Adam’s Likeness, Lord Efface

Fourth in an Advent series on Charles Wesley’s “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”

Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 5:12-21

Christmas-Trees-002One of the more interesting and, for me sometimes, inconvenient tasks of the Christmas season is the whole putting up the Christmas tree thing. While I like having a Christmas tree in the house, it’s the whole process of getting it out of the basement and putting it up that I’m not thrilled with. It can be a frustrating process…

It’s like the two blondes (ok, we’ll call them “Hittites” instead) who went deep into the woods searching for a Christmas tree.

After hours of subzero temperatures and a few close calls with hungry wolves, one Hittite turned to the other and said, “I’m chopping down the next tree I see. I don’t care whether it’s decorated or not!”

When I was a kid we used to get our tree every year from the Lion’s Club lot down by the YMCA, where we’d select some Charlie Brown-ish tree with the needles falling off, strap it to the roof of the station wagon, cram it through the door and water the heck out of it to keep it alive. I remember the trees being pretty when all dressed up (my mom had a thing for those artificial icicles, you know – that you throw on the tree and then pick up for the next six months). But then, the day after Christmas, you began to notice that it stank and was getting brown and then you’d have to take down all the ornaments and get it out of the house where it would sit in the driveway for a couple of weeks until the garbage man came to haul it away.

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Born That We No More May Die

Third in an Advent series on the theology in Charles Wesley’s “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”

Philippians 2:5-11, John 11:17-27

One of the things about turning 50 is that it causes you to get a little bit nostalgic. One of the birthday presents I got a couple of weeks ago was a little booklet that outlined all the stuff that was around and popular in 1963, but what’s even more interesting about that is all the stuff we have now that was still a futuristic dream back then: microwave ovens, cell phones, home computers, and the internet. It’s amazing to think that we actually lived without those things at one time, isn’t it?

I mean, what would life be like without Google, for example? Back in the day we used to wait for the newspaper to show up on the doorstep or wait for Walter Cronkite to tell us what was going in the world after supper time. As kids, we did research using the encyclopedia and looked up books in the card catalog (with actual cards). Now, in just a finger clicks, we can have nearly all the information in the world at our finger tips—“Google” being a verb as much as it is a noun. Need an answer? Just Google it!

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Veiled in Flesh the Godhead See

Second in an Advent series on the theology in Charles Wesley’s “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”

Colossians 1:15-20John 1:1-18

live nativityAbout ten years ago, I was preparing a sermon for yet another Christmas Eve, trying to come up with another way to express the mystery of the incarnation: God becoming flesh in Jesus. That’s always the difficult task for the preacher during this season: trying to say something new in the midst of a story that’s very old and very familiar—so much so that people often miss the meaning under all the layers of Christmas tradition.

That year, however, I found an illustration that really spoke to me about the reality that John speaks of in today’s Gospel lesson: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The story was from a small church on another Christmas Eve, where another sanctuary was packed to standing room only. That year, this particular church had decided to have a living nativity in front of the church while the service was going one, including the presence of a real, live baby in the manger instead of the usual, predictable and quiet baby doll. As the pastor was preaching his sermon, the baby did what babies tend to do—he filled his diaper to overflowing (every parent in here knows what that means!). Pretty soon, the disgusting smell began to waft through the crowded, warm sanctuary, causing people to wrinkle and plug their noses, their eyes watering from the stench—all right in the middle of the sermon.

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A Christmas Life: The Real Saint Nicholas

On the day Christians celebrate the Feast of Saint Nicholas, a look at the history and hagiography surrounding his life can teach us a lot about what it means to live a Christmas life…

Titus 2:11-14

The little seaside town of Demre, in Turkey, isn’t exactly the North Pole. It rarely snows there. Palm trees and orange groves dot the landscape. You won’t hear sleigh bells here, just the sound of the Muslim call to prayer from the minarets of the town mosques. No reindeer live here, and elves are extremely rare. NORAD won’t paying much attention to Demre this Christmas Eve, and most folks wrapping presents to put under the tree won’t give it a thought, either. In fact, virtually no one living in Demre celebrates Christmas, and yet this little town is the second most important town in the world next to Bethlehem when it comes to Christmas

See, Demre is the hometown of the original Saint Nicholas, who was born near there sometime in the late third century AD. There’s an old 8th century Church of St. Nicholas there that once housed the saint’s bones, and even though it is only active as a church one day a year (St. Nicholas Day, December 6), tourists come from around the world to see the birthplace of the one most of them know as Santa Claus.

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The War on Christmas: A Festivus for the Rest of Us!

Photo from

Photo from

It’s as certain as candy canes, evergreens, and Starbucks gingerbread lattes every year at this time–it’s the annual squawking about “The War on Christmas.” Certain people are getting into an indignant kerfuffle over the fact that some retailers and even regular people might actually say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” To wit, I offer the following from the news:

• Back in 2005, John Gibson, who now hosts a radio show on Fox News, came out with a book  titled The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Holiday is Worse Than You Thought. In this book he talks about how “secularists” have tried to ban the word “Christmas” from stores, schools and government as a means of pushing Christianity back underground. This year, Sarah Palin has joined in with her own book, Good Tidings of Great Joy which offers essentially the same argument. Bill O’Reilly keeps running a segment on his Fox show on how the “War” is going.

•  The American Family Association calls for annual consumer boycotts of stores that advertise “holiday” specials instead of explicitly using the word “Christmas.” This year, it’s Radio Shack who’s getting the Christmas kaibosh (I know what you’re thinking, because it’s the first thought I had…People still shop at Radio Shack?).

• Some tree retailers have gone to selling “holiday trees” rather than Christmas trees. Though, as one California Christmas tree grower says, “I don’t care what they call them as long as they buy them. Call them a weed if you want to.” No word on whether the trees stay greener when called “Christmas” trees vs. “holiday trees.”

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