Monday, December 24, 2007

A Christmas Parable

Merry Christmas Eve!

Years ago my father shared with me Louis Cassels' "Parable of the Birds". Since that time it has become my custom to use the parable in our Christmas Eve Services; this year will be no different.

Cassels was Senior Editor for United Press International, wrote as their Religion Correspondent, and penned this parable in 1959. It has continued to be reprinted in papers around the world for almost forty years.

The Parable of the Birds
Louis Cassels
Once upon a time, there was a man who looked upon Christmas as a lot of humbug. He wasn't a Scrooge. He was a very kind and decent person, generous to his family, upright in all his dealings with other men.

But he didn't believe all that stuff about God becoming man, which churches proclaim at Christmas. Why would God want to do anything like that?

So when his family left to attend midnight services on Christmas Eve, he stayed home.

Shortly after the family drove away snow began to fall. He went to the window and watched the flurries getting heavier and heavier. Sometime later, as he was reading his newspaper by the fire, he was startled by a thudding sound that was quickly followed by another. Then another.

When he went to investigate, he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They had been caught in the storm, and in a desperate search for shelter had tried to fly through the window.

"I can't let these poor creatures lie there and freeze," he thought. "But how can I help them?"

Then he remembered the barn. It would provide a warm shelter. He quickly put on his coat and boots and tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on the light.

But the birds didn't come in.

"Food will bring them in," he thought. So he hurried back to the house for bread crumbs, which he sprinkled on the snow to make a trail into the barn.

To his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs and continued to flop around helplessly in the snow. He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around and waving his arms. They scattered in every direction -- except into the warm, lighted barn.

"They find me a strange and terrifying creature," he said to himself, "and I can't seem to think of any way to let them know they can trust me."

"If only I could be a bird myself for a few minutes, perhaps I could lead them to safety."

Just at that moment the church bells began to ring. He stood silently for awhile, listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas.

Then he sank to his knees in the snow. "Now I understand," he whispered. "Now I see why You had to do it."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Real Meaning of Christmas

I was watching the news and drinking my coffee this morning when the anchors began showing, and talking about, pictures of children sitting on Santa's lap. It was pretty funny, because they were all pictures of children crying, and the anchors were talking about children's fear of Santa. It would have been another fluff piece until one of the anchors made the offhand comment, "Well at least they're learning the true meaning of Christmas".


Now, I know I often comment about the culture's values being different from the Christian values. I talk about our need to be "subversive witnesses against the dominant culture". But even this was a shock to me! But I also think it is indicative of what our culture believes. For many, Christmas is about Santa, the temple of the mall, and the priesthood of all shoppers.

I'm not going to bash the culture, or that anchor, or people who celebrate Christmas differently that I do. I am, however, going to say that we need to be better witnesses of what Christmas is all about: the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. I hope you'll join me.

Monday, December 17, 2007

December 30th Worship Schedule

I wanted to give you all a heads up about a change in our Worship Schedule for the last Sunday of the year. We will have our 8:15 and 9:30 Traditional Worship Services as normal. Our 11:00 Transformation and Traditional Services, however, will be worshiping together in the sanctuary.

This change is due, in part, to the many requests we have had to occassionally worship together. As I discussed this with the Servant Team, the point was brought up that if we do this on "normal" Sundays we would not all fit in the sanctuary, and we don't have enough chairs to all fit in the Christian Life Center! So, we thought this year we would try to combine these services on the Sundays that are traditionally not as well attended as others. The great part about this is that it will give us powerful worship experiences on Sundays when the energy level may be a little low.

I hope you'll be supportive of this change, and enjoy worshiping together at 11:00 or at one of the services at 8:15 or 9:00

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

I've Ignored You

I've started writing a blog entry several times this month, but something always happened that kept me from doing it. Here are some snippets of what I have been intending to write, remembering that my paternal grandmother's favorite phrase was, "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions!"

I have been asked my opinion on the United Methodist bishops statement that all troops should begin an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. First, I want to remind you that the bishops do not speak for the Church. Only the General Conference, which meets every four years, can speak officially for The United Methodist Church; they do that through The Book of Discipline and The Book of Resolutions. Secondly, I think an immediate withdrawal would be catastrophic, plunging the entire area into conflict. I believe the statement was ill-advised and harmful. I am proud that our bishop, Lindsey Davis, did not vote for the adoption of the resolution.

On to happier matters. Last Sunday was the first Sunday in the liturgical season of advent. The word Advent comes from the Latin "adventus" meaning "coming". There is a dual purpose to this season; we remember Jesus' first Advent in Bethlehem, but we also look for his final coming in victory when the Kingdom of God will be fully realized. The color of purple is used of this season to remind us of its penitential and preparational nature. These four weeks allow us to do some spiritual housekeeping as we journey to Bethlehem. It is the gift the Church gives to us once a year in order to keep our spirits healthy.

Finally, I want to encourage you to sign up on the registration pads to have a name tag made. Then, when we distribute them in January, I want to ask you to wear them. We all like to be called by name, but there is no way we can know all our members, visitors, and constituents by name. Hopefully this will be a way of being a more hospitable congregation. It will help us all learn the names of others. I remember doing this in a congregation of 500 members (we number 3,000). I actually had two gentlemen who had each worshiped together for over 20 years, knew each other by sight, but did not know each others name! That church averaged a little under 200 in one worship service, so they had plenty of time together. They were both very active in the church. They just didn't know each other's names and were too embarrassed to ask!

I'll do my best to be more disciplined in posting to this blog. And if you have a question or a suggested topic, feel free to email me at