Archive for December, 2009


The Big Mo

I was watching Monday Night Football last night and it was ugly. (That’s putting it mildly.) I don’t know if it got any better in the second half for the Redskins, but the first half was embarrassing and I just couldn’t watch anymore. Nothing was going right for them. Everything they tried, including some really goofy trick plays, failed miserably and added to the frustration. The fans were booing everything. Even the network commentators, who always try and find a way to put a positive spin on everything, had to admit it was bad.

It seems that’s the way life goes – When things aren’t going well it seems impossible to turn the momentum around and get anything positive going. Then, all of a sudden, something unique happens. A “win” is gained and everyone’s perspective changes. “Big Mo” (momentum) kicks in and it seems like nothing can go wrong.

In a lot of ways that’s what Christmas is about. The Bible says, “the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light” (Matthew 4:16 NLT). Spiritually speaking, things were bad – hopeless in fact. For the most part, people were going through the motions of religion without any relationship with God. That generally produces two kinds of people.

The first are the die-hards. They’re the ones who are going to hold on to the tradition no matter how dull and lifeless those traditions are. They find their joy in reminiscing about the “good old days”.

Then there are those who look for some joy in the present, doing everything they can to find something that will produce joy no matter how fleeting it might be.

Jesus came to fix all of that. This is how He described it-“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again” (John 3:16, 17 The Message).

Merry Christmas!


Joyful, Joyful

How’s your Christmas preparation going? Is all your shopping done? (I asked one guy that and he looked at me like I had three heads and asked, “Is it the week of Christmas yet?”) Are all of your travel arrangements made? Do you have any parties or get-togethers left to attend or host? And, by the way, how’s your joy holding up?

The angel told the shepherds, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). Even though we know that fact to be true, it seems like, at least at moments, we have more in common with Dr. Seuss’s Grinch than we do with the angels and shepherds. We allow overcrowded schedules, cranky shoppers, inept drivers, weird relatives and mental and physical exhaustion to dictate our state of mind.

How does that happen? To put it simply, we become victims of our culture. Romans 12:2 reminds us that we are not to “be conformed to this world.” Literally, what Paul is telling us is that we cannot allow our values, attitudes or behaviors to be molded by the culture we interact with on a daily basis. Rather, we, as Christ-followers, should be impacting our culture in such a way that everywhere we go “the fragrance of the knowledge of him” (2 Corinthians 2:14) should be noticed. Jesus said we should stand out as obviously as light does in the darkness (Matthew 5:14-16). Everything we do this Christmas season should, in some way, communicate the message of the angel, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people!”


living life well

Have you ever thought about what it means to live life well? I’m sure different people have different views. Some might think it has to do with how much wealth you attain. Some might think it has to do with what others think of you.

I was visiting with a family recently who had lost their husband and father. We were talking about his life and I asked, “Did he have any hobbies or involvement in any social service organizations?” His son replied, “No, he just helped people.” And then, one after another, family members began to tell stories of how this man had helped them or how they had seen him help some neighbor or friend in need.

As I was preparing for the funeral and getting my remarks in line, that phrase kept coming back to my mind: “No, he just helped people.” It had a simplicity and familiarity to it that I couldn’t get away from. And then it hit me – that’s what they said about Jesus. Peter was preaching to Cornelius and his family and friends about Jesus in Acts 10 when he said, “Surely you have heard about this Jesus who went about doing good and helping all who were oppressed.” He just helped people.

It got me thinking, “Who have I helped lately?” Actually, I was wondering about all the opportunities I had to help people that I missed because I was in too big a hurry to get somewhere or do something for myself.

As for me, I think it would be all right if when I get to the end of my life and people ask, “What did he do?” instead of people talking about a sermon I preached or a leadership initiative I launched, that someone would say, “He just helped people.”


a different nativity

Along with spending time with family and friends, eating a meal (or two), watching football and/or going shopping this past weekend, did you get any decorating done? We did. We got everything but one tree up and we’re ready to do that when we get home this evening.

One of my favorite Christmas decorations is the nativity scene. Over the years we have had a few different ones. Now we have a whole village scene – merchant shops, live stock, the whole deal. We’ve always displayed our nativity scene in a prominent place in our home and have, at times, even hooked up special effect lighting to highlight the whole thing.

Of course all of this imagery is based on Luke’s account of the birth of Christ – the shepherds, the star, the angels, the wise men, and the stable. But there is another version. In Revelation 12 we find John’s account. It’s the same story told in Luke 2, it is just told from a little different perspective – the spiritual one. In John’s version there is a woman who gives birth to a son who “would rule the nations”. There is a dragon waiting to devour the child at the moment of birth but the child is “snatched up” away from the dragon and taken to Heaven to occupy the throne of God. The woman flees into the desert to a place prepared for her by God. As a result of this, the dragon becomes angry and makes war with all of the woman’s other children, those who “keep God’s commandments and confess that they belong to Jesus”.

Can you imagine displaying that nativity scene on your mantle? It would be an interesting conversation starter at the annual party!

The imagery here is pretty intense but the identities of the main characters, as explained through the narration, are pretty obvious, as is the point of this account. Peter summed it up this way, “Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

As we enjoy all the imagery and tradition of Christmas, let’s not be lulled into complacency and forget that Jesus is not a passive baby in a manger but he is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, come to vanquish all the power of darkness, and you and I have been enlisted in the fight!