New Year’s Day Reflections—or The Eighth Day of Christmas

New Year’s Day Reflections—or The Eighth Day of Christmas

I woke up today with an odd assortment of things running through my heart and mind. Thankfully, my vow to abstain from alcohol gives me a wondering spirit instead of a hangover on this New Year’s Day. But I must confess that the numbing effect of alcohol might be preferred to full consciousness when it comes to a fresh tragedy.

Yesterday, one of our Trevecca professors lost a grandson. Marvin’s daughter, son-in-law, and twin boys were sitting still at a stop sign on a city street when a vehicle driven by an 82-year-old woman plowed into them from behind going 90. One of the twin boys, age 6, was killed and the other is in serious condition. The surviving twin has autism.

Both parents are in the hospital with serious injuries. Marvin lost his wife to a long cancer battle a couple of years ago. Yesterday he lost a grandson. We talked about his journey through Advent and Christmas in the church parking lot a couple of weeks ago. He said the music was helping him this year. And now this. I know few finer men than Marvin. I ache in ways that can only pray in groans.

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What Child is This?

What Child is This?

I think the church is trying to wrap its arms around the difficult issue of refugees during this Advent. If Christ came into the world via a story about wise men from other nations, a terrorist massacre of babies in Bethlehem, and the undocumented holy family fleeing to Egypt for safety from mean old Herod, then I think we have all the clues we need to know that refugees need shelter, welcome, and hope. Yes, we can do this and still be cautious.

So I did something very strange for me. I wrote a song. Thankfully, the tune was already in existence. Maybe this will help us remember the refugees this season.

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Jesus Is The Hospitality of God

Jesus Is The Hospitality of God

Christmas in Mexico begins with Los Posadas, a nine-day reenactment of Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging in Bethlehem.

The children gather each afternoon for nine consecutive days leading up to Christmas. One child plays the role of the Virgin Maria. Another is San Jose. Others are the angelos. Others are the Santo Reyes (three wise kings). And the rest are pastores (shepherds). They are decked out in colorful handmade costumes and carry faroles (paper lanterns). They form the parade of Santos Peregrinos (Holy Pilgrims). They go from house to house requesting posada (shelter). They sing outside the front door:

En nombre del cielo buenos moradores dad a unos via’jeros posada esta noche.

In the name of God, we ask those who dwell here, give to some travelers lodging this evening.

From inside the house comes back the reply, “This is not an inn, move on. I cannot open lest you be a scoundrel.” The children go on singing, explaining that they have traveled from Nazareth, are tired, and that Mary is expecting a child. All to no avail.

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God Meets Us In The Vulnerable Christ

God Meets Us In The Vulnerable Christ

We are vulnerable and we know it.

We have seen high tech space shuttles disintegrate leaving no trace of human remains; skyscrapers collapse; stock markets plummet, rearranging retirement plans; companies bought, sold, and moved with city-wrecking swiftness; viruses spread, kill, and mutate; radicals believe that their god has told them to behead us; babies snuffed out in the womb because their timing was inconvenient; the earth poisoned, polluted, and warmed to its destruction; health disappear at the reading of a blood test; careers end with the slip of a tongue; hurricanes rearrange life for millions; governments fail to deliver financial responsibility; and nations bring the world to the brink of war.

Any serious person who thinks about the way the world is and the way it seems to be headed, has reason to feel vulnerable.

Why We Love Mary

We love Mary because she is a picture of vulnerability. Look her up in your pictorial dictionary. How tall is she? How old? Where is she standing? What is she wearing? What color is her hair? How is it fixed?

At the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, you can see Mary through the eyes of the artists of the ages. And in the composite, she is a mature adult, wears velvet dresses (usually a deep red), lives in a larger than average home, has a chair by the window through which light cascades softly, and she likes to read. This is the Mary of classic art. And she appears to be fully in charge of her space.

But we know better.

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The Difference a Border Makes

The Difference a Border Makes

I was in Canada this past Saturday speaking at a conference. As I listened to their news and conversed with Canadians, I detected a very different tone regarding the Syrian refugees.

A local Nazarene church was preparing to receive refugees. A denominational organization, The Christian Missionary Alliance, was working to help Nazarenes receive refugees. The commentators on news programs were suggesting to American political leaders that caution and compassion are not enemies. Both can be done simultaneously.

Then I preached to a wonderful congregation on Sunday morning. We sang about our God: “You’re the defender of the weak, You comfort those in need.”

Then I flew home Sunday night, turned on the news, and heard Trump’s rant and governors’ statements and a senator suggesting that we use the National Guard to round up Muslims.

Monday morning we started pulling out all our Christmas stuff for decorating. It’s time to celebrate the story of the infant Christ visited by wise men from across the border, which becomes the story of the massacre of babies by violent powers, and ends up with Jesus being a refugee in Egypt.

I wonder what kind of Advent we are in for on our side of the border.

Advent Reflection: Sign Language

Advent Reflection: Sign Language

I find myself sympathetic with Zechariah (Luke 1:5-25). He has heard an awful lot in his brief encounter with Gabriel, the designated angel of Advent.

With our kids, the news unfolds slowly. First, “Honey, I’m pregnant.” Weeks pass and we discover the sex of the baby. Months pass and we begin to discuss a name. Years pass before the child’s life begins to reveal what he will do. Decades pass before the impact of his life is measured.

Zechariah gets it all in one brief six-sentence encounter. Your aging wife, well beyond child-bearing years (like Hannah was in the Old Testament), is pregnant.  It’s a boy. Name him John. The people of God will rejoice at his birth. Like the ancient Nazarites, he will not drink; instead, the Spirit of God will fill him. Repentance will follow in the wake of his words. He will make people ready for the coming of the Lord.

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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you!

And in case you are checking your social media today—stop it.

Go look into a face instead of a screen. Celebrate the people who matter more than pixels.

Deck a hall, carol a tune, call a relative, surprise a needy family with a love raid, cuddle with a child, speak words of love.

Enjoy God today. It could be habit-forming.

And yes, I wrote this weeks ahead of time so I wouldn’t be texting and tweeting on Christmas Day.

I’ll try to not to peek at your retweet.

Dan

Christmas Morning at Our House

Christmas Morning at Our House

For years we have followed certain traditions on Christmas morning. Denise buys all the grand kids matching Christmas PJs that they open on Thanksgiving for wearing during the Christmas season and specifically on Christmas morning.

Last year they were all elves. In the years prior, they have been snowmen, red wrapping bows, and reindeer. This year, they are all Santa. We take pictures of them all sitting on the stairs in their matching PJs. Then we adults fill our coffee cups to jump start us from the loss of sleep the night before when the same wide-eyed grand kids were not nestled all snug in their beds but giggling past midnight over the arrival of Santa.

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It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

Merry Christmas from our Trevecca Nazarene University family to yours!

TNU Christmas Card 2013

Click on the image to see a larger version of the Christmas card.

A Great Christmas Gift

A Great Christmas Gift

What will you give your teenager for Christmas this year?

As parents of three daughters, Denise and I faced that question many times. And when each daughter reached her senior year, we found ourselves looking at funding the next chapter of her story – college. It would be the largest single expense item that we had encountered to date. Our Christmas savings plan would not cover this gift. What do we do? Do we look for the cheapest option, the live-at-home path, the online alternative? Or do we take a deep breath and consider the kind of formation we are purchasing for our child?

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