“Come in, -- come in! and know me better, man! I am the Ghost of Christmas Present. Look upon me! You have never seen the like of me before!” - Charles Dickens
Of all Christmas stories, save the story of that first Advent, none may be better known than Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. It’s a story that reminds us that no man, no matter how vile or cold, is beyond redemption. It’s a story that awakens within us the hope that things can change, and people can as well.
Of all the renditions of this classic tale, I find none better than The Muppet Christmas Carol. It’s one that I find myself returning to each year. I know the story, I can sing the songs. And yet year after year I come back to this film.
In the film, as in the original novel, the main character Scrooge is met by three spirits. Each one has something to offer, and then each one leaves Scrooge to either remember or forget the lesson that was taught. After these beings left, Scrooge was alone. It was up to him to change.
Nobel prize winner, Anglican priest, and anti-apartheid activist, Desmond Tutu once said that you cannot pick your family. Now to be completely honest there was more to his quote than just that, but he did say it. And he was right.
None of us was asked who we wanted to comprise our DNA. We were not asked if we cared to be the only child, the eldest brother, the middle kid, or the baby of the family. We were each born to the family we were born to. And even for those who are adopted, the choice of adoption did not fall on the child who was being brought in but upon the family who was welcoming the new addition to the family.
And if we are honest, each of us has wondered what it would be like had we been born in another time or to another family. Maybe you wished that growing up your family had more money, or perhaps you wish that growing up your family didn’t care about money so much. Maybe you wish that you had better parents or siblings, or maybe you just wish that you had any at all....
“For we were the purpose of His embodiment, and for our salvation, He so loved human beings as to come to be and appear in a human body.” -St. Athanasius of Alexandria
We have now full into the Christmas season. Though some people have wrongfully had their decorations and Christmas music playing since Halloween, there is little excuse for those who are now without them. My decoration is in full display in my bedroom, a Charlie Brown Christmas tree that is now as beat up as the tree it was made to represent. And I have begun to fill my Spotify playlists with Advent songs.
Of all the songs of this Christmas/Advent season, my favorite is the old hymn Come Thou Long Expected Jesus*. The old Weslyan hymn opens with the lines:
"Come, Thou long-expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee."
Each time I sing these words I cannot help but think that ole Charles Wesley had the words from Matthew 1:21 filling his head and his heart. For at...
"When the people of the land come before the Lord at the appointed feasts, he who enters by the north gate to worship shall go out by the south gate, and he who enters by the south gate shall go out by the north gate: no one shall return by way of the gate by which he entered, but each shall go out straight ahead. When they enter, the prince shall enter with them, and when they go out, he shall go out." -Ezekiel 46:9-10
Often I find that when I’m reading my bible plan for the day I can end up in portions of the old testament that I read quickly to get on to the ‘good stuff’ in the new testament and the psalms. Honestly, I almost feel shameful writing that. But I assume that I’m not alone in doing so.
Usually, these are the texts like the one I found myself in this morning in Ezekiel. The majority of the text was God telling His people how to act and what to sacrifice during a festival He told them to have. Which in itself is something that I love, a God who tells His...
We had already gone a few minuets past 8pm, and honestly I found myself stealing glances at the clock. It's not that I don't mind staying later than 8, I usually do. But I like getting done when we say we are going to get done. More than that, I like knowing what is going to happen.
But as we went around the room with one last question around ten past eight something happened that has become a rarity in most midweek church groups, someone was honest. Not the vague type of honestly that makes people think you're opening up but the real type of honesty that places the speaker at the mercy everyone else.
The question was a simple one that is all too often only said in groups like this because it's expected, "How can we be praying for everyone?" I have to confess that far too often I allow myself to keep silent when this question is asked, or I say enough to let people know I'm still in the group but not enough to allow myself to be vulnerable. But in contrast to my secure silence one of t...
This weekend I went to watch an old friend get low*.
I have often thought about my death. Lately the thought has been to consider what I will be when that times comes. Or to say it another way...what will I be remembered for. And a lot of what I try to do is shaped by that question.
When the reaper knocks and it's time to get low, how will I be remembered? How will you?
Growing up my father always loved epitaphs. He still does. But there is something about those words carved in stone that he was onto. He would stumble upon the graves of men and women long forgotten by time, and all that would be left of them would be the words etched in granite under the date of their death.
If you do a quick google search for epitaphs you shall find some funny, some sad, and a few profound.
If you were to visit the final resting place of Dr. King you would find the words "Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty I'm free at last." etched in stone as his last and lasting words to the world.
I'm not much of a basketball fan. I grew up wrestling, and the closest I ever got to playing basketball was that one time we almost got in a fight with the basketball team for walking on our mats. But that was years ago now. Back when you couldn't give away Auburn University basketball tickets.
But things are different now. Tonight Auburn plays in the final-four of the NCAA tournament and everyone is celebrating. It seems as though the way college boys play with their balls has made a whole town want to party. And they are partying.
But through the story of humanity people have always sought for a reason to celebrate. Some where good reasons, some were just an excuse to get down. But no matter the reason, we were created to celebrate. And that should pertain to the Church as well. But unfortunately the Church has come to look more stoic than Spirit-filled in our view of celebration.
This morning I found myself reading the ways God told His people to celebrate in the book of Deuteronomy...
As I sat to read this morning I found myself back in a familiar story. It's one that sounds as familiar as the voice of an old friend. The story is one of Jesus healing a man that was born blind.
But that's not how the chapter starts (John 9). It starts simple. It starts the same way that most of you will have started today. It started normal. Jesus wasn't headed to any great event. In the eyes of all He was around this would have been just another day. We find out that this story took place on the Sabbath, but I'm sure that for the disciples the Sabbath often turned into routine just the same way that Sunday does for us.
In the first verse we're told that this story takes place as Jesus "passed by". And from reading it, it seems as though it wasn't Jesus who brought attention to this man who was in need of a miracle, though that is often the case. And it was not that this blind man called out for Christ to heal is, though that is also often the case. Jesus simply walked by and one of...
"He must increase, but I must decrease."
These are the words which John the Baptizer uttered in response to his follower’s growing jealousy of the ministry of Jesus. At this point in history John had seen a booming ministry and Jesus had come to be baptized by John. That was the beginning of the ministry of Jesus.
As Jesus’ ministry began to grow more and more people began to follow Him, and it looks like a good number of those people had once followed John.
While all of this was going on some of John the Baptizer’s disciples came to him and asked what they should do. And why was this happening…
But within John’s response we see what I believe is the most distilled down version of what the Christian life looks like. “He must increase, and I must decrease.” This is the root of what it means to be a Christian. This is putting the cookies on the bottom shelf, as an old pastor of mine used to say, to explain sanctification.
But as with all things, it’s easier said than done.
“God loves human beings. God loves the world. Not an ideal human, but human beings as they are; not an ideal world, but the real world. What we find repulsive in their opposition to God, what we shrink back from with pain and hostility... this is for God the ground of unfathomable love.” - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Today something happened in my home town that has taken me by surprise. A man with my melanin stood up in a coffee shop I have often been in and pulled out a gun, yelled vulgar things, and heiled Hitler*.
I don't know who it was, but one think I can assume. He probably has been to church more than the people that were in that shop.
This shop is known as a safe haven in my community for offering a safe place for those who don't fit into the culture of Christendom that dominates Auburn, Alabama. Most other coffee shops are full of Bible Studies and Scripture on the walls. And I'm not against either of those things. In fact I have been a part of those things being that way. But in doi...