Showing posts from December, 2011

A Charlie Brown Christmas Sermon

Image via Wikipedia When I worked in a church near Chicago, I discovered just how serious people up North are about Christmas pageants.  Every church worth it's salt up there had a fancy Christmas pageant, it seemed.

I also discovered that it was something of a status symbol for families to get their kids into the pageants.  I knew a lady who had been Mary in the pageant at our church with her baby daughter standing in for Jesus.  The last year I was at the church, her grown daughter was Mary and her grandson was Jesus.

They were quite proud of the legacy.

Parents lobbied hard for their kids to be involved in these pageants, which were conducted with a great deal of solemnity and pomp.

But there was always at least one little shepherd who would do something crazy in the middle of the thing to mess it all up---like burp, drop his shepherds crook a hundred times or break wind.  And then the organizers and director would be filled with anxiety---which is to say they were filled w…

A Christmas Eve Post: "Destiny"

This night.

This night is full of mystery and... hope.  

Forget what the scholars say about how Jesus was probably born in the summer.

That the stable was probably a cave.

That Mary could have been as young as thirteen.  And Joseph as old as fifty.

This isn't a night for historical criticism.  This is a night for wonder.  A night for miracles.

It's a night that reminds us that peace is possible, that joy is possible, that hope is not lost and that love is the answer.

For centuries the faithful have gathered on this night to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, the Savior who is Christ the Lord.

Some are drawn to gather for reasons entirely their own.

But drawn they are, because there is something about this night that cannot be denied--a sense of the magical, if I might border on heresy.

Some gather because they always have gathered.  Worshipping with family, wearing Christmas-y clothes, holding candles, singing carols.

Some gather because they were driving by th…

Farewell, Rob Bell

If you know anything about me at all, you know that I am kind of a Rob Bell fan.

I've written about him on my blog from time to time.

I confessed a man-crush here. 

And I wrote about his controversial book Love Wins Here and Here

The first time I heard Rob preach was in 2002 at a Youth Specialties conference.  I sort of wept halfway through his sermon.  I had never heard anyone preach the way Rob preaches.  I still haven't.

For the past ten-plus years, Rob has been the teaching pastor at Mars Hill church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Rob made an announcement earlier this year that he would be leaving Mars Hill to pursue other kinds of ministry.

And on Sunday he preached his last sermon to the congregation he founded.

I am going to miss listening to the Mars Hill podcasts---at least the ones where Rob is preaching.  I hope Rob's leaving doesn't translate into a diminished ministry for Mars Hill---although it's probably inevitable to some extent.  
I wanted to inc…

"Stuff" Week Four - "Putting the Christ Back In Christmas"

Every year at Christmastime my family sacrifices a few Christmas ornaments in the name of progress---or carelessness, to be more precise.

When you have kids, these things happen.  Adults are pretty adept at smashing ornaments, but kids make it an Olympic sport.

This year my 15 month-old son is experiencing his first Christmas as a sentient being.  Last year he basically just sat where you put him and didn't do much.  And he definitely wasn't capable of wrecking ornaments.

So in order to avoid Armageddon-like activity with our ornaments, we determined that the bottom portion of our Christmas tree needed to be filled with ornaments that were unbreakable, homemade, stuffed animals and the like.

Wouldn't you know the little knee-biter found a way to break one of the unbreakable ornaments.

When a Christmas ornament (especially one that has some sentimental value) breaks it's a sickening moment.  When it hits the floor with that tell-tale crunch, everyone freezes at the s…

Stuff Week Three - "The Worst Thing Jesus Ever Said"

This week I am continuing the sermon series, "Stuff: Are the Things We Buy Killing Christmas?"

Over the course of the last two weeks we have determined that we have a problem with stuff, and that we need to get rid of our stuff.  Stuff, it seems, is getting in the way of our truly celebrating Christmas with Christ at it's very center.

For the past two weeks my family and I have been practicing "The Big Giveaway"  during this season of Advent.  We have given away 5 things a day since December 1st.  If you do the math, by Sunday we will have given away 55 items a piece.  There are four of us, so (55 times 4, carry the one, subtract something) that means that we piled up 220 items.

The truth of the matter is that there will be more than 220 items on the pile that I am planning on bringing to church on Sunday.  Because I discovered that I had way more stuff than I thought and while I was sorting through items, I decided to give a little extra.

It doesn't ma…

Stuff: Week Two "The Big Giveaway"

Last week I preached on how our garages, storage units and closets full of stuff have become our temples where we worship idols and sacrifice to demons.

It was a rousing sort of sermon as you can imagine.

If you read the previous post, then you know that my wife took what I said pretty seriously.  And because my wife has the spiritual gifts of discernment, prophecy and persuasion... I basically just do what she says when she's had a "word" from the Lord.

I'm learning.

The sermon that I preached last week was essentially an admission that we have a problem...  Christmas is in crisis.  Our culture worships the false gods of Materialism and Consumerism at Christmas, and Christians are doing a lousy job of resisting the very same idolatry.

But as most of us know, it's not enough to just admit you have a problem, you have to do something about it.

So... what do we do about all of our stuff?

Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

Here's the back story on that passage of Scr…

The Big Giveaway Pt. 1

Sometimes you have to be careful what you preach.

Last week I preached the first sermon in an Advent series called "Stuff: Are the Things We Buy Killing Christmas?"

I had a lot of people approach me after that sermon and tell me how much it affected them.

One of those people was my wife.  She told me on Sunday that she had been really moved by what I said---particularly the part about how when we put our focus on acquiring "Stuff" we participate in idol worship and by extension collude (albeit unwittingly) with the demonic.

I also essentially said, "Christmas is in crisis, and Christians aren't helping."

So a couple of days later, my wife came to me and said, "I know what we need to do."  Apparently she had been listening to the morning radio show on our local Christian radio station.  I do my best not to listen to morning radio shows--even Christian ones--but my wife is a better Christian than I am.  I am serious when I say this.  She …