Keeping Christ in Christmas

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My latest for the Longview News-Journal

Every year it feels like the same routine: trees, lights, wreaths, presents, cards, pictures, and the never-ending mad rush to Christmas Day.  Don’t get me wrong I love Christmas; I love getting together with family and friends, exchanging gifts and driving through Mini Santa Land. I love to see the sense of wonder my children have this time of year. I love to rehear the story of the birth of Jesus. Christmas is a beautiful holy time and I think that is why people are so passionate about how it is celebrated.

This year I have noticed a lot of people wearing “Merry CHRISTmas” shirts (the word Christ is generally more prominent than the rest of the word). The idea here is that we are to remember that Jesus the Christ is the real reason for the holiday.  Inevitably the overwhelming presence of God’s love and the hope that is found in a newborn baby in a manger means something more than lights and trees, right? Why is it at the end of the “holiday season” many Christians are worn out and have missed the life-changing, life-giving presence of the holy season of Advent and Christmas?

How do we how do we keep Christ in Christmas? And furthermore, how do we continue this idea all year long? Doesn’t the coming of Christ in our midst mean more than just a single day?  Is simply remembering enough? 

We keep Christ in Christmas by thinking of serving outside the month of December. It is easy and often expected to serve around the holidays, but the needs of our community continue long after the tree and the lights are taken down.

We keep Christ in Christmas by remembering that the heart of the gospel that Jesus brings is love. This love must be shown to all people. Christians believe that God’s love is freely given to all. This might mean that we reconsider who are neighbor might be and look for new opportunities to share the love of God. 

We keep Christ in Christmas by seeing the vulnerable in our community and supporting missional and community initiatives to help alleviate people’s hurting and suffering. 

We keep Christ in Christmas by remembering that the world if a beautiful gift of God and strive to care and manage its resources properly. 

These and many more ways are how we keep Christ in Christmas. If you can help, serve, give, love, and share with others in 2020, then please do. If you are already doing these things, then find ways to encourage others to join you in the cause of sharing God’s love and Christ’s mercy to all people.

The very first Christmas over 2000 years ago changed the world as we know it. Why can’t Christmas in 2019 and beyond continue to change the world?

Howard Thurman, an African American theologian, educator, and civil rights leader wrote a poem entitled “The Work of Christmas” which shapes the way we can enter the Christmas story this year.

When the song of the angels is stilled,

when the star in the sky is gone,

when the kings and princes are home,

when the shepherds are back with their flocks,

the work of Christmas begins:

to find the lost, to heal the broken,

to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner,

to rebuild the nations, to bring peace among the people,

to make music in the heart.

 

May this help us as we strive to keep Christ in Christmas.

Sermon: Wrestling and Struggling with God

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On October 20, 2019, I gave a sermon entitled “Wrestling and Struggling with God” based on Genesis 32:22-31.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

God doesn’t care about your hair

Theology On Tap Longview, TX: Immigration

I have been a part of a great group of ministers who meet once a month at the Oil Horse Brewing Company in Longview, TX to have open and honest discussions about important topics that are affecting our community and nation.  This month I was on the panel regarding the Christian response to immigration. Below is a link to a local newspaper article about the event.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Lead with Faith, Not Politics in 2020

My latest for the Longview News-Journal


It is no secret that we live in an odd time in American history. With the advent of the internet, social media and the 24-hour news cycle, we are bombarded with information all the time.

With the increase of news coverage and news outlets, a polarization has taken place. Now the news is not just “news,” it is “conservative news ” or “liberal news.” As a result, we find ourselves gravitating to sources that only reinforce what we already believe, and this is a problem.

It’s easy to fall into these “echo chambers” and regurgitate the rhetoric we find in them. Critical thinking, analysis and the idea that we could be wrong have for the most part gone out the window. We only want to hear what we want to hear and throw the other stuff away, declaring it without merit or worthiness in our lives. Terms like “fake news” have dominated the last election cycle, and the 2020 cycle is seeming like more of the same.

I do not think we can survive another tumultuous election cycle unless we begin to name the problems we see, and not just in those people we do not like.

Luckily, Jesus the Christ spoke to something just like this. In the Gospel of Matthew, we find the infamous “speck and log” teaching. At the conclusion of what is known as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus states, “Why do you see the splinter that’s in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye? How can you say to your brother or sister, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when there’s a log in your eye? You deceive yourself! First, take the log out of your eye, and then you’ll see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s or sister’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5 Common English Bible)

We fall into this trap far too often. We denounce an action as being against God or the teachings of the church, but when it involves someone we like or support, we find reasons to dismiss it. Surely there was a good reason why this accusation happened. Maybe it was the “conservative” or “liberal” media just looking for dirt. Increasingly, we seem to believe things should be deemed good or bad based on what political party the accused person happens to be affiliated with.

We don’t know how to have honest conversations about our political thoughts or beliefs without it turning into “one-liner theater,” where we lob bumper sticker-like sayings in an effort to derail the conversation.

Can I learn from someone who thinks differently politically than me? Absolutely. Should I listen more to the different ways topics are viewed and approached? Yes, I should. Can we as a society stop trying to tear each other down and start to see the logs in our own eyes? I hope so.

As a follower of Christ, there are standards of living, caring and loving humanity that are the foundation of my theological framework. All people of faith have a “lens” through which we see the world. These lenses are built over our lifetime and are informed based on where we grew up, our family of origin, and even our generation. Rarely is there a straightforward answer, but claiming we have it all figured out or that our party of choice has it all figured out has led us to this point.

When things are wrong, we need to call them as such, no matter what party might be to blame or how it will tip the scale of an election. When something needs to change because it violates our theological understanding of how humanity should be treated, then we must speak out. If we do not, if we allow “our side” to get away with things and hold the other side to another standard. Then we have forfeited our beliefs, our values, and morals and replaced them with the will of the political party of our choice.

The Epistle of James reminds us that “Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.”

Our faith should inform our decision, not our political party. If we lead with our faith and not trying to secure a win, then the message of Christ’s redemption, forgiveness and grace will be heard loud and clear.

If we do not, then 2020 will be no different than 2016, and our faithful witness to the redemptive nature of the Gospel will be watered down.

This next election cycle will be filled with mudslinging and social media debates and no one “wins” in those election years. Let’s do better. I know we can and the United States of America will be better if we stay true to what we claim to be most valuable in our lives.

Happy Fourth of July 2019!

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Happy number 243 to the United States of America!

 

Children Of God

Sermon: United in the Spirit

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On June 9, I preached the final part of the sermon series “United.” It was entitled “United in the Spirit” and was based on Acts 2:1-21.

Sermon: United in Christ

 

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On June 2, I preached a sermon entitled “United in Christ” based on John 17: 20-26. This is part two of a three-part series called “United.”

Sermon: United in Love

 

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On May 26, I preached the sermon “United in Love” based on John 14:23-29. This is the first part of a three-part series, “United.”