Posted in Grace, Life, Ministry

I was just thinking about you

Last night I had a free half-hour before my small group met, so I got to make a few phone calls to see how some folks were doing. During the first call, the person said, “I was just thinking about you. In fact, I was going to call you tomorrow.” I’ve found that to be the case too many times to be a coincidence. Somehow God brings to mind just the right person at the right time.

Anyway, they were going to call me with the idea to have our congregation write our own Advent devotional booklet this fall. Not necessarily a new idea, but a new idea for us. It’s a project I’ve sometimes dreamt about, but never implemented. You don’t know how nice it is to hear someone say, “I’d like to organize it.” All I need to do is give her a list of twenty-seven Bible verses, organized around an Advent theme, and she’ll do the rest: enlist writers, gather devotions, and get the collection to our office for duplication and distribution. Pretty cool.

Of course, that means I have to start thinking about Advent, which begins November 28 this year. I’ve found that advance planning sometimes makes you feel like a time of year is already upon you when it really isn’t. Kind of like a time warp. I have to remind myself it’s only September. Whew. But not too early to plan for the busy month of December.

So if you’re a Shepherd of the Coast reader, you read it here first. You’ll have a chance to share a little of your Advent and Christmas thoughts to help others zero in on that time of the church year. Last year we introduced Advent Conspiracy, and challenged ourselves to worship fully, spend less, give more and love fully, all gifts from God. I think we’ll take that to the next level in some way so that Christmas can continue to change the world.

Posted in Life

Christmas feels better already

I’ll be encouraging our church to think along the lines of Advent Conspiracy this year. This book, video and study by Rick McKinley, Chris Seay, and Greg Holder really makes you take stock of how commercial Christmas has become, and how much more it could be if we worship fully, spend less, give more and love all instead.

To be fair, though, I don’t know that we chose to create a Christmas that was all about spending, debt, quantity, extravagance and gifts void of meaning. I was raised that way. For boomers like me, that’s what it was all about. My dad has slides (kind of like filmstrips that you can project instead of snapshots to pass around, for you who have no idea what slides are) of our Christmases that were consumption oriented. And we didn’t even have that much. But we had a lot. It was great. We loved it. We had a great time. Our stockings contained an orange and a penny, from a past generation for whom fruit and pennies were valuable commodities.

But in the last decade or so, I ran up against a wall when it came to Christmas. Having lost touch with the lifestyles of my family and in-laws, we had no idea what to get them for Christmas. They had no idea what our lives were like, either. So we began exchanging worthless gifts. We’d send each other a $25 gift card. We broke even. One year we got a gift card we couldn’t even use because that franchise wasn’t in our area. Money flushed down the Christmas toilet.

We even had a hard time coming up with gifts for our kids. There wasn’t that much anyone wanted. Christmas became really frustrating.

I, for one, am glad that we are making gifts for each other, giving money to some worthy causes, and scaling back our Christmas. Even before I’ve really done much, it feels better already.

Posted in Rant

Christmas in November

Christmas in November?

It’s hard to say how many Facebook updates, tweets and emails have told me that families have already set up their Christmas trees, hung stockings, and put up lights on their houses. It has become a badge of honor to have all your Christmas preparations done before Thanksgiving. Are you kidding me? Are you for real? Has anyone noticed that it’s not even December yet? Is there anyone who hasn’t pressed the fast-forward button from Halloween to Christmas?

This is a really hard reality for me. When I was growing up, we decorated for Christmas on Christmas Eve.  The lights might have gone up on the house a few days before that.

Basically we have no Advent. Thanksgiving is just a drive-through meal as we pull off the interstate highway from Labor Day to a new year.
How can anyone not get sick of Christmas when we start it 6 weeks out? Or more. Lots more.

Sorry. This is definitely a rant. You see, as a pastor, I don’t think we can survive an eight-week Christmas celebration. What started as a hardly-noticed night has become two months or more of the music, shopping, and decorations.

Have we become so desperate for something that makes us feel good that we will simply stretch out a pretty happy day into weeks and weeks and weeks of celebration?

Personally, I think the guys doing Advent Conspiracy (google it!) or Hole in the Gospel are onto something. A little less Christmas and a little more Jesus just might do us some good.