Monthly Archives: December 2012

A Year Later…

What a difference a year makes! A year ago I was experiencing my first Christmas without my dad. My last living grandparent had died at the beginning of 2011 as well. In almost every way I was not where I wanted to be – personally, professionally, spiritually. The dark of winter 2011 was a dark time for me.

As 2012 draws to a close I am in a really different place. But it has taken a long, sometimes hard road. Several days ago I saw on Twitter the following from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

“Celebrating Advent means being able to wait. Waiting, however, is an art that our impatient age has forgotten….We must wait for the greatest, most profound, most gentle things in the world; nothing happens in a rush, but only according to the divine laws of germination and growth and becoming.”

How often do we not find God’s place for us, God’s will for us because our time frame is too short? A year is a long time to struggle and to wait. For me it was really a three-year wait to get to where God has brought me today. If God is eternal and God’s purposes are worked out sometimes over generations as we see in Scripture, is a year a long time even in a human life? Do we give God enough room to work? I doubt it. I don’t at least.

The same thing seems true about our hopes and dreams. We narrow what we want, focus our dreams so precisely sometimes, that we leave God little room to move. Is it any wonder that we see so many prayers and so many hopes unrealized?

As 2013 dawns tomorrow morning I am trying to give God sufficient room to work. Adequate time for me to see and comprehend where God might want me to travel. Not the typical New Year’s resolution but one, I think, I need more than anything in the year to come. Perhaps you too?

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Merry Christmas!

I just discovered the following poem from G.K. Chesterton. I am unsure how I missed it until now…

The House of Christmas (G. K. Chesterton)

There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay on their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.
Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.

A Child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost – how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky’s dome.

This world is wild as an old wives’ tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.

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The Best – Charlie Brown

A Charlie Brown Christmas  is my favorite Christmas television program. Hands down.

It may be because it is older than me (1965) but has assumed the status of a classic. I am not ready to be a classic. And not qualified probably. But it has stood the test of time and still airs during prime time on a major network.

It may be because it reminds me of my childhood. I remember watching it at home when I was young and then again with my children when they were younger. They aren’t as interested any more… some day perhaps they will watch it with their children.

It  may be because it deals so frankly with the over-commercialization of Christmas, the hype that is even more overpowering than in 1965.

Truthfully I know why it is my favorite. I tend to over-think things – and sometimes under-execute. I sometimes lose myself in nostalgia and forget to shape my present. I can all too easily be led astray by some of the aspects of the commercial culture that informs so much of 2012 Christmas in America. And as a pastor, Christmas can make demands on me that leave me overwhelmed and even resentful.

For all of these reasons, I need to be reminded of Linus’ simple words to Charlie Brown – “That’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.” Which is preceded by these familiar words –

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.linus

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:8-14 KJV)

Yes, that’s what Christmas is all about Randy Clark.

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thHow the Grinch Stole Christmas  this year was followed by that holiday classic Shrek the Halls.  Okay it’s not a classic. I am a big fan of the Shrek films, especially the first one. After resisting the urge to watch this show in years past my 11-year old son and I indulged in the guilty pleasure.

It was full of the usual Shrek gags and parody. What interested me was the plot line – Shrek has never celebrated Christmas so he buys a Christmas for Dummies book at ye olde book shop in town. Not surprisingly, the Christmas celebration takes an interesting turn. After Shrek blows up at his well-intentioned friends he confesses that he doesn’t know anything about Christmas or its traditions.

I wondered – how often do I / we assume that others understand our traditions in the church? know the biblical stories we know? understand terms we take for granted?  Much has been said about this in church circles and about the need to make our churches welcoming places where we don’t make such assumptions. Yet we – I – do anyway.

I find the Shrek pantheon filled with subversive lessons and this Christmas special is no exception. Who would have thought that a cartoon ogre would remind me that I need to remember that not everyone believes as I do, has experienced what I have? As I think about what I believe this Christmas season I hope I will learn (again) not to assume or presume what others might know and believe. In the process I think I will understand better the what and why of my own faith…


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Christmas is No Vacation

Among my favorite Christmas movies is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  It captures all of the insanity and chaos and humor that go with Christmas. We watch it every year and it’s one of the few movies I like enough that my family bought it for me.viadaydreamveliever

Early in the movie, the two main characters (Ellen and Clark) are talking in bed and she says to him; “It’s just that you build things up in your mind, Sparky.  You set standards no family event can ever live up to.”  Clark answers “When have I ever done that?” And she says ” Parties. Weddings.” He cuts her off by saying “Good night, honey.” while Ellen continues  “Anniversaries.  Funerals. Holidays. Vacations. Graduations.”

Expectations. Hopes. We all have them. Christmas is all about hope and Advent, the season that precedes it, teaches us the power of expectation.  BUT these expectations become an unbearable burden. Clark sets a standard for a good old-fashioned family Christmas that only leads to disappointment (and some very funny stuff too).

What are you expecting this Christmas season? Is it too much? Is it build around an image of Christmas, holiday, family that reality can’t bear? The people we love are just as fallible as are we. And they have their own, sometimes inconsistent, expectations and hopes.

I am a Sparky – my expectations and hopes are sometimes so big they dwarf the reality of life and the ability of those around me to meet them. I am learning that there is really only One who can bear the weight of my hopes. And who helps me to understand and respond to the hopes of others around me.

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