As your heart gathers around memories of Christmases past and delights of Christmas present, as the busyness and stillness collide in something called “holiday,” I pray that like all those involved in the first Christmas, this would be a day of wonder for you.
I pray you would embrace joyfully the beauty of mystery – knowing that the mysterious is a cousin to the miraculous – and you are gloriously free from being able to explain everything in 140 characters or having to control any and every outcome. [click to continue…]
This photo from December 2013 – People scatter rose pedals during an interfaith graveside memorial service.in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
Suppose you were hosting an event for a crowd north of 1,400 people. Where would you have it?
That’s a pretty serious venue. Unless your name is something like Biltmore, you can probably scratch the back yard or dining room off the list. But hey, your local hotel ballroom may fit the bill. Depending on the nature of the event, a few church houses or large theaters or auditoriums would work.
When was the last time you were part of a crowd that big? I was there a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve got to tell you, it was noticeable. Parking was a bit of a challenge. The venue was a little crowded. The energy was palpable. Lots of noise and excitement.
And no, I’m not referring to a Black Friday sale at Walmart.
But I want to tell you about a different kind of assembly. One where 1,430 people came together and hardly anyone noticed. Parking wasn’t a problem. Noise wasn’t an issue. In fact, all was deathly(!) quiet, at a venue that was shockingly small.
The location: a mass grave. [click to continue…]
As you celebrate in the silent night or the joyful noise that is your Christmas, I joyfully lift my prayer to the Father of lights on your behalf – praying that you would discover the unique inspiration that comes from knowing what an inspiration to others you can be.
I pray that on this day you would find your way to the Chamber of your Beloved, to rediscover the awakened intimacy that comes from having your soul restored, realizing again the central message of Christmas, that you are completely loved.
I pray that in the coming year, when you engage with the terrible and the trivial in this world, that when others are desperately looking for the light of truth and hope, they find it burning brightly still in you.
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What stockings there are in this house are hung, and most all of the Christmas decorations are out and up for this most unusual of Christmases – one in which we are anticipating the birth of a grandson.
In the kitchen alone, the candles and stuffed carolers next to the miniature street lamp sing in inaudible celebration that it’s Christmas. Five trees of some size or shape adorn the china hutch and island. Candles and ribbons grace the table, and the Santa hat makes a nice addition to the ceramic pig that keeps watch over all things kitchen. A stuffed snowman (that lights up, of course) perches on a chair in the corner. And a healthy collection of Santa-and-the-Missus salt and pepper shakers give new meaning to that cliché of all Christmas clichés – ‘Tis the season.
But what most catches my eye is a little string of letters hanging down from the upper cabinet, next to the stuffed snowman. Those four letters spell the word, H-O-P-E.
Isn’t that the renewable resource that is Christmas – the celebration of the birth of the Hope of the Ages? That however sorry or desperate the world looks (have you read the news lately?), there still is hope?
We live in an age where linkin’ stinkin’ thinkin’ together has become an art form, and the cynics seem to be winning. But this Christmas can be a reminder to me and to you that we’re not done hoping. [click to continue…]
In the stillness of the night or the glory of the morning that is Christmas, my prayer for you is that beyond the traditions and trappings, through the gifts and the connections, you approach it all with a heart that is fully awake and aware of the Larger Story and the part you still must play.
I pray that you would fall in love again this Christmas with a first-love kind of desire for Jesus, whose birth we celebrate. I pray that your soul would find in Him and in those whose lives you touch the sweetest of love that gives graciously, forgives completely, and waits patiently when you or I fail miserably.
I pray that you have those God-breathed encounters in which your heart is so full you are lost in the moment. I pray that your heart is so captured with the wonder and joy of the presence of God, even in the simplest of experiences, you could stay in that moment and hold Him tightly. [click to continue…]
It isn’t “Peace on Earth.”
It isn’t “Good will to men.”
It isn’t “Wise men still seek Him” or “Joy to the world,” true and wonderful as all those things are.
Read through the different accounts of the first Christmas, and the most common thing you will find is a variety of ordinary people like you and me coming to grips with their fears. And the message of Christmas again and again is, “You don’t have to be afraid.” [click to continue…]
An imaginary story of what could have been…
Evening falls quickly in Bethany, as the sun seems to drop like a rock on the other side of the mountain, and beyond that, the Holy City of Jerusalem. And in this village – whose very name means “house of affliction,” the mood often seems to do the same.
There always seems to be something else to do in Bethany, this place of never-ending chores. This village, one of three in Israel set aside to treat the sick, is a place of care and service. Duty and devotion. Its residents usually find a sense of satisfaction there.
But not this time.
Not when duty and devotion means saying good-bye to one of its own.
One of Bethany’s most cherished servants, from a deeply respected family, has died giving birth to a beautiful baby girl. And in this House of Affliction, the hits just keep on coming.
The official time of mourning now passed, duty calls, and the people of Bethany, still reeling, must man their stations. And as 12-year-old Martha trudges through her evening chores – something she once relished doing with her Mama – no one feels the unfairness of it all more than she. [click to continue…]
(The Twelve Names of Christmas, Part 1)
As you may have detected from one of the previous posts, we spent last week in the magical confines of Disney World in Florida. “We” means all 15 of us – kids, spouses, and grandkids from age 5 to age 11 weeks. And, of course, about 12 thousand of our closest friends.
Every once in a while in this sea of strangers, about half of whom weren’t speaking English, I’d see somebody with that familiar cursive “A” on a cap or shirt, and out it would come – that instant bond forged among strangers as the result of two simple words: Roll Tide! And brother, it was instant. Truth be told, I did see a few people wearing blue and orange and was tempted to say “War Eagle!” to them, but just couldn’t get words to form in my mouth.
And if you have no idea what any of that last paragraph means, never mind.
There is another rallying cry, however, I do want to tell you about. In times of trouble in ancient Israel, including times of going into battle, they would summon courage and unity with one simple word:
Immanuel was their way of expressing confidence that God was present with and fighting for the cause of his people. And it was no accident that when Jesus arrived on the scene in Bethlehem at that first Christmas, one of his biographers made mention of it: [click to continue…]
It starts out innocently enough. You dutifully climb into the attic and start hauling out the boxes of decorations. Once again the house is tricked out with stockings, twinkling lights, and the scents you save for just this time of year.
You ask the familiar questions: Do we go with same-old same-old, or try something completely new and different? Are we staying home, or traveling, or both? Who’s coming and going? What’s on the calendar between here and there? And of course, what should be get for [fill in the blank] this year for Christmas?
But here’s the tricky part – other than Black Friday, nobody’s giving you any extra time to make all that happen. You still have a job to go to (hopefully), 21 meals a week to account for, meetings to attend, bills to pay, promises to keep.
So how do you make it all fit together? You hurry. You scurry. And sometimes you worry that it never quite seems to all get done.
Truth be told, sometimes sacrifices have to be made to get it all in. And therein lies the rub… because the one thing that Christmas is all about often gets lost in the flurry. [click to continue…]
The other day my son-in-law and oldest grandson had this little exchange:
Cohen: What does that sign say?
Curtis: Pedestrian crossing. Are you a pedestrian?
Cohen: No. I’m a Christian.
Super funny at face value. Typically profound as children’s funny things can be when you dig deeper.
Everybody knows what pedestrian, the noun, means, right? “Walker.”
Or in more recent days, “somebody who texts without a seat belt.”
But as an adjective, “pedestrian” means something different. The dictionary definition:
“lacking inspiration or excitement; dull.”
Synonyms include words like dull, boring, tedious, monotonous, uneventful, unremarkable, tiresome, wearisome, uninspired, unimaginative, unexciting, uninteresting, and uninvolving.
Are you pedestrian?
No. I’m Christian.
Wouldn’t it be awesome if being a Christian really was the opposite of being pedestrian? Wouldn’t it be amazing if somebody said, referring to one of us, “He’s too much of a Christian to live a pedestrian life”? [click to continue…]