Friday, December 24, 2010

Pieces of Christmas #12: Welcome to Our World

This is another Christmas song that is making it's way to my "favorites" list.  It is not a Christmas carol or a Christmas hymn. It is more like a Christmas prayer...a conversation with our Savior.

2000 years ago, there wasn't much fanfare at the birth of Jesus.  Oh, to be sure, there were angels that made a proclamation to shepherds and later there were wise men that travelled a great distance to bring gifts, but there was also the evil king that wanted this young child killed and was willing to kill all of the young boys in the area to make sure that he was killed.  Not what you would call a great welcome for the child that would become our Savior!

Today our need for a Savior is as great as it ever was.  I think of this song as a long overdue welcome to our Savior...and maybe a bit of an apology that we didn't make it right the first time.

Here in the Midwest, it is just a few hours into Christmas Eve. A light freezing rain is starting to fall and it should turn to sleet and maybe snow later in the day. I've enjoyed posting these Pieces of own twelve days of Christmas' posts.  I hope that you have enjoyed reading them and watching the associated videos.

Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pieces of Christmas #11: The Power of Christmas (part 2)

If you didn't read yesterday's post and watch the associated video, you need to do that now.
Click here.

This is a song that tells the story.

YouTube link

Pieces of Christmas #10: The Power of Christmas

This is one of my favorite Christmas stories.  It is not a story about the Christ of Christmas.  It is a story about the Power of Christmas and of the Peace of Christmas.

The King James Bible translates Luke 2:14 to read: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men."
Later scholars have believed that this is better translated to mean: "...peace on earth towards men of good will." or "...and on earth, peace to those on whom his favor rests." NIV

Often times men of good will find themselves at odds with each other due to circumstances that seem to be out of their control.  Perhaps governments or religious beliefs, perhaps social status or even languages or customs cause misunderstandings between people that would get along just fine otherwise.  And so, peace is difficult to find. Sometimes it seems that if we could remove ourselves from the situation, we would find much of ourselves in those that oppose us.  There are often more similarities than differences.

This story took place almost a hundred years ago...Christmas, 1914. It took place on the front lines of a war that was ravaging the countrysides all across Europe...World War I.

For nearly two days, soldiers from opposing armies set aside their weapons, buried their dead, exchanged gifts of cigarettes and food, sang Christmas carols and enjoyed the Peace of Christmas. 

But then, governments imposed their wills once again.  The truce ended and the war resumed.
If only the Power and the Peace of Christmas could have their way in the hearts of men of good will every day of the year. The world would be a much better place.

My wish for you this Christmas is Peace. 
If you are grieving or in despair, I wish you comfort...and Peace.
If you are struggling with family or finance, I wish you contentment, prosperity...and Peace.
If the pressures of life are becoming too burdensome, I wish you rest...and Peace.
What ever your struggle, I pray that you will pause from the battle long enough to experience the Peace that can only be found in the Power of Christmas.

Enjoy the story...enjoy the Peace of Christmas.

Tomorrow...the song that was inspired by the story.

YouTube link

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pieces of Christmas #9: Mary, Did You Know?

It must have been very unusual for the young girl that was the mother of Jesus.  On the one hand, this was a baby like any other baby.  On the other, there has never been another baby anything like Him.

Everything about her pregnancy, from the angelic announcement to the immaculate conception, was unusual.  The timing of the birth was inconvenient. The angelic proclamation to the lowly shepherds was unheard of. This birth was different.  This Child was different.

This is the Savior! He is the Messiah.  He is the Christ--the Christ of Christmas!


YouTube link

Keep Looking Up

I hope that God blesses you with clear skies tonight.

It isn't too often that we get to see a total eclipse of the moon.  At just after midnight tonight (CST) in the first minutes of the 21st, the shadow of the Earth will begin to pass over the moon.  I have always found the night sky to be full of extraordinary events that point to the evidence of an Intelligent Designer...that point to a God.

When I consider your heavens,  the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 
what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?

Psalms 8:3-4

It is an awesome thing to watch the design of our solar system in action. This total lunar eclipse will take place on the same day as the winter solstice for 2010, another one of the grand events of our solar system.

I hope that you take the opportunity to witness the lunar eclipse if you are in an area that will allow you to see it.  All of my North American friends will be able to see it if the sky conditions permit it.

I love this stuff.

I have taken our family on a day trip to put us in the path of total annularity for the last annular eclipse of the sun visible from the Midwest.  I have had Chris wake the kids up in the middle of the night on a school night to witness spectacular meteor showers.  I've posted about some of these things in the past. I post this now that you might take advantage of the knowledge and witness the rare event in the night sky.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Pieces of Christmas #8: Taking the Message to the Mall

What a grand surprise these lunch time shoppers received as a choir breaks into this rendition of The Hallelujah Chorus, bringing the message of the birth of Jesus into the mall's food court---


Thanks, Bandit.
YouTube link

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Pieces of Christmas #7: Sunday Morning Sermon

I imagine that there are few people that think about Christmas as they read through the second chapter of Paul's letter to the Philippians--especially through these verses.

For me, this is the very essence of Christmas.  So often we find ourselves contemplating His great love for us through His suffering on the cross.  We relate to the pain and suffering of the Man Jesus much easier than we relate to the love of God.  We point to the suffering and the sacrifice on the cross and think of how much He loved us. Rarely do we think of the sacrifice at the cradle (or manger, if you prefer).

Christmas is a joyful time for mankind--and it should be.  But I think that this is the place where the real sacrifice takes place.  Here is a post from last Christmas that will serve as the basis for my Christmas sermon at church Sunday.  I realize that it is not your typical happy, joyous kind of Christmas message...unless, of course, you remember that the sacrifice was made for you!

Merry Christmas,

A "Pieces of Christmas" Break

I'm breaking from the Pieces of Christmas posts that are focused on the birth of Jesus for a day to share this piece that was written and read at our December meeting of the Ozarks Christian Writers.

With all that has been in the news about the new TSA security procedures, this is a funny and creative look at what one might see in airports next week.

While my header gives permission to repost my material from this blog, this is not mine and permission to repost it is not mine to give.  Feel free to direct others here if you would like to share it.

Thanks to Rod Minatra for giving his permission to print it here.


Twas the Flight Before Christmas ©
By Rodger W. Minatra
December 2010

We were going home for Christmas, and traveling by air
When the weather got bad, and we got stuck in O’Hare
We had just settled down to rest our poor eyes
When something happened that took us both by surprise

In the security check, in a fur suit, red and white
Was a small bearded man checking in for his flight
He was dressed like St. Nick, with a bag, big and red
That would just barely fit in the plane’s overhead.

But he didn’t seem nervous, in fact he looked right at ease
And he went straight to work, as quick as you please
He walked up to the gate and then pulled out 12 trays
Then I heard someone moan, “We will be here for days.”

He pulled out a bandanna and blew his red nose
Then without speaking he took off his clothes
The first thing to come off were the boots that he wore
He squatted down low and rolled back on the floor

We watched as his boots split from the top to the sole
It was the definite sound of a strip of Velcro
As quick as a wink he was in his sock feet
In the first tray were his boots lined up nice and neat

Next was his coat piled high in the tray
And then his black belt, red hat, and toupe
Then standing flat footed like a small kangaroo
He sprang high in the air and his pants came off too

We were shocked at the sight and we tried not to stare
But there stood this small man in his long underwear
It looked for a moment that he did not know what to do
Then the TSA agent said, “Won’t you please come on thru.”

In a flash he stepped forward and walked straight through the gate
When an alarm sounded off and they said you must wait
The agent looked at him in a precarious manner
We can frisk you right here or you can go the scanner

His arms went out straight then he said with a giggle
You can frisk me right here if you think it won’t tickle
He was chubby and plump with a little round belly
That started to jiggle like a bowl full of jelly

The agent stepped forward with a wand in his hand
He was ready and willing to frisk this strange little man
At first he just giggled, the he laughed right out loud
Then the laughter he started caught hold of the crowd

He laughed just a little and then he laughed a lot more
The next thing we knew he was down on the floor.
We tried to keep silent, but as hard as we tried
We all started laughing, and we laughed till we cried.

Then off to the left we heard a loud clatter
And we all turned around to see what was the matter
The little man’s bag had been turned upside down
And we stood in amazement at what the TSA found

There were no toys and no presents in this little man’s bag
No liquids, no weapons, to set off a red flag
This man was no dummy, in fact he was smart
It was thousands of gift cards, all from Wal-mart

When the scanning was over and the little man dressed
We knew that this flight would not be like the rest
Before we all knew it he was at the gates door
In his eyes was a twinkle we had not seen before.

On his face was a smile as he waved to the crowd
And for one second more we all laughed out loud
Then we heard him call out as he went out of sight
Merry Christmas to all and to all a safe flight

Friday, December 17, 2010

Pieces of Christmas #6

Sometimes it can be difficult sorting out the truths from the traditions of Christmas. This little cartoon helps:


for the YouTube link go here

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pieces of Christmas #5: more of Jesus and Santa

I think that this video first appeared last Christmas.  The song was written by the singer's father.  I believe that he's the guy at the piano.

This time it's a search for Jesus when everybody else seems to be satisfied with finding Santa.


If you want to go to YouTube to watch the video, it's here.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pieces of Christmas #4: Jesus and Santa

Towards the end of Macy's Christmas Parade the television announcer said that the most important person of the Christmas season was about to arrive....SANTA CLAUS!

Yeah, there is definitely a social controversy over who is the most important person of Christmas.

Even if your holiday is more about gifts (both giving and receiving), family traditions and the guy in the red suit, you need to know that there is a God that loves you and provided a way for you and me (the sinful and undeserving wretches that we are) to have eternal life in heaven.

It may shock my Christian brothers to hear me say that I'm okay with you using the more commercial holiday of christmas (lower case "c" intentional) to celebrate your traditions with family and friends.  I'm not absolutely convinced that it's necessary for us to have a day designated to celebrate the birth of our Savior.  It is necessary to tell the Christmas story:  that the prophecies of a Savior were (and are) fulfilled in the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. December 25th gives us an annual opportunity to do that.

So who is the most important person of your Christmas season?
Or Jesus?


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pieces of Christmas #3

This year has been a year that has really caused me to examine just how poorly I have been sharing the Gospel of Salvation in Jesus.  I want to be better...not just locally, but in that "Go and make disciples of ALL NATIONS..." thing that Jesus was talking about.

I found (was directed to) this website for Advent Conspiracy. Maybe in the coming months...

Anyways, as a part of my Pieces of Christmas series, I thought I'd share this video of theirs:


Link to full screen video

Monday, December 13, 2010

Pieces of Christmas #2

I found this song last year and posted it just prior to Christmas.

I've always like Jackson Browne and can identify with this song. Sometimes I feel far removed from the religiousness of the Christian culture.  I've been called self-righteous. I been called anti-Christian.  I've been told that you can't have certain political views and be a Christian.

Perhaps a heathen and a pagan describes me better than I care to admit...but I am still on the side of Jesus.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pieces of Christmas

It's hard to believe that Christmas is less than two weeks away.  Hannah will be finishing finals this week and should be home Thursday evening.  Aaron will also finish finals this week. Jenny finished hers last week.

Since there is always so much that seems to distract us from remembering the birth of our Savior, I thought that I would use these days leading up to Christmas 2010 by posting some simple reminders of why I celebrate on December 25th...and what I celebrate on December 25th.

Let me begin with a classic...simple, to the point, and from an era that was way less concerned about political correctness and much more concerned with allowing each to express their beliefs--even through a cartoon character.

Merry Christmas,

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Christmas Curmudgeon

I'm beginning to wonder if I'm not some sort of Christmas Curmudgeon. I'm going to rely on input from some of my self proclaimed curmudgeon friends/readers...and you know who you are.

I'm not particularly grouchy or feeling all bah-humbug or anything. And I don't feel like I'm completely without the "Christmas" spirit--I'm just easily bothered by others that are being pretenders.

Let me explain...

I started to sense this "curmudgeonly" spirit last Sunday morning. I found humor and irony in our pastor's sermon--that wasn't meant to be humorous or ironic. He was actually giving some good advice on keeping focus during the Christmas season. But he started by reminding us that there are many pagan traditions that can keep us distracted from the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

The irony of this message on the day after the sanctuary was decorated with "Christmas" trees, wreaths, poinsettias and garland was apparently missed by most if not all of the congregation.
Of course, the central decoration is the Nativity scene that seems dwarfed by the large trees, wreaths and bows.

Something about the whole thing just seemed a little off to me.

This was followed by the Wednesday night youth group meeting.

I have to say that I really enjoy the worship time on Wednesday night. The young man that leads that time has a great heart for God and is very transparent in his worship. It pretty much rocks every week.

(I've deleted several paragraphs because ... well, because I can.)

Maybe it's true. Could it be that I'm joining the ranks of the curmudgeons?

I don't think that I'm ready for that.


Btw--I had a great Wednesday morning sharing with Sparta High School and Middle School Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Thanks for inviting me!

Friday, December 03, 2010

Christmas Writing/Reading

Each winter, the Ozarks Chapter of the American Christians Writers takes a break from our normal workshop/guest speaker format to host two very different kinds of meetings. Our December meeting is set aside to hear many of our members present a 5-7 minute Christmas or winter piece that they have written. January is our speed writing meeting. Several topics or starting sentences are given and then the members and guests are challenged to use the first half of the meeting to write from what they've been given. The second half of the meeting is set aside for those that choose to share their work.

If you are in the Springfield area on the morning of December 11, please consider visiting us. Here is the information you'll need--time, place and directions.

Since I know that several of the members read this blog (although I'm not sure why) I considered not posting my work until the morning of the meeting. But since this is as convenient a place as any to store my work, and since I haven't been writing much as of late anyway, I decided to go ahead and post it as it leaks out of my head, through my fingers and into the cyber-world of Out of My Hat. Chances are that I will probably make some minor changes to make it easier to hear (something to consider when working on a piece that is to be read outloud) as I work on the presentation. Or perhaps I'll think of something to add to it; or delete from it; or maybe I'll come up with something entirely different by the time 8 more days pass. (Not likely given my recent writing block)

So here's what I'm thinking...

Do You Ever Stop to Wonder...?

I was wondering if Jesus (the human) was ever awed by His creation.

When you're watching a newborn baby discover his hands and fingers, playing with them in front of his face, realizing that he can grasp things in his tiny fingers; do you ever stop to wonder if Baby Jesus marveled at how his fingers worked?

Did Jesus laugh as his mom played peek-a-boo? Did he wonder where she went when she hid behind a raised blanket? Was he surprised as he squealed with delight at her sudden reappearance?

Did he slap his tiny hands on the furniture and bounce on chubby baby legs when he first pulled himself to his feet as if to say, "Look, mom! I'm standing!"?

What was the Creator of the Universe thinking as he tried to toddle across the room only to fall after a few wobbly steps and land hard on his diaper padded bottom?

I wonder...
Was he afraid of the dark? Were there monsters under his bed? Did thunderstorms bother him? Did he pick up bugs, splash through mud puddles or taste rocks?

I remember how excited my baby boy was when he got his first taste of Ted Drewe's Frozen Custard. I wonder...
What was the boy Jesus thinking when the sweetness of honey first burst upon his taste buds?

I wonder...
Did Jesus get that sweaty little boy smell after playing hard all day? You know the one--not really stinky but definitely not pleasant.

I wonder...
When did Jesus realize that this is His creation; His handiwork? Was it one morning while He was watching the sun rise? Or as an afternoon storm cleared and He remembered that the rainbow in sky meant something special? Was it in the midst of one of those sudden storms on the Sea of Galilee or on a clear quiet night as a meteor shower streaked across the starry sky?

Maybe it was as He came up out of the Jordan River and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him and that voice--that voice boomed from heaven, "THIS IS MY BELOVED SON, WITH WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED."

I wonder...

I wonder...
Did Jesus ever think that maybe pain wasn't the best system for warning our bodies that something was messed up? ...That maybe flashing lights and sirens would have been easier to bear as He was being scourged with Roman whips?

I wonder...
Did Jesus wish that He would've created our bodies to be a little less frail, less dependent on the oxygen that He could no longer coax into His lungs as He hung on the cross... my place? your place?

Each year at Christmas time, I wonder...
Not about the "why?" The Bible is pretty clear about God's great love for us:
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
(Romans 5:8)

I wonder about the "how?"

How could He love me so much when I've done nothing to deserve His love?
How could He choose to leave the Throne of Heaven...for me?
How could He choose to set aside the characteristics of omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence...for me?
How could He choose to clothe Himself in the weakness of human flesh...for me?
How could the Creator choose to be hot or cold, hungry or thirsty? How could He walk all day and get tired...for me?
How could He take a beating...for me?
How could He die...for me?

And each year, I wonder...
I wonder...
In the coming year, how will I thank Him?
How will I serve Him?
How will I serve...

Merry Christmas,