Missing Christmas?

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The final countdown has begun.

If you have children under the age of 7 you have known since Thanksgiving the number of days until Christmas Day.

So in the immortal words of “hide and seek,” ready or not here Christmas comes.

Gifts have been purchased, trees have been trimmed, lights have strung, travel plans have been made, and stockings have been hung with care.  We have been bombarded with Christmas carols since October and the news has been reporting on the “holiday shopping season” since “Black Friday.”

During this time we can start to fall into the trap of “Christmas as usual.”  Whether we know it or not we are creatures of habit and not just in our personal life liking having coffee in the morning or eating the same breakfast.

We can find these habits in our religious life as well.

Christmas for many people has become somewhat routine.

We know what to do, what to say, where to go, what to bring, what to cook and where to eat it.  It’s all mapped out; just follow the same the routine.   Christmas cannot just be something that is done in a secular fashion that is boiled down to shopping and pretty bows.

It’s easy to get caught up in the cycle of Christmas.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good tradition but has Christmas become something that just happens instead of something we experience?

At my work I have been asked more than a dozen times this week if I am “ready for Christmas.” (what they are really asking is “are your children excited for Santa?”)

It’s a hard question to answer.  Sure I am ready to be off for a few days and see my family but am I really ready for Christmas?  Am I really ready for the coming of Christ into the world?

Can the in breaking of God into the world be celebrated simply singing carols and eating too much?

Has Christmas become just another day to, relax, eat good food and visit family or can it be something more?  As Christians we believe we have good grasp on Christmas; we have seen it played out in church pageants, recited the story in worship, we set up our Nativity Scene and even make a point to watch  A Charlie Brown Christmas.

It’s a familiar story and one that brings back great memories of family, gatherings and friends.

What would Christmas look like or feel like we were truly prepared ourselves to encounter Christ?  Forget about the gifts, the holiday ham and the miles to travel, but made the goal to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord. Would it mean more? Would we “get more out of it?”

Amid the sea of lights, packages, shopping carts and mad dashes to get everything done, have be lost sight of Christmas?

On December 26 will we be thankful that Christmas is over or thankful that we encountered Christ anew?  The story of the birth of Jesus is not a small piece of trivial history rather it is a monumental, deeply profound and theological statement; the God of all of creation came in human form and dwelt among us.  Because of this, the world, our lives will never be the same.  This story is something that cannot be encapsulated in gift bag or even in a song.

It’s sad to think that we can miss Christmas because we are celebrating Christmas… seems counterproductive right?

My prayer for you this Christmas is that December 25 will be more than just another Thursday, but a time when the story of the incarnation of Christ is made more real and tangible for you and your loved ones.

I hope that there is a moment where the world full of darkness, greed, injustice and hate would be replaced with the stillness and serenity of the Christmas story.  We need these moments; we need these moments where things are calm and bright.

Maybe it will be eating with distant relatives, hearing stories from parents/grandparent’s childhood, maybe it will be seen the excitement of children on Christmas morning, maybe it will be hearing the Christmas story with a new/renewed ears, maybe it will be visiting the cemetery of a loved one.

Whatever it is, may it be a moment that is undeniable that God is present and invading that time.  Hold on it, do not let the world take it away from you.

We all need a touch of grace, a touch of love and touch of mercy every now and then, so why not during Christmas?

Let’s not miss Christmas this Christmas.

Merry Christmas to you and your family.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan


Photo Credit: “The twinkling of the lights, the santa carols fill the household” by Katherine M. via Flickr. Used under the Creative Commons License 2.0
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Sermon: “Hope Realized: Jesus The Light of the World”

English: Orthodox Christmas decoration Српски ...

English: Orthodox Christmas decoration Српски / Srpski: Православнa Божићна декорација,Храм Васкрсења господњег у Ваљеву 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Below is a link to a sermon I preached on Christmas Eve entitled “Hope Realized: Jesus The Light of the World” based on Isaiah 9:2-7.

(Recorded by Voice Record Pro by Bej Bej Apps for iOS)

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Sermon: “Treasured Words”

Virgin Mary

Virgin Mary (Photo credit: MichaelHDJ)

Below is a link to a sermon I preached entitled “Treasured Words” based on Luke 2:1-20.

http://k007.kiwi6.com/hotlink/5oalx1lf7f/20131215-112106.mp3
(Recorded by Voice Record Pro by Bej Bej Apps for iOS)

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Conspiracy!

Advent Conspiracy

Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have all come and gone; whether we like it or not the “holiday season” is upon us.  For many of us the holidays are filled with shopping, lights, trees and parties.  It is a busy and often cheerful time of the year.  For others it is a stress inducing, budget stretching and even frantic time of the year. Why is it when we get through with Christmas we are more thankful that its over than it actually happened?  Have we replaced the notion of Christmas with another excuse to spend money to show our love to others? For the past few years my family and I have participated in a conspiracy. What if we looked at Christmas in a new way? What if we looked past the stores, the shopping, the mountains of gifts and looked at how Christmas can change the world?

Americans spend $450 Billion on Christmas EVERY YEAR… let that sink in for a minute.  $450 BILLION DOLLARS EVERY YEAR for Christmas.  Now, did you know it would only take $20 Billion to ensure that all people in the world could have access to clean drinking water?  Something seems a bit incongruent here. This is where the Conspiracy comes in. (Everyone loves a good conspiracy right?) The Advent Conspiracy is a different way of looking at Christmas and the in-breaking of God into the world. Advent Conspiracy (or AC) is based on four primary tenets:

Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More and Love All.

The focus of Advent Conspiracy is centered around the notion on how Christmas can change the world.  The very first Christmas 2000+ years ago was radical and counter-cultural   The idea of a God (of any religion) coming to earth to dwell, live, serve and teach was something that never entered into people’s minds.  However, because of this indwelling of God, we now put ourselves on trajectory to be in communion with God for all times. The creators of this movement sum it up well when they write:

“The time of year when worshiping Jesus should be the easiest is often the hardest.  The invitation to  join the Advent Conspiracy is a call to remain in the gospel of Jesus and worship him—no matter how strongly the cultural demands of Christ pull at us.  The transformation initiated by Jesus I no different today than it was the day he was born—the source of joy, peace, and hope hasn’t changed.” (Rick McKinley, Chris Seay, and Greg Holder, Advent Conspiracy: Can Christmas Still Change the World? (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2009), page 34.)

AC doesn’t advocate not giving gifts, but they do advocate giving meaningful and thoughtful gifts.  Does Uncle Steve really need another tie?  Instead of rushing through the aisles or online if we took some time and gave thoughtful gifts, then the gift would equated with love, not with the notion of “the heftier the price tag the more I love you.” Why go into debt to show that you love someone? One of the most memorable and meaningful gifts I was given was a group of 3 x 5 note cards held together by a simple ring.  My wife’s aunt, uncle, niece and nephews had all taken the time to write things that they loved about me.  It wasn’t the newest piece of technology, it wasn’t my favorite movie; it was a paper note cards and a metal ring.  It meant so much because they took the time to think about me instead of buying something just to buy something.  

That’s the power of the Advent Conspiracy.

AC gets back to the heart of the Christmas story, not the flashy gifts of the Magi but the humility of Christ and the love poured out by God to all of humanity. Imagine what we could do if we chose this Christmas to share our love in ways that can not be wrapped and placed under a tree.  What if we took some of the money that we would have spent on each other and gave it to people who were in need– then Christmas could change the world. Advent Conspiracy allows us to think about how we celebrate Christmas in a new and exciting way.

Below is a video from AC and some of the organizations that you could give gifts through this Christmas. Let’s make this Christmas one to remember!
Join the conspiracy!

In Christ,

Rev. Evan


[vimeo 47546099] [vimeo 50320595] iPhone App Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBZIWZWomYc Organizations That You Can Support During The Conspiracy!

Requiem of A Holiday

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Tomorrow, millions of people will gather across this great nation to celebrate Thanksgiving: the time in our calendar where we pause to give thanks for the year that has past, for family, loved ones, new additions and to remember those that have gone on before us.  We share stories, we laugh, we cry…and for many of us we eat too much.  For centuries, families have gathered together to pause and to say thanks, even if it is just for one day.

This year, however, I am going to make a bold statement: I am declaring that Thanksgiving to some is obsolete, if not dead.  Why such the bold statement?  It seems that since the day after Halloween, the focus has been on lights, bows, trees, candy canes, Santa and the Christmas story.   In a mad dash to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and in the midst of people complaining about the store employee not saying “Merry Christmas” we have forgotten to stop and be thankful.

We all learned the story in grade school.  Pilgrims came to this land on a ship called the Mayflower.  They settled the land and after a difficult time with the land and the weather, they met some Native Americans.  They helped work the land, grow crops and around harvest time they celebrated together with a grand feast, the first Thanksgiving.  It was in this same spirit that the tradition has continued for so long.

For some, Thanksgiving has turned into a stopping point on the road to Christmas shopping and excess.   It seems that every year the start date for when “Black Friday” sales begin is getting earlier and earlier.  Some stores are opening on Thanksgiving Day to entice people to come and buy their holiday gifts at low, low prices.

On one hand, I understand their reasoning of trying to bolster the bottom line – especially in light of the past few years decline in the economy.  But why has the day when people are supposed to be thankful for what they have been given turned into just another Thursday?  Can we not give thanks for more than just a few hours one Thursday in November before making a mad dash to buy more and more things?  What about the employees of these stores?   Not every employee of a company can demand that they take the day off.  What about their traditions?  What about their family time?  How will they give thanks?

While this might sound like I am being cynical, please hear me out: I am not.  Thanksgiving is more than about turkey, stuffing and family; it is about the recognition that for most people, by virtue of living in the United States, we live a life of luxury, comfort and even excess.  We should be thankful for what we have –  not thankful that we have things but pine away for that flat screen for $100 at Wal-Mart.

I am not anti-gift giving, or even anti-captialism, but I am anti-acquisition of things for acquisition’s sake.  Is forgoing the sales on Thanksgiving really going to put a damper on one’s holiday shopping?  It’s puzzling to think that in one breath we can go around the table and say one thing we are thankful for, while in the back of our mind we are hoping that Aunt Shirley won’t take too long because we have to get to the store by 6pm if we are going to purchase one of those TVs or a Playstation 4 or an iPad Mini.

As a Christian, I find the words of Jesus are all the more true this time of year: “Stop collecting treasures for your own benefit on earth, where moth and rust eat them and where thieves break in and steal them. Instead, collect treasures for yourselves in heaven, where moth and rust don’t eat them and where thieves don’t break in and steal them. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21, Common English Bible).  Our heart this time of year should be centered around thanks for the beauty of this earth, the world that we find ourselves in and even extending Christ’s love of wholeness and reconciliation to those who go without most of the year.

Thanksgiving should be a reminder to us all that despite the things we are envious we don’t have, we have a lot, more than most in the entire world.  This Thanksgiving let’s not lose sight of that fact.  Things can wait, sales come and go.  What’s more important– saving a few bucks or making memories with friends and family?  Give me the memories all day long– you can keep your sales, long lines and fights over the last Barbie Dream House.

Happy Thanksgiving!

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Christmas is the end of the beautiful journey of Advent. May we celebrate the coming a Christ once more & continue to model his loving spirit.

Merry Christmas! Christ is born!

Christmas in October?

The Mayor of Houston has been receiving some “constructive criticism” regarding a tweet that she posted a few days ago. About 10 days or so before HALLOWEEN, I began to see some shops and stores put up their Christmas decorations. See the tweet below.

Stores here in Houston have stated that they have to do whatever is necessary to make sure they make their Christmas profits. That’s right… Christmas profits. I am all for businesses doing well so they can make a living, that is the American dream. But I am not for making a religious holiday into an opportunity to overspend.  It is much more than about gifts and presents and overeating, it is a remembrance of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Personally I have no problems with her comments; having Christmas decorations up two months prior to the event is ridiculous.  These decorations were up before Halloween and Thanksgiving and so called “Black Friday.”  At this rate we should keep Christmas decorations up all year.

Here’s to Annise Parker and I hope you are looking forward to Thanksgiving, the forgotten holiday.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan