Dec 26

The Ones Who Matter Most

There is something very significant about being able to call for a census, to enroll people on a tax list, the way Caesar Augustus does in Luke 2. Calling for a census shows that you matter: you have the power to make everyone give you their name and their status. Surely that is a power both fun to use and easy to abuse. Every time a person registers for the census, he or she does so knowing that Caesar is lord, Caesar is master, Caesar is the one who matters. God knows every hair on your head, but Caesar demands to know who you are, where you live, and how much you’re worth to him. Caesar is the one who matters most. Continue reading

Jan 03

Who Is Jesus Christ?

For our gospel reading this morning, this second Sunday of the Christmas season, we return to a reading from Christmas Eve: John 1:1-18. We read this as our fourth lesson at the 11:00 service, but it comes up in the lectionary, the list of readings for the church year, again this morning. The two Sundays after Christmas each emphasize the most important belief that Christians have: that Jesus Christ is both really and fully a human being, and that he is both really and fully God. Last week the reading from Luke 2, which was about Jesus in the temple as a 12-year old boy, underscored the humanity of Jesus. This week John 1 reinforces that this human being Jesus really was and is the Son of God. Continue reading

Dec 27

Fully and Truly Human

For most people right now, we have entered the post-Christmas season, a kind of recovery period from the stress of holiday preparations and the overindulgence of holiday festivities. But in the church we are just at the beginning of the true Christmas season, which lasts 12 days. Today is the third day of Christmas: three French hens, as the song goes, sometimes interpreted as the great theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love, other times thought of as the three Persons of the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Continue reading

Dec 27

A Charles Wesley Christmas

You know, every year, Christmas is in danger of becoming so familiar to us that we forget how strange, how unusual, how bizarre the event we celebrate really is. Some fifty years ago C.S. Lewis wrote about the differences between Christmas, the celebration of Christ’s nativity, the birth of Jesus, and Xmas, the parallel celebration of gift-giving and merry-making that happens with family and friends, at office parties and cookie swaps, around trees real and fake. There is a real possibility that Xmas will overwhelm Christmas, that we’ll get so caught up in gift-giving and gift-receiving and merry-making that the birth of our Savior will be at best an afterthought. There’s even more of a threat that the sappy, sentimental foolishness that shows up on cards and decorations this time of year will creep into our Christmas celebrations, so that we get so caught up in our favorite “mood” of Christmas—quiet and serene, or joyful and exuberant, whatever you prefer—that we neglect the reality of this feast of the nativity, this feast of the Incarnation. Continue reading

Dec 16

Joy in the Lord

It feels like right now we are in the middle of a pretty joyless season of life. News of mass shootings and terrorist attacks scares us and makes us want to run and hide. Anger from politicians, anger so fierce that it haunts us with echoes from past horrors that we should not have forgotten so quickly, manipulates us further into awful thoughts and deep uncertainty about the future. So-called Christian leaders who seem to have forgotten that the way Jesus lived might have something to do with how we’re supposed to live now just make things worse, more complicated, more distracting. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a hard time rousing any joy this Advent season. Continue reading