Posts Tagged 'Christmas'

Merry Christmas. Pass it on.

As I watched the light passed from one person to the next as part of the candlelight service tonight, I was transported back in time. I remembered as a child, or perhaps a youth, receiving the light from the person on one side of me, watching the flame take hold of my candle, and then passing to the person next to me. I always looked around to other rows to see if there was someone else I could pass it to. I don’t seem to remember that ever happening, and it always felt disappointing. I really wanted to be able to share that light with more people.

The good news about Christmas is that Jesus, the real light of the world, gave us light that has no limits on how many times we can pass it on. We can pass it to the person on the other side of us, certainly, but we can pass it to everyone in all directions — even pass it back to the person who passed it to us. The light of Jesus is the hope, love, joy, and peace God shared with us — and God never intended us to hold on to it.

Merry Christmas. Pass it on.

Annie by Candlelight

What Makes a Miracle?

I read an article that looks at debate surrounding the virgin birth of Jesus.  Quite a few different viewpoints are made, looking at Scripture, culture, and the very nature of the divine.  It is an interesting read, but it raised a different question for me: what makes a miracle?

Was the virgin birth in and of itself the miracle?

… or was the fact that God demonstrated to us first hand what it means to love God and love our neighbor no matter what the real miracle.

… no matter how much the consumer-driven world tells us that God is not relevant.

… no matter how difficult our neighbor might be.

… no matter how difficult it is to focus on God in our noisy world.

… no matter the violence around us and directed to us.

Putting love ahead of everything else is the miracle I see displayed in the Gospels.  Gospel, after all, means “good news.”

For your Christmas present this year, take the love that Jesus demonstrated for us and share it.  In so doing, you will be a miracle for those you meet.

Merry Christmas.  

Christmas in July

This summer I have found myself in a bit of a spiritual funk. That’s the technical term when you feel like you’ve just spent thirty nine and a half years wandering in the desert following Aaron and Moses and feeling as spiritually dry as the forsaken desert surrounding us.

I selected some music to help move me out of the funk and into the promised land. The music I picked: Christmas music. Seasonally it seems inappropriate, but for the purpose of turning my mood around, it is just what the doctor ordered. It helps remind me that my faith is the birth of something new in me, and it is constantly being re-born.

Merry Christmas. Don’t get too hot outside…

Dear John: I was right there with you (Part 2 of 2)

Dear John,

Thank you for your recent correspondence.  I am truly sorry about the way this Christmas season turned out for you.  You may not realize this, but you should since you have boys of your own, that when you hurt, I hurt too.  I know you had a hard time.  I saw you there.  I saw you cry.  I saw you sacrificially love your son, knowing the likelihood that you would get sick too.  I know a thing or two about sacrificial love.

You might have missed it, but I was there this Christmas, even if I didn’t speak directly to you.  I held you through the nights so that, even in the hospital, you slept well.  I made sure the right people were there for you when you needed help.  You might have missed the miracles that were performed in front of you, as the medical professionals did what they were trained to do.  Did you feel my hug when the chaplain prayed with you?

I would like you to look at this Christmas as a Christmas where you were able to experience my love in a different way.  You didn’t miss out on anything.  You received a chance to see my face from a different point of view.

I will be with you every Christmas, and every other day of the year.  I will not let your prayers go without response.  I don’t promise to respond in the manner or timing in which you want, only that your prayers will never fall on deaf ears.  So keep on communicating with me, even when you are angry with me.  I can turn your anger to love if you will let me.

Merry Christmas.

With love greater than you can comprehend, your friend always,

Jesus

Dear Jesus: Where were you? (Part 1 of 2)

Dear Jesus,

Christmas happened this year.  The tree was up, I even managed to get the lights up on the gutters of the house.  The boys got what they wanted.  They “busted” Santa and found the true meaning of Christmas.  We saw a great Christmas pageant at church.  But then things got difficult.

Two days after Christmas, Andrew came down with a high fever and had to go to the hospital for three nights.  I stayed with him.  I’m sure you would have wanted me to do that.  I’m his daddy and that’s my place.  He had influenza.  He didn’t feel good. That was very hard to be witness to.

As if that wasn’t enough … The day Andy was discharged from the hospital I came down with the high fever and the cough.  In fact, I’m still a little bit sick, and my vacation is basically over.  I’ve spent the past several days in isolation in my bedroom to rest and keep from getting anyone else in the family sick.

Christmas is supposed to be a time where I am together with my family.  We are supposed to spend time together, be reminded what makes us a family, and focus on the love given to us through You.  I didn’t get that.  I got to sleep.  I tried to pray.  You didn’t answer.

Now my vacation time is nearing an end just as I’m starting to feel better.  What’s up with that?

Where were you this Christmas?

Cordially yours,

John

Free Gifts

A few weeks ago, my ten year old son and I were browsing books in our church’s bookstore.  I paused to look at a recently published Study Bible.  I was fairly impressed with it, and noticed that my son, Andy, was looking at it with me.

I asked Andy if he would like this Bible.  He responded somewhat hesitantly, “yes, well… I guess so, but I’m not sure that I want to spend that much.”

I was glad that he was watching his money, but it indicated to me that he missed the intent of my question, so I tried again.  “I wasn’t asking if you wanted to buy it.  If you want it, it is my gift to you — I’ll buy it.”

“Oh, then yes.  Yes, please!”  His enthusiasm was contagious to me.

Now, the day after Christmas, I found myself reliving this exchange in my head, and finding myself in Andy’s shoes.  Humanity received a great gift at Christmas.  Some people don’t know the gift is out there.  Some think it must be bought, and worry that they can’t possibly afford it.  Some aren’t sure that they want it.

Sometimes I don’t feel worthy of it.  Sometimes I accept parts of the gift, but not wholy.  The good news is that the generous God that offers us this gift is patient, loving, and keeps the offer on the table for us all the time.

If you don’t have the gift, keep looking for it.

Once you find it, take it.  It’s free for you — the purchase has already been made.

After the Presents

Every year there are some things I can count on at Christmas Eve:

  • Excited kids
  • Reading of the Night Before Christmas
  • Reading Luke, chapter 2
  • Getting the cookies ready for Santa
  • Last minute placement of presents

Sometimes when I’m done for the evening and look at the tree, I worry that I missed the point.  Other times, I look at it, what the real meaning of the season is about, and stare in awe at the pretty lights.

One of my favorite songs to remember my humility at this time of year was originally written by Jackson Browne, titled The Rebel Jesus.  I was introduced to this song by singer/songwriter Bebo Norman as part of his Christmas album, Christmas … From the Realm of Glory.  It reminds me, at a very emotional level, what the true meaning of the Christmas season is, and Jesus’ ministry as a whole.

Sometimes I need that reminder.

Merry Christmas.

Love Came Down at Christmas

Today is the fourth Sunday in Advent. I think it might be my favorite because it is the Sunday we focus on the Love shared with us at Christmas. Through the liturgical calendar, it is the occasions of Christmas and Easter where I feel most connected to God’s love for us. It is overwhelming sometimes.

… love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God …  (1 John 4:7, CEB)

Happy Advent.  Prepare your heart for a large serving of love this year.

Advent – Part 3: Peace on Earth, and machine guns for all?

Peace on earth, and machine guns for all?

When I first saw the article on NPR I was angry. A gun club in Arizona was offering pictures of your children with Santa Claus and a host of weapons. My gut reaction was that this was some sort of blasphemy to put a culture and climate of war and weaponry into what is supposed to be a season of peace and goodwill to all humankind.

To involve machine guns and Santa in a celebration in the birth of Jesus Christ is the worst kind of heresy I can imagine.

Arizona state Rep. Steve Farley

So I’m right there with Rep. Farley on this. Until… I stepped back and looked at his statement a little bit closer… Machine guns and Santa. Machine guns, definitely don’t have much to do with the birth of Jesus Christ. But… does Santa as the spokesperson for the over commercialized consumeristic side of the holiday season really have anything to do with Jesus either? Maybe my offense is misplaced. I will downgrade the concept from blasphemous to inappropriate. It’s still wrong to place an image of childhood innocence next to weapons of war.  But perhaps not an outright insult directed at God.

Had the scene for the holiday portraits involved Mary and Joseph wearing full camouflage sporting his and hers grenade launchers with baby Jesus in a flak jacket, that would probably cross the blasphemy line for me.

What does the peace of Christ look like this holiday season? Through birth, death, resurrection, and his many ministries with the poor, sick, and outcast of society, Jesus looked at taking down the barriers of society to show love to all humanity. There are many great ways this is carried out, but I just learned about one that truly goes against the machine gun toting Santa.

In Colombia, the military wanted to find a new way to turn guerrilla insurgents away from their violence. They chose to light up large trees in the jungle with Christmas lights with a message of amnesty if they would lay down their weapons and come home. The result was a significant response to their message, more than previous attempts.

The message of peace is powerful. No amount of violence can silence the victory of peace and resurrection.

Come Lord Jesus, come.

Advent – Part 1

Moonlight

(“Moonlight” by ShironekoEuro on Flickr.)

I took the better part of two weeks off from my usual routine of bicycling to work.  My schedule was more chaotic than usual and the weather just was not entirely conducive to a positive cycling experience.  Last week I made an effort to get back into my usual routine.  All felt right with the world again, being back in my routine and getting some exercise in the process.

My first ride home I realized just how early the sun sets after the change from daylight savings time and this time of year.  The darkness of my surroundings accentuated the lights of cars, signs on buildings, and traffic lights.  The moon was full or close to it, creating a very unique lighting of my surroundings.  The trees overhead had lost most or all of their leaves and cast spooky shadows from the moonlight.  There was a chill in the air with a new combination of scents that seemed to say that winter is close at hand.

It was the lights that really grabbed my eyes. My mind was consistently drawn to the colors green and red, and for the first time this season I started thinking about Advent and Christmas.  The holy season snuck up on me almost unnoticed.  This sudden epiphany warmed my heart.  This particular night I worked late and the streets were very quiet allowing my thoughts to center on the meaning of this season.  A sense of peace washed over my heart as I pedaled my way home.

I find myself clinging to this peace, desperately hoping that I do not allow Christ to get lost in my heart this Christmas.


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