Monday, December 24, 2012

God becomes human... We can be human.

The wonder of Christmas is that God becomes a human:
God becomes human through a young and humble woman. 
God becomes human by being born in a stable with farm animals. 
When God becomes human the good news is first proclaimed to shepherds, who were not the highest ranking people in the society by any stretch of the imagination.
When God becomes human, he really becomes human.  He's not a super human.  He's not powerful or impressive by any worldly measurements.  God becomes human by meeting us right where we are. 

Most nativity scenes don't do justice to just how lowly the whole situation was.  The barn, manger, and animals were common, less than common even.  The shepherds are way overdressed and far too clean cut.  The shepherds in the Bethlehem countryside would have been a messy bunch and I'm sure they would have had long disheveled beards.  In fact as I sit hear and ponder those shepherds I can't help but think of the Robertson clan in the reality TV show: Duck Dynasty.

The idea behind that show lies behind the real-life story of a true Louisiana red-neck (his words), who loves hunting and the outdoors, making it rich because of an extremely successful line of duck calls he created under the name Duck Commander.  Now Phil has gotten up in years and its time for his son Willie to take over the business as the CEO.  The TV show follows Willie's struggles with keeping both the successful business and his crazy "red-neck" family together.  It's hilarious.  Phil and Willie are the stars, but its Uncle Si and brother Jase who really steal the show.  Yes they have money, and they are successful by worldly standards, but that doesn't stop them from being the people God created them to be.  Money or no money, success or no success, you know that this gang wouldn't be one bit different. 

This is why the Robertson Family would make fantastic shepherds for any church's Nativity Play.  They are the real deal.  They are human.  They are not going to pretend for anyone... not even for God.

God entering into created reality at Christmas means that we may be and should be humans before God.  God, who can do anything God chooses do to, chooses to meet us right where we are, just as we are.  Be yourself... and certainly don't pretend.

The authenticity of the show Duck Dynasty has me shaking my head every week: "They can't possibly be acting" I say to myself, shaking my head as I watch them get into another crazy conversation about life. 

God gives us permission to be the real deal before him.  Come to the Christ child, just as you are.  God has met you in Jesus.  Oh yes, the world is going to change through this Messiah.  And he will convict us through his cross and give us life through his resurrection, but the change that is made in you will be authentic, coming from your heart.

So be yourself this Christmas.  Let your hair grow out.  Don't put on a show.  Come to Bethlehem and see the baby... just as you are.      

Saturday, December 22, 2012

We Made It!

So much for the Mayans.  Though their 5,000 year-old calendar expired Thursday, the world did not end and we are here to proceed on with life.  All of the predictions about the-end-of-the-world once again were proven false just by the fact that we're still here.  We made it.

Actually, those still connected with Mayan history have been pretty vocal for months that the conclusion of the old calendar didn't mean the-end-of-the-world at all.  Instead, those doomsday predictors were once again playing on our society's fears and expectations that the world is indeed ending.  The conclusion of the Mayan calendar was just another convenient tool for them to spread fear.

Mayans who actually know a thing or two about this calendar told us instead that the end of this calendar meant it was the end of the 13th Batkun, or age of about 400 years.  Time for a new Batkun.  Time for a new calendar.  I wonder if they will get one for Christmas.  We made it.  Time to turn the page.

For Christians, the birth of Christ ushered in and is continuing to usher in a new age.  God is one with us in Christ and his birth, death and resurrection means that the world is about to turn the page into a new reality.  "The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, repent and believe the good news," was and is Jesus proclamation to us.  A wonderful place to read about this coming kingdom is in Mary's song to Elizabeth in Luke's Gospel.  A young and pregnant Mary visits her very old and very pregnant relative Elizabeth who's son will be John the Baptist.  Elizabeth, Mary's elder and the wife of a priest, differs honor and respect to young Mary who will be "the mother of my Lord."  Mary's song is one of the ages.  Faithfully she recognizes how God has blessed her.  She also describes a new age... a new kingdom... that will be ushered in through her son:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.” (Luke 1:46-55)

The world is going to change.  We have made it into the 14th Batkun, yes, but we have also made it into the Kingdom of God.  It's not yet fully revealed, but through faith in Christ we can already live according to this coming kingdom.  We can live by faith, share hope where there is only darkness, and know that God provides for all our needs.  The page is turning on the past age.  A new age is coming.  The humble are lifted up.  The hungry are filled with good things.  God's people are not forgotten.  The rich and haughty will have no part in this kingdom.  It will be a kingdom rich in mercy, justice and love.  Live this reality now. "God's mercy extends to those who fear him."

Friday, December 14, 2012

Prayers for our Nation

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. - John 1:4

The news of the events of at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, CT has struck our country hard today.  Once again the wicked acts of a single individual, lashing out his hate upon the world, has cost us the lives of too many of our brothers and sisters.  Please keep the families of those effected in your prayers.  Pray for peace.  Pray for hope.

I had the opportunity today to be at Foster School today, serving as a chaperon for a third grade field trip to the Field Museum.  The museum was alive... teeming with school groups of young kids from all over Chicagoland: learning, laughing, having fun, and goofin' off a bit as well.  All over this country millions of teachers, administrators and parents are doing an amazing job with these kids... providing love as they provide places of wonder and growth.  The desperate acts of evil will not have the final say.  Evil's days are numbered.  The Light of the World is dawning.  We can can live with hope and dedicate our lives to Christ who is the Prince of Peace.

Hold on to your kids and grandkids a little tighter tonight and answer their questions about what happened with care and honesty.  Pray with them and remain hopeful.  As the days get darker in this world know that the light of Christ's love get's brighter and brighter and brighter!  

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. 
We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, 
who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. - John 1:14

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


I didn't hear as much about 12/12/12 today as I expected.  Most of the talk about 12/12/12 has been about the concert tonight for Hurricane Sandy relief.  I don't think people realize just how much struggling is still going on in the Northeast because of Sandy.  I hope tonight's concert is a success and has a big impact.

Today marks the end of the yearly cycle that began in 2001 of interesting repeating number days like this.  Start with January 1, 2001 (01/01/01) we have had one of these each year.  But one could argue that the first one only really occurred on October 10, 2010 (10/10/10).  After all, does anyone really write a "0" before the number?

These dates have been a bonanza for weddings.  And I must say it does help you remember if something big happened on the date.  I'll never forget that the first night game at Wrigley Field was on 8/8/88.  The game was rained out and wasn't official... but I sure do remember 8/8/88.

People who need a date like this to look forward to are already talking about November 12, 2013 (11/12/13), but I don't think that counts. Did anyone say a thing on October 11 of this year (10/11/12)?  Nope.

So we have to say farewell now to the repeating number dates.  The next will be on February 2, 2022 (2/2/22).  I suggest if you can't wait that long start looking for repeating patterns, like January 3, 2013 (1/3/13).  Being born on July 2, 1972 (7/2/72) I'd say I prefer them. 

Just remember... regardless of the number..."This is the day the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it."  Today is a gift.


Saturday, December 01, 2012

Plan Advent

There are certain cycles in our society that are so predictable.  The Christmas Season is one of those cycles.  As we move through the month of November more and more signs of the Christmas season appear in stores and public squares.  You see things about Christmas on TV and your hear Christmas music beginning to be played on the radio.  Then when Thanksgiving arrives the whole nation seems revved up and ready to go.  And to tell the truth I think that such a cycle has been more evident this year than in the past few.

It's as if the unpleasantness of the election season and the fatigue of a bad economy for over half-a-decade has made us all ripe for a full-blast Christmas season.  Through "Cyber Monday" (the Monday after Thanksgiving where people are encouraged to shop online) online sales in November where $16.4 billion for Christmas and $1.46 billion on that day alone.  Both numbers are up nearly 20% from last year.

Looking around its as if everyone is shopping like its 2004.  Won't we ever learn?  Will we always be stuck in the cycle of spend and spend and rush and rush?  Those who are tired of such cycles of work, debt, buy, and sprint are looking for a Plan B as an alternative that can free them from the stress of these endless cycles.  This past week many people looked toward Powerball as their Plan B.

That's right, with a jackpot of over half-a-billion dollars... HALF-A-BILLION DOLLARS!!! (Actually half-a-billion plus $88 million) the only cycle a person would need to ride is one completely of their own choosing.  Powerball promises the freedom do whatever you want the the allure of never being unhappy again.  Don't believe me?  160 million tickets were sold.  One for every 1.5 adults living in this country.  You don't sell that many tickets without making some pretty hefty promises.

But Plan B didn't work.  Now what?  Back on the cycle of spend and rush, buy and collapse from exhaustion?

The days are surely coming for a new plan.  "The days are surely coming says, the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah (Jeremiah 33:14)."  The days are surely coming when the cycles of the old covenant and the empty promises of the present will be exposed for what they are.  The days are surely coming for a new covenant, a new righteous Branch from the line of David, a new plan... a plan B which actually is a Plan A.  And today... this day... such a coming hope is not symbolized by the Powerball ticket, no.  The days of hope that are coming is symbolized by the Advent Wreath.

The days are surely coming... and are now here... when we can be still and wait upon the Lord.  We can dwell in his presence and bask in his light.  We don't need to be chained to this cycle of spend and rush, buy and collapse.  Instead we are welcome to embrace this Season of Advent that begins right now... not on November 1... not on Thanksgiving... not on Black Friday... not on Cyber Monday... not on Powerball Wednesday.  Now is the time and now is the moment to embrace the calm, peaceful truth of Jesus Christ who is the Lord... who is our righteousness.

As the Advent Wreath gets brighter... slowly and steadily... week after week: we know that Christ is upon us and giving us peace and hope.  As the world's days get shorter and busier... the Light of Christ will be our bright Morning Star.  The days are surely coming when we can embrace this peace: regardless of money, regardless of employment, regardless of stuff. Allow the Spirit to turn your Plan A's and your Plan B's into a Plan Advent this year.  "Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10)"