Category Archives: Christmas

Words Like Packing Peanuts

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart [Lk 2:19].”

“Mommy, tell me the story of the night I was born.”

Mary knew that one day, her son would ask her that question. When I asked my Mom about the day I was born, it was a cool story, but it wasn’t like Mary’s. Mary’s involved travel, homelessness, uncomfortable donkey riding, stables and food troughs, but it also involved shepherd and angels. Sometime, between the cord being cut and the baby’s first diaper change, a ruffian group of hyped out sheep wranglers came knocking on the stable door.

Their eyes were filled with wonder and stories of God’s glory fell from their mouths (not what you would expect to hear from a first century Palestinian shepherd.) The words they spoke were resplendent and would have been difficult to take in. I imagine that the words they were saying fell around Mary like…like packing peanuts. They were difficult to grasp and harder still to hold together.

Luke 2, verse 19 says that Mary treasured the words and she pondered them in her heart. The Greek adds some additional flavor. The word for treasure is a word picture. It’s like Mary picking up packing peanuts one at a time, finding a place in her arms for each one. The next phrase, pondering them in her heart, is another word picture: it means to throw together. Jesus used this word when he talked about counting the cost of following him and said, “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? [Lk 14:31].” No one, throws together a war (hopefully), it’s careful and studied…intentional [Pro 20:18]

Mary threw their words together and grasped after them like picking up packing peanuts after a move.

The Gospel story is not just words that we are supposed to understand. It’s a greater than words kind of story. Like Mary, we gather the words together, but commit ourselves to living life with Christ, moment by moment. We don’t have to explain it, we get to experience it.

Christmas is an invitation to experience the presence of Christ wordlessly, without dissertation or explanation. And as Mary treasured and pondered the story as it began, we do the same…as it continues.

Merry Christmas!

Incarnation and…menstruation

In John’s birth narrative, we read in verse 14, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only [Son], who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The greek verb that gets translated as made his dwelling among is skay-na-oh, which has a more euphemistic translation of “pitched a tent.”

The point is, Jesus (God) came to earth and made his dwelling alongside us. He dwelt among us. We call this action the Incarnation. Jesus took on our flesh, to become like us.

From India, there is a story that is so incarnational it’s unbelievable how far Arunachalam Muruganantham went to embody the suffering of the other and find a solution at the risk of losing everything.

When Arunachalam Muruganantham hit a wall in his research on creating a sanitary napkin for poor women, he decided to do what most men typically wouldn’t dream of. He wore one himself–for a whole week. Fashioning his own menstruating uterus by filling a bladder with goat’s blood, Muruganantham went about his life while wearing women’s underwear, occasionally squeezing the contraption to test out his latest iteration. It resulted in endless derision and almost destroyed his family. But no one is laughing at him anymore, as the sanitary napkin-making machine he went on to create is transforming the lives of rural women across India.

Yes, you read that correctly!

Why did he do this? Women in India use a whole variety of things that most women would shudder to think of because “buying sanitary napkins meant no milk for the family.”

  • The women in his life left him.
  • He was “called a psycho, a pervert, and [was] accused of dabbling in black magic.”
  • And after wading through a MAJOR cultural taboo (probably not fearlessly, but definitely courageously) he succeeded…and his wife has returned to him. Whew!

    Read the rest of this strange and wonderful article here

    Playing A Broken Christmas Record

    It’s difficult for me to admit, but I bought this Christmas album when it came out in 1982. I guess I had what you might call “Pac Man Fever.” Looking back, it deserved to be broken. Pac Man Christmas? But, yeah, at the time…for some reason I kind of liked it.

    There was this one night where I walked into my room at night. I was tired and literally running for my bed, which was at the opposite end of the room from the door. As I leapt for the mattress I heard the crunch. Split my Pac Man Christmas album clean in half! The punch line is that I put the two halves on the turntable to see if a crack like that would really make that much difference…it did.

    I can’t believe I tried to play a broken Christmas record.

    recently, I found out that I was still playing a broken Christmas record…only a different one. No, it was Pac Man…not even Tennessee Ernie Ford.

    I had a crazy maker in my Christmas tree. Growing up, there was someone who would have made the ghost of Christmas future nervous. I began to fear Christmas because it was filled with chaos and strangeness. Every year, I counted down the days until Christmas was over. There was a palor of discontent and I knew that during Christmas break it made the atmosphere unbreathable.

    And like many, I had two halves of my family that I had to split the big day between. Needless to say, Christmas filled me with something that didn’t make the Yuletide gay.

    Flash forward to my own family. I carried that discontent into our Christmas season. Playing that broken record every year. What I didn’t realize was that I was filling the gap where a crazy maker once was. In my defense, I wasn’t as bad as I remember but still…I changed when the carols started playing on the radio. Once I realized this, I’ve been having a new Christmas experience. Like the analog record player, the old is gone. The new has come!

    What old records are you playing?
    Are they broken or do they need to be?
    How are you filling in the space where an old song used to play?

    Christmas is about Christ.
    If any are in him they are a new creation!
    The old has passed away and the new has come.

    Like in that Bethlehem manger…there was no broken record playing there.

    click here to watch hear some pac man christmas or download it here.
    Merry Christmas!
    Wacka Wacka Wacka

    Nothing Is Impossible With God? Really???

  • When’s the last time you took your foot off the pedal and let God be God?
  • Do you tend to micro manage the Creator of the Universe and then get huffy because he didn’t do it like you told him
  • Then, do you give up because God is apparently “Out of Order?”
  • Perhaps if we just weave in a little Buddha, that’ll fix him just right.
  • There is this amazing moment in the Luke 1 passage where the angel that is speaking to Mary says, “Nothing is impossible with God.”

    Let that drop like a quasar on your soul.

    The truth is this: what is true for Mary is true for you.
    But the reality feels like this: My situation, my problems are to big for God.

    How is it that this promise has become so diluted in our faith culture? I think that we should be able to hang all of our hope on the knowledge that what is spoken here is true, as a statement and as testimony to a historical event:

    The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”

    Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her. (Luke 1:35-38 NLT)

    I think this picture might illustrate the problem:

    Jesus said, “I am the Light.”
    This is a powerful statement.
    It means that into the darkness a light has shined.
    In the deep darkness of our lowest moment, Jesus is there.

    But we aren’t really comforted by that.
    We don’t want a God who is in control.
    Instead we want a god that we can control.
    We don’t want a Lord who is the light of the world.
    We want a lord who is a flashlight in our hand.
    One we can use to lighten our way…whichever way we choose.
    Or, perhaps, one that sits comfortably next to the Buddha (who promises to enlighten our way).

    But that’s not Jesus.
    Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life.
    Jesus is the Light of the World.

    “In him was life, and that life was the light of all people.
    The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. [Jn 1:4-5]”

    It’s true that nothing is impossible for God.

    Fred Craddock writes, “For nothing will be impossible with God.” That’s the text, and it is a preacher’s delight, because you don’t have to go into who said what to whom and bring up Samuel or Saul or Moses or Paul or anybody. It’s just one of those statements that’s true without context. Nothing is impossible with God. You can put it in a bottle and toss it in the sea and have it wash up on a distant shore, and it’s true. You can put it on a banner and have an airplane carry it across the sky, and it’s true. You can write it on a slip of paper and put it under your pillow; it’s true.”

    Don’t settle for an LED Jesus when the Light of the World is breaking into human history.

    What is true for Mary is true for you!

    Merry Christmas

    Some Christmas Crea(na)tivity

    If you are wishing that you could watch a bunch of short films on the Nativity, you are in luck!

    “Over at the EChurch Blog Stuart James has posted a link to the Nativity Factor. The Nativity Factor is a competition sponsored by ITN in the UK. Entrants were asked to create a 30 second to 3 minute long video in which they creatively (re)tell the story of Christ’s birth. At last count 66 clips have been loaded. You can watch the others at the Nativity Factor web site and vote for your favorite.” The Biblical World blog

    Enjoy! And thanks to John Byron…just passing on the savings

    God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, But I’m A Bit Dismayed

    This Christmas, more than ever, I am aware of the incredible disconnect between the child in the manger and the man in the chimney. Perhaps I have this heightened perspective because I’m preaching through Advent for the first time in my life. Perhaps, it’s because it’s really there. Perhaps it’s because I’m watching my own children wrestle with their desire to witness and worship while at the same time, they know that they…better watch out!

    The Christmas season is mysterious.
    The Christmas season is awe-inspiring.
    It’s also manic.
    And weird.

    Christmas has its own peculiar position in American culture and while there is a whole conversation to be had about that, the holiday has become a pillar of our western worldview. In many ways, the event it celebrates has become irrelevent, if not simply substituted.

    AnnieLennox-AChristmasCornucopia-Digipack333 My favorite Christmas Album of 2010 is hands down, “A Christmas Cornucopia” by Annie Lennox. It’s just stellar. Also, worthy of mention, is the first eleven tracks are completely traditional. It’s a welcome and focused inclusion into the Christmas music canon apart from the “Christian artist” hegemony that usually produces entire albums of this nature.

    Lennox is one of my all time favorites. Diva is still on my playlist. She’s is a consistent class act and a wicked gifted soulstress AND she doesn’t consider herself to be a Christian. She actually doesn’t consider herself, like so many these days, particularly religious.

    From the liner notes:

    I’ve sung these Christmas Carols since I was very young. They’ve accompanied my life. Carols tell ancient stories. They are timeless and lasting. Each one has its own special message encoded within the lyrics and melody lines.

    While I don’t personally subscribe to any specific religion, I do believe that the heart of all religious faith has to be rooted in love and compassion otherwise it serves no purpose.

    For me, the word ‘Christ’ represents the sacred and mysterious divinity of life…which could just as easily be ‘Buddha’ or ‘Allah’.


    Christmas isn’t a celebration of compassion anymore than egg nog is made from the milk of human kindness. Christmas is the celebration of a particular life, Jesus Christ’s. It’s the proclamation of incarnation: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Christ doesn’t represent the mysterious divinity of life anymore than I represent the unfortunate likelihood of male pattern baldness. He is…I have no hair; just an ontological reality.

    Christmas is a pillar of our culture, but what is it holding up? Is it possible that we’ve moved so far away from ‘religion’ that we can’t describe or articulate it anymore? Perhaps carols are the way we connect to the “mysterious divinity” now. I love this CD. There’s even a French carol I’ve never heard before. But the fact remains, these are Jesus songs…not Buddha songs and not Allah songs.

    The message encoded in these lyrics and melodies is simply this:

    God rest ye merry, gentlemen
    Let nothing you dismay
    Remember, Christ, our Saviour
    Was born on Christmas day
    To save us all from Satan’s power
    When we were gone astray
    O tidings of comfort and joy,
    Comfort and joy
    O tidings of comfort and joy


    The Real Meaning of Christmas – Rant

    I have never enjoyed a Christmas more than I have this year (Going into this could turn into post after post of the kind of therapy oriented vitriol that would cost normal people thousands of dollars to work through…I just call it seminary ;O)

    Also, I have never been more unnerved by the “Christmas Spirit.”

    My family has listened to the Cox cable music channel this season. For the most part, the mix of songs is an appropriate blend of pop nostalgia and Christian hymnody. But tonight, tonight I heard this song and it just pushed me over the edge…

    It’s these lyrics:

    Oh, the real meaning of Christmas
    Is the giving of love everyday.
    Oh, the real meaning of Christmas
    Is to live as the Master may say.

    And when you’ re giving your presents
    Don’t forget as you give them away
    That the real meaning of Christmas
    Is the giving of love everyday.

    Really, boss? The giving of love everyday? Kind of depends on how your audience defines love doesn’t it. Could you have chosen lyrics with any less power and presence. Yeah, they accurately describe the nature of generosity, but Christmas, the real meaning, isn’t about our generosity. It’s about God’s and God’s alone. Christmas isn’t a good feeling, it isn’t emotion, it isn’t proper motivation for altruism…it’s an event. A moment in History where God crash landed into human history and altered it in an unimaginable direction. This event, what is truly being celebrated, has laid the foundation for eternity. It has toppled empires. It has broken hearts and sown mosaics from the shattered pieces. Though wise men came from far away to partake in the after affects, shepherds and simpletons were first on the scene. Kind of makes Ray Conniff look like he’s singing a silly love song. I plead alongside Charlie Brown:

    As you journey towards December 25th, take note of the manger that stands in the way, the one that has worked its way between the past you can’t forget and the future you can’t imagine.

    OK, so this may be a “Bah Humbug” moment…but, I’m done now and will get on with my regularly scheduled “enjoy Christmas” self.

    Christ the Lord is on the way to take away the sins of the world.
    King Jesus, grant us your peace.

    Christmas: life as an iPod, Pt 1

    This Christmas…I want you to imagine your life as an iPod.

    You arrive in a box sent directly from heaven, I mean, Apple. Everyone ooh’s and aah’s when you are delivered. People are generally happy and look upon you adoringly. To their astonishment, you are nanochromatic. What color would you be? Me, I think I’d have to choose red.

    You are ready to get started in the world and so with great apprehension you press Play. The sound is soothing to begin, but let’s face it…you’re an iPod. You can play whatever you like. Soon, the sound of life is Coldplay or insert your favorite band. It isn’t long before you discover how to adjust the volume. It isn’t long after that that you discover volume’s more magical quality. The louder you turn up the music, the softer you make those around you who seem to mouthing words that, quite frankly, you do not wish to hear.

    As you grow and walk through life, you have a soundtrack. You’re never alone. There’s always something in your ear. You can watch a movie in the bathroom. You always have quality pictures of loved one to show and share. You never miss an episode of LOST and your friends are always there to listen.

    Hold on! They are iPods, too. In control of the world as they experience it. Drowning out the voices of people all around who say things they just don’t like to hear. Sometimes, this includes you. Sometimes it’s very lonely being an iPod. Sometimes being lonely is frustration and raises emotions to a fevered pitch. Sometimes you say things you wish you hadn’t and do things you can’t take back.

    Hold on a minute. You’ve got a rewind button. You can just go back and not say that bit of unfortunate utterance again. Or you can simply not do the thing that you wish you hadn’t. Rewind is a wonderful thing. Just in case, you miss something, you can go back and pay attention the second time. It’s wonderful moving through life never disappointing anyone, because you can always get it right the second time. It’s exhilarating knowing that you don’t need to stay in the present because you can always go back, in cased you may have missed something important.

    The future, though unknown, doesn’t present a problem. The moment you get to a part you don’t like…you can just fast forward. After all, on the other side of the dial, you can move the other way. You don’t have to experience anything uncomfortable. You don’t have to feel embarrassment, guilt, shame, disgrace. You can move through the future with ease and always go backwards a bit, just in case you wonder what you may have missed. as an iPod. Life the way iLike it.

    But what’s that?

    Sounds. Something one notch louder than your earbuds’ loudest loud. You can’t quite make it out, but something catches your eye – off in the corner – and you glance up from your very impressive vibracolor screen and notice Christmas all around you.