Category Archives: Advent

are you buying or telling

Christmas: Are You Buying Or Telling?

are you buying or telling

Recently, I read that the US uses 70% of the world’s resources (actually, I think that it’s more accurate to say that richest 20%, but anyway). The period of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas produces 40% of retail revenue for the entire year. 

Truth telling. 
Are you kidding me?

Forty percent of business has to have Christmas or there won’t be an economy. 
Sounds absolutely crazy. 
If the thing is about Jesus, it does anyway. 

History Lesson Time

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.” [Lk 2:1-3]

When Luke tells the story about Jesus, it starts with an insane amount of money; kind of like 40% of the economy. A census was not about a Caesar who cared about each and every person in his empire. It was about a Caesar who cared about how much each and every person in the empire owed him. 

BIG Difference!

It took a huge military for Rome to maintain its “Peace, Love and Understanding” foreign policy. What’s so funny???

Augustus, conquerer of the whole dang world, needed some cash, so a census was the answer. Each person was taxed on everything coming and going and the only way to make sure the Romans got dey deep rolls of fat Benjamins was to register all of the people that were under Roman rule. 

Caesar was concerned with bringing people together to find out how much tax people owed him. Jesus brought people together and paid their debts himself. 

Caesar tied people down to an economy they couldn’t bear.
Jesus freed people into a new economy of God’s love and grace. 

Visa, Caesar. 
Caesar, Visa.

The story of Christmas isn’t that we have to buy gifts, it’s that we were given one. It’s not that we go into debt. The story of Christmas is that God created a way for us to get out of it. That’s an absolutely amazing story. It’s the most profound story that exists. Everybody wants to sell you something. Only Jesus wants to buy you back (as funky as you may be).

So are you buying or telling?

 
There’s this song, “Go tell it on the mountain,” the lyrics make you stop and re:think the whole deal. “Go tell it on the mountian, over the hills and everywhere, Go tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born.”

If that song were written today, perhaps the lyrics would be:

Go tell it to your neighbor, 
cook up a meal and tak it over there, 
Go tell it to your network, 
that Jesus Christ has freed you from the debt 
that weighed down your soul like a credit card bill.”
(you have to sing that last line really fast)

This #ChaoticChristmas, can you do more telling than buying?

james brown turning funky into fine

Christmas: Turning Funky Into Fine

james brown turning funky into fine

🎶 It’s Christmas time, It’s no time to be afraid 🎶

Unless you haven’t done your Christmas shopping. You’ve got three weeks. Are you done yet? Shopping for Christmas presents really brings out the crazy, right? All these funky people trying to find a way to be…to feel fine. 

Check out this clip from “Jingle All The Way”

When my siblings were little, I had to do this every year (That’s right, Jamie, Santa didn’t beat a man with his own arm to give you that Nintendo Power Glove. I did!). It kind of…scared the Christmas out of me. Where did all this gift giving come from? If Christmas is about the birth of God on earth, do we have to run up such a high Visa bill???

Turns out, the problem started with the Bible.

In the Scriptures, these Magi bring Jesus some presents. Of course they didn’t fall off of Santa’s sleigh and they weren’t fought over on Christmas eve. They were baby shower gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gifts have always been a part of Christmas, but you didn’t always have to ‘Jingle All The Way’ to get them. 

Gold was a gift for a king. It is priceless, representing economic wealth and spiritual purity. Throughout the Scriptures, God uses gold to talk about the process of becoming more and more holy, “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the priests and refine them like gold and silver. [Mal 3:3]”

Frankincense was a spice used in worship. It was an everyday offering. When you added it to hot coals, it made the funky smell fine. This gift foreshadowed Christ’s life on earth: he made the funky…smell fine.

Myrrh had many uses. As a resin it was a beauty treatment. As a liquid it was a pain reliever. As a solid, it was a perfume, as in a burial spice. 

The King of Heaven began his life with Gold, and ended it by turning you into it. He began his life in the funk and made the funk fine before God. At his birth, they brought myrrh. At his death, they brought the same. 

The birth of Jesus means that you are important to God.

It’s gold when you think about it. 
His life means that God is with us. 
With you. 
With you however you come to him, 
wrapped in whatever funk you got yourself into. 

The myrrh of his death is the thing that reminds us we are forgiven, you are forgiven;

You are more loved and accepted than you can handle.

You are fine. 
More than fine. 
You are his. 

You may have the perfect gift for your BFF, but what are you bringing to Jesus? What gift are you laying before the manger?

Bring whatever you have. 
Whoever you are.
All that you have to give. 

If you are afraid what you bring to Christ is too funky, don’t worry. Jesus will turn your funky into fine!

🎶 It’s Christmas time, It’s no time to be afraid 🎶

In the comments, share a present you had to fight to get.

What's The Point Christmas

What’s The Point Of Christmas?

[This is the beginning of an #Advent series (a fancy Christmas season word which means, “Look out G, Jesus is coming!”) of indeterminable length. I have a count of 16 titles up to this point, so check back for inspiration during December or join the mailing list to receive the latest post in your inbox fresh like chestnuts roasted on an open fire.]

What's The Point Christmas

What’s the point of Christmas? To find out, last night, my family watched the Peanuts Christmas Special. If it’s been a while, go ahead watch it. It’s still as good as it used to be back in the day. That Charles Schultz was a prophet, man, using Charlie Brown like God used Jeremiah.

Full of existential angst, Chuck cycles through his group of friends, picking apart their approach to Christmas. One’s too philosophical. One’s too anemic. One’s too materialistic. And this was 1965. They had philosophy back then?

What lies at the chewy center of “Brown’s Dilemma” (can I ™ that?), is that no one can tell him what the point of Christmas is. There’s the postmodern: what is it to you? The post-decorative doghouse: it’s whatever you can hang on the dog house. The post-consumer: whatever you can desire, buy, wrap and figure out a way not to have to give it to someone else. 

As I watch the blood thirsty hoards wrestle their way into America’s retail coliseums, it doesn’t seem like much has changed.

So, what is the point of Christmas? 

Is it:

A time for family to get together?
A time for roast beast?
A time to watch our favorite Christmas movies?
Listen to our favorite Christmas stations on Spotify?
A time for good people to give other good people good things?
A time to direct Christmas dramas?
A time to preach through Christmas sermons?

If you lick the Tootsie Pop (a metaphor for the meaning of Christmas) three times and get down to it’s chewy core, we find that there’s one right answer to Charlie Brown’s question and young Linus nails it. 

That’s it. 

That’s Christmas. 

It makes materialism the most widely accepted addiction on the planet.

Christmas begins with ‘Christ’ and ends with ‘s’.

It’s when we remember to remember that God collided with the world so that we could be free; free from darkness, free from pointlessness, free from our ism du jour.

Everything else is Christmas wrapping (BTW, my favorite non-Christmas Christmas song)

Have you ever felt “Brown’s Dilemma” like good Charlie Brown? Let us know in the comments. 

2 things in life

God Does Not Want You To Be Happy

In 1996, Sheryl Crow rocked the radio mount with the her super hit, “If It Makes You Happy”. The premise of the song is, if it makes you happy…it can’t be that bad. While probably true in many cases, the question we have to ask ourselves is, “How’s that workin’ for ya?”

2 things in life
I’m not picking on pop music. I think that in many ways this song was pop prophetic in reverse. Are we happier in the years since this song was played every five minutes? I know that we’d love to think so, but I don’t imagine that would be true. Is happiness all it’s cracked up to be? Is the platinum standard for life just to be happy? What’s so great about happiness, anyway? A light canvas of the Bible suggests not much. In fact, it would appear that God does not want you to be happy.

No. God wants so much more for you.

Deep Roots, Heavy Branches

psalm 1 tree In the first Psalm, the writer says that “The truly happy person…is like a tree replanted by streams of water, which bears fruit at just the right time and whose leaves don’t fade. Whatever, they do succeeds. [vv1,3;CEB]” In this verse, it appears that happiness is a result of some pretty drastic, if not violent activity. The tree (that would be you) has been replanted. It was previously in one place, up-rooted (generally a not happy enterprise), and replanted somewhere else. The happy person has to go through a fruitless period, where their roots grow deeply, anchoring them to the ground. Roots aren’t in a hurry. Their branches reach high, pushing toward the sunlight — whether the sun is out or no — and then are bent by the weight of heavy fruit.

I don’t think too many people would look at this metaphor and think ‘Happiness.’ Happiness tends to have a more Laizzes Faire, life is easy vibe to it. The Psalm 1 approach takes too long (not a happy thought in our “I want it now” world). It’s a beautiful image, though, of drawing close to the heart of God…patiently.

Happy In The Worst Of Times

Jesus stood and addressed a crowd of unhappy people. Or at least, I imagine that they were unhappy because he kept telling them what it meant to be happy. The only thing is, what Jesus seemed to believe makes a person happy wouldn’t make anyone I know happy. Not today…well, maybe.

“Happy are the people who are hopeless.”
“Happy are the people who grieve.”
“Happy are the people who are humble.”

I haven’t seen that on any bumper stickers. Jesus didn’t really preach bumper stickers. Jesus preached the kind of stuff that made you say, “What? I’ve never heard that on TBN!” Jesus preached the kind of stuff that closes churches. And the rewards of the hopeless, grieving, humility induced happy coma?

“The kingdom of heaven is theirs.”
“They will be made glad.”
“They will inherit the earth.”

Strange soup for happiness to soak in. We all go through times of hopelessness, grief and humiliation. When you are happy in those times, in the worst of times, that is an act of God.

Are You Chasing A Lion, Or Herding Cats?

A lot of times, my idea of happiness is hung up on what I can buy. What I can makes me happy, what I can’t makes me miserable. Especially if someone else owns one…or two. When happiness is contingent on buying stuff, it gets tricky because how much is enough? When does the happy thermometer pop?

Jesus was talking about all the things the human heart chases after and ended with this, “Instead desire first and foremost God’s Kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. [Mt 6:33]

I think what he’s saying is, “God doesn’t want you to be happy.”
Let me say that one more time for affect, “God doesn’t want you to be happy.”


What God wants is for you to draw close to him, to root yourself deeply in the soil of his heart, to locate yourself at the center of his zip code…and that will make you happy. Happiness is the Kindgom, the big cat, the lion. Everything else is just herding strays. Chasing the untamed, feral desires that can’t make you happy…but they can keep you fit.

What makes you happy?
Really happy?

Advent: Wonderful Counselor and Bad Advice

Ever feel like you get advice from the E*Trade baby? It’s cute when it’s on T.V., but not when it matters. Where do you go when you need advice?

I love this commercial! However, that’s not where I’d start when I needed advice.
Advice…we all need it.
We’ve all given it.

Here are three types of advice that I run into on a normal day.
How about you?

Bad Advice

The trick with bad advice is that is doesn’t always start off sounding bad. In fact, it starts off sounding brilliant! With notable exceptions: “I’ll protect your savings,” “You can be rich as early as next week,” “This will make you sexy with no diet change or exercise!”

Most bad advice falls under the Sheryl Crow Law:
“If it makest thou Happy, It canst not be that bad unto thee!”

Bad advice means that your debt, like your blood pressure, is going to go up. It means that while you might get what you think you want, no one else does. If your relationships are a mess, chances are you are Sheriff of a world that exercises the Sheryl Crow Law like Miranda in L.A. County.

Good Advice

When we get good advice, we benefit from the wisdom of human experience. Good advice is good. The thing with good advice is you have to take it, and generally, you have to take it in the way it was intended. Good advice must always come with question: “Who is this advice good for?” For instance, you are love and want to get married and some wizened mother says, “Son, don’t marry her. I don’t think it will work out.”

It’s going to be good advice for somebody.

Good advice is sometimes difficult to take. Someone wiser than yourself might understand the consequences of a choice and be honest. Taking good advice often means that you are going to something difficult, something that will cost you. Good advice can be like…well, taking investment advice from a baby.

* This is one reason I love counseling. You pay someone to keep their best interests to themselves. Genius! Genius! Genius! But it’s not:

God Advice

God advice is the best possible option and the first advice we don’t want to take. God advice is always good for you and good for God. While good advice relies upon the wisdom of human experience, God Advice relies on the wisdom of Eternal Experience. God Advice redeems. God Advice restores. God Advice reconciles and with all due deferrence to Ms. Crow, it won’t look like it’s going to make you happy.

But it will.

“I will instruct you and teach you about the direction you should go.
I’ll advise you and keep my eye on you.” Psalm 32:8

For Advent, I’ve begun to preach through the names of the Messiah

mentioned in Isaiah 9:6

A child is born to us, a son is given to us,
and authority will be on his shoulders.
He will be named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

What does it mean that God is Wonderful Counselor?

1. Jesus is the first best place to look when you are wondering what your next step is.
2. Jesus is the only voice that can speak to you with human and eternal experience.
3. Chances are you’ve tried everything else…how’s that workin’ for ya? (via Dr. Phil)

Where do you go for good advice?
How do you decide what to do next?

If you have a moment, here’s the first sermon on the Isaiah passage.

Play

Here’s an Wonderful Counselor Devo Sheet…goes with the talk.

Advent: More Than Meets The Eye

Today is the first day of Advent. During the season of Advent, we prepare to celebrate the crash landing of the King of the Cosmos and at the same time we wait for the arrival of a baby that changed the World.

I’ve always loved the beginning of the original Transformers movie. If you watch the first few seconds of the trailer above, you’ll see the approach and crash landing of the Transformers. It’s always made me think of Advent.

Why? Well, I’m like that.

Advent is a countdown to Cosmic Collision

Before Jesus was born, the world was awaiting transformation.
There was a feeling, a fear that God had become distant and unconcerned with his creation.
The past was painful.
The present was white noise.
The future was hopeless.
But then…in a stable in Bethlehem,
God crash landed into human history.

Advent is a time where we sit in the tension of the unknown,
the promise of the unknowable and the reality of what we have seen and heard.

Advent is a Special Effect of Biblical Proportions

When you look at the Transformers trailer, especially the movie,
the effects are just seriously cool.
A starlike thing crashing in the earth.
That’s some serious CGI.
One would think that God coming to earth would require a team of tech specialists.
But The Lord did it old school, birth canal…delivery.

Advent is a time where we marvel at God who becomes one of us.

Advent is More Than Meets The Eye

The most awesome thing is that the Transformers
are one thing that becomes another thing.
They are more than meets the eye.
The leader is a Semi who is more than a Semi.
In the manger, Jesus is a baby who is more than a baby.
He is more than the first born of Mary.
Paul calls him, “the firstborn of creation.”

Advent is a time where we prepare for wonder and amazement.

What does Advent mean to you?