Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Can Christianity Be Inclusive?

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

This Christmas season, this question weighs heavily: “Can Christianity be inclusive?” Frankly Christianity in its many forms is largely – and often deservedly – not seen that way. Instead of inclusive, it is often viewed instead as clubbish, judgmental, set apart.

And yet this … the “good news” proclaimed in the Gospel is to be good news for “all nations.”  That remains the call.

What does it mean then to be “good news” to “all nations”?

Maybe this …. If Christianity is to be good news, it must be good news for everyone.

  1. Do our neighbors experience our churches as good news for the community where we serve?
  2. Do other nations feel a sense of relief when they think of this nation as being a largely Christian nation?
  3. Do other faith leaders in non-Christian houses of worship, as well as those with no faith, regard it as good news when they interact with their Christian neighbors?
  4. Do the poor, the suffering – widows and orphans as the Bible phrases it – experience in Christianity good news as they face a wide array of needs and challenges?
  5. If you are a Christian, do others experience “good news” when you enter a room?
And see it is not about delivering good news.  Not about a proclamation from on high. It is about being good news. A lived and largely unspoken proclamation. About living the message of a loving God who walks with all in blessings and brokenness.  A loving, presence-filled healing for us and for others.  Freed from agenda and judgment.  Willing to work.
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In other words … an inclusive Christianity. (To hear more … LINK)
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San Bernadino

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

Our hearts break for the loss of life in San Bernadino.  What for many of us feel like a tragic new “normal.”

Yesterday I spent working on Christmas.  On sermons and messages.  And one message, crystal clear, in the story…

The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned. (Isaiah)

Does this feel like a dark time?  Yesterday certainly did.

And that actually is the time Christ arrives.  Prophetically. In our hunger, in our emptiness, in our wondering, in our suffering.

We start this week lighting the Advent candles.  One a week for four weeks. Symbolizing Hope, Peace, Love and Joy. And we need to remember this … those 4 words were how Christians sought to capture the very essence of their faith. So significant that traditionally the first candle celebrated the beginning of the new liturgical/ religious year.

One candle. Of hope. In the midst of the darkest time of year.

 

A Thought on Christmas

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

I love the story of the shepherds, those families out watching their sheep at night, to whom a heavenly angelic “host” as the story goes appeared, proclaiming joyously to the surprised “Glory to God in the highest. And on earth, peace, goodwill to mankind.”  I love the shepherds for so many reason not  the least of which is that I am plain, not a wise man, not a man given to visions or personal visits by angels.  Not a John the Baptist filled with zealous wrath.  Or a quiet guardian like Joseph.  Just plain.  Just me.

And God can speak there too.  The gift.   The gift all received.  The gift of movement.  The gift in the form of a call spoken into even the most ordinary of us and into the most wise of us.

I imagine the shepherds, families in tow, rushing to see this baby.  Joyously rushing.  Anticipation.  Not with the expectations of grandeur most of us hold to but with the humble joy of beholding power in the beauty of the powerless, a Kingdom not of this world but completely of this world born anew in infancy.  A claiming of the “dual citizenship in the now and the not yet.

Picking up that infant, allowing that infant to look at us, to see us, to offer us that soft assurance that God is over us and under us, undergirds us, supports us, loves us, and needs us.

Merry Christmas!

Prayers for Pakistan

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

We awoke this morning to devastating news of Taliban militants attacking school children at the Army Public School and Degree College in the violence-plagued city of Peshawar.  Casualty figures this morning are around 125 dead, mostly children age 12-16.

These events are beyond enraging.  Beyond comprehending.  And they are the world in which we live.  A world at times incredibly blessed and at times  breathtakenly broken as we witness senseless acts of horrific violence inflicted on the defenseless.

So we pray. And we cry.  And maybe something in us stirs to do.

This story is not outside the Christmas narrative.  2,000 years ago, feeling threatened by the birth of the new king in the form of infant Jesus, King Herod, to eliminate potential threats to his despotic reign, ordered the slaughter of  Jewish infants under his jurisdiction.  Titled “The Slaughter of Innocents” it is a little known tragedy tucked away in the Christmas story.  And God’s heart broke as well, “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.”

Events like the the unfolding tragedy in Pakistan are one of the painful reminders that the work we do, the world we advocate for, is not a small thing or a little thing or a conveniently happy little church thing.  It is no less than revolutionary in a still and quiet and non-violent way.  Joined by countless millions from many denominations.  An authentic alternative.  Beginning in our own broken hearts and reaching out into a broken world.

So we pray for Pakistan and we pray for the world.

Planning for Christmas. Preparing for Christmas: Advent Week One – Hope

Sunday, November 30th, 2014

Advent, a beautiful, timeless ritual.  4 Sundays.  Each building on the other.  Helping us prepare for Christmas. Not plan … but prepare.

The first week. the first candle.  ”Hope.”

A hope not born of things but born of spirit.  ”Hope that inspires good to reveal itself.” Hope that is the “tender shoot” prophesied of 1,000′s of years ago.  Hope in an event and hope in a becoming.

Time for us to quiet our minds. To light a candle.  To consider.  Where is hope stirring in our lives?  Where is God’s “tender shoot” that opens with our hearts, not with ”fervent hands”?

Welcome hope!

 

Christmas After Christmas

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

“Advent” settles around the rhythmic waiting for Christmas, the time of patience and prophecy anticipating Christ’s birth.  ”Advent-ure” … the other end of it all. And yet ‘the other end  of it all’ at times feels so depressed, so barren.  The difference between 8:00 AM Christmas morning and 2:00 PM Christmas afternoon is palpable, the inevitable let down.

Much of that letdown for me is that I mistakenly employ Christmas to welcome, consistently, the wrong kingdom.  The Christmas I welcome centers around gifts, and food, and the annual “this is the year I finally loose weight” promises that melt come February.   So Christmas then “ends.”  And God, in His gentlemanly fashion, consistently offers a different coming of the Kingdom, one more of a beginning.  This is how Emanuel Swedenborg captured that coming.

The Lord’s kingdom consists in mutual love, in which alone is peace. (Heavenly Secrets, 1038)

Contemplate those words for a minute.  The Kingdom … mutual love … in which ALONE is peace.  And I can humbly receive the gift of mutual love and peace to the degree I humbly offer the gift of mutual love and peace.    That is where the advent-ure might just begin.

Getting ready for Christmas on CyberMonday

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Christmas is about the birth of Christ in our lives. Not the arrival of a sacarin sweet baby Jesus, but the arrival of God’s divine interruption into our normal way of life as the Kingdom breaks through in its wonderful power.

And what is that breakthrough?

It is nothing less than a remaking of our minds in the the image and likeness into which they were created by God from the very beginning of time.  And from the re-created mind, comes re-created lives.

The mind we mostly function under concerns itself predominantly with survival.  I love the phrase many authors use to describe this lower mind … the lizard brain.  The lizard brain is content with warmth, food, sex … the creature comforts.  But it holds little concern beyond that and definitely little concern for others outside of warmth, food, and sex.

That lizard brain is ok, as far as it goes. But when its penchant for mere survival becomes the modus operandi of our lives, we  find our lives swinging way out of balance, pulled part by addictions, fear, anxieties, all deeply honed in the lizard brain. , driven by a toxic blend of pleasure seeking and anxiety around survival.  It loves the scarcity mentality that drives Black Friday!

There is however something more, a deeper way of thinking and thus of living, a “peace beyond all understanding” that in turn reshapes our lives into the image and likeness they were created into.

Christmas is about THAT birth.  It is about the very incarnational nature of it all, where God-in-the-form-of-Christ comes to Being.  The gifts of the Three Wisemen?  They were offerings to God not slick purchases to stuff loved ones with.

What do we want for Christmas?   A nice question.  What gifts can we offer God this Christmas?  That could change your life and the lives of those you love.

“Advent is a groaning.”

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

I love these words. “Advent is a groaning.” And it is.

Much of the Christmas season is a season of waiting,  a season of patience.  If we see Christmas as countdown-to-gifts, the patience takes a certain color.  If however we see Christmas as countdown-to-birth, the color shifts. When we speak of Advent, we speak of birth not gifts.

As a father of  5 beautiful children, I have heard my wife many times, while pregnant, say she was ready not to be pregnant any more.  Those comments, offered in the midst of frustration over aching legs, lack of sleep, tiredness, while serious in a sense, were not literal.  No mother wants their child to arrive in month 6, knowing all too well the complications created by an early delivery.

“Waiting” of course is not always joyous.  Much is just such “groaning.”

That is well worth remembering as we enter this advent season.  God so seeks to be born into our lives, not as a gift per se, but as a living, breathing, look-me-in-the-eyes presence.  Immanuel, God with us.

The Post Christmas Hangover

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

Christmas seems to always be followed by a lull.  The joy of buying gifts is rapidly replaced by the hassled “ugh” of returning them for the right size, for one that works, for new batteries  blah …..   And then there is packing up the tree …..

I was wondering if maybe that just isn’t a sign for me that I “missed it.”  I think of the Shepherds coming into the stable to see the Christ child.  Imagine Mary looking up.  What would her thoughts have been?  I imagine something to the effect of “They get it!.  These shepherds know what this is about!”  And most times, I don’t.  Too full of my self, my plans, my opinions, my thoughts and my “schedule” I “miss it.”   Just do this one simple exercise – look at your schedule – take out one item that involves shopping in one way, shape or form.  Erase the event. And write in “Pray.”  Bet you can’t do it!

There is such knee bending, mind blowing, transformative, shattering humility woven throughout the entire Christmas story.   Maybe that is where to “get it” and “keep it.”

God, be born in my life in a new way.

Christmas

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

So it is easy to imagine what I should write about Christmas. It is difficult maybe to find words around what I am called to write.

We are building a church. That journey led us through several major crises including the February budget reductions. And where, maybe, we now find ourselves is in a far more quite and humble place… a place to simply listen to the quiet call of what this is all about.

The profoundness of that place is so well seen in the spirit of Christmas. I am not talking here of the muscular, amped up Christianity out to solve all the wrongs of the world but of the gentle, compassion filled, patient Christianity that I believe lies closer to God’s heart and settles us into a place where He can truly be born again in our lives.

What of that birth? We find Him on the margins, in a stable. We find Him at night, in reduced circumstances. We find Him in life as we live it – uninvited but brilliant in His showing. We find Him in each other, His gentle spirit showing itself in the profound love growing in this community who were strangers one to another a few short years ago.

“Peace on earth. Goodwill to men” – God’s “mission statement” as extolled by the angels at Christmas. In the book “True Christianity”, Emanuel Swedenborg put it this way. “Goodwill makes the connection because God loves every one of us but cannot directly benefit us; He can benefit us … indirectly through each other.”

“Goodwill makes the connection.” The more goodwill takes root in our DNA as individuals and as a church body, the more we join a wider movement, more profound level of change… the more we make the connection.

I shared with my sister a few nights ago that through this journey, I feel like I am now privy to a secret, as in something not everybody knows (yet!:)) That “secret” is not NewChurch LIVE. That secret is falling into the immense grace of God, a sky on fire with His love, and a community of angels-in-training.

Blessing to all!