Tuesday, December 29, 2009

FIRST CORINTHIANS 13 Paraphrased Christmas version:

This came to my e-mail over the last couple weeks. I think it is a keeper (and if I put it here I'll know where to find it again):

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows,

strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls,

but do not show love to my family,

I'm just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen,

baking dozens of Christmas cookies,

preparing gourmet meals

and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime:

but do not show love to my family,

I'm just another cook.

If I work at a soup kitchen

carol in the nursing home,

and give all that I have to charity;

but do not show love to my family,

it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels

and crocheted snowflakes,

attend a myriad of holiday parties

and sing in the choir's cantata

but do not focus on Christ,

I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug their child.

Love sets aside the decorating to kiss their spouse.

Love is kind, though harried and tired.

Love does not envy another's home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love does not yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way.

Love does not give only to those who are able to give in return; but rejoices in giving to those who cannot.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

Love never fails.

Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust; but giving the gift of love will endure.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

From Our House to Yours

Merry Christmas!
And as Tiny Tim would say...
God Bless Us, Every One

Monday, December 21, 2009

Celebrate! Good Times! Come On!

That is the title of my reflection for Thursday.  ANd of course the first thing Beloved thought of (and it was in my head as I wrote it in the bulletin to be honest) was this song (which one of Beloved's friends thought I shoud sing a la Glee during the service--trust me that will NOT happen):

But for the longest time that was about the only thing that was coming to mind.  Then last week I realized that what I really needed to do was change the first 2 exclamation points to question marks.  Punctuation makes a big difference after all.  But think about it Celebrate? Good Times? Come ON! makes a very different statement doesn't it.

But really isn't that the message of the world around us?  In this place 2 of our major employers have been defunct for 2 years now.  Globally we are still struggling out of what is considered by many the deepest recession since the 1930's.  LAst week's conclusion to the Copenhagen summit was very unsatisfactory to many.  Afghanistan and Iraq still build up a body count.  There is much around that puts the question mark in place of the exclamation point.   THese are good times?  WE have something to celebrate?  Srsly?

YEs. Srsly.  THat is the point of Christmas Joy.  It doesn't mean happiness (I would note that nowhere in the faith story are we promised happiness).  Christmas Joy comes from noticing that GOd is being born in the midst of this horribly troubled world.  Christmas JOy comes from the promise and hope that God is still breaking into the world.  So yeah, Celebrate!  Good TImes!  Come ON!  THe angels once again are singing a song of good tidings of great joy that shall be for all people.

ANd even better, now I have a way in.  A dialogue between a preacher trying to wrestle with the title in a troubled world and GOd who has called the title forth.  Assuming the dialogue gets written Beloved will record the GOd parts and then I'll have the dialogue using the recording and the computer on Thursday night (God as a disembodied voice).  OR maybe we'll record the whole thing and just play it as a radio show.  Naw, probably recorded and the pause button....

Monday, December 14, 2009

Column for the Christmas Paper

What's It All About Anyway???

The Grinch had it all figured out, or so he thought. Christmas was all about presents and toys and food and noise. But he was wrong.

Scrooge had it all figured out too. Christmas was a poor excuse to pick a man's pocket every year. It was a waste of time and money. But he was wrong.

Some in the church have it all figured out. Christmas is about insisting that the story is all important and factual and fighting against Santa or “Happy Holidays” or anything that draws attention from the baby born to a virgin and lying in a manger. Turns out they may be wrong too.

And so I come back to the question Charlie Brown asks; “Can anyone tell be what Christmas is all about?”. Is it the gifts? The holiday? Family? The story?

In the end Christmas is sort of about all those things and yet more than that. It is about the giving of tokens of love and affection to each other. It is about taking time away from being “productive” to spend with those who are important in our lives. It is about a story, a mixture of myth and legend and faith, told in words and songs and pictures of a special baby. But, for me, none of these quite answer Charlie Brown's question.

What is my answer? What does Christmas mean for me? Christmas is about birth. Christmas is about God breaking into our lives. That is the story we tell. That is the reason for our praise. We aren't celebrating the birth of a child over 2000 years ago. We celebrate the fact that here, now, as 2009 turns into 2010 something new is being born.

The great promise and hope of Christmas is that in the midst of our crises and troubles we hear of God breaking into our world and our lives. We are reminded that there is a light that no shadow can overcome. We listen for the song that brings “good news for all people”. The birth we celebrate may come in a way and place we don't expect, but our story reminds us that God rarely does the expected. Still there is light, there is hope, there is joy.

What is being born this Christmas? Where do we hear angel song? What hope is being awoken?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

25 years later

The message still rings true. (this was always my favourite of the "famine songs")

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

When Joy is Absent -- A Newspaper Column

“Joy to the World! The Lord is come!” The carol rang out through the radio speakers. Irritably, John leaned over and switched it off. Joy? What was that? Then he turned back to figuring out which bills he could pay this month.

Meanwhile, down the street, Lisa was sitting alone in the house she had once shared with her beloved partner, had shared that is, until the heart attack. What would this first Christmas alone be like? She put her head in her hands and wept.

Later that day, down at the food bank, Beth snuck in, hoping no one saw her. With trembling hands she handed in an application for the Christmas Cheer fund. Hopefully they could get toys for her kids. On her way out she passed Fred and asked how he was doing since his mother's funeral. Neither of them could find the strength to wish the other a Merry Christmas.

In the midst of the hustle and the bustle, the carols and the songs, the shopping and the baking, of the Christmas season is a hidden sadness for many. For some this is the first Christmas with an empty spot at the table. For some this is a Christmas spent away from family. For some the reality of low (or no) income is especially painful during this season of excess and buying. And for some Christmas has been painful for so many years that they dread the coming of December.

As members of a loving, faith-filled, community we have a duty to take the sadness, the pain, the absent joy of our neighbours seriously. We need to give people space to not be merry. We need to allow them to share their stories (if they want to) and name what reality is for them. Of course this doesn't mean we can't be merry and joyful ourselves. We just need to be aware and sensitive to those around us.

As a person of faith one way I deal with the ups and downs of life is in worship. When life is good we sing songs of praise and share joyful prayers. When life is bad we sing laments and share prayers of pain and hope. At Christmas-time we are certainly singing carols with great joy. But we are also telling a story of a God who sees the pain of God's people and breaks into the world over and over to lead us out of pain and darkness. God gives birth to hope where there is despair, light where there is shadow, and life where there is death. This is the true gift of Christmas. Thanks be to God!