Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Danger of Domesticating the Christ Child

Happy, it appears the ACLU rarely visits my webpage so I'm going to go all out and say, Merry Christmas! I think I'm safe, for now. But why do we live in a culture that tries to demystify and domesticate the reality behind the Christmas season. We cloud out Christ with presents and consumerism. We sanitize Christmas with Santa clause. We mask the profundity of the incarnation with massive malls and mail-order catalogs and Amazon wish lists.

We even turn manger scenes into something pretty. Mary is always dressed in a light blue, Joseph often has a pretty lamb over his shoulder, and even the shepherds look pretty sharp. The actual scene must have been so messy.  Both Mary and Joseph would have been covered in blood and amniotic fluid, and probably a bit of animal droppings as well. The shepherds wouldn't have bathed for days or weeks. The stall would have been over-run with animals. Jesus would have been crying (fooey on the idea of "no crying he made").

Most people are not surprised that God showed up the first Christmas. Of course he did. He is supposed to like us, save us, serve us, make us happy, well-fed, and good-looking. But the problem with this way of thinking is all backward. And the first Christmas hints at the foolishness of this concept. Jesus came to be with the dirty, smelly, and unkempt. Jesus came to those outside of the social hierarchy. The King of Kings didn't arrive with typical fanfare. Later the King of Kings would die just the way he came--almost entirely alone, rejected, unpopular, and surrounded by blood, dirt and stink. This is why we domesticate Jesus and demystify Christmas...because it is the reality that shames us, humbles us, points a finger are our deep need for salvation, hope, cleansing from the grime and filth of our sin. These truths must not be domesticated; rather, they must move us to profound worship, love, and surrender.

I appreciate Soren Kierkegaard's reflections: "Woe to the person who smoothly, flirtatiously, commandingly, convincingly, preaches some soft, sweet something which is supposed to be Christianity! Woe to the person who makes miracles reasonable. Woe to the person who betrays and breaks the mystery of faith, distorts it into public wisdom, because he takes way the possibility of offense...Oh the time wasted in this enormous work of making Christianity so reasonable, and in trying to make it so relevant."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Do these numbers lead you and me to action?

For the world’s poorest people, misery and death are the norm – and the numbers are staggering.  
Imagine, Stearns asks, that a jetliner full of American travelers crashes, killing all aboard – not once, 
but three times in the space of a month.  There would be an outcry, investigations, a mobilization of 
tremendous resources to prevent further tragedy.  Yet, the equivalent of 100 planeloads of children 
crash every day, killing all – that’s 26,500 children, first suffering, and then dying, each and every 
day of the year – from entirely preventable causes due to their extreme poverty.   
Over 1 billion people (about 15% of the world’s population) live in extreme poverty.  In monetary 
terms, they live on less than $1 per day.... for reference, the average American income is $105 per 
day.  Try to imagine living on less than 1% of your current income, day after day, month after month, 
year after year!  The harsh reality for these people includes: 
o 9,000,000 die each year from hunger related causes; a child dies every 5 seconds 
o 5,000,000 die each year from water related illness; a child dies every 15 seconds 
o millions more die from AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis; millions of children are orphaned each year 
o millions of children grow up mentally impaired, handicapped due to malnutrition and unsafe water 
o 200 million man-hours of work are spent every day in the Third World just hauling water  
o despair gnaws at the hearts of helpless parents as they watch their children suffer and die
Hunger, thirst, and disease combine to make work, education, and community improvements all but 
impossible.  For many living in this grinding poverty, desperation and hopelessness rule.  Even with 
hard work, determination, and ability, they know they have no real choices, no way out of the trap....  
--summary thoughts by Wayne Snider from Richard Stearns book, "The Hole in Our Gospel"

Monday, November 14, 2011

Take a listen...

If you'd like to hear a great song sung by Luther's Norsemen (including my baby brother!), go to the following page and click "listen".

Friday, November 11, 2011

Our little thinker

This video does a nice job showing off our inquisitive thinker. It's a joy to watch these boys grow up.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

God preserves His children - Genesis 4-5

Through the first 24 verses of Genesis chapter 4, evil seems to have the upper hand.  Abel dies like a silent sheep before the slaughterer. Cain escapes to raise up godless progeny, culminating in the sexualized-bully Lamech (4:23-24). And yet, in the midst of a degraded society, God’s people call out to Him in worship (4:25-26). They choose faith over fear in the face of evil. Today, we have similar fears. Maybe we’re afraid we won’t be able to hack it this week. We think we are one step away from going over the edge. But I hope you see that  (for all time!) God is in control.  Abel is the man of faith who died serving the LORD. There will be many men like Him, many women too. But the seed of the church is the blood of the martyrs. Sure, there will be many martyrs along the way. Sure, there will be great pain. But God knows all about pain. God came as the person of Jesus Christ. Who lived a perfect life among corrupt people. Though he was guiltless, he died for the guilty. He suffered at the hands of wicked men. But, that was not the end of the story. Three days later Jesus rises victorious over sin, death, and hell. He promises that all who trust in Him are free from sin, death, and hell. Now we press on in faith, knowing that ultimate victory is just around the corner. And we carry with us promises like 1 John 4:4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

A few snapshots

So here are a few pics from the last couple of weeks.  Elias and daddy (this might have been as much as a month ago - Elias looks so tiny!!) hanging out together.  Then the big boys in their jammies, with Caleb adding daddy's stocking cap for effect.  Also, here's one of Elias in a cute little outfit from his Aunt Jessica from just this morning. At his 2 month check-up he was 14lbs 8oz and 25 inches long.  That's the 93rd percentile in weight and the 99th percentile in height. He's going to be our BIG boy! Also, Halloween was fun for our little ninjas and they are still reaping the sugary benefits. :)

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Books finished in October (well through yesterday actually)

Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders (classic book; my third reading)
Brisingr by Chris Paolini (Book 3 of the Inhertiance series; I reread #3 in preparation for #4's release)
A History of the American People by Paul Johnson (wonderful; highly recommend)
To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World by J.D. Hunter (a bit complex at times, but overall a helpful read on understanding our culture and responding with a faithful presence rather than with a blind acceptance or self-righteous withdrawal)

In progress:
A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson (a second time through this discipleship modern-day classic)
Lilith by George MacDonald
Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ by John Piper (My 4th or 5th reading of this short and simple, but profound book)
A few others at a much slower pace...