Christmas Day

Try as he might, to the Grinch's dismay,
Christmas arrived once again today.
Some began with stockings, others with gifts.
Some are joyfully playing, others engage in tiffs.
Tis the season of giving and kindness
And listening to "And there were shepherds..." recited by Linus.
Tis the season of eggnog and feasts
When even the Grinch carves the roast beast.

Today we quote angels and speak of oxen kneeling.
Today we sing carols and listen for bells ringing.
Our tree, though drier now, still stands.
And families pray together hand-in-hand.

Thank yous are shared and written.
Your neighbor's daughter tightly hugs her new kitten.
Pies and candy bring tummies joy.
Your neighbor's son already broke his new toy.

We enjoy time with those we hold dear.
As we celebrate this date so close to the end of the year.
We delight in all that it brings
As we rejoice in the birth of the King of kings.

Merry Christmas!


Gimme A Break

Thursday will arrive soon.  The sounds of joy will echo throughout our city - specifically between 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.  Loading into buses, walking with backpacks, and driving out of the school parking lot, students will eagerly depart the classroom knowing that, thanks to Winter Break, school will not resume until January 7th. 

Whether they are on the Honor Roll or just out of Detention Hall, students look forward to a rest from quizzes, papers, and lukewarm half-pints of milk.  Some will hit the slopes with friends, others will sit in the island sands far away, and still others will sit on couches with thumbs ablazin' on the controller.  Some, who are unfortunate enough to have received an assignment from a teacher who forgot the meaning of "break," will frown as their homework keeps them home.

Thankfully the Teacher understood the value of a break.  Among the red letters in the sixth chapter of Mark's Gospel, we "hear" Jesus invite His apostles to . . .

vs 31 - “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
Prior to hearing that invitation, the disciples were busy doing various works of ministry and teaching - so busy that they had to skip breakfast and lunch.  So, as Mark tells us . . . "they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place."

It appears that they will have a "Winter Break" of their own - minus the winter.  The subtraction continues however.  The "But" that begins the next sentence alerts us to a change of plans.

vs.33 - But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them.

I can almost hearing them saying, "Gimme a break" - and not as a request for a KitKat Bar.  (Are you singing the jingle now?)  Yet we discover as we keep reading Mark's account that no break came their way.  In fact, the tired disciples hear from Jesus again, but this time it is a command rather than an invitation.

vs 37 - “You give them something to eat.”

Mark leaves it to our imaginations to fill in the thoughts running through the Twelve's weary heads.  They certainly were not thinking how excited they were to receive more work.  Nevertheless, notice what happens next.  Over 5000 people were fed as God multiplied five loaves and two fish.

As you live your Ordinary Life, sometimes your breaks will be interrupted.  You may be surprised by what an invitation will bring.  Sure, sometimes it will bring frustrating busyness.  Other times, however, it will bring a profoundly exciting experience that you do not want to miss.



Three of the Twelve, while on a mountain, experienced a mountain-top event.  They saw their Lord and Teacher shine like the sun with clothes as brilliant as the light (see Matthew 17).  They were also given the privilege of seeing and hearing the long-since-Paradise-dwelling Moses and Elijah.  The Law-giver and the prophet of renown stood and conversed with Jesus. 

While the sons of Zebedee stood speechless, the other fisherman-by-trade-turned-disciple who often spoke when nervous or uncertain opened his mouth and suggested setting up camp.  During his attempt to help, the voice of the Father boomed from the heavens.  He said . . .

“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
Matthew 17:5b (NIV)
"Listen to him!" the Father instructed.  Listen to Jesus.  That instruction did more than quiet Peter; it set in motion the practice of wise Christians.  Wise Christians listen to Jesus.

Recently David Crowder released his song, "Red Letters."  Within his lyrics, Crowder declares . . .

Then I read the red letters
And the ground began to shake
The prison walls started falling
And I became a free man that day 
Felt like lightning hit my veins
My dead heart began to beat
Breath of God filled my lungs
And the Holy Ghost awakened me
Yeah, the Holy Ghost awakened me
When I read the red letters
And the ground began to shake
The prison walls started falling
And I became a free man that day
For God so loved the whole wide world
Sent his only Son to die for me
Arms spread wide for the whole wide world
His arms spread wide where mine should be 
Jesus changed my destiny

No one's life remains unchanged upon reading the red letters - the words of Jesus.  Yes, some will choose to ignore them and others will just breeze through them; yet everyone who reads the letters experiences a change.  For those who read and respond with a mixture of joy, repentance, feelings of conviction, and thrill - the words alter their life both for the now and the eternal.

Seeking wisdom?  Listen to Jesus.
Needing answers?  Listen to Jesus.
Looking for meaning?  Listen to Jesus.

In everything, Listen to Jesus!


Hanukkah for Christians

Jesus celebrated Hanukkah.  

This surprises many Christians.  We cannot fault them for such surprise.  Even those believers who read the New Testament gospel accounts can miss John's mention of Jesus' celebration - especially if they fail to read the footnotes or if their Bibles do not have such notes.  John wrote . . .
22 Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade.
John 10:22-23 (NIV)

The Festival of Dedication, also known as the Festival of Lights, is synonymous with Hanukkah.  The Festival, celebrated for eight nights and days, serves as a reminder of an event that Jews cherish.  That event was Judah Maccabee's victory over the Greek oppressors to the Jewish people.  On December 14, 164 BC (25th of Kislev in the Jewish calendar), Judah led the Hebrew soldiers to victory and restored the Temple of Jerusalem to the descendants of King David.  He purified and rededicated the Temple as the central place of worship to God (thus Festival of Dedication). 
According to tradition, during the hostile standoff, a lantern with one day's worth of oil burned, miraculously, for eight days (thus an eight-day Festival of Lights).

The fact that Jesus participated in festivals such as Hanukkah and weddings (see John 2) is worth our notice.  God created us and equipped us with a capacity for joy and celebration.  With good reason, we find joy in holidays.  We can use them as great times to remember.

During Hanukkah this year, devote some time to remembering the miracles and even the "small" wonders with which God has blessed you.  Say "thank you" with a song of praise.  Maybe even light a candle (or eight).