Thursday, December 21, 2006

Prayer for the day

Here is a prayer for today I found in "A Time to Pray: 365 Classic Prayers to help you through the year." This prayer is by Huub Oosterhus.

Let us pray for all those, throughout the world, who believe in the Gospel:
That they may grow in grace and humanity.
Let us also pray for all churches, that they may not lay up treasures on earth or become
monuments to a past age,
Clinging to what is already dead and remote from people of today,
But that they may be converted and receive the spirit of Jesus, our Lord,
who is the light and life, hope and peace of this world, for ever and ever.



Monday, December 11, 2006

Cultural Christmas or Christian Celebration

Yesterday while traveling along coastal Maine I passed what looked like a church building with a big sign outside proclaiming “pictures with Santa”. I was moving along and didn’t see if it was an active church or just a church like building turned into something else.

What struck me was the juxtaposition of a religious building and Santa. This symbolic joining crystallized in my mind what I’ve know for a long time; Santa and Christmas are perfect representatives of our cultural religion. If we step aside and pay attention we can see it plainly. The Holiday celebration now fully represents our cultural values and beliefs. These include the necessity to buy things, the spiritual satisfaction of gift giving and getting, the appropriateness of over-spending to name a few.

A colleague of mine shared the news story at the end of this blog. Briefly, the Hillsboro, NH, Christmas Tea was cancelled after the pastor of the church hosting the event asked to read the Christmas story from the gospels along with “The Night Before Christmas.” The quote below comes from an article published by the Concord Monitor (see the link below):

"Andrea Kaubris, administrative assistant to the Chamber of Commerce, said sponsoring a religious event would violate the Chamber's bylaws, which require it to remain nonsectarian. Even though the holiday is Christian, Kaubris said the celebration is "a commercialized treatment of Christmas just because that's what the whole Christmas season has come to. It's about the kids, and it's about the merchants in town."

Rather than bemoan the loss of Christmas to the culture, I suggest we reclaim it in our homes and churches. Let the culture have its Holiday celebration, but let us offer something different. Let us offer Christ, Emmanuel. Leave Santa and all his trappings to the culture and offer the real Hope of the World to our communities.

Let us use this time as an opening to share the good news. For many know the secular holiday does not satisfy their spiritual need. Buying lots of things does not fill the hole in our soul. Christmas parties does not quench our longing for true community. Mistletoe does not meet our needs for intimate relationships.

We are bearers of the light of Christ, heralds of Hope, voices crying out in the wilderness for the people of our community and world. There is still time in this season to find ways to share the coming of Christ to others. How will you celebrate Emanuel? Will others see the difference?

Grace & Peace,


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Secret Santa-- What about not so secret Christians?

Below is a news story in the Chicago Tribune which has me thinking. It is about Larry Stewart, secret Santa. I do not know his religious preference or if he even has any. What I do recognize is his desire to bring joy, unexpected joy, to people in the Christmas season. Take a look at the article.

While I have grave concerns about the commercialism of this time of year and about Santa, I am moved by the acts of generosity which we often witness between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This season seems to call out the best and the worst in us. We will read stories like Larry’s as well as stories of fist fights in store isles over some popular toy.

Stories like the one below are wonderful. But Jesus challenges us to live this kind of compassion and concern year round, not just for the last 6 weeks of each year.

I wonder what we as followers of Jesus have to offer to this annual event. I wonder what we will do to safeguard ourselves from turning the birth of our Savior into a orgy of shopping, buying and eating. Sometimes I want to celebrate Christmas after the hoopla is over and the sales have all come to an end. I long for a Christmas celebration of the holy moment in history, when God chose to become one with us.

I can go on and on about Christmas, but I’ll spare you. If you’d like, feel free to respond in the comments section by sharing a way you keep Christ at the center of your Christmas.

Grace & Peace,


Forget Kriss Kringle-- Santa's name is Larry

By Maria Sudekum Fisher

Associated Press

November 20, 2006

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- For 26 years, a man known only as Secret Santa has roamed the

streets every December quietly giving people money.

He started with $5 and $10 bills. As his fortune grew, so did the gifts. In recent years, Secret

Santa has been handing out $100 bills to people in thrift stores, diners and parking lots.

So far he's given out about $1.3 million. It's been a long-held holiday mystery: Who is Secret Santa?

But now, weak from chemotherapy and armed with a desire to pass on his belief in random

kindness, Secret Santa has decided it's time to reveal his identity.

He is Larry Stewart, a 58-year-old businessman from the Kansas City suburb of Lee's

Summit, Mo., who made his millions in cable television and long-distance telephone service.

His holiday giving started in December 1979, when he was nursing his wounds at a drive-in

restaurant after getting fired.

"It was cold and this carhop didn't have on a very big jacket, and I thought to myself, `I think

I got it bad. She's out there in this cold making nickels and dimes,"' he said.

He gave her $20 and told her to keep the change.

"And suddenly I saw her lips begin to tremble and tears begin to flow down her cheeks. She

said, `Sir, you have no idea what this means to me."'

Stewart went to the bank that day and took out $200. He's hit the streets each December


He allowed the news media to tag along. Reporters had to agree to guard his identity and not name his company.

NFL Hall of Famer Dick Butkus will join Stewart this year in Chicago when Stewart hands out $100s in honor of Buck

O'Neil, the first African-American coach in the major league baseball.

Doctors told Stewart in April that he had cancer of the esophagus and it had spread to his liver.

Now Stewart wants to inspire others to be generous. "That's what we're here for," he says, "to help other people out."

Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune