Saturday, December 25, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

His Name is Wonderful

“And He will be called Wonderful,….”

The modern translations say this is an adjective, but I don’t think so.  I think it’s one of his names.  

Wonderful. It's a beautiful name.  

I wonder if Jesus wondered about things. When he was a boy, did he look at the night sky and marvel at the stars like the wise men did? Did he laugh with delight when he held a lamb in his arms like the old shepherds would have? Did he watch his father work and wonder how he could make things out of wood? Did he imagine what the angels looked like when his mother told them how they sang of his arrival? And did he wonder about who he would be when he grew up?

The Christ Child inspires me to continue to probe the heavens and ask hopeful questions. Because of him I persist in the notion that there are joyful answers to unresolved questions.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,… And he will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6).

Monday, December 20, 2010

The People in My Heart

I remember once after an especially beautiful worship service that my brother and I attended, he told me that he was sure our sister, Mary, was there with us.

Mary had passed away several years before, but like all loved ones, she never quite went away.

It’s probably not unusual to feel these things at big moments. Perhaps we’ve felt a comforting presence when we’re sad. Or they’re quietly celebrating with us in our hearts when we’re happy. Or maybe we feel their encouragement when we’re down. A lucky few dream or actually hear people that have passed on.

I don’t always feel them, but I believe they’re there. It’s not a haunted thing and it really doesn’t even feel mystical. It’s a spiritual thing that feels quite natural at the time.

I carry many people in my heart—the ones I love and who love me. Some are still alive, and others are not. If they’re alive, they’re probably reading these words and they know who they are. If they’re gone, they probably saw me while I was writing them in the first place.

I think about these things especially at Christmas because of our emphasis on family and friends. I remember the people who used to celebrate with us when they were alive. And we worship the Christ child who makes this little aspect of eternal life possible.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Fighting Yesterday's Battles

The worship war, where we fought, screamed, cried and split over music and preaching styles is not yesterday’s issue. That was the day before yesterday. And as is typical, we leaders in the church are two steps behind in addressing our problems.  

Yesterday’s issue is the consumerism of the church, where people go to church where the music, the preacher, and the coffee is best.

There’s some connection between the two. Our focus on worship style led to a self centered consumerism: Which church has the best drummer and electric guitar player? Which preacher is the most entertaining speaker?

Perhaps the commonality is that we’re appealing to people’s selfishness. We tell them we can make them feel better, happier, more satisfied, and more successful. 

The most marketable churches may have the biggest crowds, but overall, the whole thing is still shrinking. If I imitate the church with the biggest crowd, I’m still looking at something that is part of a losing equation. 

Most of our identified problems are only symptomatic of the real one, which is that we don’t know who we are or what our purpose is.

Why are we here? Does it matter if the church exists? What would happen if we disappeared? Would anybody notice?  What are we supposed to be doing besides filling our time with “wholesome” activities?

Until we find clarity of purpose, we’ll find ourselves squabbling about yesterday’s issues until we are only a part of yesterday.

Any thoughts on the subject?

Touched by Holiness

Items that were part of Jesus’ birth have become special over the millennia. The manger (an animal’s feedbox), the stable, and swaddling clothes (tattered rags) became special in history because they have a place in story of his arrival.  

Bear in mind that these things were originally meant to be signs of poverty and humiliation. But because they are associated with Jesus, they have become subjects for beautiful paintings and music.

The people in the story were also changed in our perspective because of their part in the story. Shepherds were dirty, menial laborers, but they are honored in Christianity. Mary and Joseph were poor people who went unnoticed at the time but are now honored by all Christians.  

He “lifted up the humble.”   He did it all his life from the moment he was born, and he continues to this day. Ordinary people become beautiful because they are touched by holiness.