They Tried to Outlaw Christmas

You’ve probably heard of the book by Fox News host, John Gibson,”The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought” (Sentinel, October 2005).that reveals to the whole world, a little known secret. There is a vast, left wing conspiracy to eliminate Christmas.  Here is a great article I found about when they really did try to ban Christmas and it was not the secularists but the Puritans who did it.  I know that this cuts across the real meaning of this season but I thought it was interesting to see how Christians and secularists have always struggled with the practice of Christmas.

There has always been some sense of complexity in the celebration of Christmas. So much so that in days of old the church attempted to have Christmas banned. It was in England during the tenure of Oliver Cromwell. His Puritan Party passed legislation outlawing Christmas. In England there would be no more lavish and raucous celebration, no more commercial exploitation, there would be no more Christmas, period.  Read more

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A Christmas Promise

Joy to the world our Saviour comes
Not in power, not in might
But in the tenderness of love
He comes as the promise of life
Hidden in a mother’s womb
Sing aloud and dance with the angels
God has sent his son to save the world
Love and faithfulness meet together
Righteousness and peace kiss each other
Faithfulness springs forth from the earth
Shout halleluias of praise, inheritors of Christ’s light
God’s righteousness looks down from heaven
The Lord will indeed give what is good
And bring wholeness and abundance to all people

The Right to Become Children of God

He came to his own people, but they didn’t want him.
But whoever did want him, who believed he was who he claimed and would do what he said,
He made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves.
These are the God-begotten (From John 1: 11- 13 The Message)

The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me because God anointed me.
He sent me to preach good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken,
Announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners.
God sent me to announce the year of his grace. (Isaiah 61: 1-2 The Message)

As I read through these words this morning I started to think about what it means to be God-begotten and to be able to become our “true child of God selves”. It seemed appropriate to link this to the message of Christmas and what it meant for Jesus to “heal the broken hearted”. I was reminded of friends of ours who several years ago wanted to adopt a native American child. The set up the adoption and then discovered that the child had four siblings who were also up for adoption – older children that would probably be split up and spend their lives moving from foster home to foster home because everyone wants to adopt babies. My compassionate friends did not want to split up the family and decided to adopt all the children in spite of the fact that they knew it would not be easy on them and their three biological children. The adopted children had been abused and mistreated. Both parents were alcoholics, their mother a drug addict. They were all deeply disturbed and scarred by these experiences.

I was overwhelmed this morning as I thought of the actions of my generous friends and how like God’s embracing of us as children they have been. God generously reaches out to all of us who are scarred and disfigured by sin – our own, our family’s and our society’s – yet God reaches out in compassion and draws us all into his family, even though our inclusion in his family may not make things easy for the rest of God’s family. And of course the one who paid the greatest toll was his own son Jesus.

I have certainly been very conscious of God’s generous compassion in my own life. I too come from a deeply scarred and dysfunctional family in which there was much physical abuse. When I became a Christian as a teenager I felt that God opened wide his arms and welcomed me into his family. However the scars I carried did not suddenly dissolve. God has worked through many others in his family to transform my life.

This surely is the good news of the gospel and the wonder of the message that we celebrate at this season. God’s children are not nice children that have been brought up in perfect homes. we are more like foster children who have been abused and abandoned by our own families and societies.

We are all scarred and disfigured in some way by our upbringing or by our interactions with the world around us. Yet God reaches out in deep compassion and love to draw us into an environment in which we can be healed, made whole and able to enter into the joy of God’s wonderful kingdom.

My fellow bloggers

Brother Maynard

Lainie Petersen

Peggy Brown

Sonja

Adam Copeland

John the Shepherd

Rob Robinson

Christine Sine

Lori Bjerkander

Glenn Jordan

Julie Clawson

Cindy Bryan

Robin Dugall

Lyn Hallewell

J. Michael Matkin

Kingdom Grace

Matt Stone

Milton Brasher-Cunningham

God moved into the Neighbourhood

I love the translation of John 1: 14 in The Message: “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood.” Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have Jesus living down the street? And imagine if we heard that he was moving into the neighbourhood but we did not know where he would live or even what he looked like. I wonder how it would change the way we treat our neighbours. Every time someone new moved in we would eagerly knock on their door with a welcome package. We take time to sit down and talk to them, listening carefully to everything they had to say wondering “Is this the One? Is this Jesus in disguise?”

I was thinking about this yesterday as I talked to a local pastor about how to help get his congregation out of the pews and into the neighbourhood. We talked a lot about the idea that God is already present in every person he has created. Early Christians believed that they were privileged to live in a non Christian world because they believed that it was through their interactions with those outside the faith that they learned more about God.

Maybe Jesus has already moved into all our neighbourhoods and we just need to recognize him. He is present in the lonely person who lives 2 houses away and in the overwhelmed mother trying to juggle job, kids and home. He is also present in the homeless person who sits at the end of the street begging for money. Part of what we all need to do during this Advent season is take time to look and to listen for the presence of God in those around us and learn to respond in a way that welcomes Christ into our midst.

My fellow bloggers

Brother Maynard

Lainie Petersen

Peggy Brown

Sonja

Adam Copeland

John the Shepherd

Rob Robinson

Christine Sine

Lori Bjerkander

Glenn Jordan

Julie Clawson

Cindy Bryan

Robin Dugall

Lyn Hallewell

J. Michael Matkin

Kingdom Grace

Matt Stone

Milton Brasher-Cunningham

More Churches Going Green

Here is some encouraging news that needs to be shared as the season of joy approaches.

From a religious perspective, global climate change is a moral crisis. Not only because it affects future generations and those around the globe, but because it will hit hardest among the “least of us,” the vulnerable communities and people in poverty across the globe. As a community that strives for justice, then, it becomes doubly important that we put our concerted efforts into addressing global climate change.  Read more

A Witness Will Go Before You

Tom & I have been reading the daily scriptures from the Book of Common Prayer and I must confess that I have been feeling a little depressed as I have read about the judgment of God in Amos & Haggai so the scriptures that we are focusing on in this Johannine synchroblog have been quite encouraging. However as read this morning about John who “came as a witness to the light” I started to think about what this really meant.

John’s message after all was a message that focused on sin and the need for repentance just as the daily Advent scriptures I have been reading do. John 1: 23 reads “I am a voice calling in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord.” The season of Advent is not just a time to look forward to the love, joy, peace and hope of God’s shalom kingdom, it is also a time to examine our hearts and to listen to the voice of those who still today cry out in the wilderness asking us to repent of our self centred lives. This is not just so that we can get a warm fuzzy feeling of forgiveness but so that we can actually change our behaviour to focus more on the coming of Christ and the inbreaking of God’s kingdom of shalom and wholeness.
Like me you probably want to skip over the hard parts of the Advent message and focus only on the love and the joy. But to enter fully into the love and the joy of Christ’s coming we must also enter fully into the pain and suffering of our world, recognize where our actions have contributed, repent and make some changes.

It is not always easy to recognize how our actions impact the poverty of children in Africa, or the horrors faced by those whose countries are at war, but they can. Who would have thought that buying a diamond could be financing a war in Africa but it might. Buying fair traded coffee and tea (and other food items if they are available in your area) may all help to provide a fair wage for people at the margins. Checking into where our money is invested and working with socially responsible investment groups is another challenge but one that we really need to take seriously if we truly want to be witnesses as John was to the One who will one day bring wholeness, abundance and shalom to all our suffering neighbours near and far.

I really identified with the thoughts of my fellow blogger on circular thoughts the kingdom must be pursued. We must chase after it. We must run hard and fast. We are called to be shalom makers and that means to run hard and fast, being willing to be voices of witness just like John was – going against the status quo, speaking out where no one else is, raising a voice for those who are oppressed and marginalized. And by our efforts we too may forge a highway on which the king of kings can come into our world.

My fellow bloggers

Brother Maynard

Lainie Petersen

Peggy Brown

Sonja

Adam Copeland

John the Shepherd

Rob Robinson

Christine Sine

Lori Bjerkander

Glenn Jordan

Julie Clawson

Cindy Bryan

Robin Dugall

Lyn Hallewell

J. Michael Matkin

Kingdom Grace

Matt Stone

Milton Brasher-Cunningham

Put Christ Back in Christmas

Interestingly British Muslims are encouraging Christians to put Christ back in Christmas according to the Christian Science Monitor.  “Muslim Council of Britain spokesman Shayk Ibrahim Mogra said, “To suggest celebrating Christmas and having decorations offends Muslims is absurd. Why can’t we have more nativity scenes in Britain?”  Read more