Monday, December 7, 2020

Welcome to Our World

I realize Welcome to Our World may not be sung as people carol physically distanced through neighborhoods this year. It is kind of a short song, but it is packed with meaning.

The gist of the song is God coming down from heaven as a child for us and how we welcome him to our world. Can we welcome him, even though we might be scared, worried, disappointed, distracted and distanced by COVID? Can we welcome him to our celebration and welcome him to our sadness?

This song reminds me that Christmas is tied to Easter. The baby’s birth we are celebrating is the savior’s death that saves us. He was born to live with us, to walk with us, to teach us and to die for us. It was all part of the plan. God celebrated the birth of Jesus on Christmas knowing the sacrifice of Jesus was down the road. So we can join God in celebrating as we welcome Jesus into our world. Into our joy and happiness and into our sadness. Into those relationships that are bringing us energy and into those relationships that cause us stress. We can welcome him into our sinfulness, asking for his forgiveness. BUT even as we celebrate the joy of Christmas, we can remember it will be followed by the pain of Good Friday AND the greater joy of the resurrection on Easter. The baby born and laid in the manger, grew up  and was killed on the cross. He came back to life and lives forever.

We can look forward to his welcoming us into his world.

What Child Is This?

Having a relationship with God is life changing and as we enter into that relationship we have to answer the question posed in the title of the song, “What Child is This?”

As a child there was something special about baby Jesus. There was a sacredness. The readings were about the "Word became flesh" and "Unto us a child is born". It was a very special time. It was obvious Jesus was a very special baby. I remember one Christmas our family was chosen to place Jesus, with his family and animals, in the large nativity display in church. That was a special year. At home, every year we would put up our nativity set in early December, but we didn't put baby Jesus in. He didn't come until Christmas. After church on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, we would sing carols as we placed baby Jesus into the manger.

As I've grown up, the question has grown from "what child is this?" to "who is Jesus in my life?" According to the song, He is the King of Kings bringing salvation. Do I really believe that the King of Kings? Do I really believe He is fully God and fully man? Do I really believe this carpenter's son grew up to be a world changing teacher? Do I believe He died on the cross, was buried and rose again?  Do I believe He is my Savior. Do I trust Him with my family, my money, my life? AND does what I believe about Jesus make a difference in how I live my life? 

This Christmas may we all answer the question "what child is this?" with "this, this is Christ the King" as we allow him to make a difference in how we live our lives.

Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer

Yes, I'm going to pick on Rudolph today. I enjoy singing this song. I enjoy watching the cartoon--truly a classic song and classic show.  A classic story of the unwanted and different being picked on and driven away.  By leaving he learns about sacrifice. At one point in the cartoon, he tries to save his friends by going it alone. Yet in the end the thing that caused him to be shunned is the very thing everyone needed. Everyone has a change of heart and happiness abounds. So maybe I've seen the movie too many times and it blends in with the song...  Anyway.

As fun as the story is, I get bothered by the image of Rudolph being picked on and forced to the outside of  the group. Probably because I have never felt like an insider. Growing up I questioned where I belonged. I didn't seem to fit in. I experienced being bullied from third grade on through high school. Did it make me "stronger"? Did it "toughen me up" and "teach me life lessons"?  NO!--I felt powerless. I felt depressed.   felt like an outsider.  I was like Rudolph, but I couldn't run away to the island of misfit toys and not go to school. I was stuck. 

There is a lot of talk these days about bullying. Children are taught how to deal with bullies. There are a number of anti-bullying curriculums available. And what happens when the bullying is from the leaders? How do children feel when the adults in their lives turn a blind eye and give silent consent to bullying?  t's really cool in Rudolph that the other reindeer and Santa have a change of heart (possibly due to necessity).  But what if Rudolph chose not to save the day? Could anyone have blamed him? Were there any bad consequences to the poor reindeer and elfin behavior? Where were the adults to stand up for Rudolph?

Three last thoughts on Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. One--take a stand for those that are prone to be picked on.  Don't bully and don't let bullies win.  Two--don't discount someone because of their abilities or background.  At Christmas, I am reminded that the savior I follow was born in a stable surrounded by animals.  Instead of baby powder, he smelled of straw and dirt. Third--if you struggle with a blinking red nose, or maybe depression or acne or a differing ability, you can accomplish something that no-one else can? Trust me, you are loved and there is a plan for you. You matter!  Don't believe the bully reindeer. You do belong

Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful


This hymn is guaranteed to be sung in many, many churches on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  It is the call to come and worship on Christmas. "Come let us adore Him, Christ our Lord."

When I hear this son, the question I find myself asking is "what do I adore?" I adore my wife. She is fantastic, smart, beautiful, funny, real, caring and so much more. It is a very special adoration. 

I also adore my kids. They are unique, funny, caring, smart and helpful. I want the best for them. I want them to grow up to be able to totally live the life they are designed to live. I adore them in a very different way than I adore my wife.

Merriam Webster defines adoration as "feelings of strong love or affection."  In light of that definition, I can look back and see how many different things and people I have adored.  Most of them were not good ideas--like adoration of money, pleasure, drinking, you get the idea.  
I've learned not everything I have adored is worthy of adoration.

That is what makes the call to adore Jesus so life changing. God is worthy of our adoration. He created us in the image of himself. He created this world.
 He gives us the choice to adore him or not to adore him. We were made to have strong feelings of love or affection--sometimes those feelings get misdirected. We are called to adoration. Come let us adore Him.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen


Why was Christ born?  According to this song, one of the reasons was to free us from Satan's power when we go astray. I go astray at times. Quick lesson--Satan is a spiritual being who decided he wanted to be in charge. He gathered some followers and tried to take over from God. God won. Satan lost. Now Satan hates all things good and all things godly. Humans are made in the image of God. Therefore Satan hates humans and will do anything he can to make our lives never live up to our potential and will do anything he can to keep us from God.

But do we really believe in Satan's power? Is evil just an abstract concept brought about by mistakes and poor choices? Isn't evil just the absence of good? Isn't the idea of a devil a bit outdated? I believe in Satan and in evil, not just from my faith stand point, but from a personal stand point.

I look back at my active drinking days. I was not only dependent on alcohol, but truly felt in bondage. When I was hurting myself, I felt trapped and hated who I was. When I was suicidal, I very much believed the only way out of pain was death. Bondage, trapped, death. The presence of evil in my life was very real. I still struggle with doubt.  I still struggle with depression. Satan hasn't given up on keeping me from freedom and from God. He still tries on a daily basis to draw me away from the life I am meant to lead.

Maybe some of you feel trapped in some areas of your life. There may be self-destructive habits you can't seem to break or that you can't seem to want to break. Maybe you live in fear that someday, those you care about will see the real you and you will be left alone.  

This Christmas, listen to the message of God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman. Let it remind you there is a love greater than the despair you feel. There is a savior who was born to free you. There is a God who offers hope, forgiveness, guidance, strength, peace and life. He will not be stopped. His love will not end. His strength will not fail. We can be free from the power of Satan. Have a Merry Christmas and receive the gift of freedom. 

The Grinch Theme Song


I’m sure you and I both know some people who don't enjoy Christmas. I’m reminded of them when I hear the Grinch theme song. I went to a church where the people love God and love others. They are trying to make a difference in their community. Part of the time together we heard of five local families or organizations that were going to receive a generous gift from this small church family. People came up with ideas. People voted on the ideas. Now people get to carry out the ideas. Cool stuff.

At another part of the night, the person teaching brought up Grinch and Scrooge. He talked about how some people just don't like Christmas.  It is not a season of joy for them.  He wondered if even in our own hearts there have been times or certain aspects of Christmas that we don't like. He then asked us what does Christmas have to say to people who don't like it. Great question.

I know of people who don't enjoy Christmas. 
For some they don’t enjoy Christmas because it is a time of loneliness, depression and loss. Sometimes memories associated with a previous Christmas continue to hold power over all future Christmases. Some people get stressed over family, gifts, cooking, time, travel.  Expectations can run high, only to lead to disappointment. 

We the church can help these people by reminding them they are not alone. We can tell the story of how Jesus came into the world in relative obscurity, understood our struggles, was betrayed, abandoned and killed. He understands our pain. He has dealt with emotions, loss, family, friends, misunderstandings, temptation--just like we have.

Christmas is a time of celebration. It can be enjoyed. It is for those at peace with themselves and the world around.  It is for those that love to give to others. It is also a time for those that feel lost, alone, misunderstood and abandoned.  Christmas says "I am here.  I have come to be closer to you. I will be with you when you celebrate and when you cry. I love you when you are full of joy and full of sorrow. Even when you don't believe-I will be here."  It is a time to be grateful we have a God who chooses to be with us. Even in our grinchiest moments.