Expectations

With these last few days, I’ve been thinking on Luke 12:35-48 lately. I have the house as clean as it’s going to get (for now) straightened up (somewhat) and most of the chores taken care of and I’m just waiting for a particular return. It could be at any minute of the next few hours, or later on – I just have to wait and see. It’s easy though, to keep a house in order, it’s much more difficult to keep a spiritual house neat and tidy. Still, when you read through all of that, isn’t it just the thing we should do?

-Be Dressed: Romans 13:14, Galatians 3:27, Colossians 3:12, and 1 Peter 5:5
-Ready for Service: Titus 3:1 and Revelation 19:7
-Keep your Lamps Burning: Matthew 25:1-13 and Matthew 5:14-16

When it comes right down to it: From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

That’s the way it is. Have you been given much? Are you ready for much more to be asked of you?

Red

(I’ve made some changes – recent events have convinced me that the less you have on you on the internet, the better.)

I’ve already mentioned that there are two Christmases that are commonly celebrated in the states – the one with Santa Claus as a central figure and the one that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Celebrating Christmas without Santa Clause shouldn’t be a problem – but it does pose certain issues for families with young children and other relatives with young children who don’t quite see eye-to-eye on the matter. Let me see if I can say this delicately – parents are generally honest to their young children. Stoves can be hot and it’s not a great idea to play in the snow without a proper jacket or gloves. Yet when it comes to the holidays we have many traditions that fall away as we age – the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny, etc. Why do we fill our young children’s minds with ideas and concept that will not last? If we give them something to believe in that they can’t believe in when they get older – what sort of impact will this have? Is it not strange that we have so developed Santa Clause as a man with a past, present, and future yet when it comes to the tooth fairy, we haven’t even given her a first name?

By the way, the idea of Santa Claus was based off of Saint Nicholas of Myra (born sometime in the year 270 – died the 6th of december 343), which was also called the Lycia region of Modern-day Turkey. His parents were Christians and he joined the faith early on in life. He had a reputation for putting coins in the shoes of people who left them out and once gave a poor man enough money to cover the cost of his three daughters’ dowries so that they wouldn’t have to participate in the oldest profession in the world for women. Much of our American tradition is based off of various older Dutch and German traditions around the character of Sinterklass which were modernized at the turn of the century into the Santa Claus that we see everywhere today. I don’t think good old Saint Nicholas would be pleased with the idea that it was more popular to believe that a version of him would give greater gifts than the man he died believing in – but that doesn’t exactly sell soda pop these does, now does it?

Maybe there is room for the two – but I’d rather have the truth than any easily-marketable idea: Were it not for Jesus Christ, there would be no Santa Claus.

What we have here …

is a ‘David and Goliath situation’ and the challenge has been put forth. I’m not sure how much I should say – I’m not certain I have all the facts. One thing I do know is that for all that our ‘David’ is up against, there is one powerful entity there to sway the turn of events – a loving God who takes pride in representing the oppressed, down-trodden, and people who have nowhere else to turn or nobody else to speak up for them. Still, prayers are greatly appreciated – so keep them coming if you can.

Kindly pray for:
– A place to rent poste haste
– The weather to be conducive
– A pro-bono lawyer who isn’t afraid to fight an established family
– A schedule that accommodates work and court appearances
– A support system: so that this whole thing isn’t faced alone
– A true Christmas miracle

It’s December, what a rotten time of the year to be so under-handed, uncaring, and unkind.

Powerful

December isn’t just about Christmas, there’s also Hanukkah – which isn’t celebrated by Christians, but knowing the story behind it is worthwhile. As we know, Ancient Israel had to contend with their more powerful neighbors who were’t known to respect their beliefs. At one point, the observance of Judaism was outlawed and the Holy Temple was desecrated. This outraged a number of Jews to the point where they revolted and successfully drove out the force occupying the temple. Now first thing comes first, they started to clean it out. They discovered that there was only enough oil to last the lights for just one day – but they lit them anyway. Then they began the process of making more oil – but it would take more time than the oil was expected to last. As they faithfully proceeded to restore the temple, they realized that the oil hadn’t yet run out – even though it had been a full day. Even on the second and third days, the oil lasted. It didn’t run out on the fourth, fifth, or sixth day. It was still there on the seventh and continued to provide light on the eighth day – lasting just long enough for the replacement oil be made according to the way God had prescribed it.

It reminds me of another story – just after Israel had been dedicated as a nation, it’s neighbors took advantage of their newness and weakness and attacked in what would be known as the Six Day War. One day, four soldiers stood guard by a steep hillside, not expecting to be attacked. Suddenly, the could hear a force of several dozen attackers approaching – the soldiers realized that they no more than a dozen bullets between them – so they took their positions and readied themselves for the short battle that was before them. Once all of their ammunition was expended, they ducked back into their fortification and waited. Suddenly, from behind them they could hear the attackers let out a scream, they turned around and ran back the way they came. The four soldiers couldn’t believe their fortune, time went on, the war ended. Then one day, one of the four soldiers – an old man by now, was recounting the story of the strangest battle he had ever fought to a friend of his whom he had brought to the battle’s site. He was interrupted by a stranger who happened to have been on the other side. He explained that as they were almost to the fortification they had all seen an impossibly large man appear just over them. They thought he was Abraham and were so terrified by the size of him that they couldn’t fight a second and fled to fight another day.

In a modern world where so many people take the sacred for granted – here is one lesson we should never forget, God loves His chosen people and has been known to back them up with His power – which cannot be defeated, contained, diluted, or contended against. He has promised to bless those who bless them and curse those who cursed them. Historically speaking – it’s better to be on His side than against Him.

Christmas 2.0

How would you describe Christmas to somebody who had never heard of it? How would you describe the meaning of our traditions to somebody who had only seen the various Christmas specials on television? What will Christmas look like in the years to come?

One thing I’ve never seen is the Nightmare Before Christmas – so when I noticed that It would be on, I watched quite a bit of the program – there were some elements that I liked, but like one of the main characters, something about it felt wrong, so I didn’t bother to finish watching it. Unlike them, I could tell you exactly what it was.

We celebrate two different versions of Christmas. One version is the Commercial Christmas – this one is all about Santa Claus, his workshop at the North Pole, his red suit, his sleigh, his reindeer, his elves, his presents, his stockings … it pervades our culture like snow in Alaska in winter. You couldn’t escape it even if you wanted to. The other version is the Religious Christmas – this one is about Jesus Christ, the circumstances of His birth, the three wise men, the shepherds, the scripture, the sort of thing that doesn’t get a fraction of the air-time as the Commercial Christmas. It’s no wonder why, not everybody celebrates Christmas, it’s potentially offensive, there’s a long list of reasons why it’s not the popular version – but let’s consider them both for a moment:

When is Christmas?
Commercial: Christmas is December the 25th, when Santa Claus delivers toys to all the children of the world.
Religious: Christmas is December the 25th, when we celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ.

Who is …
Commercial: Santa Claus is a jolly old man who wears a red suit. Sometimes named Saint Nick, he has a vast force of workers in his operation, including elves that make presents (in the workshop at the North Pole), reindeer that fly the sleigh (either the reindeer or the sleigh are magic, sometimes both), in one night he delivers presents to all the children and is often credited with stuffing their stockings.
Religious: Jesus Christ is the Son of God, born of the virgin Mary, wife of Joseph. Because of the Census, he was born in Bethlehem in the barn belonging to the innkeeper as there were no rooms. Angels told the shepherds in the field where to find him. The wise men followed a bright star in the sky. Jesus grew up to be a rabbi whose ministry lasted 33 years – he was crucified for no crime in particular. After three days, he rose from the dead as the atoning sacrifice for all mankind.

What are gifts?
Commercial: Good children usually receive the gifts they ask for by writing letters to Santa Claus or speaking to him at a mall appearance. Bad children are supposed to expect coal.
Religious: The Three Wise men brought gifts to the baby Jesus – Gold, representing the wealth of a king, Frankincense, representing the office of a priest, and myrrh – a spice customarily used in burials. Our tradition of giving gifts to each other reflect the Magi’s gifts and God’s ultimate gift to us – his son.

What is the source?
Commercial: Christmas has evolved slowly over a long period of time, several books, short stories, poems, advertisements helped us to form and understand the modern commercial Christmas – were it not for these revelations, we would still think that Santa Claus was based off of Saint Nicholas of modern-day Turkey, a Christian. Thankfully, “The Night Before Christmas” (1823), “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (1939), and other stories governed the shape of Christmas as we know it today.
Religious: The Bible – to be specific Books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John describe Jesus’ birth in detail and how it fulfills prophecy in certain passages found in the Old Testament. Much of the traditions we have today are a mix of the religious, cultural, and commercial ideas over the centuries – but the essence has changed very little.

The Commercial Christmas is easy – it’s about getting caught up in the decoration, the buying, the gifting, the getting, it wishes cheer to all, welcomes all, and only asks that you believe in the impossible to make the improbable a reality. The Religious Christmas is sacred and holy, in a society that uses “Oh my God!” as an everyday expression – not out of reverence or respect, it’s started to loose it’s meaning and truth. It’s not about decoration or buying, but the ultimate gift and what it means to each of us as an individual. It’s not about what is easy, but what is true. As time goes on, the Commercial Christmas will be all that people will ever know, Saint Nick’s origins won’t be those of a Turkish gift-giver – but will reflect some other story. This Christmas 2.0 will overshadow it’s ancient origin – and then we will have lost everything that truly matters. They might as well give it a new name because there will be nothing of Christ in it.

Evidentiary Support

I’m the sound engineer at my church – I have a sweeping view of the general congregation. From my seat and I can tell what most of the people are up to. One day out of seven I get a chance to see Christians in action – they’re lined up, singing sometimes. Talking most of the time. Every now and then I even catch them eating and drinking. There’s a lot I don’t see. Feeding the hungry, providing drinks to the thirsty, hosting strangers, giving clothes, looking after the ill, visiting prisoners and all those other things Christians are supposed to do. I know if I was ever accused of being a Christian, people would be hard-pressed to find irrefutable evidence to prove that it was so.

Part of the reason why is the whole works/faith dynamic. James 2:14-17 says, “14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” That’s a picture of a lot of churches out here. Isn’t America one of the few countries where there is an abundance of rich Christians? Why are there still poor among us in our very own communities? Why can’t we help our brothers and sisters in the faith who live on the other side of the world? Who will if we won’t? Usually, nobody.

James continues – ” 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” … Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.”

It’s not a matter of believing correctly – lots of us believe correctly, we just don’t back it up with our actions. Isn’t there a common saying that, “Actions speak louder than words.”? Do our actions (or lack there-of) speak to our faithfullness (or lack there-of)? Christmas is one of the few times of the year when people give a little extra, share a little more, help out – shouldn’t we adopt a ‘Christmas is everyday’ attitude? Lets accumulate more than enough evidence to prove our case.