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Showing posts from 2009

God's Self-Disclosure at Christmas

Are you ready for Christmas? I don’t simply mean, “Have you done all your last-minute shopping, packing for travel, or cooking preparations” – although that’s certainly part, and I hope a joyful part, of getting ready for Christmas. I mean, “Are you ready” in a different sense…in the sense of “standing by” or “anticipating.” Are you standing by, anticipating Christmas? Remembering that the first Christmas was the incarnation – the in- carne -ation…the in- flesh ment of God Himself…are you standing by, anticipating, some way that God will reveal Himself to you? Put another way: are you passively going through Christmas, expecting nothing in the way of seeing God’s presence in your everyday Christmas activities? If so, that’s probably how much of God you’ll see: nothing. God does not force himself on us. Or are you ready for God, standing by, anticipating, ready to see several instances of God’s presence in your everyday Christmas activities? If so, that’s probably how much of God you’l

The Reality of Christmas and Our Culture

This time of year, there’s a common dilemma we face. On the one hand, we really want to feel “the Christmas spirit.” But on the other hand, we have a hard time hearing the “still, small voice of God” in all the noise, chasing around the malls, the parties, and the pressures of the season. On the one hand, we recall, fondly, the Christmas mornings of our childhood, including the joy of opening presents. But on the other hand, we fear creating Christmas mornings of our own that are overly focused on presents. On the one hand, we know Christmas can put us in touch with the deepest yearnings of our hearts and souls, tug at our heartstrings like no other holiday. But on the other hand, we know that Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock-Staeheli, co-authors of the book, Unplug the Christmas Machine , are onto something when they write that Christmas has been cheapened into little more than “a long and elaborate preparation for an intense gift-opening ritual.” When I feel this way, I find it helpf

Joyful Anticipation of Christmas

Two years ago, I ran across a column written by the Episcopal priest and columnist Tom Ehrich, having to do with Advent and Christmas. He wrote, in part: Along about now, pulpits and church newsletters bristle with [complaining] about the culture's theft of Christmas. Targets include the so-called "commercialization of Christmas," manic spending but hesitant pledging, bustling malls but empty pews, spotlights on Santa Claus but not on Jesus, and cultural shifts that we see as "taking Christ out of Christmas." We'll even gripe about the people who finally do show up en masse on Christmas Eve and criticize them for not being there every Sunday… This annual [complaining] is a perfect expression of why many churches dwindle to irrelevance. This is "provider-driven" religion: blaming people for not wanting what we provide… If people are hungry for food, why would we give them [empty] ritual? If people are hungry for meaning, why would we give them tradi

Thanksgiving Paradigm Shift

Thanksgiving Day and paradigm shifts. I got to thinking about the connection between the two when I read the following sentence: “Do you realize that OK looks like a little stick figure man, sideways?” At first I didn’t know what the writer was talking about; I’d never seen OK as a sideways stick figure before. But sure enough, if you stare at it long enough and think, “sideways stick figure,” something in your brain shifts and bam, all of a sudden the stick figure appears. Except of course it doesn’t appear…it’s always been there. It’s just that my brain, in 48 years, had never seen it that way before. And now each time I see OK I see a little stick figure man on his side. That’s called a paradigm shift. The term “paradigm shift” has suffered from overuse, but it’s an important concept with solid roots: I remember hearing it for the first time in a philosophy class in college, when we were studying Thomas Kuhn, who coined the term. Kuhn’s argument was that advances in science are not

Reasons for Thanksgiving

With the conclusion of this week, we’re moving into what many people consider “Thanksgiving Week.” Personally speaking, it’s great timing. The word “thankful” means “full of thanks,” and I’ve been feeling particularly grateful -- full of thanks -- lately. Let me name a few: First, as most of you know, tomorrow we have the honor of conducting the funeral service for Bob Twigg, who died Monday night after a long and valiant fight against lung cancer. I’m grateful that I got to know Bob well over the past five or six years. I’m grateful for several long conversations we had when we spent a week together in New Orleans doing Katrina relief. I’m grateful for the way he lived his life, and even for the way he died -- consciously choosing to “live, laugh, and love” as much as he could, each day, every day. And I’m grateful, as Bob was, for living in a free country. As I’ll probably say tomorrow in the homily, one of the things his wife BJ told me in planning the service is that “Bob loved