Pondering the Nativity through Iconography

Over the years, I’ve heard variations of a particular message from Christian friends: Icons were created for an illiterate population, but once the Bible became available to the masses and people learned to read, we no longer needed pictures to communicate truth. The reference to the irrelevance of religious art, or “icon worship,” was often accompanied by a patronizing tone of voice that implied that pictures are for children, not for those…

Advent Reading: The Protoevangelium for December

  The first of December is coming! In fact, if you’re reading this on Saturday, it’s here. For those of you who would like to participate in reading one chapter a day of the Protoevangelium of James (also known as the Gospel of James) through Christmas Eve, steep yourself a cup of tea and join me. You can download it here, and if you’d like a brief introduction to this cherished document, you can read…

Drinking Coffee without Controversy

Recently I stood in my church’s crowded fellowship hall with my Styrofoam cup of coffee, savoring the genuine half-and-half on a non-fasting day and feeling content after another beautiful Divine Liturgy. Somehow this after-church mingling felt different than even the warmest times of fellowship in my Protestant days. But why?   Yes, the liturgy was beautiful, filled with deep truths and symbolism that will take me a lifetime to unpack. But something…

Prequel to Christmas: Reading “The Rest of the Story”

Years ago I enjoyed listening to legendary radio broadcaster Paul Harvey’s weekday program The Rest of the Story. (For those of you who are old enough to remember, his distinctive voice is now playing in your head. You’re welcome.) In each show, Harvey would reveal interesting, often forgotten details about a well-known event, saving a key piece of information (usually the name of a famous person) for the surprise ending. As we approach Christmas, the…

A Countercultural Christmas Carol

All right, I’ll admit it. I’ve been indulging my carnivorous cravings over the past few days, as I often do before a long fast begins. [See *Note below.] The Nativity Fast commences on Thursday (November 15th), and I’m gettin’ real here: the timing of this fast is seriously inconvenient.   It is the second-longest fast of the year: forty days before Christmas, and it’s not even that difficult, food-wise. Fish, olive oil,…

Burned Out on Church with Nowhere to Turn

Should I give up on church? For several years I wrestled with this question. The short answer was “no.” I wasn’t angry at God, I wasn’t angry at people, and I knew that Christians are not supposed to forsake “assembling ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25). But my church experiences left me unsatisfied. My husband and I dragged our children to one type of church, then another in our quest for…something. We met wonderful…