Archive for December, 2008


Holiday “drift”

‘Tis the day after Christmas and all through the house… dishes are waiting to be put away, some gifts are still sitting there under the tree, wrapped in their decorative coverings, waiting for the next wave of gift giving scheduled for Sunday evening. I am still gratefully basking in the memory of being a part of seven of our church’s 16 Candlelight Christmas Eve services. Yes, 16. I can see how you might conclude that this could drive someone to the point of cynical saturation on the whole subject of Christmas, but I loved every minute of it, frankly. There was a point at which it did seem a little bit like a “gospel of hope and light assembly line”. But to be able to see the glow on the faces of people as they exited the sanctuary kept it all in perspective. People seemed genuinely grateful to be given the chance to hear the “old old story” told again in a refreshingly new perspective and to know that God walks with them, regardless of the particular darkness they might be experiencing.

But here is the question that really began rolling around in my mind yesterday (Christmas Day, 2008) as I drove around: of all the holidays we take time off to observe each year, which observance has drifted the furthest from the spirit and energy of that holiday’s originating event? For example, I thought about the Fourth of July… do picnics, parades, and an orgy of colorful night-time explosions adequately help remind us of the significance of the signing of the Declaration of Independence? Or Thanksgiving… unless your family makes a practice of sitting down and reading a copy of the Mayflower Compact before the big feast, how far has stuffing ourselves with food, watching the Macy’s Parade and a couple of meaningless NFL games on TV drifted from the originating intent of this holiday? There is no accurate measuring stick by which to gauge the degree of “holiday drift,” but these two certainly have more than their fair share.

And  what about Christmas? By many accounts, this may be the holiday that has suffered the most “drift” of them all. I have one friend – decidedly non-religious – who makes a point of traveling with his wife every December to a part of the world that does not celebrate Christmas. I think they went to Vietnam this year, actually. He does this because he is so disgusted with the “carnival of excess” that the season has increasingly become. 

So I guess the question becomes something like, “what do you do?” And “whose responsibility is it?” to correct Holiday Drift? I guess we have the choice to just go with the flow and let each holiday become what they want to become, guided in their development by those who derive the greatest gain from them. Or we can each decide to correct the drift in our own homes and wrest back control. It’s not easy, but each of us has to decide if it is ultimately worth it.


Spiritual D.I.Y.?

I am so proud of myself I could just about burst. Last Saturday I decided I would design and build a genuine miniature stable for our Nativity figurines to hang out in. We got these pieces – consisting of three wise men, Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus after Christmas last year when they were on sale at Hobby Lobby. They are made of a resin-like material and painted realistically to resemble what we imagine all those folks might have looked like. One of the wise men is even black, consistent with the folklore about Balthazar.

The tallest of the figures – Joseph – is 27 inches tall, and so my plans called for the roof of the stable to be at least 48 inches at its highest point. I will tell you, it really turned out to be quite a serviceable work. I drew the plans up, made measurements, went to Lowe’s for the lumber and hardware (the walls are hinged for easy take down and set up), and then went to work. I do not have a power saw, so all of the wood cutting was done with my hand saw. But after about three hours of sawing, measuring, nailing and labor, there it was… my masterpiece. (Maybe I will add a photo to this post tomorrow).

But here is the point where a little spiritualish reflection sneaks into the story; this was a project I could envision and tackle by myself. Even given my remedial carpentry skills and lack of a power saw. The task of finishing my unfinished basement, on the other hand, is another story completely. I look at it and ponder the plumbing, sheetrocking, electrical wiring, HVACing, carpet and/or tile laying and say more or less immediately, “No way. No how. I’m gonna have to hire some help.”

So how is it that you and I cannot seem to muster the same kind of healthy respect for the task of the renovation of our hearts (to use a Dallas Willard category) that we do for the renovation of our basements? Surely not because we consider the project to be the same kind of rudimentary job as building a miniature stable? Is there really much sense to the proposition that we, using our own insights and tools and skills, will easily jump right in, nail a few boards together, and come away with hearts and minds that reflect the depth and majesty that they were created for? I kind of think not, speaking entirely for myself. Some of you may be a whole lot more spiritually astute, but I need outside help. I need resources. I need the expertise and the perspective of folks that know a lot more than I do. I need the timeless wisdom of guidebooks like the Holy Bible. I need instruction from people who have walked this way and stand ready to help me see all of the ruts and potholes along the way.

In other words, I need a carpenter. Or else a carpenter’s Son. And so do YOU!

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