Saturday, November 30, 2013

For today's  commentary on the ADVENT independent study,"Rediscovering the Christmas Season, please click here 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Advent - Waiting- Faith

I remember the Christmas Eve I heard Santa Claus arrive on the roof of our house. I heard him calling out to his reindeer. I don't recall how old I was at the time. And, well maybe I really didn't hear him arrive. However my mom and dad did, and they asked me whether I did. Of course, I had to say yes. I then became my parent's pawn, influencing my siblings to get to sleep so Santa and his reindeer wouldn't pass over us.

Imagine how difficult it was to keep my eyes shut tight waiting for Santa to deliver his treasures. He was so close. If I didn't get to sleep soon it would have been an unmitigated disaster. There I was waiting for Santa and waiting for sleep.

Children don't wait very well on Christmas Eve. I have concluded that waiting doesn't come any easier to adults either. One of my friends is waiting for God's next call and assignment in his life. In a recent blog he commented that, “waiting is the hardest thing we do.” Waiting is also the source of a lot of uncertainty and anxiety.

One of the themes of Advent is waiting. The people of God waited over 400 years for a “Word from the Lord.” Finally their wait was over as the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us” in the birth of Jesus.

Like my friend I agree that waiting is the hardest discipline of life. More so now than ever, we have grown accustomed and addicted to instant delivery of our heart's desire. We live in a world of instant downloads and instant potatoes. Email was once the cutting edge of communicating supplanting snail mail. Now Email has taken a back seat to texting and internet chat. In days past we would wait in line at the theater to see the latest installment from Hollywood. Then came the VCR revolution, Blockbuster Video, Netflix, Redbox, and video on demand. You get the idea.

In spite of all our technical advancements God still has a way of making us wait. Waiting and faith go hand in hand. Hebrews 11 is the great “hall of faith” chapter of the Bible. Verse 13 reads, “These all died in faith without having received the promises, but they saw them from a distance.”

David begins Psalm 27 confident in the Lord's attentiveness. However his confidence suffers beginning in verse 7. In fact, he begins to wonder whether or not the Lord is even listening to him. Something within his spirit encourages him to still seek the Lord. With renewed confidence he concludes, "Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord."

Advent is about faith and waiting. What are you waiting on God for this year?  

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wise Men and the Nativity

One of the essential visuals of Christmas is the nativity scene; the baby
Jesus in the manger surrounded by his mom and dad, the shepherds, the animals, and
of course the three wise men. We see them everywhere. In fact, I remember donning
the shepherd's bathrobe with the head towel and rope in one of my first Church
Christmas programs. You can only imagine how stunned and disappointed I was to
learn years later that the wise men were not present on that first Christmas. Yeah,
In Christmases since, I have downplayed the presence of the wise men at the
nativity, setting them as far away from the manger as possible. However, this Christmas
season I have taken on a new appreciation for the wise men.

Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 2) indicates that the Magi arrived up to two years
after Jesus was born. Their journey took them to Jerusalem to inquire of king Herod.
They explained to him that they had been following the star since his birth. On receiving
further instructions they continued on their way and entered a “house.” Also, when the
Magi returned home without telling Herod the location of this new “king”, Herod had all
the male children under two years of age killed.

I discovered a new appreciation for the wise men in a sentence I read this week.
“Wise men follow a star when they believe the destination is worth the journey.”

As we consider the current journey of our own life, can we name it? Where is it
leading? Is it worth the time, energy, and hours spent in it’s pursuit?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Thanksgiving Day Remembrance

Its Thanksgiving Day 2011. My Thanksgiving celebrations have changed remarkably since childhood. Today I am in Tennessee with family. Several rose at dawn and participated in a 5K Turkey Trot. Me, I opted for a few more moments of shut eye.

My granddaughter, Peighton is celebrating her first Thanksgiving in this world. So begins her annual tradition of Thanksgiving memories. My childhood memories and traditions continue to be a source of joy as I get older. I pray they will for her as well.

As I think on Thanksgivings past I remember the feelings of anticipation and expectancy. They began early in the week with early dismissal at school and reached a crescendo on Thanksgiving morning as my brother and I waited for the arrival of our grandparents and great aunt.

While we waited by the television watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, mom labored tirelessly in the kitchen preparing the food. Dad would help as instructed. However his focus was on the football games scheduled for the day.

When our guests arrived chaos reigned as we greeted and talked and hugged and all that “stuff.” My grandmother specifically wanted to know what was going on in our school studies. Although her education was quite limited she was always drilling the importance of education. She was gifted in telling stories and and making up songs. There was a song she “composed” and taught us about getting a high school diploma, a college degree, and a masters degree. I don’t remember the words or the tune, however I will never forget the priority she placed on education.

While we were all socializing, mom continued to labor in the kitchen. At last the meal was ready. Often the timing of the meal had to be coordinated with the football schedule of the day.

However, the feast was sumptuous and colorful. The table was set with my great grandmother's linen tablecloth and the the “good” dishes. The menu as best I remember consisted of Turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, turnip, pumpkin, cranberry sauce, tiny pearl onions in cream sauce, corn, broccoli, and gravy. For dessert there was chocolate cream pie, lemon meringue pie, mince meat pie, and a variety of cookies, and cakes.

A tradition at our family meals was the discussion of politics at the table, usually over dessert and coffee. The discussion was always lively and the topics varied as was everyone's perspective. We shared polarizing opinions and voices would rise, yet I never remember anyone getting irate or being insulted.

When my aunt Frances would share the day with us, we would gather at the piano after dinner and after the football game to sing. The songs we sang, in ragtime tempo, were not necessarily Thanksgiving type songs. Mostly they were WW 2 era songs and sung with great gusto. I must admit at the time I didn't always understand the tale of the song. When I asked what certain words meant, they just laughed and went on...

When the day ended we were full, satisfied, and content.

Although I spent much of my childhood looking forward to being older, the older I get the more I appreciate being younger. I sure do miss those days and those folks.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Do you think you could go 24 hours without complaining?

Thursday is Thanksgiving. Being thankful should not be reserved for one day of the year. Which begs the question, Do you think you could go 24 hours without complaining?

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of "Words That Hurt, Words That Heal", often lectures on the impact of words. He asks audiences if they can go twenty-four hours without saying any unkind words about another person or to another person. Invariably, a small number of listeners raise their hands, signifying yes. Others laugh, and quite a large number call out, “No!”

Telushkin says, “Those of you who can’t answer yes must recognize that you have a serious problem. If you cannot go twenty-four hours without drinking liquor, you are addicted to alcohol. If you cannot go twenty-four hours without smoking, you are addicted to nicotine. Similarly, if you cannot go twenty-four hours without saying unkind words about others, then you have lost control over your tongue.”

—Rick Ezell, One-Minute Uplift (July 21, 2006) /Larson, C. B., & Ten Elshof, P. (2008). 1001 illustrations that connect (487). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

Friday, November 18, 2011

It's Later Than you Think

The end of the year is fast approaching. In fact, it is later than you think. The new Christian church year begins November 27th with the season of Advent. So the last Sunday of the year is actually this Sunday, November 20th. It is referred to as Christ the King Sunday. Sunday completes the Christian journey through the life of Jesus Christ on earth and in heaven which began with the preparation for the birth of Jesus in Advent.

Kings are absolute rulers: they attain power by raising and leading armies into war against other countries. Jesus' war was not against people or against a country, but against sin, death, and the power of the evil one! By his death, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus won the war against evil.

The good news of the gospel is that we are to accept that Jesus fought and won the war over evil and sin through the cross. We are to accept Jesus as the only means of forgiveness of sin and recognize him as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

On Christ the King Sunday, Christians recognize and worship Christ as king of heaven and earth for all time without challenge and without end. AMEN! Most often, Christ the King Sunday falls just before Thanksgiving and our attention is focused on gratitude over “kingliness”.

Join us this Sunday morning as we celebrate and proclaim “Christ the King”.

Then, return Sunday evening as we observe together, in thanksgiving, the Lord’s Supper. And yes, You will have opportunity to give evidence of your Thanksgiving.