December 30, 2014

Christmas Triumphs Again

Those who contend there is no war on Christmas are wrong. One small segment of society attacks Christmas every year, but it’s a campaign the secularists can never win. 

During the 2014 Christmas season, we experienced the usual absurd, sometimes silly attacks on Christmas trees, Christmas cookies, candy canes, wreaths and garlands, Santa and Secret Santa, stars, bells, snowmen and snow women, the colors red and green and sentences beginning with ’Twas or ’Tis. Remarkably, some few believe these are symbols that remind people of the birth of Jesus. 

The power that exists in the Spirit of Christmas is so irresistible and so compelling that no attacks can disrupt, retard or stop it. As in the past, the energy and vitality that was Christmas 2014 was everywhere, unavoidable and all-pervasive.

Christmas will always be with us, and one reason is because the simple message, Love Came Down at Christmas, tugs at the hearts of all but the most spiritually barren.

God’s annual invitation to return to love is so simple and so appealing, it will never be vanquished. Those who accept the message, accept God.
“. . .and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”                                                                                                                                                    Luke 1:33

December 17, 2014

Forgiveness: A Gift at Christmas

Louis Zamperini began life in Southern California as a troublemaker whose path took a U-turn when he found new challenges in high school and college (USC) where he broke state and world records in long distance racing. At 19, he represented the USA in the 1936 Olympics.

In 1941, Zamperini volunteered for the Army Air Corps and became a bombardier on a B-24 that went down over the Pacific. Fortunately, he was rescued but not until he had drifted on a small raft for forty-seven days. Unfortunately, he was rescued by the Japanese who tortured and abused him in POW camps for two years. 

After the war, Zamperini struggled to adjust to civilian life. Driven by revenge, he drank heavily and partied constantly with friends and celebrities who considered him a war hero.

Inspired by a Billy Graham Crusade in 1949, he turned his life around a second time, overcame his anxieties and became an inspirational speaker.  Ultimately, he returned to Japan and personally forgave the men who abused him during the war

The story of this extraordinary American legend is told in Laura Hillenbrand’s book, Unbroken, which has been adapted for an inspirational movie by the same name opening Christmas Day 2014.

How appropriate that Zamperini’s story of mercy and forgiveness is released on Christmas Day when we celebrate the birth of Jesus who taught us to “forgive those who trespass against us.”  As we celebrate the Christmas Season, let us consider a gift of forgiveness, a holy and sacred gift that will ultimately be more meaningful than anything else we might give.

December 11, 2014

Decorate Yourself for Christmas

On a recent Sunday in Advent, 2014, Judy White-Wunder, pastor of the Bluff Point Methodist Church, suggested the members of our congregation remember to decorate themselves for Christmas. Here are a few   suggestions for responding to Judy's novel idea:

We should begin with our mouths. Christmas calls for a generous, radiant smile that revealing the bliss we experience from the Good News that Jesus Christ is born. And let us decorate our lips with a cheerful, “Merry Christmas” to everyone we meet.

Beautify our ears with the sacred music of the Christmas Season, and let our eyes shine like brilliant stars, radiant as the star that led the wise men to the birthplace of our Savior.

Embellish our hands with gifts for loved ones and those less fortunate than ourselves and deliver them with “happy feet” and a spirited  bounce in our step reflecting Christmas jubilation.

Finally, let us decorate our hearts with abundant praise and thanksgiving for a compassionate and generous God who gave us his Son to teach us “to love another” as he loved us.

December 1, 2014

A Very Special Gold Star Kid

Myles Eckert was nine years old in February of 2014 when he found a $20 bill in the parking lot of the Cracker Barrel Restaurant in Maumee, Ohio. His first impulse was to buy a video game, but then he saw a soldier enter the restaurant.

Myles was only five weeks old when his father was killed in Iraq during his second tour of duty. As a memorial to his dad, Myles wrote the following note and gave his $20 bill to another soldier who had just entered the restaurant:
Dear Soldier,
My dad was a soldier. He's in heaven now. I found this 20 dollars in the parking lot when we got here. We like to pay it forward in my family. It's your lucky day!
Thank you for your service.                                                                                                                              Myles Eckert, a gold star kid. 
When the story aired on CBS News, people from all over the country sent Myles $20. All their gifts were redirected to the Snowball Express, a charity serving Gold Star Kids, the children of those men and women who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.

By May of 2014, Myles’ $20 amounted to $317,770!

During this Christmas Season, as we celebrate God’s gift to all mankind, may Myles Eckert’s largess encourage each of us to give to others in a spirit of love, compassion and goodwill.