Since last writing I have been a part of six worship services on the 24th, driven nearly 600 miles on the 25th, and done Christmas celebrating with Heather’s mom and close family as well as with Heather’s dad – it’s been a great couple of days!
I wanted to take a minute to reflect on Christmas and the gift that Christ is. Most of this comes from, or was at least inspired by my sermon for the three morning services on the 24th – Living Wonderfully.
The gift of Christ is, for me anyway, best summed up in the words of John 10:1-10 where Jesus states that while so many others have come to kill and destroy he comes to give life abundantly. Please understand that I appreciate this text, as I do much of scripture, on a rich metaphorical level. And as I reflect on my life I realize that there are many thieves – entertainment/amusement, consumption/overeating, and work-a-holism that distract me and draw me away from the promised pasture of our good shepherd.
So this year I’ve made some Christmas Resolutions. In years past I have made New Year’s resolutions that have created little long-term change for me – it is my hope that Christmas Resolutions will have more sticking power and I figure, what better reason to resolve to do something than in response to a gift from God. At their core most of my resolutions – to be more connected to and concerned about the needs of my community, to eat more healthfully and to exercise regularly, and not to put in too many hours at work – all come down to one thing…
I resolve to live a more balanced and healthy life in response to the gift of Christ who comes so that we might all have life and have it abundantly.
Wish me luck with this and Merry Christmas!
After a great day of running errands, doing laundry, wrapping presents, and working out, Heather and I sat down last night with a new documentary – World Play. It was a cleverly done film that I found to be really enjoyable on a number of levels.
The film tells several stories within a greater story. There are stories of individual crossword puzzlers preparing for the National Competition, there are stories of crossword creators and their craft, and there are stories of famous persons (Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, The Indigo Girls, John Stewart, and Mike Mussina to name a few) who love their Crossword puzzles. At it’s core though, the film is the story of Will Shortz, the Crossword Puzzle Editor for the New York Times and founder of the National Tournament.
Shortz is a unique brand of person who knew early on in life what he wanted and set out to pursue it. As a young boy growing up in Indiana he said he wanted to go to college to get a degree in Puzzles. When he was accepted into Indiana University he began designing his own degree program and ended up crafting a degree in Enigmatology – the study of puzzles. To date, he is the only person to have received this degree. At one point, early in the film, Will reflects, I knew what I wanted to do and was prepared to be poor for the rest of my life doing it.
As is often the case with people like him, Shortz has found great success doing what he loves to do and people seem to be naturally drawn to his passion as well as to him. In the end, one of the things that impressed me the most about the film was the way in which it portrayed the Crossword Puzzling Community as such a close-knit, supportive network of folks who are as much family for as they are competition to one another.
These things – passion for your work and play, commitment, creativity, and the support of community – are at it’s core what life is about.
A youth stopped by the church to see me after school today and she was blue – not smurf blue, but down… depressed… bummed… blue. I asked what was going on and she said, “Christmas is four days away and it doesn’t feel like Christmas. It doesn’t feel like a happy and joyous time.”
You see, this youth’s grandfather passed away earlier this year and that loss hit her pretty hard. While she didn’t say it in so many words it seems to me that she doesn’t feel particularly joyous or cheery, but feels like she’s supposed to, and that makes it even worse. I imagine it’s a vicious cycle.
Think about the messages we’re getting from every angle this time of year… Television commercials show families, reunions, gift giving; they are full of joy and happy music and puppies and warm baked goodies. Radio and newspapers advertise sales on outlandish gifts and talk about joyous years past. Everywhere you go there are Christmas lights or Carolers or people hustling and bustling, seemingly full of Holiday Spirit. It is as if every aspect of the world around us tells us that we are to be happy and joyful.
And in the midst of the pressure to be happy and the seeming expectation that we be joyous, life happens – loved ones die, we are reminded of losses and failures during the year, we feel lonely or isolated or down. And when others around us seem to be perfectly happy, it can make us feel even worse.
This is why I appreciate a movement I’m learning more and more about called Blue Christmas. Churches are holding worship services acknowledging the intensified pain that people feel during this time of year, there are no festive decorations, there is no joyous music, there is just space for people who are feeling pain to gather together in the presence of God and a supportive community.
Kristen Gelineau wrote a good article about these Blue Christmas celebrations for the AP a couple of days ago that talks about their increasing popularity. After my conversation with this youth this afternoon it would seem to me that these will be increasingly important for people in coming years.
I stumbled across a nifty little site during lunch just now. The global rich list allows you to enter your estimated annual income and then it lets you know where you rank globally. All I can say is that on the North Indiana Conference’s minimum salary for a probationary elder, I’m in the richest 1.72% of the world’s population. Pretty sobering…
And the sight shows you some cool things like how your $73 dollars could buy you a new cell phone or a new mobile health clinic for AIDS orphans in Uganda. Or how $30 could buy you an ER boxed set of DVDs or a first aid kit for a village in Haiti. If you’re still shopping think about adding the health clinic or first aid kit to someone’s Christmas list this year…
Nearly a year and a half ago, at the prodding of some youth, I created a xanga and began posting there. It wasn’t long before most of my connections on xanga had jumped the ship to myspace and I followed. I enjoy being a part of the myspace community – who doesn’t enjoy getting messages from profiles that have been deleted – but it hasn’t been satisfying my blogging needs lately.
So, I decided to venture out into the world of “real” blogging. Here goes…
A word about my blogname…
My original xanga was titled “E-merging in Munster” a tribute to Borg’s work. I explained it as follows in my initial post…
The title of my site, E-merging in Munster is a play on a concept that Marcus Borg (one of my favorite contemporary theologians) talks about in his book “The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a life of faith” The essence of his idea is this…
Church the way it has been done for years and years and years and years, the “earlier” paradigm of church, isn’t appealing to very many younger people. This way of doing church sees the Bible as a divine product with divine authority. It interprets the Bible literally and factually. It thinks that the Bible’s function is to reveal doctrine and moral rules. It thinks that the emphasis of the Christian life is the afterlife and what we must do or be in order to be saved. Some of the strict dogmatic rules put forth in this earlier paradigm separate people and create barriers and build up walls that aren’t meaningful and are actually hurtful to the generations of young people who are growing up in multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious communities (like Munster) around the United States.
So, Borg has named a new way of doing church and thinking about faith the “emerging” paradigm. The emerging paradigm understands the Bible to be a human response to God’s action in the world. The emerging paradigm interprets the Bible historically and metaphorically. The emerging paradigm understands the bibles function to be metaphorical and sacramental. The emerging paradigm sees the emphasis of the Christian life as transformation in this life through relationship with God.
This is what I love about the emerging paradigm for church! The Christian life is to be about transformation in this life through our relationship with God. I believe that this is the core of a life of faith – that we are to be in relationship with God and with one another so that our lives might be transformed, so that the lives of others can be transformed, and so that the entire world can be transformed.
A word about my blog…
This blog is a connection back to my first attempt at blogging more than a year and a half ago. I will post thoughts about faith, culture, music, film, life, and family. I hope that it will be a chance to network with other like minded folks and a way for my family to keep up with what’s happening in my life.
Thanks for reading!