Saturday, December 19, 2009


I have not always loved Christmas. I tried real hard when I was a kid with some successes and some terrible failures. What I didn’t know then but I’ve learned since is that drug addiction and family dysfunction doesn’t take a holiday break….in fact, in ramps up. It can be summed up in the holiday greeting I grew up with, “Merry Kiss My ___”. Lovely sentiment, isn’t it?

But somewhere in life with two little kids and a wife who grew up with a family that relished Christmas, I had a Scrooge-like epiphany. Something, somehow broke into my reality and lodged in my heart and thinking. This life, this world, this one and only shot we have at spreading good cheer, needs Christmas.

And here, I am not talking about the Christmas “wars”. That’s nonsense. If I’m upset about losing influence in the world due to the fact that not enough people say, “Merry Christmas”, it is not a sign that the nation is in a moral free-fall….it’s a sign that I need to regain my credibility.

And, I am not talking about the silliness of others who argue that Jesus’ Birthday is not actually December 25th, or that we need to end the commercialization of the holidays, or that various traditions of Christmas have been borrowed from a variety of pagan rituals or, or, or… Let me borrow a phrase from the Latin; shut up!

This life of multiple disappointments and grieving needs a Christmas break. This world of scary people and hatred needs a Christmas break. This one and only shot we have at spreading good cheer, needs Christmas.

It’s about the insertion of beauty in a collection of far too much indignity and disgrace. It’s about clearing a small patch of ground, declaring a cease fire and singing Silent Night. I looked this up in Wikipedia, so the details might not be completely accurate;
"The truce began on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1914, when German troops began decorating the area around their trenches in the region of Ypres, Belgium, for Christmas. They began by placing candles on trees, then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols, most notably Stille Nacht (Silent Night). The British troops in the trenches across from them responded by singing English carols.

The two sides continued by shouting Christmas greetings to each other. Soon thereafter, there were calls for visits across the "No Man's Land" where small gifts were exchanged — whisky, jam, cigars, chocolate, and the like. The artillery in the region fell silent that night. The truce also allowed a breathing spell where recently-fallen soldiers could be brought back behind their lines by burial parties. Proper burials took place as soldiers from both sides mourned the dead together and paid their respects. At one funeral in No Man's Land, soldiers from both sides gathered and read a passage from the 23rd Psalm:

The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the path of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”

In a world of reality shows that become real reality, we need beauty. In a world of unhinged ego, we need beauty. In a world where one of my readers presides over a daily parade of human agony in the justice system, we need beauty. In a world where the f-bomb is a noun, a verb, an adjective, an adverb and artistic musical expression, we need beauty.

Do you understand why I don’t care if pagan paltry has been thrown on top of Christmas? In my opinion, if something is beautiful, it belongs to God. Winter solstice provides a unique opportunity for reflection on dark bone chilling nights. In the mind-set of the Old Testament, if you touched a leper, you got leprosy. But now, on this side of the Cross, when we touch the leper, the leper is healed! Some people just need a bigger God and a far more real Jesus.

Let me tell you about my own personal Christmas tradition that brings me to tears every year. I started this when my kids were tiny. Late on Christmas Eve, after everything is done and a quiet has settled in, I take my car keys (or bells if they are available) and I go outside. I look up at the sky as if to look for Santa, throw my head back, jiggle my keys and as loud as I can I shout, “HO, HO, HO! Merry Christmas!” I’m not kidding. Ask anyone who lives within a mile of me. Dogs howl and the valley around me echoes….and I cry.

I cry because it is my shout for beauty. I cry because I hope some kid somewhere hears me and wonders if there really is a Santa. I cry because I love the moment. In this one and only shot for bringing peace on earth and good will toward all people, beauty deserves 15 minutes of fame every year.

Merry Christmas…HO, HO, HO!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

What If the Church Fell in Love?

What if the church fell in love? How would we change? What if we removed all of our shaming bumpers stickers about what we perceive as cultural ills and channeled all of that noise into real, supernatural effort to love? How would our message change if Heaven’s Love became our love?

Would we stop threatening the world with catastrophe? Would Jesus’ Word from John 3:16 through 18 sound different to us if we, the church actually fell in love? How would our message change if Kingdom Love became our love?

Would we be far less interested in end times theories that ramp up the pressure getting ourselves motivated to serve God? Would authentic, passionate love of and for God be enough to ignite our labors? Would wildly loving Christians be far more interesting signs of the times than earthquakes and wars? Would sacrificial love born out of God’s bountiful heart into the lives of Christians be much more intriguing than who the next candidate is for “Anti-Christ of the Year”?

Do we know what spirit we are of when we are in any way pleased or interested in bad things happening to bad people? If hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, diseases and calamities fit into our definition of how unhappy God is have we truly calculated the damage we do to the character of the Father and the true love of Jesus Christ? Have we read Luke 9:51-56 with Christ’s core value of radical love burning in our minds?

Does our definition of love require God to be angry and unsatisfied? What role does fear and punishment play in our revelation of God, especially in the face of Jesus, who told us that seeing Him is seeing the Father? Does our definition of love drain the Gospel of real power? Does our definition of love weaken and possibly neutralize the very Word of God which we adamantly require the world to believe? Are we experts in theology and novices in love?

What would happen if the church fell in love?

I’m just asking questions.