact of whiteness on our experience is the belief that our true self is located in an invisible soul, that our most real self is purely spiritual: ‘I am not my body, therefore I am not effected by colour, and I don’t see colour. We are all truly colourless.’ For a white person, one of the effects of white privilege is never having to realise you’re white. Might a belief in the true self being an invisible, disembodied soul be tied up with this?

the_soul_revisiting_he_body_in_the_tomb-_28190229_-_timea
Original source: Budge, E. A. Wallace. “The Nile: Notes for Travellers in Egypt.” (Harrison and Sons, London: 1902). p. 161.

A Christian argument for being one thing (physicalism)

In my reading on the subject, I came across a book by Nancy Murphy[1] that provides an excellent overview of the topic from a Christian point of view.

Murphy presents four possible views of what it is to be a human (and I reckon you’d find Quakers in all four camps):

  1. physicalism – we have only one ‘part’, the body.
  2. dualism – we are made up of two parts: body-soul, or body-mind.
  3. trichotomism – we are made up of three parts: body, soul and spirit
  4. monism (or idealism) – that we are only truly mind or spirit.

Which view does the Bible take? Interestingly, Murphy says that ‘the Bible has no clear teaching’ concerning the composition of a human person.[2] This has allowed for a variety of opinions throughout Christian history. However, it’s now widely agreed that in the Hebrew Bible there is no body-soul dualism. The New Testament is not so clear, but certainly Paul’s distinction between spirit and flesh should not be interpreted as a distinction between body and soul: ‘Paul is concerned with two ways of living: one in conformity with the Spirit of God, and the other in conformity to the old aeon before Christ.’[3]

Murphy argues that ‘dualist anthropology all too easily leads to disparagement of the body and all that goes along with being embodied.’[4] When we separate soul from body the material world (including the body) becomes less important. Murphy also suggests that ‘the change from a dualist to a physicalist anthropology… calls for serious reconsideration of traditional understandings of Christian spirituality. From Augustine to the present we have had a conception of the self that distinguishes the inner life from the outer, and spirituality has been associated largely with the inner.’[5] I find this fascinating from a Quaker perspective. British liberal Quakers are very comfortable with speaking of the ‘inward’ and the ‘outward’. Our rejection of ‘outward forms’ could be seen as a rejection of the material world, saying that the spiritual is somehow more real than the physical. Yet we’re also a community who say we want climate and racial justice, things very much concerned with the physical and the embodied. With our idolising of theological diversity combined with our reluctance to actually discuss this diversity, such a confusion is not surprising!

Murphy concludes by suggesting that ‘one could be a body-soul dualist while avoiding an excessively inward-looking spirituality. In fact, some of the greatest writers on inwardness did so… So the strongest point I can make here is to claim… that physicalism – along with an eschatological hope for resurrection of the body – leads more naturally to a concern for the physical world and its transformation than does dualism.’[6] Murphy believes that physicalism – the view we are one thing, a spirited body – is much less problematic than dualism. She also offers something that is probably alien to most British Quakers – the Christian doctrine of the resurrection of the body. This is the belief that at the end of time, all will be raised from the dead to face judgement. This teaching says that when we die, our disembodied souls don’t go to heaven to live on a cloud. Rather, we await God’s justice and a new life as a resurrected body. I don’t think British Quakers will be quick to revisit and take up this doctrine, which makes me wonder what a contemporary and well thought out Quaker understanding of the human person would look like.

illustrations_to_robert_blair27s_the_grave_2c_object_9_the_soul_hovering_over_the_body
from William Blake’s illustrations to Robert Blair’s The Grave , object 9 The Soul Hovering over the Body

Some thoughts from Thomas Aquinas

On the subject of the soul, I’ve been quite taken with the thinking of Thomas Aquinas,[7] the medieval theologian. He has two things to say that British Quakers might find attractive.

First, he said that the soul is not something we have, it’s something we are. If you have something, you can give it away and still be you. If you are something, then you can’t be separated from it. Well, he said that the soul could be separated from the body after death, but it wouldn’t be up to much. How would it see without eyes? How would it think without a brain? For Aquinas, the soul without a body is a rather useless thing.

Secondly, he said that everything that lives is a soul. Everything that is animate has a soul (‘soul’ in Latin is anima). He said that there are three aspects to the human soul. There’s the vegetative aspect (that respires, takes in nutrients, grows etc.) that we share with tomatoes, oaks, lichen and dahlias. There’s the animal aspect that we share with badgers, bees and whales, and there’s the rational aspect that belongs to humans. This view of the soul brings us into relationship with all living things – it’s not just the preserve of humans!

Keep on threshing…

So I agree with Murphy that body-soul dualism is problematic. It limits our ability to understand the way being a body shapes our experience of the world, and can create a disdain for the physical that is at odds with a pursuit of material wellbeing for all things. I think that physicalism – the understanding that we are one, indivisible thing – helps to address this problem. I’m also increasingly into the resurrection of the body, but I know I’m out on a limb with that one as far as British Quakers are concerned! There are lots of questions still to think about – how is physicalism compatible with Quaker spirituality and the inward/outward distinction we often make? What about the experience of those who live with chronic pain whose relationship with the body is a tremendously difficult one? What about the experience of the elderly who sense a growing disconnect from the body? Constructing a modern Quaker anthropology is too big a job for this blog post, and I look forward to reading a future book about it! Hopefully this post has raised some interesting questions. I’m very interested to know what you think about it – what do you think you’re made up of? How do your beliefs about the body/soul/spirit effect how you live? so please comment below!

[1] Nancey C. Murphy, Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies?, Current Issues in Theology (Cambridge, UK ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006).

[2] Murphy, 4.

[3] Murphy, 22.

[4] Murphy, 27.

[5] Murphy, 30.

[6] Murphy, 35.

[7] Denys Turner, ‘The Human Person’, in The Cambridge Companion to The               Summa Theologiae, ed. Philip McCosker and Denys Turner (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 168–80.

Words and Wounds: Reflections from Britain Yearly Meeting

Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM) has discerned that now is the time to begin revising our book of discipline, the publication that captures our understanding of Quaker principles and practices. This gathering of Friends in London was extremely well planned, with loving servant-leadership demonstrated by the Clerks. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the deeply impressive work of the Revision Preparation Group (RPG), who brought their recommendations to BYM, and prepared the whole Yearly Meeting so well for this discernment. I personally found it a very emotional weekend, having a strong sense of my own place within the Quaker family. My involvement has given rise to a whole host of thoughts, and I’m going to try and piece them together in this post.

We need our theological gifts

I welcomed the decision to revise our book of discipline with a sense of awe – with both excitement and fear. We have an adventure set before us, and we’re going to need all of our gifts to undertake it, particularly the gifts of our theologians. We all do theology every time we try to make sense of, and communicate, our religious experience. However, there are Friends out there who are skilled in the use of theological tools, and there is important and exciting theological work to be done. I hope that the ‘theology think-tank’ that took place as part of the RPGs work is not the last.

At BYM, a repeated phrase was that our diversity is a richness and a strength. This gave rise to a theological question within me: Why is this so? As was pointed out in session, when we speak of our diversity as British Friends, we are really talking about diversity of belief. But even when we look at the diversity of belief amongst British Quakers, how diverse is our religious diversity? In my experience, there is an unspoken Quaker theological mainstream that certain beliefs and behaviours fall outside of. What do we say to a Friend who shares their experience of contacting the dead? How would we react to a Friend who spoke in tongues during worship? I’m sure we can all think of particular beliefs or religious behaviours that would not be easily welcomed at our local meeting. Perhaps our diversity of belief is the freedom to use whatever words we choose to describe a shared experience. But, as Craig Barnett pointed out, in using different words we can be describing quite different experiences, and our differences of belief may be irreconcilable. So the question of diversity of belief is a thorny one, and we need our theologians to help us handle it with care.

I was particularly moved by the presence of our international Quaker visitors. To travel all that way just for our little gathering! It struck me that, when we say ‘our diversity is our strength’, this must include all the ways that Quakerism is expressed throughout the world. It must even include those expressions of Quakerism that make us uncomfortable. For our diversity to truly be our strength we must pay a price, and that price is the need to have deep and difficult conversations with each other, face to face, about what we hold most dear. We must commit to a greater degree of religious literacy, attempting to understand what our Friends mean by the words they use, taking the time to learn one another’s language.

The Spirt of vulnerability

So the work before us is costly, and will require us, as Alex Wildwood shared, to be vulnerable. The word ‘vulnerable’ comes from the Latin vulnerare – ‘to wound’. To be vulnerable is to be wound-able. This work, if we do it right, will be painful.

British Quakers have a difficulty with wounds. I find that we have a very positive self image. We are well-versed in talking about the achievements of Quakers past. The walkway in to Friends House has them inscribed on the paving slabs. It is good that we can draw confidence and hope from the strengths of our tradition, but if we do not balance this by acknowledging our failings, both within our tradition and within ourselves, then we are being guided by a spirit of pride. We can be healed of this spirit through a recognition of our own wounded-ness. During BYM we heard of Quakers’ continuing engagement with issues of power and privilege and sustainability. If the whole Yearly Meeting is to embrace this work then we need to embrace our own complicity in the problems, our own capacity to wound, dare I say our own sinfulness.

The Christian tradition that I inhabit has a central place for wounds. It says that we can’t have Easter Sunday without Good Friday. The crucifixion shows that there is a place for failure, weakness, abandonment and betrayal in God’s story. Even in the New Life, there will never be a time when we can stop being vulnerable with one another. Jesus’ resurrected body still bears the marks of crucifixion. We bring our wounds with us. If in Jesus, God is wound-able, then the Spirit of God is also the Spirit of vulnerability

In describing his own wounded-ness, Paul learned that he could not rely on his own strength. He could only rely on God’s grace, for ‘power is made perfect in weakness’ [2 Cor. 12:9]. Revising our book of discipline will only be a success if we can countenance its failure, if we can acknowledge our own frailty. Quakers have got things wrong before. We aspire to live adventurously, and a story is only an adventure if there is the possibility of danger and defeat.

caravaggio_-_the_incredulity_of_saint_thomas
Being a community of argument

During BYM we were asked ‘How can we get beyond potentially divisive words’? I do not believe that we can ever get beyond divisive words, and to attempt to do so would be a mistake. I hope that in revising our book of discipline we can engage passionately with potentially divisive words in the hope of understanding one another better. A new book of discipline will not solve the difficulties of our diversity of belief, and it will not put an end to the need for difficult conversations.

The temptation to avoid disagreement is strong, and it can be easy for us to say that words don’t matter, that we’re a religion of ‘pure experience’ or that silence negates the need for words. This is to treat silence as an escape.

For two thousand years the Christian Church has been in disagreement over what it means to be a Christian. In many ways, this is what unites the Church. The Church is a community of argument, and what they argue about is how to best use a set of shared materials and practices. It’s like sharing a box of Lego bricks – the bricks being things like the Scriptures, doctrines and rituals – and arguing over how the bricks should fit together. I think it’s fair to say that the Quaker community is also a community of argument. The course of change within the Society has never been smooth, and I don’t think our new book of discipline will be trouble-free either. Inevitably, there will be some who leave the Society as a result of changes that are made, and this should grieve us all.

I hope that British Quakers can fully embrace being a community of argument. This will involve asking what we are in argument over. Perhaps our current disagreements are over what bricks should be in the Quaker box. We may wish to take the most difficult bricks out in order to minimise disagreement, but I don’t think inclusivity lies in ridding ourselves of difficult words or parts of our history. We may also want to just add more bricks to keep everyone happy, but then we need to ask how these bricks can fit into coherent patterns that we all have ownership of.

At BYM there were suggestions of keeping things relevant, and of removing archaic language. I quite like things that are archaic. Sometimes words, concepts and stories stick around for hundreds of years for good reasons. It is often the most contemporary things that quickly become dated (the Street Bible being a good example). This revision is a great opportunity to ask what underused resources from our past might serve us well today. Other communities are asking this question. The academic theological community has recently seen a resurgence of interest in patristics, the first 1000 years of Christianity that Quakers never talk about, using these old insights to address contemporary problems. Stories that are thousands of years old are being used to speak to contemporary issues amongst Quakers, such as Friend Peterson Toscano’s research on transgender people in the Bible. The early Quakers had tools that we could use in understanding our response to issues of privilege and power, as I have written about previously. Can we see the revision of the book of discipline, not as a shedding of an old skin, but as an opportunity to rummage through, add to, and reassemble our Lego collection?


The BYM epistle quotes Isaac Penington: ‘And the end of words is to bring men to the knowledge of things beyond what words can utter.’ The ‘end of words’ does not mean the literal demise of words. Words are not irrelevant. Penington is pointing out that words have a very important purpose. They are indispensable tools,  and I look forward to playing my part in helping my Quaker family use them well.

[Edit: I originally wrote ‘we are certainly not diverse in other ways, such as race or class,’ but have been reminded that to repeat the trope that ‘Quakers are all white and middle class’ ignores the diversity you can find in local Quaker meetings, so I deleted that sentence. When taken as a whole Yearly Meeting, I don’t believe we are as representative as we could be, and we should work to make our structures *inclusive* as well as diverse, ensuring that the white, middle class voice is not the dominant one.]

Thank you to my readers

Dear readers and followers of Jolly Quaker,

2017 has, in one way or another, been a challenging year for me, but blogging continues to be one of my chief joys.

I write this blog for myself. It helps me organise and articulate my thoughts. The act of writing a post and putting it out there is always cathartic. In many ways it’s a spiritual practice.

That said, I really appreciate others taking the time to read and comment on what I write. It’s incredibly affirming, and when people politely disagree with me I enjoy the challenge to articulate my thoughts better, or to reevaluate my own opinions.

I’m hoping that 2018 will yield a bumper crop of Jolly Quaker posts as I continue the Advices and Queries series, which are proving very popular, and are so enjoyable to write.

So thank you for following the blog, re-tweeting my tweets and for reading, liking and commenting on my posts.

As the days in the Northern Hemisphere begin to grow lighter, I wish you a happy Christmas (if marking Christmas is your thing) and a Light-led 2018.

O come, O come, thou Dayspring bright!
Pour on our souls thy healing light;
Dispel the long night’s lingering gloom,
And pierce the shadows of the tomb.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.