In Luce Tua

On Feasting and Filling

On Feasting and Filling


As I write this—a few days before Thanksgiving with the season’s first snow falling outside—I feel unready for what is coming: “The Holidays,” our annual ritual of feasting and filling ourselves, a time to gather with family and friends and exchange gifts, to enjoy office parties and winter carnivals. It is a good time, all of it. It brings much needed joy and light to these grim days of early winter.

As much as I enjoy this season, every year it leaves me unsettled. There is so much to do, but so little time to take it all in. There is always another present to buy and wrap, another party to get ready for, another cookie to eat. In the few moments when I am not either too busy or too exhausted to think about such things, I find myself wondering whatever happened to Advent, the Christian season of penitence and fasting.

Christians know that this season is about so much more or, perhaps more accurately, so much less. The season of Advent is the time to prepare for the Nativity, the birth of the Christ Child, the gift of God’s son who takes on human form to bring joy and light everlasting into our world. And the Gospel that comes into the world with the Christ Child is not one of feasting and filling. As Thomas Cathcart writes in “Christianity Is a Spirituality,” Jesus does not teach us to fill ourselves with things of the world; instead, he calls us to empty ourselves, to have faith in a good beyond ourselves, to perform acts of love, generosity, and forgiveness. The Savior who comes to us in the Nativity is not the anticipated conquering king but a frail and needy newborn child. He comes not to give us what we want in life or to satisfy our every desire, but to show us our own frailty and neediness.

There is no more basic human experience than to take measure of our lives: to ask what we are living for, how what we are accomplishing in life is significant. But the coming of a savior who teaches “…the last will be first, and the first will be last” (Matt. 20:16) stands our answers to these questions on their heads. This changes everything: the values by which we measure ourselves, the goals for which we strive. Two contributors to this issue share stories about the experience of having our ideas about who we are and what we want out of life upended. In “The 1998 North-Central Iowa Spring Break Blizzard Tour,” Nathaniel Lee Hansen describes what sometimes happens to young people who start to feel pious and self-important. And in “A Short History of Hair,” Gary Fincke tells us about a young man learning how to live a life that is worth something, both in his own eyes and in those of his elders. So how then are we to live? In “A Seed of Life,” Joel Kurz offers memories of his friend Hugo Curran, a forester who learned that his task was not to dominate and control but to serve and sustain. Likewise, we must follow Jesus’ call to empty ourselves, to stop worrying about our own accomplishments, to live our lives as servants.

So enjoy this year’s holidays. Treasure the time together with your loved ones, and go ahead and let yourself have just one more cookie. But remember, this child who comes at Christmas changes everything. And we are not ready for what is coming. Prepare ye the way.




Editor’s Note: We at The Cresset were saddened to hear of the passing of Wheaton College’s Brett Foster who recently lost his fight with cancer. In recent years, Brett has become a frequent contributor to our pages, and for many years before that he has been a friend and mentor to our poetry editor Marci Rae Johnson. Just a few weeks ago, we were pleased to accept another of the many beautiful poems he has generously shared with us, and now we are honored to publish it in this issue. Please be sure to read “Civility” on page twenty-five and to remember Brett’s family, friends, and colleagues in your prayers.


Christian institutions of higher education have their own unique answers to these questions. In September 2014, representatives from universities and colleges in the Lilly Network of Church-Related Colleges and Universities gathered at Xavier University in New Orleans for the Lilly Fellows Program Workshop for Senior Administrators. The topic of the workshop was “From Mission to Meaningful Lives.” Participants discussed how each school defines student success and how each schools’ theological traditions shape that definition. They also heard two plenary addresses, both of which are included in this issue.

In an address written by Ursinus College president Bobby Fong, who passed away several weeks before the workshop, and read by Valparaiso University’s Mark Schwehn, participants were asked to reflect on how they can help students come to know the world, to know themselves, and to know God. In her address, Patricia O’Connell Killen, Academic Vice President of Gonzaga University, explored how church-related schools can translate their missions into specific strategies for defining and achieving post-­baccalaureate success.

The 2014 Workshop for Senior Administrators was held in conjunction with the Twenty-fourth Annual National Conference of the Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts. The conference’s theme, “A Future City, A New Creation: Equal on All Sides,” highlighted the meaning of the apocalyptic in the Christian tradition. The conference featured the debut of the art exhibit, “Between the Shadow and the Light,” which is the result of the R5 project. Art professors from universities in the United States joined with artists from South Africa to visit sites around Johannesburg and Cape Town, where they experienced the realities of life today in South Africa. The exhibit features artwork inspired by these experiences, and a few of these works are featured on the front and back covers of this issue.

Also included in this issue are photographs of Bethel University (St. Paul) art professor Kenneth Steinbach’s 2013 exhibit, “Under the Rose.” The exhibit centered on a full-scale model of a Predator drone, ornamented with laser-cuttings based on patterns found in Islamic architecture, medieval Christian confessionals, headscarves of Somali school girls living in Minneapolis, and camouflage patterns used by US forces in Afghanistan. For his body of artistic work, Steinbach was awarded the 2014 Arlin G. Meyer Prize in Visual Art.

The word “apocalypse” evokes images of destruction and death, but it also offers the hope of rebirth and renewal. As creation itself groans as if in childbirth, awaiting the time when it will be transformed, we each await our own transformation through God’s grace (Romans 8:22–23). At Christian colleges we cannot make this transformation happen, but we can invite our students into the process of change and offer them a community in which they might grow in their understanding of creation and discover the person who God is calling them to be within it.


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