The Bleak Midwinter: Why Sad Music at this Time of the Year?

I wrote this column last year and it turned out to be a huge hit on this blog, so decided to run it again this year. Dear Christmas Advice-Giver, Why are some of the religious Christmas Carols so sad when this is the season of happiness?  I mean, really, “In the Bleak Midwinter?” Nothing like a downer.  Aren’t we all supposed to be just super joyful right now?  And what does “bleak” mean anyway? Signed, “Bleakless” Dear Bleakless, Here’s the situation:  For much of Christian church history (i.e., before advertising took over the world), the four weeks before Christmas Day … Continue reading The Bleak Midwinter: Why Sad Music at this Time of the Year?

Every Child Born Changes the Entire World

Every child born changes the entire world. Whether eagerly longed for or dreaded, male or female, impoverished or ultra-wealthy, every child changes the world. Whether loaded with physical and mental challenges or worry-free healthy, a musical prodigy or profoundly tone-deaf, hair sunny-silky light or wildly curly/kinky dark, skin glorious ebony-rich to albino-like pale, every child changes the world. Whether left or right-handed, born already reading philosophy or never able to read even one word, oldest or youngest or in a middle position–no matter the characteristics or circumstances, every single child born changes the entire world. Think about it:  no family … Continue reading Every Child Born Changes the Entire World

From Barren to Baby, Hope After Tragedy

As did many clergy, I faced a dilemma with this Sunday’s message after the events of Friday’s massacre of children. For Advent this year, I had decided to do a series I called “From Barren to Baby” and speak of some of Jesus’ ancestors, particularly those whose stories started with the barren woman scenario.  I learned long ago that when a passage in the Bible begins to speak of a woman unable to have children, it is code for, “Pay attention!!!  Something important is about to happen!” So, we’ve looked at the Abraham-Sarah-Hagar saga and then at the very strange … Continue reading From Barren to Baby, Hope After Tragedy

A Normal Day Interrupted by a Divine Appointment?

I woke yesterday with a sense of work-urgency informing my plans for the day.  It was the first day I had any real schedule freedom to do intensive work on the many messages that need to be prepared and delivered in the next 12 days. My Director of Worship and I have been working on the services for several weeks.  Initial concepts have been examined and modified, perfected, so to speak.  Music pieces discussed, musicians recruited, especially for the 11:00 pm Christ Mass on December 24, and our first ever Blue Christmas service on December 20. Acolytes and readers are … Continue reading A Normal Day Interrupted by a Divine Appointment?

More on the Confusion Between Santa and God

This letter appeared in the “Dear Abby” advice column that was in the newspaper on December 8, 2012: DEAR ABBY: Last night I received a call from my almost-5-year-old granddaughter asking me for Santa Claus’ phone number. It seems she is very angry at her daddy for calling her a brat because she wouldn’t give him a hug. She wants to tattle on her daddy to Santa. Her parents are not together. Her daddy’s involvement has been only within the last year. She seemed very upset about the incident, and I want to make sure “Santa” gives her a good … Continue reading More on the Confusion Between Santa and God

Christmas Advice Column: Why Sad Christmas Music?

Dear Christmas Advice-Giver, Why are some of the religious Christmas Carols so sad when this is the season of happiness?  I mean, really, “In the Bleak Midwinter?”  Nothing like a downer.  Aren’t we all supposed to be just super joyful right now?  And what does “bleak” mean anyway? Signed, “Bleakless” Dear Bleakless, Here’s the situation:  For much of Christian church history (i.e., before advertising took over the world), the four weeks before Christmas Day were weeks of soul-searching, fasting, and preparation.  The formal name for this time is Advent, which simply means “coming toward.”  So, we are “coming toward” the … Continue reading Christmas Advice Column: Why Sad Christmas Music?

The Bank Run

Three times on Sunday morning I gave a message titled “The Bank Run.”  It compared George Bailey’s experience of the bank run in “It’s a Wonderful Life” with our own life experiences of everything going wrong. This was a way to enter the Scriptures of Isaiah and the preparation for the reception of the Savior. During Advent this year, I have suggested that we move away from the forced happiness of the season into the much richer experience of joy. Happiness demands that the world go our way. Joy becomes ours when we embrace hard times and are shaped into … Continue reading The Bank Run

God With Us? Are You Sure?

I am convinced that, despite what I am sure will be countless calls to “Put Christ back into Christmas!” and other such yearly holiday pleas, most people really have no desire for God to actually show up during this season. We sing, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” With these words, we call for God to be with us.  The tune touches us, the words sound good. But I wonder—yes I wonder. I wonder if we know what we are asking for when we sing these words. Personally, I think we expect a heavenly butler to show up and do our bidding. … Continue reading God With Us? Are You Sure?