Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Keeper Traditions

Some years ago, I saw this interview where a reporter asked a young girl, "If you could change anything at church what would it be?" The cute little girl looked like she was about 13 - she thought for a moment and said, " Well, I would cover the communion bread with chocolate."
Out of all the things she could have said, I would have never guessed that! I had to chuckle.

Sometimes in church we wish we could change things up - tweak it and make it more appealing.
For me somethings are best left alone. Communion is on the list for me. No chocolate please.

I really love some of the traditions in my life. The traditions surrounding Christmas are that way for me. I love Christmas carols, Christmas bells, Nativity Scenes, Christmas cards, and Christmas gatherings and much more. The old stuff is still very rich and meaningful to me.

People love to tweak and change things - I am that way. Doing something differently seems exciting and interesting but of course the new wears off and then we have to keep changing things to get a "new buzz." I have favorite running courses that I run in the mornings - sometimes I run them the opposite direction just for a change - it seems like a totally different run - same heavy breathing and sweating but a new feel to it. Change is fun and good.

But sometimes doing things the same way, in the same place, with the same words, and the same songs is meaningful at another level - it has history, it has depth and meaning that is powerful. Christmas is one of those deeper things for me. The story of God coming to earth in Jesus is old but always new - always rich - always deep and powerful. Love incarnate. Immanuel - God with us. This is a keeper tradition for me.

Joyous Christmas to one and all!

Just thinking, Steve

Monday, December 6, 2010

Reasonable Expectations

Every December I have the same experience. I spend a great deal of time talking to people in pain. In this time when people have hopes and expectations for joy and peace and harmony many struggle to just get through the month. My heart goes out to them - they come to the season with a bundle of baggage and pain that has accumulated over many years and December is often no fun at all.

Years ago, Country singer, Merle Haggard coined the line to describe their feelings: "If we make it through December...". Haggard had a way with a sad song and that old tune was certainly sad - many people can connect with that feeling.

One thing that can help is to step back and have reasonable expectations for the Christmas and Holiday season. If you don't get along with your family all year long the expectation that the Christmas season is going to be some kind of miraculous time of peace and joy is unreasonable. Maybe the exchange of a nice Christmas card or a phone call makes more sense than trying to spend time together. Sometimes turning our focus away from ourselves to bless those less fortunate puts things in to proper perspective - reach out and serve someone and give some joy to someone else. You will be amazed at how much joy you will experience, as well.

Our emotions run high during this season but most of us will do much better to just keep our expectations realistic.

Remember that the newborn Jesus and his family were basically left out in the cold on the night Jesus was born - no room in inn. Jesus knows what it is like to be left out and excluded. Perhaps that is why he was always reaching out to those who were excluded and overlooked. Everyone is welcome in his presence - even those who have a tough time "making it through December."

Just thinking, Steve Yates