Archive for December, 2009

Break Bread.

Sometimes, advertising just flat-out gets it right.

As in the case of the Panera Bread ad that appeared in Thursday’s USA Today.  It’s a vision of a day in which polar opposites, bitter enemies, “lions and lambs” sit down together.  Of course, Christians know this day is on its way, and that our joy is seeing glimpses of this reconciliation in the here and now.

Here’s the ad … let me know if you can’t read the text:

Break Bread.

Since it’s Christmas, this reminds me of the poignant story of German and British soldiers who called a “Christmas Truce” in the trenches of World War I, climbing out of their fox holes to drink wine, share cigarettes, and sing carols.

Breaking bread. There may not be a more important act in the universe, especially when it facilitates reconciliation.  May it be so this Christmas.

Advent Reflection Video

Christine Sine created a very nice reflection video for Advent.  We watched this in our group the other night, and it spurred on some good conversation.

What are you waiting for this Advent?

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Forgot to add this: I’d be remiss if I didn’t share this podcast that I’m about 3/4 of the way through on the history of Christmas in America.  It debunks many of the myths, addresses the alleged “war on Christmas,” explores the Puritan and Pagan influences, and much more.  Very informative … a must-listen for the holiday season.  Enjoy! (HT: Fousty)

Obama and “Just War”

Obama and “Just War”

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Boston Resources for a Less Consumeristic — and more worshipful — Christmas

Boston Resources for a Less Consumeristic — and more worshipful — Christmas

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Waiting …

Advent. “Coming.” “Arrival.”

Many of us from Evangelical or low church traditions have little history with the several weeks leading up to Christmas.  I feel like I am just seeing the tip of the iceberg that is Advent.  But I’m realizing that the arrival of the gift means so little without the anticipation of said gift.  In the case of Christmas, the gift being Jesus, the conduit of reconciliation and justice once and for all.  My friend Beth, an Episcopalian from whom I learn much about liturgical faith, maintains that Christmas cannot and should not be separated from its eschatalogical character.  Meaning the world “put to rights” in the new heavens and the new earth.  We do believe this is what Jesus — “God made flesh” — brings, right?

But before the realization of the new heavens and the new earth, there is groaning.  And waiting.  Anticipation, yes.  Glimmers of light breaking through the darkness, yes.  But groaning and waiting.  That’s what Psalm 77, our Psalm in today’s Advent readings, is about.

Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?

I don’t know about you, but that sounds familiar.  But wait, a glimmer of light shines through the darkness:

Then I thought, ‘To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand. I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.’

The Psalmist remembers what God did for the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. That they grumbled at their discomfort, at the injustice around them — and God delivered them.  That miraculously, God redeemed his people.  That’s what God does.  He redeems.

That’s what Christmas is about — redemption.  But Advent is important because we need to groan, to wait, to anticipate the completion of this redemption.  I just have to share Beth’s “Advent plan.”  I like it.  I’m developing more of a plan year by year.  Beth’s definitely got the wheels turning this year.  Check it out:

1. A “waiting list.” I’m going to make a note every time I see something which can be explained by the fact that we are still waiting for the new heavens and the new earth. (“It’s not supposed to be this way.”) I expect this to happen quite a lot.
2. Pray for the coming of the Kingdom. Although I say the Lord’s Prayer at least twice a day, I don’t really spend much time asking in a focused way for the Kingdom to be realized.
3. Re-read NT Wright’s Surprised by Hope. Even though it talks about Easter, the book meshes very well with the traditional Advent theme of the Four Last Things.

Imagine how joyous Christmas morning will be after a season commemorated in those three ways? Thoughts?

By the way, I highly recommend Beth’s blog: Until Translucent. I stole the photo above from her blog as well, along with the idea to make it my computer desktop throughout Advent. I’m such a thief.

Wisdom from the Good Friar

I’ve often struggled — both with myself and with non-religious friends — with the words to describe why I follow Jesus and, in effect, “blindly” accept all those crazy propositions about him. Born of a virgin. All the miracles. Resurrection.

The rational part of my brain can’t wrap itself around many of the stories I learned on a flannel board in Sunday School, and yet I still, to a large degree, believe them.  Then I read Fr. Richard Rohr’s e-mail meditation from today (sign up here … well worth it), and his words resonated with me.  His main point?  This isn’t primarily an intellectual exercise, people. It’s a way of life. A new way of being. A return to our humanity.

Let me know what you think:

Jesus says, “I am not asking you to just believe my words, look at my actions, or the ‘works that I do.’”

Actions speak for themselves, whereas words we can argue about on a theoretical level.  The longer I have tried to follow Jesus, the more I can really say that I no longer believe in Jesus. I know Jesus.  I know him because I have often taken his advice, taken his risks, and it always proves itself to be true!

Jesus is not telling us to believe unbelievable things, as if that would somehow please God.  He is saying much more to us, “try this, and you will see for yourself that it is true.”  But that initial trying is always a leap of faith into some kind of action or practice.

In summary it can be put this way:  We do not think ourselves into a new way of living.  We live ourselves into new way of thinking.  Without action and lifestyle decisions, without concrete practices, words are dangerous and largely illusory.

Adapted from Preparing For Christmas, pp. 48-49

Christian Crusaders

A piece I wrote for Sojourners is getting some attention. It’s about Christian school mascots, specifically ones based on the Crusaders.  Check it out and weigh in if you like.

http://blog.sojo.net/2009/11/27/christians-must-find-a-more-christ-like-symbol-than-crusaders/