Monday, December 22, 2008

I Finally Made Christmas Lists!

We really do enjoy getting those holiday letters some people complain about at Christmas. Having moved around as many times as we have, we have friends scattered in several places, and, as good as our intentions are, we don't do a good job of staying in touch. Those Christmas letters give us a chance to see kids grow, lives change, and all kinds of other things. Like most people, we usually read through them, stash them with the rest of the Christmas cards and intend to do better about staying in touch. Then it's time for another Christmas, and we read about people about whom we really did intend to do better.
This year's Christmas letters brought something unexpected. I got mentioned in two of them! One young friend of mine felt the need to remind people that he was a Duke basketball fan (as though we could ever forget that about him), and included me and another die-hard Kentucky fan as people who wouldn't be happy to hear that. (I gave up on converting him to the true faith long ago!) The other mention was from my friend who is serving as supply pastor at the congregation I left behind in Huntsville earlier this year. Most of what she had to say about me had to do with how much extra work I had caused for her.
I never thought much about actually being in someone's Christmas letter. These two references felt pretty good, though. Our first Florida holiday has been a wonderful experience, but it's different being this far away from many of the things and people who have been part of our celebrations before. Of course we've shared this year's celebration in our new home and community with all kinds of friends we didn't know before. Still, it's kind of nice to know we've left parts of ourselves among other friends in other places (Even if one of them is a Duke fan!)
I hope you can find some quiet, reflective time in these last few days before Christmas. And I hope you can think about the parts of yourselves you've left with other people in other places. Even if you didn't make someone's Christmas letter this year, I'll bet someone somewhere is thankful for you. And I'm sure you're thankful for the presence of lots of people in your life, too. I hope you all find a way to let each other know. You might just make someone's day. My friends surely made mine! Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Wishing and Hoping

For my birthday, some friends gave me one of those little hand held gizmos that plays twenty questions and tries to figure out sports and music things I'm thinking about. It's pretty good most of the time. But I've stumped it a couple of times. That may say more about the kinds of music I like and my memory of sports stats than it says about that machine, but it's fun whatever it means. Dusty Springfield is one of the music names that stumped the game. Those of you who are my age (56, as of Sunday!) probably remember when Dusty sang a song called Wishing and Hoping. It was all about love and what it takes to experience it. In her words, "Wishing and hoping and thinking and praying, planning and dreaming...that won't get you into his arms." She goes on to make some pretty specific suggestions about will get you into the arms of the one you've identified as the source of all happiness in your life. (She suggests things like holding and kissing and hugging and things that usually work, at least at first.)
One of the messages of Dusty's song seems to be that wishing and hoping aren't enough. Dreaming is good, but what we're dreaming of usually requires us to do something.
Most of us do some wishing and hoping during this time of year. Whether we're wishing for a special gift, hoping for peace in the world (or maybe at least in our lives), planning for the perfect holiday, or dreaming of a White Christmas (doubtful in my part of the world, thanks be to God!), Dusty's message applies. Wishing and hoping usually sound pretty one-sided. They evoke images like Charlie Brown and the little red-haired girl: he dreams of a relationship with her, and she doesn't know he exists. Of course, he's not about to talk to her and let her know how he feels, either! As long as wishing and hoping are all we do, we'll probably never experience what we're wishing and hoping for.
Wishing and hoping are important during Advent, but our wishes and hopes are not just idle wanderings of our minds to better things. We wish and hope for what God has promised-a Savior who will speak peace, a relationship that will give order, meaning, and purpose to our lives. We can wish and hope, but we can also do things to hasten the coming of those things for which we wait. During Advent, we pray. We light candles. We spend time in Scripture. We draw closer to God confident that God is coming closer to us.
Dusty Springfield's song ends with her goal within in reach, literally. Girls, she promises, if you do all the things I've suggested, you will be his. I know she's got some mop-topped boy from the sixties in mind. But I also know that some of her thinking applies to our wishing and hoping for God, too. God has promised to come to us. And in Jesus Christ, God keeps that promise. We belong to God. And if we satisfy ourselves with the things God's people do, we will be God's. I don't know (and probably don't need to) all the things you're wishing and hoping for this season. but I know (and want you to know) that if peace with God is on the list, your wishing and hoping will amount to something. Thanks be to God!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Way back when I was much younger, I remember hearing all the old people talk about how quickly time flew by. Of course, I was young then, waiting for all kinds of things, so I didn't have a clue what they were talking about. (And I was pretty sure they didn't, either.) When I was twelve, I couldn't wait to be thirteen, then sixteen, then eighteen, twenty-one, and all those other magical ages that were supposed to make such a difference in my life. Now that I am well past all those milestones, I catch myself wondering why time won't slow down enough for me to catch up. This time of year makes things even worse. Most of you know we just moved. Some of you know we're still unpacking, and will be for a while. Thanksgiving thrust itself into our lives before I found the turkey roasting pan. We managed. Thanksgiving came and went, as it always does. These busy days of Advent resist my insistence on some quiet time to pray and reflect on God's grace, but I still have good intentions of using these days and nights for my spiritual betterment. If today is December 3, then Christmas is right around the corner, and my birthday comes between now and then, as if I needed another reminder that time marches on.
I am much more thankful than I was able to express while Thanksgiving whizzed past me this year. I am also grateful for God's promise made known in Christ, whether my frenzied pace during Advent shows it or not. When Christmas comes, I won't be ready, but it will come anyway. Even though it seems that I'm living through some unknown season I'll call Thanksadmus this year, I know each of these days, hectic and harried as they are, are gifts from God, times to be savored, times for which I'll be thankful when I'm even older, looking back wondering where these days have gone. Happy Thanksadmus. I know some of you are celebrating it with me!