Posted tagged ‘Christmas decorations’

Generic Christianity

November 17, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           November 17, 2017

                                         

Starbucks is decorating their stores with Christmas…err, Holiday gifts and ornaments. Although they have a dark roast coffee called “Christmas Blend”, as far as I can tell it is the only reference to the name we place on December 25. They use words and terms like “joy”, “peace”, and “give good” to point to the festive holiday time without saying Christmas.

Starbucks keeps it generic in order to be more appealing…and raise the profit margin. I don’t fault them for this. Although I enjoy my coffee I don’t see it as a spiritual experience to sit on a stool in a Starbucks for an hour…as I’m doing now!

Christianity and the Christian church, on the other hand, should stand for something solid and transformative. The Christian faith is decorated with words like “redemption”, “transformation”, “grace”, and “forgiveness”. They are pillars built on the sacrifice of Christ.

It seems that churches are in danger of becoming generic in their presentation, their terminology, and their beliefs. I’m not talking about churchy terms like benediction, narthex, Eucharist, and sacraments. No, I’m going in a different direction…kinda’! Instead of mirroring Christ, the church too often mirrors culture. Instead of counter-cultural we mostly go with the flow. Instead of transforming we have been mostly transformed…by the NFL, The Bachelor, and CNN and Fox News.

There are encouraging signs, however! The relief efforts of various churches and faith organizations in recent months to help those affected by flooding and hurricanes has been awesome. It reconnects with the early Christians in Rome who would minister to those dying of smallpox. The epidemic that killed as much as a third of the population in AD 165 spared no family. Even the emperor, Marcus Aurelius, succumbed to it. Families would push their sick out of the house and into the street to die alone. Followers of Jesus, however, remembered their Savior touching lepers and healing the sick, and so they willingly became infected with the disease in order to show love and compassion to those who were dying. John Ortberg, in his book Who Is This Man? (page 38) refers to sociologist Rodney Stark who argues that one of the primary reasons for the spread of the Christian faith was because of the way Jesus followers responded to sick people. Comforting the afflicted gets us back to our roots.

Generic Christianity sets up a buffet table of doctrinal sample and avoid…like the prime rib of beef and the peas and carrots. This looks good for me and that has no place on my plate. Generic faith gets customized for my taste. Prayer may have a prominent place but grace gets avoided; worship is appetizing but confession is about as appealing as week-old fruit salad.

Authentic Christianity is life-changing and, perhaps, that’s why it gets avoided. It requires our surrender, our yielding.

Manger Implications

November 26, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                  November 26, 2015

                                     

Last night a group of us were decorating the church sanctuary for Christmas. Wreaths, Christmas tree, and nativity sets. Our church has about four different nativity sets which get positioned in different spots around the room.

As we decorated and started to place the manger scenes we discovered that a couple of the sets were incomplete. In one box Mary came up missing! She had fled the scene! In another there were twin baby Jesus’s! A third set had a Mary and Joseph who were dwarfed by Goliath-sized magi.

I was game to place the different manger scenes as they appeared, but was outvoted by the rest of the decorators. What a perfect time to make people think about the implications of the birth scene of Jesus by putting out the manger scenes as we had them.

A single parent manger scene with only Joseph! What would that have looked like for Jesus? For one thing he wouldn’t have had siblings, but, more than that, Mary seems to have been the nurturer in scripture. By the time Jesus was gathering his disciples Joseph has been gone for a long time. It can easily be said that Mary was second in importance to the Christ-child as part of the nativity scene cast.

Twin Jesus’s! That would have blown everyone’s minds! I can’t even comprehend the gospel story with twin messiahs.

The more I think about it the more I’m glad I was outvoted. There seems to be enough “messing with people’s theology” going on these days!

In our own minds we’re prone to re-create the story. The gospel has had people deleting from it for years. Just as Catholics perhaps over-emphasize the role of Mary, many Protestants aren’t sure what to do with her. She gives birth and then in our theology comes up missing after that.

Twin Jesus’s! Many of us live our Christianity based on that: one Jesus for Calvary and the other Jesus to convince us that life will be comfortable and worry-free if we simply believe in him.

Giant magi and “little people Mary and Joseph!” An appropriate and relevant picture to describe how prominent our faith journey is compared to other elements of our life.

Incomplete manger scenes are disturbing for many reasons!

Moving the Cross Outside

December 5, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     December 4, 2013

 

                                  

 

In our decorating of the sanctuary for the Advent season we needed to move some things around. There needed to be space for a place where Christmas cookies and coffee urns were available, and a few Christmas trees that were promoting the theme of our children’s Christmas program.

In the back of our sanctuary there is a eight foot tall heavy wooden cross that has it’s own handcrafted stand. We use it during the season of Lent and move it to the front of the sanctuary. For those who are wondering, there is another cross mounted on the wall at the front of the chancel area.

So this year we moved the cross outside. It is propped up beside a utility shed, looking lonely and forgotten as we celebrate the birth of the Christ-child.

The symbolism of the events has not gone unnoticed by me, although our congregation does not think the cross is an irrelevant relic.

I do, however, believe that we would rather push the Cross of Christ to the side because it makes us too uncomfortable. If you read the history of crucifixions you will discover how brutal they were. The Romans of Jesus‘ day were known for their brutality.

I feel more at peace when I look at a manger surrounded by hay and farm animals than I do with an execution scene complete with the gambling of the executioners to win the robe of one of those men who is hanging above them.

As followers of Jesus we must understand that “the way” goes through the Cross.

Christmas In July

November 19, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W                                                        November 20, 2013

 

 

It seems that stores are putting out Christmas decorations and gift ideas earlier and earlier each year. Or…that is, holiday decorations.

December 25 means big business…months before it happens.

I’m not opposed to that, and yet, I’m not fully supportive either. It seems that the longer the pre-Christmas promotions go the less meaning the occasion has. Fewer people each year are familiar with Advent, but knowledgeable about X-Box.

And then December 26 hits and people rush the stores to buy half-price bed sheets and boxes of Christmas cards that they will store in their basements until next year, but then forget where they put them.

I know…I know, I sound like a bah-humbug kind of whiner. It’s just that when I open a new box of chocolate-covered cherries I’m excited, but by the third week of eating them the excitement has worn off as the pounds have attached to.

I’m just not ready to buy a Christmas tree (artificial that it may be) in October. I’m not even ready for Christmas on Black Friday. I’m still in the “thankful mind-set.” Getting a new flat screen at 4 AM at Walmart is not even on my radar at that point.

This year my son turns 30 on Thanksgiving Day. I can’t even think about Christmas when I’m trying to grasp that my son is 30!