Showing posts from December, 2012

How Christmas addresses the Newtown murders

The discussion about the Newtown shootings on December 14 has raised important questions about God. Where was he? Why didn't he prevent the shootings? As my cousin put it,  After the shooting in CT today, I feel I have fallen further away as a Christian. I can't wrap my mind around a father who doesn't protect the innocent. I hate feeling this way, but nothing lately makes sense. Anyway, just hoping for a little guidance.I addressed the issue in church on December 16, and I'll include the gist of my thoughts below. Here's the position I have heard some Christians take. I find it unhelpful and wouldn't consider it real guidance.
In his sovereignty, God controls everything that happens in our world, and only he can understand why he ordained the Newtown shootings to take place. There are atheists who have commented that if this is the Christian answer to Newtown, then they have even more reason not to be Christians. I believe God rules over all things, but "…

The truth about Christmas peace

I woke up too early this morning. But it's Christmas Eve! I didn't want to miss anything that would happen today, so I got out of bed. I was the first one up, and I had the chance to be with God in the spirit of this day. I turned on the Christmas tree lights and spent some time quietly strumming carols on my guitar. Then I made hot tea and settled down to read the Scriptures. Here's what stood out to me in Luke 2:1-20, the story of Jesus' birth.

I stopped at the word "peace." It washed over me like a wave of warm contentment. It is cozy. It is relieving. It is freeing. Peace. Is there any greater word that can be spoken?

The angel choir sang to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest. And on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14).

The pronouncement of shalom comes to us across the centuries. I receive it today just as fresh as it was that clear and quiet night. I welcome peace. I drink it in like a man parched with thirst.

And yet there …

The naming of John the Baptist was a test of faith

If you have children, you want things to be a certain way for them. You have hopes and dreams. You want them to be safe from harm, grow up well, and thrive. To a certain degree, all us parents want to control our kids and what happens to them. However, God wants us to release our kids to him. And sooner or later we hit crossroads where our willingness to let God have our kids becomes tested. That’s the focus of the story in today’s Christmas season Scripture reading, the naming of John the Baptist in Luke 1:57-80.

This is the event that kicks off the larger Christmas story. It goes roughly like this: announcement of John (the Messiah’s forerunner), announcement of Jesus (the Messiah), birth of John, birth of Jesus.

John was a miracle baby. His parents had been married for decades, but they had been unable to conceive a child. They knew the heartache of watching friends and relatives raise housefuls of children while their house remained quiet. However, one day the angel of Gabriel vi…

The desert monk's guide to holiday gift buying

Let's say you live in the fourth century in one of the desert monastic communities. What would your Christmas shopping look like? And what might the desert monks have to say about our gift buying today? Whose side would Jesus be on?

First off, let's get hold of the desert monk's attitude toward creature comforts. They lived in small one-room quarters that were often carved out of rock. They wore skins and simple clothing. They ate little and fasted often. What would they ask for at Christmastime? Probably a book, since books cost a fortune and many monastic communities shared just a handful of them. Other than that, the desert monk's attitude at Christmas would be starkly different from ours.

It all depends on one's perspective and priorities.

Historian John Chryssavgis notes that the whole point of life in the desert was for people to free themselves of the trappings of the world so they could pursue God wholeheartedly. To go from our lifestyle to theirs would ca…