A former Lutheran pastor sharing thoughts on faith and life. Please join the conversation! I love your comments!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Advent Readings From Outside The Box: Part 4

December 22
Christmas is a time of year for generosity and giving to charity.  Recently I have seen suggestions that we not give to a certain large charity because of their political stance.  I certainly disagreed with the political stance but I wonder should such a thing prevent me from contributing to a charity that does an excellent job of feeding and clothing people?  I read another article about the ungrateful and rude behavior of some recipients of food stamps.  I am fairly certain that not all rude people are poor so why hold the poor to different standards?  It seems clear to me that there are strings attached to our giving.  I have found it in myself when I have helped someone out and then immediately started judging their actions.  It is difficult not to do so.  We like to see our giving put to good use.  We don’t want to be taken advantage of.  But this type of giving has nothing to do with Christmas.    God didn’t show God’s love for us by becoming human because we deserved it.  God doesn’t take that love away when we are rude or make bad decisions.  God’s love is freely and generously given.  
December 23
Brace yourself, another football analogy coming and it references...wait for it....Tebow!  I know everyone is excited because we haven’t heard enough about this guy!  (the previous sentence is so heavy with sarcasm I could barely push the keys to type it).  I understand the excitement about Tebow.  It is soooo refreshing to have a football player in the news because he is praying rather than getting arrested.  He is a well spoken man.  Here are my two cents though: 1) whether he prays on the field or not says a lot less about his faith than his actions off the field particularly in relation to the tons of money he is making  2) last I checked I could pray to God without kneeling so clearly this is done intentionally to call attention to his prayer.  Is this drawing attention to God or to a certain football player? (Although it is possible he is kneeling so he can pray without getting caught off guard by another player’s enthusiastic celebration.  “Dear Lord, thank you....Ahhhhh dog pile!” Crunch!)  This last point, (minus the dog pile) is where it connects with Christmas for me.  Many folks say, “Remember the reason for the season.”  Clearly this is not done to remind themselves.  If they were reminding themselves we wouldn’t be hearing it or reading it.  So, does this glorify God or does this say “you all better remember the reason for the season like I obviously am since I am saying these words, aren’t I good?”  Would it not be better to live the reason for the season by giving generously and loving abundantly? 
December 24
Christmas Eve!  Ohhhh, the anticipation!  I can hardly stand it.  I won’t be able to sleep tonight because I am so excited.  What am I excited about?  Presents!  But the mightily cool thing about Christmas is:  I am not excited about the presents I will be getting but rather about those I will be giving.  We fret and worry about the materialism of Christmas but somehow as we grow it does become about what we give rather than what we get.  In this self-centered world that is no small thing.  Sure we go overboard.  I confess I did.  Sometimes we give out of obligation rather than out of joy.  There is definite room for improvement.  Yet a day of getting excited about what you give is not a bad way to celebrate Christmas!  My children, like most children, are probably more excited about what they get but they did spend a lot of time making special, hand-drawn presents for others.  And with careful guidance (like me crabbing at one of them in the middle of the store to “think about somebody besides yourself!”) and time and watching good role models they will discover the joy of giving.  I have great hope, with the way God is moving in this world, that our children may even do a much better job than we have of carrying that spirit over into the rest of their lives.  A hope-filled and meaningful Christmas to you all!
December 25
The day is here and as I reflect upon that child in the manger,
                                             God become human to live and die for us, 
                                                                                    our hope for the future, 
                                                                                                              our heart, 
                                                                                                                       our life, 
                                                                                                                           I am struck speechless.  

Let us dwell in quiet awe in this moment of that birthing cry, the light of hope that breaks the darkness.


Lynn Schlosser said...

Thank you Sheri for speaking to those of us who think we "get" Christmas more than everyone else. The "giving without strings attached" is particularly timely. Beautiful messages.

Anonymous said...

I agree with what you say about giving. We should follow our heart when giving. Don't look back. Don't expect anything in return. Our reward is in heaven. Christmas is a wonderful opportunity to practice that.

I don't really agree with your conspiracy theories about demonstrating ones faith. We should never be afraid to express our faith. What better way to spread the word about Jesus, as the bible calls us to do. It may be uncomfortable for some people, but I think it has value. It makes me uncomfortable to watch Tebow kneal on the sideline, but I think that's due to my own personality. I'm sure that because he openly prays in football games, there are a few young people who now think its cool to place your faith in Jesus. I know that wasn't something I thought was cool when I was young.

Anonymous said...

I do understand how the comments like "remember the reason for the season" can be frustrating to those of us who are stressed out trying to handle all of the Christmas "stuff". An older gentlemen at work (These kind of comments tend to come from the older guys.) asked me if I was ready for Christmas. I told him I still had a few cards to send. He replied that he didn't do much with Christmas cards, but was more about the real meaning of Christmas. I'm thinking "Thats because your wife handles all of the other Christmas obligations." I guess I should give him credit for trying to place focus where it should be.

Sheri Ellwood said...

Thanks to all for the great comments! I love being able to have a conversation about this stuff. I do find the "conspiracy theories" phrase a bit perplexing. But, let me be clear: I would guess that Tebow is honestly expressing his faith in the way he believes is best. I just happen to disagree with him and think it probably turns off at least as many people as it appeals to. I also have to wonder if we would be as admiring of his expressions of faith if he were a Muslim. I also think the theology behind thanking God for a touchdown is iffy (see my earlier post entitles God Bless America?). But, again, thanks so much for the comments and participating in the conversation!

Marcy said...

Hi Sheri,
My name is Marcy Reynolds. I stumbled on your blog while searching for advent devotion ideas. I am in the ministry in Kansas also! I love your advent thoughts from a couple of years ago.
We are hosting a holiday dinner and the plan is to make an advent devotional booklet for them to take home. I think your blog was more appealing than most anything else we googled because of your unique and fun outlook.
So my question is would you allow us to use your advent devos with slight modification to the format? We would only change areas that seem like a blog instead of a devotional.
This would be for about 100 women and we would, of course, include an acknowledgement that it was adapted from your blog.
Thanks so much!
Marcy Reynolds
Women's Minister
Community Christian Church
Fort Scott, Kansas

Sheri Ellwood said...

Marcy, nice to hear from a fellow Kansan! Absolutely you may use this blog. Please do include a reference to my blog and the blog address. I would love to hear about how it goes as well!

Marcy said...

Thank you, Sheri! That means so much.