Wednesday, November 25, 2015

WHERE HAS CHRISTMAS GONE?

A LONG, LONG TIME AGO, in a galaxy we call our own, there used to be a season called Christmas, whose title I understand came from the Mass that was celebrated on Christmas morning. A Mass that celebrated the advent (the arrival) of the Son of God, Jesus, the Christ.

Somehow this celebration morphed from a gathering at the local cathedral to an event that covered the week prior, then the month prior, then two months prior, oh well, you get the picture. Now, we begin our celebration, in the form of holiday sleep-outs in front of Best Buy, or acquiring gifts from the Day-After-Christmas-Sale to be placed in our crowded closets until next year (that is if we remember them) all in the name of saving a few bucks on gifts for friends or ourselves.

Yes, most of us know, and maybe even believe, that the reason we give gifts is because God gave us His greatest gift in sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Savior. (John 3:16-17; Luke 2:1-21) He came to set us free from the slavery to, and the effects of, sin. (Romans 6:22-23)  Not to mention that one of those sins is covetous materialism, but that's material for another blog.

The truth is, none of us could ever give a gift that would match or could even try to explain God's gift of love in and through His Son and His sacrificial death on the cross and His glorious Resurrection (John 19:1-42; John 20:1-31). Therefore, let's stop using excuse of God's giving for the purpose of our give extravagant and often unimportant gifts.

Now, I'm not saying we shouldn't give gifts, I like gifts as much as the next guy, what I am saying is that we should give gifts that truly honor, show love, bless, or serve person (Rather fulfilling our desire to get thank-yous, or to look better. On yeah, right! None of us would ever do that!)

May I make a humble suggestion?  

Let's move from calling it Christmas, even Jews, Muslims, Hindus, unbelievers and atheists, call it Christmas and even celebrate it.  I suggest that we call it Advent (Not a new idea, I'll admit,) so that the focus will be upon the first arrival of the Lord Jesus Christ and that looks forward to His second arrival. (Acts 1:7-11)

Next, I suggest we give gifts that truly show love, compassion, thoughtfulness. These gifts can be simple or elaborate. They can grace a home, bring the joy of an activity or event, or even bless by being a blessing.  What I mean is that we give to others in the name of the person we seek to bless. Take for existence donating the gift money to places like, Living Water, Operation Christmas Child, Gideons International, Compassion International, World Vision, or World Relief. I am sure you can think of others.

So, there you have it!  We can work to bring back the reality of the first Advent as we endeavor to live in the reality of the coming One.

Have a blessed Advent season, and oh, by the way, did you notice the trinitarian Advent statement on the 1904 Sunset Magazine cover above.  If you did, way to go!!!


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

CHOOSE WISELY

I LIKE THE INDIANA JONES MOVIES (except for the snakes!  “Snakes! Why did it have to be snakes?!”) My favorite of the movies is The Last Crusade not just because the religious and sacramental overtones, but because we are introduced to Indie’s dad, one of my favorite actors, James Bond!  Oh wait, I mean Sean Connery. When he appeared I just about cheered, thankfully Linda held me in my seat.  Anyway, back to the movie.
Toward the end of the movie, in which they are searching for the Holy Grail, (of course the Germans are also searching for it, too!), they discover its resting place and after going through a number of hair-raising puzzles to get to it, they arrive at the sacred room, where there are hundreds of goblets that could be the one. All of these goblets, from the ornate to the simple, were guarded by one of the Knights Templar, which had been there for hundreds of years (remember this is Indiana Jones.)
At this point Indiana and the Antagonist are trying to determine which goblet among the hundreds is in fact the true Holy Grail. As they search among the cups the knight declares, “Choose wisely, for the correct cup will bring life, while the wrong cup will bring death.” The nemesis of Indiana determines that a jewel encrusted goblet, one fit for a king, is the true Holy Grail. He takes it, dips it into a basin of water and drinks deeply. Yes, it was the wrong cup and soon a terrible death envelops him.
Now, it is Indie’s turn, scanning over the cups he noticed in the back a rough hewn wooden chalice. He muses, “This is a cup of a carpenter.” He dips this cup into the basin of water, and with slight hesitation drinks it all.  Yes, this is the cup that brings life. And the story continues  . . . you’ll have to check out the movie.
The responsibility to “choose wisely” is always before us. There are many jewel-encrusted cups that can grab our attention away from that which is the true cup. One cup subtracts from our life, the other brings life.
We are too often drawn to what we think is good, only to find out it robs us of the good.  Maybe it is choosing to attend sports games on Sundays that keeps us from worshiping within the community of the redeemed.  It could be choosing the comforts of our couch rather than standing up to serve in the church or in the community in the Name of Christ. Possibly it is choosing to grab at that cup of wealth that promises to bring life, instead of giving your wealth away to those who have less than a wooden vessel to drink from, or worse, drink filth-ladened water.
We may each say that we are searching for the One who is The Life, and our choices declare otherwise.  Here is my encouragement to you, not only in this Advent season but throughout the coming years, choose wisely and find life for yourself and for others.

What cup do you hold in your hand? Is it the cup of this material culture, or is it the cup of the Master? My prayer for you is that your actions and your attitude show that you have taken the steps to prove that you did choose wisely.