Christmas Eve 2015

I sit in the early morning doing something brand new: holding my new grandson. In the quiet I ask for the goodness of God to be POURED into his life. His name is strong: JUDAH (God be praised).  As I sit and look at this beautiful boy I ask for the name of the Lord to be strong in him, through his life, through the lives of his parents.

In this early morning on this special day I am “out of pocket” a bit as pastor. I love being at my church on Christmas Eve and getting ready to lead a Christmas Eve service. This year I am in Alabama and we have all our kids here. Three sons, two wives, and one adorable grandson. (Have I mentioned I have a new grandson yet?)

This Christmas Eve I have my immediate family here. Though my wife and I are far from our parents, we are “being parents” this year having our core family together in a way we may struggle to get again. This Christmas Eve is so deeply meaningful in my life as I think of the charge I have as a parent and now a grandparent. It is a time to reflect on blessing and then TO BLESS.

It is a time to remember the timeless story… and then impart spiritual blessing into my family so they can live out the timeless story in their lives.

I have learned over the years to live in the moment gifted to me. I can choose to be in a moment and say, “Well, if this person was here it would be perfect,” or, “Well, if this moment were happening this other location it would be perfect,” etc. We can miss precious moments if we play the “well, but…” scenario in our minds constantly.

In this moment, I have a beautiful family all together and it is a gift. Last night I was tired from the trip so I was sittting off to the side resting and listening to the rest of the family get into an incredily deep discussion about race and culture. It was a powerful moment for me. I was filled with gratitude. They were thinking. They were discussing. They were finding their way. And through it all came this heart for God that drives them to do things better in this world.

These are precious moments gifted to me. And on this Christmas Eve morning… I give thanks. And I worship Christ the King.

Merry Christmas.


The great longing of Christmas

Advent creates longing. The Scripture reading all season reflects on longing.

I love the celebration of Christmas, but I also love the stirring this season’s readings create in my heart.

A few weeks ago I walked into a colleague’s office and started with, “I’ve heard a rumor…”

His ears perked up, but he was cautious because he is not a man who wants to hang around a rumor mill.

I finishes: “that Jesus is coming again.”

He smiled and relaxed.

I then left him with a quote I heard from a man who has now experienced the fullness of what he said a few years ago: “I’m homesick for a place I’ve never been.”

Advent makes me homesick. I long for the fullness of the presence of Christ. He has come once. He will come again… and I have that deep longing. I want to go home.

The great invitation is given today:

12 “Look! I’m coming soon. My reward is with me, to repay all people as their actions deserve. 13 I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. 14 Favored are those who wash their robes so that they may have the right of access to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs, the drug users and spell-casters, those who commit sexual immorality, the murderers, the idolaters, and all who love and practice deception.

16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to bear witness to all of you about these things for the churches. I’m the root and descendant of David, the bright morning star. 17 The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who is thirsty come! Let the one who wishes receive life-giving water as a gift.” (Rev. 22:12-17)

Let us long for that day.

Celebrate the season. Long for his coming again.

It is the tension we need in our lives in these holy days.

The chaos of Christmas

One of my “unfavorite” Christmas carols is “Away in a Manger.” That line “no crying he makes” is just too much. He was a baby. An animal makes a noise while he sleeps, crying he makes. 

There are those subtle reminders in our lives where we need our nice, neat Christmas pictures blown up from time to time.

A scared young lady. A pious Jewish man who has laid his reputation on the line. Giving birth in a cave surrounded by animals. Dirty hay. Upheaval because of Rome. People coming in and out to feed the animals. Trying to shove away the donkey from the feeding trough because there’s a baby in it!

Jesus didn’t march into the halls of power to impress anyone. He came where people would eventually find him as an adult: among the margins. Among the forgotten. Among the poor.

He didn’t come in magisterial glory. He came in chaos.

And THAT is good news. Our lives are neat and clean. They’re messy. They’re noisy. We’re generally not noticed by anyone else in the world. And in THAT… here comes the Savior. He can bring peace to the chaos. He does it this way to let you know he sees you. 

Thank the Lord for peace in the midst of our chaos. He comes into our mess.

PEACE on earth.

My Christmas Wish List

I don’t get asked a lot, but every once in awhile someone will ask what I want for Christmas.

This year I’ve said the same thing: World Peace.

I just don’t have a Christmas wish list. My life is full.

My family is doing well. My wife and I are having a great time as we watch our sons mature. We’ve had a house full of young adults this fall who are making their way in life and that has been nice, actually. No big struggles. We’ve actually had them successfully sit down with us every week for a house meeting, which I couldn’t do with my sons once they hit high school!

Our church is on a new trajectory as the Lord challenges us to dig deeper into our community. This next year will be full of incredible new territory for us!

At my point in life, while I can always enjoy a good book and a great cup of coffee, what is possible for a Christmas wish list?

A question I’ve challenged myself with over the past several months is this: Is it well with my soul?

In this season, that answer is “yes.”

But could someone please work on that world peace thing for me?

God bless us… everyone.

Resting in the presence of Jesus

I attended a college Christmas choral concert last Sunday. It was a time of rest for my spirit. This particular song from the 18th Century (music is more contemporary, by Elizabeth Poston) gave my soul rest and worship:

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree

1. The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.

2. His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

3. For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
‘Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

4. I’m weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest awhile:
Under the shadow I will be,
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

5. This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

Experts everywhere

If I need to know more about something, I’m so grateful for the experts I find on social media.

Hundreds of millions of experts on:

— The football championship

— St. Nick

— Grand juries

— Race relations

— Proper chokeholds

— Reconciliation

— Sound biblical exegesis

Is this a great day to be alive or what?

Glory to God in the highest

The tree lights are on. The first pot of coffee is made and the first cup is poured. Sidewalks are shoveled from the light snowfall we had last night. The turkey has been in the oven cooking oh, so, slowly. Ready to feast on later today.

But everyone is still asleep and in this quiet, with things a little more prepared for the day, I come to this sacred ground again.

It is certainly special THIS day because it is the celebration of the birth of the King. Yet, in this moment every morning I have the opportunity to come to this sacred moment.

He is here.

The Light has come.

And today is so immensely special as well. It is the celebration of the birth of the King. While it is not as momentous for me as Resurrection, this is still sacred ground. A quiet moment.

A place to sit back and hear heaven declare once again:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Merry Christmas.

Christmas Cheer

Simple idea #278 for Christmas (I don’t have 277 previous ones):

Christ is BORN. Light has come into the world. Darkness has not overcome it… ever.

And won’t.

No matter what is going on in the world and in your world right now, here is the simple idea:

Sit back. Get some coffee on, or tea, or other favorite beverage. Don’t EVEN turn that TV on!

Get the lights low and the Christmas lights high. No Christmas lights? Find a candle.



Think of the Light of Christ coming into this world. He knows where you’re at. He knows what you are going through.

And in that moment, realize he has comeEven more important: he is here.


Merry Christmas.

When Jesus comes

51 He has shown strength with his arm.
He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations.
52     He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
and lifted up the lowly.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty-handed. (Luke 1:51-31)

What is always profound to me is the humility of Christ’s coming. It is always a sense of “role reversals.” He doesn’t land in the seat of power. He doesn’t land in the privileged communities.

And that was his choice. He could have landed anywhere. He could have come in any way he chose.

So… he chose humility. He chose the margins.

The past few months have opened doors for me as I have asked the Lord to keep me at “the margins.” How can I keep my eyes open for those society has kicked to the curb? The Spirit has led me in some interesting places. Not many, and I know that’s because I’m not completely ready. It’s my hesitancy, not my “heroics.”

The margins are challenging for me. But in the past few months I have found such deep joy. Every time I come away from a particular encounter I find myself weeping. Just weeping. There is joy as I watch the Spirit work, but there is also a deep cry in my heart, asking God to keep me there. I need that sense of his working in this deep way and even though I’m doing very minimal things at the edges right now, I am finding deep joy. 

I am finding deep joy there because I truly believe I am finding Christ. It’s where he chose to land when he came.