Dec 27

Emmanuel



Of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, only two, Matthew and Luke, show any interest in the details of the early life of Jesus. Nearly every book, on the other hand, has something to say about Jesus’ death and resurrection. And even in Matthew and Luke, far more gospel space is dedicated to Jesus’ death and resurrection than to his birth and childhood. The church calendar reflects this. Advent is four weeks; Lent is forty days. The Easter season lasts 50 days; the Christmas season is only 12 days long. Nowadays, though, we’ve pretty much flipped that relationship. We spend tons of time and money “getting ready for Christmas,” whatever that means. The amount we spend preparing for Easter pales in comparison. And I think this is as true for those of us in the church as it is for the society around us. We like Easter, but we love Christmas. 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

Nov 30

House of Holiness



In one of his most memorable descriptions of Methodist beliefs, John Wesley once compared Christian salvation to a house. The house itself is salvation in Jesus Christ, made possible by God’s grace and not something we can earn or work our way into. The porch, where you approach the house, is repentance. The door, where you enter the house, is faith in Jesus Christ. And the interior of the house, where you live, is sanctification—growing in holiness. The point is, you can’t claim to be saved just because you feel sorry for your sins, or just because you have faith, but no works, in Jesus. You need the whole house, the whole picture, because salvation is about more than how you feel—it’s about how you respond to God. Continue reading

Nov 09

Wealth and the Poor Widow



The pursuit of wealth dominates our culture like no other fascination. Nearly all of us want to be wealthy. Those of us who already are wealthy by global and national standards do not consider ourselves rich—and, in general, we want more wealth. Wealth gets us nice things, it’s true: more cars, bigger houses, nicer television screens. Having a nice savings account is a source of comfort. Storing up our riches, we’re told, is a responsible thing to do, especially if we ever want to retire (because, after all, who else is going to take care of you when you’re no longer able to work?) or if we want our children to go to college (which we refuse to guarantee to children, even though it’s the best chance for them to avoid extreme poverty). Continue reading

Oct 26

Blind Bart



Poor blind Bart! Sitting on the side of a road, a busy highway, the road from Jericho to Jerusalem. Waiting just outside the city. Waiting for generous travelers who might throw a couple coins or maybe some stale bread his way. Enduring the quiet—and surely sometimes not so quiet—verbal abuse all beggars must endure: What’s wrong with that man, mommy?! Why is he just sitting there? Hush, honey, some people just can’t help it. Hmph! He probably brought it on himself. Continue reading