John’s Christmas Story: The Dragon Is Defeated

John’s Christmas Story: The Dragon Is Defeated

In my previous post, I told you about an unlikely character that is most definitely part of the Christmas story: “Old Red,” the dragon. The post described the events of Revelation 12, where Old Red tries to kill the infant, who is snatched away to safety.

We continue today with the war in Heaven:

Now Old Red is mad. He wants to fight. So Michael obliges him. They crawl into heaven’s ring. And the ring announcer speaks, “In this corner, wearing white trunks, bearing the mark of the Cross, Michael and his angels!” (Heaven erupts in applause. You can tell the crowd is prejudiced!) “And in this corner, wearing red trunks, bearing the mark of arrogance, the Dragon, the Ancient Serpent, the Devil, Satan himself, along with his angels.” (The crowd hisses and boos.)

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The Dragon in the Christmas Story

The Dragon in the Christmas Story

If you’ve seen one manger scene, you’ve seen them all. The pieces are the same. Shepherds, angels, and wise men. Joseph, Mary, and a baby. Cows, sheep, and a donkey.

But I’ve never seen a dragon in a creche, have you?

A Dragon in a Crèche?

The Precious Moments Nativity set doesn’t have a fire-breathing dragon. There’s not one in any of the Jerusalem gift shop manger scenes. A quick read of the Gospels assures me that Matthew, Mark, and Luke don’t have one.

But the Revelation of Jesus to John does have a dragon!

You probably didn’t know there was a Nativity story in the Revelation? Sure is. John has a pregnant mother, a baby, angels, stars, and songs coming down out of heaven announcing good news. And right in the middle of his story, he has a dragon.

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Sandy Hook Tragedy—One Year Later

Sandy Hook Tragedy—One Year Later

Our child-happy Christmas was violated last year on December 14 by the brutal murder of children in Sandy Hook Elementary School. The world will not be glued to the television in the same way this weekend, but we will pause in many ways to remember the tragedy.

Last year I shared this on my Facebook page:

We are all in disbelieving pain over the darkness of Sandy Hook Elementary School. Rational people believe there are answers that explain why people do evil things. But the very definition of evil is chaos – irrational darkness in which nothing holds together and everything keeps falling apart. No one can “explain” evil, but I do believe God is to be found where evil occurs because God has not abandoned creation.

Across the nation on the Sunday following the tragedy, pastors preached from the biblical text of Herod slaughtering the innocents of Bethlehem. The word many people use to describe this kind of world is “godless.” I suppose this is because God seems far away. But maybe God is most present where evil does its killing.

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When the Owner of the Vineyard Comes

When the Owner of the Vineyard Comes

God is the consummate landowner. Having formed it with his hands, God was there first to stake his claim to the whole earth. And he did. But apparently God didn’t want to farm it by himself. He decided to let humans work his land. Down through history, God has had an interesting array of sharecroppers.

First, there were Adam and Eve. They did well naming the farm animals and tending the garden, but they failed to recognize the prerogative of the garden owner to draw boundary lines. They seized the forbidden fruit in an attempted garden takeover. They were expelled.

Then there was Israel. In Isaiah 5, we read about her sharecropping experience. God provided the start-up for the vineyard venture. “He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it.” But when harvest time came, God got cheated. He expected choice grapes, and they gave him sour ones. He expected justice and got a crop of violence (v. 1-7). He expelled them, too.

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Alzheimer’s and Advent

Alzheimer’s and Advent

This is her last night in her home of the past 46 years. Tomorrow morning she will be lovingly escorted to the East McComb Nursing Home where the last chapter of her life will begin. None of us knows how long or short that chapter will be. Dad is 86, in relatively good health, and tired. He has cared for her as long as he could. Tonight he will sleep with her. Tomorrow night he will sleep by himself, alone for the first time in 60 years.

His questions have been fair. Why? Why her? Why now? Why this? Mom has spent her life in service to God and the church – pianist, church treasurer, Sunday school teacher, and maker of Kool-Aid for 60 years’ worth of Vacation Bible Schools. Couldn’t have happened to a finer woman, but it did happen to her. Dad’s prayers, which have moved mountains across decades, did not budge this one. Alzheimer’s came, and kept on coming.

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The Spirit of Christmas Present

The Spirit of Christmas Present

A devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that’s enough. But if it’s only money these leaders are after, they’ll self-destruct in no time. Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after (I Timothy 6:6-10, The Message).

These were the words of Paul to a young man. Greed begins early, and seldom takes its foot off the pedal until we are in the grave.

The Commercialism of Christmas

Somewhere in the world right now, advertisers are in the middle of their Christmas assault. They no longer wait until the Thanksgiving table is cleared. Around Labor Day they begin telling us to get a jump on the Christmas shopping. I must confess some sarcasm about the commercialism of Christmas.

I believe in going to the mall once a year, for about 15 minutes. If I were the American prototype, the country would be in a serious recession. Merchants would be closing their stores in droves. I hate to shop. And walking the mall to look at what’s there is my idea of torture. My wife, on the other hand, is the patron saint of merchants. And I find the gift-giving scene on Christmas morning a joyous occasion, due largely to her shopping excursions on behalf of our whole family. If it’s April, she already has her eye on December 25.

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The Vulnerability of God – Luke 1:26-38

The Vulnerability of God – Luke 1:26-38

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 life-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 seems to be headed, has reason to feel vulnerable. We do all kinds of things to cope with our vulnerability. Some of us numb ourselves to it by way of too much TV, sports, novels, eating—you can fill in the blanks. Some of us busy ourselves to avoid serious thought about life. Some of us power up and create safe zones, our protected space. We guard our space and wall ourselves in from unwelcomed intruders and inconvenient people. We live between fearful avoidance and posturing tough. But we’re still vulnerable.

Why We Love Mary

Mary 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?

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