Posts Tagged ‘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!

Christmas Wishes To Our Great Congregation

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

So many thoughts swirling around as we get ready for Christmas!  I want to start by wishing you and your loved ones a blessed Christmas.   I love our congregation – on line and in Philly and my heart is fill with wishes of blessedness for all of us.   In that light, I  want to take a moment just to reflect with great joy about what Christmas means.

There is a Bigger Picture

Just sit with that for a moment – there is a bigger picture.  We are part of a tapestry extending in all directions through all time.  We are a part.  But in being part we are woven into the whole as well.   We don’t often see that during our life.  Maybe at Christmas there is a glimmer

The “glimmer” will not arrive at moments we expect it.  Maybe you will see it on Christmas Eve (my favorite) or bowling on Christmas Day (my #2).  Just be open to it.  Keep the edges soft.  Hear the music.  The glimmer is there!  Stars are not that big but wow are they cool to look at.  If you are having problems, please watch this clip.  Watch silently – still your mind, let the rushing thoughts pass.  Catch a glimmer of the bigger picture.  Remember the old twist – seeing is not believing, believing is seeing.

Transformation is Possible

No matter how blessed or bad 2010 was, transformation is always possible.  Transformation, in a Christian sense, is not coupled to a particular event or action.  It is coupled to the heart, a coupling that heals regardless of life circumstances.

I was recently skating with our youngest child.  With pride, she said, when we left the ice, that she had only fallen twice – a new record!  I asked what last year’s record was.  She said 15.  Ah there is a God moment. And I think the crazy part to accept is that God cares not a lick about 15 or 2.  Did I love her less at 15 or more at 2? Frankly, neither.  What I love is her and her pluck.  And God’s love vs. my love?  Not even in the same ballpark.  None of us remain hopelessly beyond improvement and transformation and maybe one of the best paths to improvement is to remind yourself – 15 or 2 – God does not really care.    Maybe when that message sinks in, and we can actually say we fell, then we will fall less!

Joy is There

Joy is there.  Joy is there.  Joy is there.  God is.  God is present.  He loves you dearly.  He has your “back.”  He has placed you in the worlds in which you can offer a healing hand.  He placed Himself in YOUR hands so you could use His love to reach out to others in the Spirit that is your divine heritage.  Hold a baby this Christmas, still your mind, ask yourself “What if it is all true?”


“Peace on Earth.  Goodwill to Men.”


Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

“Peace on earth, Goodwill toward men” – the core of the Christmas message.  Peace finds forms.  This Christmas, there is the obvious form of Peace that Christianity calls us to – peace as in an end to war, as in “beating swords into plowshares.”  This level of peace is of no small consequence and of no small responsibility.  “Peace” and “Goodwill” are connected in that regard.  By practicing one, we practice the other.  By feeding one, we feed the other.  By creating the space for one, we create space for the other.

In that regard we must be mindful of not using theology as excuse making.  Christianity, as an institution, over the ages has advocated for certain wars based on “just war theory.”  Deciding which wars are justified and which are not may well not be a topic to be addressed from pulpit.  Yet, as Christians, at the very least, we must remain uncomfortable with any war, justified or not.  When theology confirms the justification of war, we should be fearful of getting too comfortable with a bedfellow we must remain leary of.  To put it simply, Jesus was never comfortable with violence.  Neither then should we be.

None of this mitigates the great sacrifices of the military and military families.  None of this says that there are not real threats out there in the world that call us to legitimate self defense.  As a former history teacher I shudder to think of what the Nazi war machine would have done if it went un-confronted.

And I believe Christian pastors need to constantly remind all of us (including me) that if we simply start to accept war as a comfortable “status quo” we are missing a key to the Christian message.  If Jesus’ message does not unsettle us at least in this area, we arguably missed part of the Christmas message, a message of hope and comfort, but a message also that should confront us with something that maybe is just a bit more than a triumphal proclamation of “Peace on earth and Goodwill toward men.”  That proclamation may just be a command.

How Important Is It For Us To Be Close To Others?

Monday, December 20th, 2010

“Invest and Invite” is a catchy little phrase and the basis of our growth strategy at NewChurch LIVE.  Restated, it means we must “invest” in relationships and then “invite” if and when appropriate. These words though carry with them greater gravity then just a prescriptive catch phrase that informs marketing.

Parker Palmer, a Christian Quaker, wrote the following words about his own spiritual development. “I had embraced a form of Christian faith devoted less to the experience of God than to abstractions about God, a fact that now baffles me; how did so many disembodied concepts emerge from a tradition whose central commitment was to the Word become flesh?“  Christianity without the investment in others clearly is a disembodied concept, uncoupled from the incarnational core of  our faith.

As we approach Christmas, I am struck by how much the story of Jesus’ birth is designed to draw us in.  The main characters – Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds, the Wisemen – were inspired by angels, faced fears, were asked to travel.  The only individual who did none of these things was Herod, and, well, he does not come out so well in this story.  The point is that all were asked to “invest” in different ways.  When our goals are clear, when trust is present, when we see the star, we move more easily though the fears that surround us will no doubt accompany us on the trip.

Maybe that is the “risk” of investment.  We need to allow the call of Christmas, of Jesus, to actually unsettle us.  That “unsettling” should call us to candidly look at where we are investing our lives.  Are we close to each other?  Are we reaching out?  Are we willing to travel?  Are we willing to look up and see the star, to see the angels, that will call us home?  Can we come to see God incarnate as more than a disembodied concept but as the Other?

No fear, no movement.  No joy, no movement.  No risk, no growth.  Be mindful of this blessed promise, “The Lord is present with you the moment you start to love the neighbor.” (Heavenly Secrets)