Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Last Sunday the Church Year ended and the Christian season of Advent began. Advent is a time of preparation for Christ's coming. We live between two advents: Advent I was Christ's first coming to the world through human birth as Mary's Son at Bethlehem, and Advent II is Christ's second coming in judgment, on the last day. 80% of the world's 1.5 billion Christians observe the liturgical season of Advent in some way.

Advent has been around since 490 AD when Perpetuus, bishop of Tours, advocated fasting from St. Martin's day, November 11, to Christmas Eve. Sometime later Advent began the Sunday closest to St. Andrew's Day, November 30, The season can last anywhere from 22 to 28 days and is usually observed with some solemnity, its color being purple for penitence, or more recently, blue. Advent is always the time to prepare for Christ's coming.

Among many middle eastern Christians, St. Barbara's Day, December 4, signals the beginning of the Christmas season. In Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Netherlands, and parts of Germany, St. Nicholas' Day, December 6, begins Christmas festivities when shoes or stockings are set out to be filled with gifts for good children. Some Dutch people still gather to watch St. Nick's ship land in Amsterdam, then watch him ride off on his white horse. Obviously, a lot of this pageantry crossed over to America, except that our St. Nicholas arrives via the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade but doesn't deliver his gifts until December 24.

Swedes wait until St. Lucy's Day, December 13, to commence their Christmas observances. Lucy, who died in Italy in 304 AD, became a favorite among Scandinavian Christians in the eleventh century. Lucy's name comes from the Latin word lux (light). Scandinavians were pretty desperate for light around that time of year, so they latched onto St. Lucy. Her annual remembrance involves a girl from each household wearing a wreath of lingonberry leaves and lighted candles on her head while coming down the stairway, and then serves the family breakfast.

Advent II is a time of waiting, not just for Christmas, but especially for Christ's Second Coming. Our Lord Jesus came to be our Savior, and He will come again on Judgment Day at a time no one knows. Christians should be prepared by worshipping the Lord regularly, reading His Word often, and daily trusting Him for all things. Like Jesus' parable of the Wise Young Maidens tells us, only those who are ready for the Lord will be invited into the Wedding Feast. Being ready means trusting God for all things at all times.

Happy Advent!

Monday, November 19, 2007


A shopper at the local mall needed a break, so she bought herself a little bag of cookies, got a cup of coffee, and sat at one of the crowded mall tables to read her paper. A man also sat down at her table and began reading a newspaper. She reached out and took a cookie, and the man seated across from reached out and took one, too. She was a bit startled but she did not say anything. A few moments later she took another cookie, and once again the man took a cookie also. Though a bit uneasy at him eating her cookies, she did not say anything.

After a sip of coffee she took another cookie. And so did the man! Now this upset her, especially since there was only one cookie was left. The man also saw the one cookie that was left and before she could say anything, broke it, gave half to her, and walked away, eating the other half. She glared at him. "What a jerk!" she thought, "Some men think they're just so smart!" Her coffee break was ruined and already she was thinking what she'd tell her husband about this thoughtless cookie thief! So she picked up her purse, and underneath it discovered another bag of cookies, the bag she'd bought, unopened. She had been eating his cookies the whole time!

I like that story. It makes me think about how we treat God when He provides us with so much. It also makes me think how often we assume everything is ours. Deuteronomy 8:11 is good for us to remember these days: "When you have eaten and are satisfied, then praise the LORD your God for the good land He has given you." 

We often believe that all we have is ours and comes only from our own efforts. The Bible tells us not to forget that it's all from God, gifts we may work to get, but nonetheless are all from God. Every National Day of Thanksgiving is meant to remind us it is God who gives us all we have. 

Not long ago famous people all over the world were polled by a magazine with the question: "If you could be granted one wish that will come true right now - what would that be?" There were some interesting responses, but only one response impressed the magazine's editors so much that they commented on it specifically. That response was this: "I wish I could have an even greater appreciation for what I already have."

That's a great thing to wish for. What do you think would happen if each of us suddenly became a more appreciative of all God has given us? 

"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is Good!"

Monday, November 12, 2007


At 11 AM on November 11, 1918, the Armistice was signed ending World War One, "the war to end all wars." It did not, of course, and it is certain that as long as this world exists, wars will continue to be fought. A major historian has estimated that in the 3,500 years of recorded human history, only 250 of those years held no armed conflict somewhere in the world.

Some may hang their heads in shame at this, but we must face reality: Humanity lives in a fallen state; the sinful condition of rebellion that began with Adam and Eve will ever be upon us. Only when we stand before the Lord on Judgment Day will there be an end to the effects of sin in the world.

Thus, there will always be a need for Jesus Christ and what He did for us on the cross.  There is never a time in our lives that we do not need Jesus, whether infant or aged, waking or sleeping. He is our lifeline in turbulant waters, our defense from the forces of evil. He is our Savior who gives us eternal life.

It was not my privilege to serve in the Armed Forces, but many among my family and friends have done so. I give thanks for them each day, as well as pray for their courage, duty and safety. The war we are in today is called by some World War Four, World War Three being the Cold War. Some deny it is a war at all, and yet we know the truth of that. One and a half million service U.S. men and women are in uniform today, one third of them in combat zones. They are the best trained and equipped, the finest soldiers our nation has ever had. And this is true: there will never be a time when our nation will not need its Armed Forces.

Psalm 46 tells us that God is our mighty fortress and our strength, our present help in every trouble. Therefore we do not fear as those who have no hope. Rather, we trust Him and rejoice that He is with us always, in every circumstance, unto the end of the age. We all need to trust Jesus, and we all need His forgiveness. And we can always reach out to Him through prayer.

If you'd like to send an E-card to encourage one of our troops, Xerox Corp makes it very easy at: http://www.letssaythanks.com/ . I urge you all to give thanks to God for all those who serve, protect and defend us, whether past or present. 

And give thanks most of all for Jesus,

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Yesterday as I took the garbage out I wondered which of it my mother would have kept. I grew up in the 50's with practical parents: a mother, God love her, who reused aluminum foil, plastic bags, and containers we routinely pitch. She was the original recycle queen. Dad was the fixer. He truly valued his friends, and both were good neighbors. She was happier getting old shoes fixed than buying new ones, and he liked that, too.

Their marriage was good, their dreams focused on farming and raising us five kids. Their best friends lived barely a half mile away. I can see them now, Dad with his farmer's tan, white shirt with sleeves rolled up, and Mom in a house dress, fingers just dried on a dish towel.

It always seemed time for fixing the kitchen screen door, hemming a dress, wallpapering a room, greasing the combine, or going to church. It was their way of life, all that fixing, cooking, church going. There'd better be a good reason for throwing things away. I still feel that way.

My mother died in the fall 13 years ago, and Dad followed her a year and a half later, both in their 90s. And I was struck with the pain of learning that sometimes things don't last. Sometimes, what we care about most gets all used up and goes away, never to return.

So, while we have it, it's best we love it and care for it. And fix it when it's broken. This is true of old cars, sick pets, aging grandparents, hurting children, ailing marriages, even ailing church memberships.

We keep these because they are worth it, and because we are worth it. There's much that is precious about that church we belong to, old friends that moved away, or family members, even if they annoy us. There are just some things that make life important, and people we know who are special. We'd better work to keep them.

I suppose not everything or everyone is a keeper, but there are more around us than we think. It's okay to toss out old junk, but maybe we should retrieve an old relationship. You and I won't measured by the stuff we leave behind, but by the friends we kept. 

And thanks be to our Lord Jesus there will be a grand reunion in heaven, right?