Category Archives: Christmas

Disruption: We Hate It but We Need It

God, the theologians tell us, is omnipotent, immutable, and incomprehensible. They should have told us that he is also inconvenient. The eternal and omnipresent God doesn’t step into our little lives without disrupting our plans.

The fact is most of us need a good disruption from time to time. We may not like it – probably won’t – but that doesn’t mean we don’t need it. Without occasional disruptions, the priority of our convenience, our plans, our schedule remain unchallenged, which can leave us assuming a false independence from God. God uses disruptions for our good, to teach us to trust him, to break us out of our self-centeredness and enable us to know him better.

He also uses disruptions to move us in new and better directions. The business world has a term for systemic changes brought about by the introduction of a new agent. They call it disruptive innovation. God has been managing disruptive innovation since he banished our first parents from the Garden. No one understands it better. Continue reading

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Jesus Is Not Peter Pan: Let’s Stop Confusing Them

I think we get Jesus confused with Peter Pan. We seem to think he is the boy who would not grow up.

A seven-year-old girl went with her grandparents to look at Christmas displays in the suburb where they lived. When they saw a large Nativity scene, Grandma called attention to it: “Look, Sarah, isn’t it beautiful?” And Sarah, who was a very smart girl, said: “Grandma, one thing bothers me. Jesus is the same size he was last year. Why doesn’t he ever grow up?”

Perhaps Jesus does not grow up because we won’t let him. We love the baby Jesus. He is so sweet, sitting on his mother’s lap, like he is in Leonardo’s painting, stretching out a tiny hand to his admirers. It is all so charming – and entirely innocuous. What could be less threatening than a little baby – particularly one that never grows up?

But leaving Jesus at Bethlehem on Christmas Day is like leaving WWII at Normandy on D-Day, or manned flight at Kitty-hawk on a December day in 1903. It is important to celebrate the act that set it all in motion, but there is so much more to the story. Interestingly, Christians did not think to celebrate Christ’s birth until about the fifth century, but for many contemporary westerners, Christmas is the only Christian holiday they celebrate.

At Christmas, we stand over the manger – we are comfortable there – and sing about the Child who is proof of God’s love for the world. But at some point we need to move away from the manger.
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Promises, Promises: The Promise of Christmas

(Text:Micah 5:1-5. If you prefer to listen rather than read, you can find a link to this sermon below.) Do you have one of those friends – maybe you have more than one – who is always making, but rarely … Continue reading

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God Is Our Context: Interpreting Circumstances

Noam Shpancer says that most people “interpret all of life by [their] current context.” The current context is the only interpretive lens they’ve got. How sad that is, especially during this time of pandemic, but also at other times. Interpreting … Continue reading

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God Is Our Context: Lock Eyes with God

Sometimes, the future is so promising. We want it to come: we want to get married, have kids, go on vacation, get a job, retire from a job. Sometimes the future is so threatening. We just want to get it … Continue reading

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God Is Our Context: The Need to Remember

If we are going to trust our God, we must learn to trust his timing. If we do not, we will always be in a hurry, constantly be worried and, in our haste for tomorrow, miss what God has placed … Continue reading

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God Is Our Context: The Timely God

In the church, the Advent season has always been a time of waiting. On the Church calendar, Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas. So, we wait. That is countercultural. Society does not wait. Walmart doesn’t wait. They are plugging Christmas … Continue reading

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God Is Our Context: Our Current Context

One of the most repeated sayings of 2020 must be: “I can’t wait until things get back to normal.” I’ve said it myself, or something like it. You’ve probably said it too. We’re Americans. We can’t wait in the best … Continue reading

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What’s He Doing Here? Why John the Baptist Shows Up at Christmastime

Religious people can be odd. Saints can be downright strange. If there are any contemporary saints trending on Twitter or YouTube, it is more likely because of the weird things they say and do than in spite of them.

During the third week in Advent Season, the Common Lectionary’s Gospel readings are all about John the Baptist, whose life is celebrated each year in preparation for Christmas. If one of the qualifying marks of sainthood is strangeness – and such a case could be made – John must be at the head of the class.

He was born to aged parents. Were his birth to occur today, we would call it a miracle of modern science. When it occurred, friends and family simply called it a miracle. At some point, John moved from his Judean countryside home to the rugged desert between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. His diet was odd – he ate locusts and honey. His wardrobe was odd – he wore camel hair clothing. His life work was odd – he dunked people in the Jordan River for the forgiveness of sins.

John’s was a strange life and also a strange death. When he stuck his prophetic nose into the king’s so-called private affairs, the king cut it off. Well, not just his nose but his whole head. The king only did this because his stepdaughter – at her mother’s request – put him up to it.

Even John’s burial was unusual. His grieving friends had to go to the authorities – not the coroner but (quite possibly) the executioner – to request his body. As far as we know that body still rests in some ancient grave, absent its blessed head.

Why is this man, so odd in life and in death, renowned among Christians? Continue reading

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ADVENTure: A Time to Rethink Your Life

Research shows most people don’t respond when a fire alarm rings. Instead of leaving a building immediately, they stand around and wait for more information. In 1985, a fire broke out in the stands of a soccer match in England. When the television footage was examined, it showed fans took a long time to react. They didn’t move towards the exits until it was too late. 56 people died.

Research also shows that when we do move, we tend to follow old habits. For example, most people try to exit through the same door they entered, even when a nearer exit is available. A fire in the Beverly Hills Supper Club in Kentucky left 177 people dead. Forensic experts believed that many of the victims tried to go out the way they came in, even though there were fire exits. They got caught in a bottleneck and couldn’t get out it time.

What is there for us today in this strange prophet’s ancient message? I’ll mention three things. First, there is a fire coming, a fire of judgment and a time of change, and John sounds the alarm. That warning is at the heart of the Christian gospel and our hearts tell us it is true. Don’t try to escape it by going back the way you came. There is a nearer door, the only one that works: Jesus. Go through him. He once said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved…” (John 10:9). Go to him. Join him. Ask him to take you in. Continue reading

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