Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Hard Side of Christmas

                                                The Hard Side of Christmas

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept....on the poplar trees we hung our harps... our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy...How can we sing the songs of the Lord in a foreign land?    Psalm 137

We all entered that foreign land when we tried to worship the Sunday after the Newtown killing of the innocents. I personally made it through the the first song but when we started to sing "Joy to the World" I lost it. How could I sing 'Joy to the World' when the world is in such a state of lostness, anger, and sinfulness that innocent little kids become its victims? So we prayed, we cried, we tried to sing, and wondered 'why.' This Christmas season has a hard side.

They all have. From the moment of the announcment of Mary's pregancy hard things show up. Fear, confusion, thoughts of divorce, scandal, wearying trips, no room, rough wood mangers, run-for-your-life escapes to Egypt, Bethlehem's own slaughter of the innocents. We have painted our Christmases with sweetness and light, mirth and merriment, joy and love. Do not lose in the hard side of Christmas these truths. But the truth is, it was on account of the hard things, the sinfulful, the lost, the rebellious things that God sent forth his son. He came to save us because we needed saving.

Not everyone has gotten the message.

The nation is now in a dialogue about how to fix us. Gun control? Better more accessible help for the mentally ill? Let teachers carry guns in school? Ban violent video games? Might I suggest that although these discussions need to take place they won't fix us. How many children have to die, how many Aurora's have to take place, how many Amish killings, how many 9-11's, before we realize the problems run deeper than policies and programs? Our problems at their root are spiritual. We need forgiving, we need cleansing from sin, we need the power of grace, we need the purpose God has for our lives, we need a relationship with the God who created us. We need salvation and all the hope, peace, joy, love, justice, and promise of heaven that it brings. And the good news is we have a Savior.

But the angel said to them, "do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the otwn of David, a savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord..." Luke 2:10-11

Keep spreading the word and living its truths.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Growing Christmas (part II)

                                                       Hard Side of Christmas (Part 2)

The Sckillet put the steaming cup to his lips. It took in the aroma and put the frothy cappuccino to its newly acquired lips. "These human pests have no idea how good they have it," it thought. The master had allowed him one day a year to investigate his strategy for growing Christmas beyond and away from its true meaning. On this one day a year during the Christmas season it was given the ability to take on human form and walk the earth. The master used this strategy often but usually it meant sending a demon masquerading as an angel of light. The Sckillet was no angel and there was nothing "light" about it. It enjoyed the day, as much as any Hell-trapped, paranoid, devious, lonely, lost, and tortured thing could, at least. It had come onto earth through the centuries to many places. Always looking to improve on ways to blind humans to Christmas or just admiring its handiwork. Today, in the twenty-first century since the master had given it power to mislead and move Christmas away from the Enemy, it was a day to admire and allow itself a little pleasure that the master never would. So this morning it was in the USA, a place called Southlake Town Center at the Starbucks on the corner of the main street of the shopping center. Tonight it was a short flight via mental transport to Bob's Chop House in Dallas. It was enjoying the cappuccino but really looked forward to the single malt scotch and the two-inch fillet tonight. Watching the coffee drinkers, the cars, the shopping, the constant moving and hearing the laughter, the thought "what a waste all this is on humans," kept oozing through its mind. But it thought that overall, the plan worked grandly.

At that moment it felt a sensation it didn't understand at first. Human bodies had functions and feelings that were often wonderful but also bothersome to the demon. It had not felt this sensation before. It caused the hair on the back of its neck to bristle. Little chill bumps formed on its arms and face. It didn't like the feeling, it liked less the voice it heard next. "Enjoying your vacation, Mr Sckillet?" whispered the voice. It was the master's. He, too, took on a human disguise. "Er, no master, er, just, ah, trying to blend in and observe." "Humph, no doubt, Mr. Sckillet. No doubt. So tell me Mr. Sckillet, what is your assessment of your endeavors these 21 centuries?"

"Master, I am pleased to present for your viewing some of our greatest triumph's here in the Western, 'civilized' world. The earthlings here spend with no thoughts of the Enemy. They shop, move, sing, hustle, bustle to please each other and give little thought to the Disaster or the Incarnation. Oh, to be sure, some still make the effort at their assemblies called 'church' but they are too tired or too caught up in their traditions to put much thought into their implications. The silly humans have even helped us with their inventions: television, computers, cyber Monday and don't you just love 'black Friday. It's a great counter to the Enemy's 'Good Friday.' Don't you agree?"

"Thank-you, Mr Sckillet, for that fine and self-serving evaluation." The master's sarcasm was obvious as was his displeasure. "Much of what you say is true but you have pushed too hard. The society has moved so far from the meaning of the Incarnation and felt such little peace and joy at all the gifts, baubles, bangles, and busyness of this season that the ones who hold its truth, sing of its joy, and tell of its wonder are beginning to grow more conspicuous by their difference. What you have succeeded in doing is showing the difference in true faith that many have and the lack of it in others.You have grown Christmas alright, you have grown to the point many are now looking for its truth! Explain your way out of this, Mr. Sckillet!"

"Master, we have always been trying to overcome the effects of the Disaster. The Enemy has powers, real powers. He changes hearts. He forgives their sin. We are not omniscient or omnipotent. The Enemy is. He elicits from them worship, love, and service. Even you couldn't see everything He was doing with His Incarnation. We have always been fighting a losing battle.  We only try to wreak as much misery as demonly possible. Our dungeons are filling. Since the Disaster we've known our days were numbered..."

The little impish demon had gone too far and it knew it.
"It's ironic you mention days being numbered,'' the master growled lowly. With that, the hair on the back of its neck stood up again and the chill bumps returned. In an instance, it was gone.

Later that afternoon, the master burped up the Sckillet's cell phone. It rang. The master answered it. "Yesss..."
"Hello, this is the maitre d' at Bob's in Dallas calling to confirm your reservation for at eight tonight."
"Sadly, Mr. Sckillet won't make his reservation, no, I won't take it either. I've already eaten.....
no, no Mr. Sckillet isn't sick. Let's just say Mr. Sckillet has moved from the frying pan into the fire."