“Small Town Boy Makes Good”

Day Two: Twelve Days of Christmas

I like small towns; they tend to be charming, friendly, and peaceful.

Living In Small Towns

Living in a small town can be a blessing, an answer to prayer, a chance of a life time. However, they usually have little to offer in terms of importance.

Our town got excited when a stop light was finally installed. It was a big deal. As if the town had risen in status. Sorry, but a single blinking light doesn’t qualify for status change.

Exceptions

Sure, when a small-town kid goes on to be famous. Like a world-class athlete, or a superstar entertainer, or President. When a town produces a bona fide celebrity, the celebrity status rubs off on the town. 

An Example

Jesus came from a small town, the village of Nazareth, in Galilee. It was Mary and Joseph’s home town. It was agrarian, had little economic strength, and never exceeded five hundred in population. It wasn’t important.

In fact, when Nathanael heard that Jesus the Messiah was from Nazareth he asked,

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”

Think about Jesus and his humble beginnings. Nazareth wasn’t famous. It couldn’t boast about anything, it didn’t even have the equivalent of a blinking light. It didn’t make the   top ten list of best places to live in Palestine.

Wouldn’t Jerusalem have been a better choice? It hosted the Temple, the Sanhedrin, and many famous Rabbi’s. It was the city of prophets and kings. It makes sense that the Messiah would be raised there. But no, our savior was a small-town boy.

Nazareth
Nazareth today, but not even close to the small village of Jesus our Messiah.

Jesus grew up in Nazareth, and went on to give salvation to the world, but the world knew nothing of his home town.

In Closing

Nazareth wasn’t anything special, and yet, the world still celebrates Christmas; not because the town was special but because he was.  

Jesus came for everyone. He came for those in big important places, and for those in small unheard of places. He came for all of you, and he came for me.

I like small towns, they tend to be charming, friendly, and peaceful.

Thank you Prince of Peace

Merry Christmas

Day One: Twelve Days of Christmas

Day 1

Have you ever lost a child? Ever had to search for your child?

When The Kids Were Young

We took separate cars to church. I would leave early and the family would come later. It worked fine. But not the Sunday when my wife left after church, thinking our son was coming with me. I walked in the house, she looked at me, and said,

“You left him behind?”

I went searching and found him at the Father’s house, he was still at church.

And Jesus?

At age twelve, Jesus was no longer a boy, but transitioning to manhood. Culturally, if he had learned the Torah, he would be rewarded with his first trip to Jerusalem for Passover. He was with Mary, Joseph and the caravan as they traveled to the temple.

Afterwards, returning home, they realized that Jesus was missing, that he wasn’t with the caravan. So, Mary and Joseph went back to look for him, probably walking all night. Imagine how worried they must have been, and afraid.

They Found Him

After three days, they found him in the temple courts, with the Rabbis, who were amazed with Jesus. Mary and Joseph were less amazed and more astonished. They were upset with their first born.

Jesus in the Temple Courts

Mary said,

“Son, why have you treated us like this? We have anxiously searched for you.”

Jesus said,

“Why were you searching, didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”  

But they didn’t understand. They didn’t understand that his being in the Father’s house was being about the Father’s business.  

His Father’s Business

Before he ascended, there was a resurrection, a tomb, a cross, and a ministry. There was time in Egypt. There were shepherds, wise men, and a violent, ruthless King. There was a virgin birth. All of which were the Fathers’ business.

In Closing

Jesus was never lost, and frankly, didn’t need his parents to find him, but we understand why they did. He wasn’t lost, just moving forward to the time when he would be the one doing the searching, the one who would seek and save the lost.

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Merry Christmas

Twelve Days of Christmas

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Is it really? 

It’s What The Song Says

Do you know Edward Pola or George Wyle? Probably not? But you know a song they wrote,

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”

They published their song in 1963, and that same year Andy Williams recorded it on his Christmas album, cleverly entitled, “The Andy Williams Christmas Album.”

Some Of The Lyrics:

“With the kids jingle belling and everyone telling you be of good cheer.”

“It’s the hap-happiest season of all, with those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings when friends come to call.”

“There’ll be parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting, and caroling out in the snow. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

carolingwp
Not my typical Christmas, not even close!

A Wistful Carol?

It describes the Christmas I always want but never have. It mentions parties, friends dropping by, and gay happy meetings. And don’t forget the marshmallows and caroling. Sounds wonderful. It should, it’s the most wonderful time of the year!

 Truthfully, Christmas isn’t like that for me. It’s often rushed, harried, and stressful. There are deadlines to meet and too many events to attend. The kids aren’t jingle belling, nobody’s dropping by and there’s no snow for caroling.

Am I A Scrooge?

Nope, I love Christmas. It just can’t live up to the hype. The song portrays an experience  beyond my reach. For me, the beauty of Christmas is found elsewhere.

It’s found in the birth of Christ. My Christmas is a blend of the bible story and our personal traditions.

During the year, I’m all about his death, burial, and resurrection. But in the holiday season, I’m all about his birth. I lift him up, high and exalted, for coming to our world.

“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a savior has been born to you, he is Christ the Lord.”

To Close

I live in Houston, so I probably won’t be caroling in the snow. However, I will be celebrating and thinking how the universe must have shivered in awe as God came near in the infant King.

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Over the next twelve days, I’ll blog the Christmas story, beginning with his childhood and moving back to the night of his birth.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Merry Christmas

Mr. Hopkins: “We Three Kings”

“We Three Kings of Orient Are”

The Christmas Carol

It was written by John Henry Hopkins, the rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Williamsport. He composed his famous carol, for a Christmas pageant, in 1857 but it didn’t appear in print until his Carols, Hymns and Songs was published in 1863.

Most of us know the first few lines, but take the time to read them all, it’s quite an effective telling of the story.

We three kings of orient are,
Bearing gifts we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.

O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.

Born a king on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown him again;
King forever, ceasing never,
Over us all to reign.

Frankincense to offer have I;
Incense owns a Deity nigh;
Prayer and praising, voices raising,
Worshiping God Most High.

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone cold tomb.

Glorious now behold Him arise;
King and God and sacrifice;
Alleluia, Alleluia!,
Earth to Heaven replies.

Not To Be Tedious, But…

We don’t know how many wise men came, and they weren’t kings, but highly educated men who were philosophers, theologians, astronomers, astrologers, educators, and travelers. They counseled kings. They were somewhere between a President’s cabinet and a Supreme Court. Their knowledge of the coming Messiah likely emanated from Daniel, knowledge the Magi passed down through their generations until the time came.

The Magi were powerful, influential, and carried great authority. They weren’t Jewish, but Gentile, of Arab descent. Those gentile amabassadors traveled hundreds of miles to worship and to proclaim that Jesus was the King of the Jews. Think of it as a grand announcement, informing the world the savior had come. He was Emanuel, God with us.

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To Close

It’s quite a story. It’s quite a song. Thank you Mr. Hopkins for writing such a wonderful Christmas carol!

“We Three Kings of Orient Are”

Merry Christmas

It’s A Winter Wonderland!

It’s been a crazy morning.

What Has?

Shoveling the snow. Houston was hit last night with a massive snow storm, the likes of which has never been seen. And me? Well, not owning a snow shovel I had to use my wife’s flower spade. Grueling.

Pandemonium

Its pandemonium out there. Most of Houston’s freeways are closed due to black ice on the overpasses, accidents, and widespread snowy mayhem. 

How Deep?

Well, in my neighborhood it reached a full inch, perhaps less. But the snow drifts! O my, the snowdrifts. There is one in my yard approaching 2, possibly 2.5 inches. I was afraid to step in it for fear of sinking down to the top of my flip flops.

Here’s a few pics for verification

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To Close

This blog is just fun and nonsense. But frankly, when I looked outside this morning around 5:00, I couldn’t believe it, how wonderful. Yep, at long last it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

A couple of months ago, I looked out and saw flooding and devastation.

On reflection, I prefer the snow!

                                 Merry Christmas

Met With Overwhelming Choices!

 I’ve been looking for bookcases.

Why?

Because the old ones were destroyed in the flood. I’ve been looking at new bookcases so I can empty the boxes and get my office back together.

Looking Where?

In stores, but mostly online:

  • Overstock.com
  • Wayfair
  • Amazon
  • Hayneedle
  • Ikea
  • Furniture stores
  • Office Furniture stores
  • And so forth

Find Any?

O yes. I have found hundreds, thousands, from $150 to $2500.

oak bookcases

Bookshelves that were…

  • Tall
  • Short
  • Wide
  • Narrow
  • Deep
  • Shallow
  • Oak
  • Pine
  • Birch
  • Poplar
  • Composite
  • Plywood
  • Painted, stained, and distressed

It was overwhelming. I felt overwhelmed.

master-EAGL001
Not the shelves I needed, but close, really very close.

What did I do?

 I had our Executive Minister make the decision. She has excellent taste and finds the right thing for the right space. But not me, I was ready for pine boards and cinderblocks.

The bookcases were delivered yesterday and they look great. It’s amazing what happens when you ask the right person with the right skills for help.

To Close

I’ve had other overwhelming needs, like being lifted out of the darkness and brought into the light. The forgiveness of sins, a new birth, and a divine connection. I needed a relationship with God.

Guess what! I found the right person with the right skills to help me. His name is Jesus, the Messiah, our Emanuel, and I’ve been invited to his birthday party. It’s in a couple of weeks and I’m so excited!

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As one furniture salesman said to me:

“He’s the reason for the season.”

People As Gifts

Four gifts that blessed my life.

When?

Each gift was given over the week end and none of them were wrapped presents.

Who & What?

  1. Our Life Group

We belong to a Life Group, a small group ministry at church. Each year, we host the LG Christmas party. It’s parents only, not because we don’t want the children, but because the parents don’t want to bring them. We get it. We’ve known these families for years and have watched them grow into loving, spiritually mature people. Having them in our home was a gift.

  1. The Baby Blessing

Our church is overrun with young couples and new babies. It’s wonderful. Our tradition is to gather around each family and their new baby, to have our elders pray for them. It’s a sweet moment! Yesterday, in 1st service, we prayed over a young couple with their first child, a son. Having them there with their infant son was a gift.

  1. The Commissioning

Our church is involved with a non-profit ministry called, Hope For Haiti’s Children.We sponsor hundreds of Haitian kids for Christian education. We send them Christmas presents each year, and at the close of 2nd service, our elders commissioned one of our members who is going to Haiti to help distribute the presents. Having her be blessed and commissioned to Haiti was a gift.

  1. The Meal

My wife woke up feeling poorly and I encouraged her to stay in bed. After 2nd service, one of our members asked if I would like to have lunch, since his wife and kids were busy with other activities. I called to check on my wife who was making something to eat and headed back to bed. So, I got to go with a good friend and share a good meal. Having him invite me to lunch was a gift.

To Close

Four gifts that blessed my life. The gifts of people. The relationships, service, and connection that comes only through God’s Kingdom, through the church of our Lord.

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Happy Holidays

It’s The Month of Our Lord!

Welcome to December, the birth month of Christ.

Still Debated?

At one time, it was important to me to argue about the date Jesus was born, and I could argue it still, but I won’t.

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Why Not?

Because I don’t care. It’s not apathy, I’m just less interested in arguing things I can’t prove, and if I could, would it make much difference?

I’ve planted my flag in the ground of peace, for he is the Prince of Peace and instructs me to live in peace.

Yes, there is theology and doctrine that should be defended with conscientious diligence. But his birthdate isn’t one of those.

It’s A Celebration

The angel told the shepherds how to find Mary, Joseph, and their infant son. He said he brought good news of great joy for all the people, that a savior had been born: Christ the Lord. The infant savior was the anointed of God.  

Saviors save, it’s their purpose, and Jesus came to save. It’s what the angel told Joseph:

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

Even his name was about salvation, for Jesus or, “Yeshua” in Hebrew, means,”God saves.”

Jesus said about himself:

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” Luke 19:10

To Close

Frankly, I don’t think the Messiah was born in December. But whether he was or not, he did come, and his coming made all the difference! 

Welcome to December, the birth month of Christ!

Shalom

It’s The Family Holiday Fusion!

Thanksgiving is over, Christmas has begun.

It’s Okay

Actually, Christmas has already started, it was visible before Thanksgiving. In fact, Christmas now starts well before Halloween, back in the summer with decorations for sale.

We have morphed into a Holiday Season, starting with Halloween (which isn’t a true holiday) then Thanksgiving, then the blitz to Christmas, the Christmas Eve service, and finally, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. But it’s okay.

It’s the holiday season.

For Me?

I love it.

I enjoy the Holidays primarily for one reason: our kids come home. You might snigger at that, since our son, daughter, and son-in-law live in Houston, as we do.

But still, to have them spend the night on Christmas Eve, waking up to a warm fire, with brightly wrapped gifts under the tree, with glowing candles and carols playing, well, it doesn’t get any better. I’m a fully confessed holiday romantic.

christmas tree at home

A Reflection

As I think about it, all of my holiday joys, memories, and happiness revolve around family. It doesn’t’ matter that our kids are no longer children. It only matters that they enjoy making new memories, and want to make them with us.

To Close

In this season of celebrating the birth of Christ, let’s note that Jesus and his family had “Holiday” traditions of their own: Passover, Feast of Tabernacles, Yom Kippur, to mention a few. “Going up to Jerusalem” for the feasts were national events, and not to be missed.

Jewish caravan going to Jerusalem

      They contributed to the family’s unity, faith and values. Sounds good to me.

So, from my home to yours, welcome to the Holidays.

Shalom

Forty-Five Million Turkeys, Pt. 2

Not everybody likes turkey.

Really?

Yep. Some find it bland, uninspired, and over-hyped. Others say it tastes like chicken and if they wanted chicken for Thanksgiving they would cook one, or get take-out.

Maybe that explains the gallons of delicious brown gravy, a beloved food group.

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Not our turkey or our turkey platter, but close, really very close.

It’s Iconic

Millions of Americans will have a traditional turkey dinner. Some because they love it and some because it’s traditional, for the turkey is the icon of Thanksgiving. Is that a good reason to have it, because its traditional?

Family Thanksgiving
A nice looking family and a really big bird. Probably not chicken.

3.5 Millennium

About 3500 years ago, a million slaves walked out of Ramses. The final straw for their freedom? It was the death of Egypt’s first-born sons, a terrible night of grief. But it was a very different night for the slaves. They had painted lamb’s blood on their doors, and so death passed over.

That evening the slaves ate a special meal, the Passover meal. It was special because of what it meant, and because it was their final meal in captivity. There are some interesting similarities between the Hebrews and the Pilgrims.

The Hebrew Slaves                                  

  • Ate roasted lamb                                  
  • Shared with family and neighbors                             
  • It was a meal symbolizing their freedom             
  • The meal was about leaving for the Promised Land   

The Pilgrims

  • Ate roasted turkey
  • Shared with family and friends
  • It was a meal symbolizing their freedom 
  • The meal was about coming to the New World

Their Gift

If not for our Pilgrim forefathers, our world may have turned out differently. Would the United States have even happened? Would we know and enjoy the religious, political, and social freedoms that we cherish? Do we owe them our gratitude?

Our Response

Each November, we gather around our tables to give thanks. We practice the grace of gratitude by remembering those who sacrificed so much to bless so many. 

We say thank you God!

thanksgiving

To Close

Whether you adore or abhor the turkey, let’s resolve that 45-million of them will not die in vain. Along with the food, the football, and the naps, let’s take a moment to say thank you on Thanksgiving Day.

For we are free, prosperous, and alive to enjoy it.

Happy Thanksgiving