Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I am in my annual post-Thanksgiving stupor (what is it about turkey and all the trimmings that makes we want to take a long winter's nap?), and realized that this Sunday is the Christian church's official beginning of the Christmas season. We call it "Advent". The word "Advent" means arrival or coming and is designed to help us prepare for the advent of Jesus Christ in the Christmas celebration.

I realize that the celebration of the birth of Jesus is arbitrary. We don't know what day or month Jesus was actually born. We do know the place and we have a good idea of the general time frame (Caesar August, Quirinius is governor of Syria -- Luke 2:1). I also realize that the date was set on December 25 sometime after Constantine to "Christianize" the older pagan festival of lights that celebrated the return of the sun following the Winter Solstice.

Part of the Christmas difficulty is this: although the celebration of the birth of Christ is important (or more importantly the celebration of God becoming a human being -- that thing we call "Incarnation") it is all jumbled and muddled up with things like the "Festival of Lights" and "Yuletide" celebrations that have little to do with Jesus and more to do with dark winter parties and gift giving.

Keeping our celebration of the Incarnation separate from the commercial din and background noise of parallel celebrations is not easy. I suggest making time, remembering the story, making quite space for worship, find a church that remembers ITS reason for the season. And make space to prepare your heart. Christ is Coming, alleluia!


Tuesday, November 20, 2007


I am amazed at how easy it is for us to get lost in the nostalgia of the big end of the year celebrations. How many times do we gather for Thanksgiving (or Christmas, New Years, whatever) with our family and find ourselves expecting that this year will be the Hallmark moment, that somehow this year will be different from all the previous other years. In fact the people in our families are the same people they were last year (and however many other years before that). In fact their rough edges (and ours); their foibles (and ours); their short comings (and ours) are likely to be pretty much what they have always been. When we place unreal expectations on these events we set ourselves up for the "Great Holiday Disappointment!"

Here's an idea. Why not decide ahead of time that it will be pretty much like it always is. The family member who drinks too much will probably do so; that one odd cousin who puts the large black olives on the end of his fingers will probably do so again this year; the strange little tensions that come when the house is too full of people (no matter how well we get along) -- these things will probably all be there. So, rather than hoping or wishing it were different why not embrace them just the way they are and enjoy the replay of the day?

Begin thanksgiving with its original purpose. Thank God for another year, for what we DO have and for the opportunity to continue to grow, mature and make a difference in this world.

God's blessings be yours this day.