Tuesday, December 28, 2010


“Prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight a path for Him!” (Mark 1:3) So shouted John the Baptist in the wilderness. There is so much noise in our world, especially in the days that lead up to Christmas: music in stores, children crying, customers' loud voices, ambulance sirens and traffic congestion. If you really want to be heard in the midst of all the noise, there are times when you almost have to shout.

During a typical lunch hour at the University of California - Berkeley, spokesmen for a dozen different causes can be found on the plaza, trying to shout louder than the others. One day a lone figure sat down defiantly in the middle of the crowd and held up a sign which said, "SILENT PROTEST." Someone tapped him on the shoulder and asked, "What are you protesting?" The defiant figure held up another sign which said, "NOISE."

That reminds me of the Salvation Army woman a few years back who was informed by a policeman that a local ordinance prevented her from ringing her bell for contributions. But that ordinance could not stop this inventive bellringer. The next day she did a better business than ever as she waved one sign and then another in the air. The signs said, "DING" and "DONG."

John the Baptizer had to contend with all the noise of his day that drowned his message to be prepared for the coming Messiah. There has always been noise when the God's spokesmen try to speak His message. Perhaps that is one of the reasons John shouted in the wilderness - simply to be heard.

In Psalm 46:10 God says, “Be still and know that I am God.” There is a time for shouting and a time for being still. During the coming year of 2011, may you know the difference, especially in those times you need to wait on the Lord to hear His still, small voice of divine guidance and love.

Do you hear the Lord speaking to you?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


"For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given." (Isaiah 9:6) What is it that makes us truly human? Besides our eternal soul, what has God given people that He has not given animals? The ability to reason? To laugh? To worship the Creator? To analyze one's life? To give gifts of gratitude?

This time of year is centered on gifts, those we give to each other and God's supreme gift in Jesus. I recall my father giving new plowshares to my uncle for using his tractor and plow. I've witnessed forgiveness given with tears and received gifts of thanks for things long ago forgotten. 

A priceless gift is a second chance, the opportunity for a new life. This Sunday I will baptize my grand daughter and witness God's merciful gifts to her of faith and forgiveness. Abandoned in a distant land and her cries bringing rescue by a stranger, Anaya has been given a new chance in life because of God's love. God has an eternal plan for this little girl, and it includes the baptismal gifts of faith and forgiveness in Jesus Christ. 

Another baby's cries were once heard in a Bethlehem stable, and they signalled the presence of the Solution to the world's true problem. His cries frightened a king and frustrated mankind's greatest enemy. Despite the message of angels, His mother and foster father did not fully understood what He would mean to this world of sin and separation.

Our life is a gift from God; what we do with life is our gift to Him. As you count your blessings this Christmas, remember the gifts of being born where you are, into the family you are, with the gifts you have, and at this time in history. We, among all people, are assuredly most blessed. What now will we do with the life He has given us?

This Christmas, consider who you are, as well as Whose you are.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


This time of year is Messiah time. The night before last I enjoyed singing the "Messiah" with the Casa Grande community chorus, again doing the opening tenor solo, "Comfort Ye." As I did, I thought about the circumstances under which George Friedrich Handel wrote his master work, because I'd read about them that afternoon.

Historians tell us Handel been for a long walk on a Sunday afternoon in late August, 1741, and the great maestro was really depressed. Although he'd had a successful career writing operas, things were not going well. At age 41 he'd had a serious stroke and though he had recovered, people stopped buying his compositions.

That afternoon as he returned home from his walk he found a manuscript on his doorstep, left by a friend, Charles Jennens. It was offered as a possible libretto (musical story) about Jesus Christ, His birth, ministry, cruficixion and resurrection, and all started with wonderful prophetic passages from Isaiah. When Handel read Isaiah 40: 1-2, “Comfort ye my people,” he later said the clouds of gloom began to lift and he began that day to compose an Oratorio on the entire life of Christ. Incredibly, in just over three weeks, it was finished. The entire "Messiah" - 250 pages of original musical composition - was written in just three weeks! Truly amazing! It's his gift to the ages.

These days are not just time for Handel's musical “Messiah," but especially for Jesus the living Messiah. Without Him, there is no true winter festival. Hannukah is about the rededication of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, and Kwanzaa was invented in the mid-1960's by an activist to honor African American heritage. Only Christmas gives us joy in the gift of God's Son. Only Christmas is about forgiveness, comfort and peace on earth.

We modern people need God's comfort for unsettling days. We need God's peace to lift us from the doldrums of winter storms, human weakness and bad news. We need God's power to change for the better. We need Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, who gave His earthly life that we might have eternal life. In other words, we really do need the Messiah.

George Friedrich Handel, like most of the great musicians during the golden age of music, were dedicated Christians. Martin Luther once said that next to the Gospel, music is God's greatest gift to humanity. On a plaque I saw once were these words: "BACH gave us God's Word, MOZART gave us God's laughter, BEETHOVEN gave us God's fire, GOD gave us music that we could pray without words." I guess I'd add, "HANDEL gave us God's Hope."

May each of us have God's hope and joy this Christmas!

Monday, December 6, 2010


This December 7 marks sixty-nine years since the Pearl Harbor invasion, and I was tempted to write once again about the sacrifices of those brave men and women attacked on a Sunday morning. But something caught my attention this past week - a story about the discovery that an additional element, arsenic, that can be part of the formula for human life. This bit of info produced many media stories, including several which speculated about the potential of life on other planets.

I happen to believe there has been life on other planets, and so do you. Forty-one years ago, on Sunday July 20, 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon at 3:17 EST. The moon is a satellite of earth, and is large enough to be considered a minor planet in our solar system. That day and for the next three and a half years, a total of twelve astronauts walked on the moon. During those years we can say without doubt there was intelligent life in another location of our solar system.

The Apollo Eleven moon landing has been celebrated and examined in great detail. But one aspect usually overlooked is that Buzz Aldrin had Holy Communion when he was on the moon. Aldrin's church had given him a small packet containing consecrated bread and wine, and during the radio blackout when the Eagle was out of contact with earth, he ate and drank the elements of Holy Communion 235,000 miles away from the nearest church. After he did, Aldrin read John 15:5, "I am the vine, you are the branches. Whosoever abides in me and I in Him will bring forth much fruit."

NASA kept this act secret for two decades because it was already embroiled in a legal battle with the athiest Madelyn Murray O’Hare over the Apollo Eight crew's reading from Genesis while orbiting the moon at Christmas. Aldrin said he prayed aloud after communion that day, giving thanks for the intelligence and spirit that had brought two young pilots to the moon's Sea of Tranquility. It is interesting and heartening to realize that the first food and drink consumed on the moon were the elements of the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

Aldrin's memoirs were the center of Tom Hanks' 1998 HBO mini-series, "From the Earth to the Moon," and in it the audience was made aware of this act of Christian worship. This year I am assisting Trinity congregation here, in Casa Grande, AZ, with midweek Advent services under the theme, "The Prophets Speak." It's a Trinity custom to celebrate Holy Communion during these services. This Wednesday I intend to remember those astronauts and the intelligence, humility and faith they showed that day on another planet in our universe God created.

"He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge." (Psalm 91:4)