December is a season full of busyness. There is a lot going on, both at the church and in our lives, as we prepare for the celebration of Christmas. It can be a stressful season even though we are seeking to announce a time of joy and hope. Maybe you’re like me and, as a result, you look for ways to bring a little laughter and fun into the month.
For the last few years, bringing in an element of laughter and fun during December has meant debating people on what constitutes a true Christmas movie. You may not know this, but people are really attached to their ideas of what counts as a Christmas movie and are willing to debate you nonstop on the topic. I’ve taken joy in putting up mock debates, especially on social media, about how I do not believe “Elf” is that funny or that “Die Hard” cannot count as a Christmas film. That last one really gets people going. Just because something takes place around Christmas doesn’t make it a Christmas movie. I’m sorry, John McClane.
I love these discussions, because I always laugh at where the conversation goes and the lengths people will undertake in order to convince me that Die Hard is, in fact, a Christmas movie.
If you’re wondering, it is not Christmas in my family until I have seen Clark Griswald have a major meltdown after receiving a 12-month subscription to the “jelly of the month” club. Nor is it Christmas until I’ve watched “It’s a Wonderful Life.” True story: I’m the only person in our family who loves the movie. I cannot help its story of George Bailey as the down-on-his-luck family man who believes there is nothing for him in the world. That is until he encounters a unique individual by the name of Clarence. Continue reading “The Nativity: Angels”
On my desk there is a stack of invite cards for our upcoming special worship services. The cards are decked out in a beautiful array of seasonal colors with a wreath on one side. The words on the card strike me as a word of welcome. It says, “A place for you this Christmas.”
A place for you this Christmas. I love that phrase. At its core, the card offers a word of invitation and welcome and hospitality that gets to the heart of what it means to share God’s love. In response to our faith and in celebration of the birth of Jesus, we are called to make room for people so they may experience the hope of the Christ child.
It’s easier to say there is “a place for you this Christmas” in our places of worship. It is another thing, and much difficult, to live it out. To live out that there is “a place for you this Christmas” requires reflection upon what it means to welcome people and to understand that it will mean making our welcome more than just words we place on a card or screen. To truly have “a place for you this Christmas” means making a conscious choice to make room in our hearts for all to experience the hope of Christ.
So, what might that look like? Even more, I wonder what groups of people in our community need to know that there is “a place for you this Christmas.” Continue reading “A Place for You this Christmas”
It was just an ordinary day in the City of Bethlehem.
The population, in those days, was around 1,000 people. That is a little more than double the latest Census estimate for Salvisa. All of those 1,000 people and more were gathered in Bethlehem on that day. The people were under the authority of the Roman Empire, which had no problem throwing its weight around. On that particular day, the people under Rome’s authority were required to return to their hometown in order to be counted. This was an ordinary occurrence for the people in Bethlehem, because Rome made it a habit of doing things to reminded people of their authority and power.
It was also an ordinary day for those outside of Bethlehem. Residing around the hillsides outside of Bethlehem were a group of shepherds. The shepherds were doing their job. They were keeping watch of their sheep to make sure they stayed safe from intruders. Shepherds were not the most beloved group of people. Some tolerated them as those who performed a needed task in society, but the people had little use for them. Others viewed them as thieves, because they would do what was needed in order to survive even if it meant taking from others. On that day they were just trying to live and survive. Continue reading “Christmas Eve Message: Ordinary Day and Extraordinary Hope”
Every five or six years the calendar gives pastors and worship planners a true gift at the Christmas season: Christmas on a Sunday.
It should be a gift, but in all honesty the idea of Christmas on a Sunday makes many pastors, including myself, quiver. The reason is that we know we will spend weeks trying to help people understand why the church is open on Sunday, and why we will worship on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Sunday. Place that within the context of a worshiping movement that argues that the Sunday after Christmas Eve should be a time for family and not for community worship then we are left with questions as to why do we have church on December 25 and not cancel so we can be at home with our family.
This year, I have found that the simple answer of “because it’s Sunday” works as well as when my parents tried to use the response of “because we said so” to one of my many questions as to why I had to do something as a child. It falls flat and is truly dismissive of the larger question that, I believe, many are asking.
I think our people are smarter than we give them credit and are able to have a deep conversation about faith, worship, and theology. So, why do we worship on Christmas Sunday? Why is it so important for the church to be open, this year, on December 25? Continue reading “Why Do We Worship on Christmas Day?”
One of my favorite Christmas movies, if not one of my favorite movies of all time, is “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” It is my “must watch at least five times” movie during the Christmas season.
The movie follows Clark W. Griswold on his mission to have the perfect Christmas family gathering. He invites his entire family to his Chicago home, from in-laws to distant cousins, for a festive celebration. Of course, along the way Clark runs into a lot of hilarious obstacles.
I think that is why I love the movie so much. I can relate to Clark. For one, I’m a little bit of a klutz and can be a bit accident-prone. When Clark staples his shirt to the roof, I empathize with him, knowing that it is something I would likely do. I can also relate to Clark because I love to plan things and want every holiday gathering to be perfect. I spend all my time in the weeks leading up to a holiday thinking about what we will eat, what we will do, or what route we will take to get to our families. I plan for everything so that we will have the perfect celebration and have a hard time when something goes wrong, such as an unexpected traffic delay on the way home from a family gathering. Continue reading “Preparing for Christmas”