Thursday, December 25, 2008
This year Christmas lost the "magic" at our house.
Now some will say this is a bad thing. I find it quite good since for so many years Christmas has been more about the dream of the gathering of family and the perfect gift and the warm memories than about the significance of the event.
What caused this change from a "magical", romantic, wonderful Christmas?
First, our youngest turned 10 and Santa became who he is to her - a secular symbol. It is not that she quit "believing" in him, it is that the fantasy of him no longer had a meaning and she became more focused on her part in "Christmas" such as participating in decorating, making items, shopping for gifts for others, and paying a little more attention in church to the significance of the birth of Christ. It was noticeable that this year was less about her and more about others.
Second, we were pounded by so much winter weather that the "magic" of a "white" Christmas turned into the reality of the temperature being too cold, the conditions too unsafe, and the shoveling too tedious. When you have to shovel your drive for the umpteenth time and are running out of places to put throw the stuff, the ho-ho-ho becomes bah-humbug rather quickly and you are ready to throttle the next "little child" who you find out is praying for more snow!
Third, the "magical" gathering of family wasn't. It was better.
Our families are getting older. They have jobs and relationships and lifestyles and live in locations that are spreading out. It is just darn near impossible for all of them to get together at the same time in the same place.
In order to "see" everyone Christmas moves from one huge gathering to a number of small ones. Some are momentary to exchange a gift and a hug, a lunchtime meeting that lasts a couple of hours, to the all day party.
In some ways it is sad not to see everyone at one time, but this spreads out the time and allows for a little more enjoyment of each other. There is less of that "oh, I didn't get to talk with..." regrets.
I have always strived to consider each gathering as if it were our last. I know that seems a little morbid but it also increases the specialness. One day it will be our last, so let us relish in the moment now.
Finally, church services were a little flatter. Our regular church is not real big on the holidays. It is their tradition to downplay the "holidays" and the Christmas eve service is very low key. My wife, however, comes from a background where Christmas at the church was a major celebration with numerous Advent and Christmas services filled with litergy and ritual, trumpets and tympanies, choirs and circumstance.
this year, our church cancelled the Christmas Eve service in advance of expected bad weather and the pastors being out of town. Instead we went to my wife's old church, with her childhood experiences as an expectation. We went to the "contemporary" service and got a rock band (that could have used a better mix) playing some souped up carols ("with a new twist" is how the pastor introduced them), a touch of litergy, a "nice" sermon, and then the evening ended with a very slow, almost depressed, version of Silent Night.
It was not the celebration we had anticipated, but to me it was reminder that the first Christmas had very little "magic" in it.
There was this little baby born in mundane circumstances, far from family and friends, with a minimal celebration. Yes, there were angels telling some shepherds, which puts a little "magic" to it, but that is about it. Life did not immediately change for most of the people at the Inn nor in Bethlehem nor in the rest of the world. Life went on.
This Christmas changed me. It is the loss of a dream, a fanatsy, a romantic vision of what Christmas should be with the reality of what it is - a time we stop and think about someone other than our self, or at least try to do that.
As Christians, though, this is a daily task, not just one set aside at Christmas or Easter or any "special" day. Christ never instituted holidays or celebrations of Himself and I find that very interesting since the Jews had a ton of them. It is because God moved from being out there somewhere at a distance to inside me close to my heart and soul. Every day is a celebration of His birth, His death, His resurrection. Every hour is the moment before Christmas. Every minute His gift to me.
So the "magic" of Christmas left but was replaced by the reality of Christ. A much better thing, I would say.
For His Glory,
Monday, December 08, 2008
I cannot say if this Fox News article accurately portrays what happened at this "Worship Service", but it left the impression on the writer that the prayers were to Congress to help out the automaker.
Now, this in itself is not an inappropriate prayer, but the aticle starts out:
DETROIT — With auto workers in the pews and sport-utility vehicles at the altar, one of Detroit's largest churches on Sunday offered up prayers for Congress to bail out the struggling auto industry, Reuters reported.
This sure reads like the prayers were to Congress and not God.
Now I went to the church web site and their statement of faith (what we believe) is solidly centered on the Word and on Christ. There was an announcement inviting auto workers to a special "Service" for prayer and annointing.
This in itself is not wrong. Many churches some 47 years ago had special services after Pearl Harbor to pray for the dead and our nation. Same with other events, tragedies, and circumstances.
The workers in the US auto industry and related employers are nervous. The structure is trembling and at risk of falling putting hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people out of work and threatens our basic economic well-being.
It is more than apt to pray about this situation, but our prayers should be for God to be glorified and for a solution to this problem to come forth.
We don't know if the loans will work. They seem like a panic reaction to me, but putting that to one side, the danger, and in this case it came true, is that it leaves the impression the prayers were to Congress, not for Congress.
It sounds like they believe the solution is the loan (or bail out), and that is their prayer, and in doing so left the impression that they were praying to Congress - at least to the writer of the article.
Our response in difficulties is to rely on God. Our hope is in Christ alone, and we need to be very careful about leaving an impression otherwise.
I am hoping that this church, which appears to do some great ministry to the people of Detroit, did not do as the article stated, and, instead, truly gave some real "good news" to the autoworkers, that their true salvation is not in their employers, not in their government, not even in their churches, but in Christ alone.
Friday, December 05, 2008
According to a Fox News and others, an atheist group in Washington State, from a demand of "equal time", have been allowed to erect a display near a Nativity Scene on the State Capitol in Olympia in honor of "Winter Solstace". The placard on the display reads, in part,: ""There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds." There is also a "Holiday" tree up as well. All the displays are placed by private groups.
There is a minor uproar about this, coming from Christian centers, because the statement is an overt attack on "religion". It would not surprise me to learn if there are not protest letters and small rallies being held on the Capitol building planned as "Christians" are "offended" by the statement.
I think, though, that this is sign is great news, and if we Christians waste our time trying to silence the statement we will miss that opportunity.
Obviously Washington State is now allowing displays that do more than "honor" a holiday, like the sign by the Nativity indicates, but allowing for the discussion of what that religion believes, like the sign by the Winter Solstice.
For years, the criteria from the courts has been that "religious" displays, such as the 10 commandments, are allowed if they are "cultural" or "historic".
Thus, in Washington State, the Nativity Scene was placed near a "Holiday Tree" and, in past times, there was a Menorah. In many places, Nativities on public grounds have to have other signs of the season such as Santa or reindeer or such.
Now, though, at least in Washington State, the display can do more than make a cultural statement, it can actually be used to promote your viewpoint!
The atheists' statement is clearly proselytizing their beliefs. It is not a explanation of the holiday like the one next to the Nativity which says that the disply is to "commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ which is celebrated by Christians around the world".
So, since atheists are now allowed to openly express their beliefs, irrelevant to the holiday, then I would urge the private group to change the sign on the Nativity to something like -"For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son and whosoever believes in Him shall be saved". Maybe they could even have a little stand there with some tracts to "explain" their beliefs more fully.
While many of my brothers and sisters in Christ will lament this display as another "loss" in the culture wars, it is really a victory. A victory for free speech and for the re-opening of allowing divergent viewpoints to be displayed.
It will be a victory only if we take this great news and use it to tell the Good News, but that should be our response to everything, anyway. In all news, point it to the Good News.
By the way, if Santa were to use the 10 Commandments, would you be naughty or nice?
To find the answer, click here
For His Glory,