December 22, 2013

In the Spirit of Christmas

Many years ago, at the annual Children’s Party at church, the children had just finished reciting their poems when Santa made an appearance dressed in a beautiful red and white suit, Ho Ho-ing loudly as he walked to the front of the sanctuary 

After greeting everyone and leading the children in a rousing chorus of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” Santa sat down and pulled from his bag the first of the gifts for the children. Santa kept quite a good list that year for as he spoke to each child, he had something personal to say about each one.

When all the gifts had been distributed, Santa was just about ready to lead everyone in a chorus of “Silent Night” when someone pointed out one little girl had not received a gift.

Santa’s face went from red to deep scarlet as he turned his bag inside out in a failed attempt to find one more gift.

Then a voice broke the awkward silence when little Emily Burdick, who had already received a gift from Santa, said, “She can have my present.”

Santa was suddenly speechless. When he recovered, he choked a bit with emotion, then suggested that everyone there had just witnessed an act of love that represented the very spirit of Christmas _ a gift given without hesitation or reservation to someone in need.

I vividly remember the incident that Christmas, because I was Santa Claus that memorable night.

December 16, 2013

Who Needs Christ during Christmas?

Residents and visitors to New York City during the Christmas Holidays are greeted by a new sign in Times Square displayed by the American Atheists. A 40x40 digital billboard proclaims, “Who needs Christ during Christmas?” A hand crosses out the word “Christ” and the word “Nobody” appears. 

Despite the atheists’ proclamation that Christmas is irrelevant and obsolete, over two billion Christians around the world continue to celebrate the greatest event in human history, the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.

American Atheists Public Relations Director Dave Muscato suggests “people don’t care about church and religion any longer. They only care about presents, fun and food.”

While everyone enjoys the tapestry that surrounds the holidays, Christians preserve and cherish the celebration of the birth of the Holy Child of Bethlehem who reaffirms the presence of God in their lives.

How ironic that atheists say Christ isn’t needed at Christmas when it was the Prophet who taught people to love their neighbors ___ even those who deny that God exists. 

May the Prince of Peace continue to bless those who believe in Christmas and those who do not.

December 9, 2013

Corpsman Up!

On April 19,1968 on a bridge in South Vietnam, nineteen year old United States Marine, Craig Belknap was severely wounded by enemy small arms fire. The shot blew out the ball and socket in the Marine’s hip, and as his life slipped away and darkness descended, he shouted out, “Corpsman up!” 

Doc Eric Hefright, the Navy paramedic attached to the wounded Marine’s unit, heard the call, and despite the danger from enemy fire, the corpsman answered Belknap’s plea. Soon the darkness that had descended on the wounded Marine vanished revealing the light once more.

The wounded Marine was hit again while Hefright treated him. Then Hefright was also hit in the hand and foot, but because the faithful corpsman stood by his post, the Marine survived. For his gallantry in action that day, Hefright was awarded the Silver Star, but his real reward was the life he saved.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus of Nazareth announced: 
"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness  but will have the light of life."
As we celebrate the birth of our Savior this Christmas, may we embrace the light that Jesus offers to those who believe in him. It is a light that warms and comforts us and dispels the darkness of sin as it guides us safely through life. 

Thanks to my good friend Foster Ulrich for providing the inspiration for this Parable. 

December 2, 2013

What’s in Your Joy Bank?

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is causing a stir with his recent observation that  “Most of mankind has believed in the devil for all of history.” (USA Today, November 25, 2013).

Additional comments by Scalia have led some people to think the Judge believes the devil is not just a symbol of evil but literally real.

Symbol, real or both, how can anyone doubt that evil exists? I believe there is an evil force in the world that attempts to have us focus on our own pleasures and turns us aways from others and from God. That force is constantly trying to steal our joy.

Pastor Judy White, who inspires our congregation each week with her thoughtful sermons, recently suggested we all need a “Joy Bank” where we deposit all the blissful moments in our life. “If we don’t regularly deposit our joy moments,” said Judy, "there will be times when life is difficult, and we need to focus on our blessings, but our Joy Bank will be empty.” 

I love the idea that we stay constantly alert for the bliss in our lives, and we remain forever alert to the devil’s attempt’s to steal joy from us.

There are many references to joy in the Bible, but the most succinct is probably the third verse of Psalm 126 which reads:
“The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.”