Thursday, December 24, 2009

There's Good in the World

Many of you are aware that my 17 year-old son was attacked, beaten, and robbed this past week. It was a random act of violence on a busy street in broad daylight, perpetrated by a troubled young man. Chris was taken to the emergency room, where I met him, and we were soon joined by Pam. The CT scan showed no major damage, so with pain meds in hand we took him home.

This is the place where I could go two ways with this post. The easy thing, I suppose, would be to talk about evil, violence, and what kind of world we live in where this could happen to as kind and helpful a person as Chris.

But what has really struck me about this event has been the good in people, not the evil.

A woman driving by saw what happened and stopped. She checked on Chris, called 911, and interviewed the boy who had been with the attacker just before he crossed the road to attack Chris. She stayed until Chris was taken off in the ambulance. I don't know if she knows the story of the Good Samaritan, but she is a Good Samaritan. There were other drivers who also stopped to see if they could be of assistance.

Shortly after I got to the hospital Rev. Jason Jordan and Andy Smith came into the room. Jason is our Pastor to Students and Andy our Middle High Youth Director. What a blessing they were as we hugged and they prayed for Chris.

And what a blessing our community of faith has been. Members of our youth group and college group have beaten a path to our door. There has been a steady stream of calls, emails, and text messages telling us of prayers being lifted on our behalf.

Crises define us. We rise to the challenge or we fall short; they bring out the best or the worst in us. Many of the folks in our lives have shown us that they are people of courage, care, and love in this crisis. And for that, we thank you.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Jesus Talks about His Birthday

A friend sent me this today. It pretty much sums up where I'm coming from, and I certainly could not frame it better. My friend said it sounds like what I've been preaching lately, and that is high praise indeed!

Letter from Jesus about Christmas --

It has come to my attention that many of you are upset that folks are taking My name out of the season.

How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don't care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth, just GET ALONG AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

Now, having said that let Me go on. If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn't allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn. If all My followers did that there wouldn't be any need for such a scene on the town square because there would be many of them all around town.

Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can remember Me anytime you see any tree. Decorate a grape vine if you wish: I actually spoke of that one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you and what each of our tasks were. If you have forgotten that one, look up John 15: 1 - 8.

If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my wish list. Choose something from it:

1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.

2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don't have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.

3. Instead of writing the President complaining about the wording on the cards his staff sent out this year, why don't you write and tell him that you'll be praying for him and his family this year. Then follow up... It will be nice hearing from you again.

4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't afford and they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.

5 Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.

6. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don't know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile; it could make the difference.

7. Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren't allowed to wish you a "Merry Christmas" that doesn't keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday. If the store didn't make so much money on that day they'd close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families

8. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary-- especially one who takes My love and Good News to those who have never heard My name.

9. Here's a good one. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no "Christmas" tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don't know them, buy some food and a few gifts and give them to the Salvation Army or some other charity which believes in Me and they will make the delivery for you.

10. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don't do things in secret that you wouldn't do in My presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of mine.

Don't forget; I am God and can take care of Myself. Just love Me and do what I have told you to do. I'll take care of all the rest. Check out the list above and get to work; time is short. I'll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love and remember :



Tuesday, December 1, 2009


This past Sunday I greeted the three services I led with "Happy New Year!" I've done that for three years here now at McEachern so some people caught on to what I was saying. This Sunday was the first Sunday in Advent; Advent is the beginning of the Christian Year, so this past Sunday was the first Sunday, so I greeted everyone accordingly!

But you know, even for us who know this tidbit, sometimes we don't "get" Advent. And our culture doesn't help, does it? It's hard to stick with Advent in the midst of a culture that thinks Christmas starts with Thanksgiving (okay, Halloween if you're a retailer) and ends with the stroke of midnight on December 24th. For the Christian, Christmas doesn't even start until Christmas Day, then goes on for 12 days (remember the song?) until Epiphany.

Too often our congregations get enculturated into the prevailing culture of celebrating instead of preparing, which Advent is all about. I mean, think about it. If we really followed Advent, we would only be singing Advent hymns, focusing on John the Baptist, and the only real decorations would be the Advent wreath!

I encouraged our folks to think of Advent as an alarm clock. Once a year this alarm goes off, wakes us from our stupor, and reminds us that Jesus came, and will be returning, and we had better be ready! That is why so many of our scripture lessons are apocalyptic - Advent is about both remembering that Jesus came, and that he will come again in power and in glory. We keep one eye towards the past and one eye toward the future - kind of a cross-eyed season, huh?

So, what am I doing to prepare this year? Well I am reading James Moore's study "What Do You Want for Christmas?" for my daily devotional time. I have made it a habit through the years to do something different in my devotional life during Advent. There are plenty of guides and books out there, especially at I am also rereading the Gospel of Matthew. Both Matthew and Luke give the stories of Jesus' nativity, so I thought that would make some good reading this time of the year. We have also published an Advent devotional guide at McEachern that I am reading.

I think of Advent and Lent as "sister seasons". In both cases we are preparing for something and paying more attention than usual to spiritual matters. Maybe this year if we spend a little more time preparing we will have the Christmas we have always wanted.