Called to a Hero’s Journey for Christmas and Creation

At this Christmastime, what hero’s journey are you on? To embark on a classic hero’s journey, one needs to recieve and respond to a call that challenges us to move out of our normal lives – to leave convention and risk transformation. (1)

A traditional nativity scene, iconic even though misleading
A traditional nativity scene, iconic even though misleading, and yes, found in my living room.

So let us pause to reflect on a story filled with heroes’ journeys, the Christmas story. This narrative has come to be iconically represented by the nativity scene. Unfortunately repeated exposure to that traditional image through front yard decorations, table-top sets, holiday cards and Christmas pageants too easily transforms a dynamic adventure into a boring collection of misleading clichés. The traditional nativity scene presents a static tableau. It poses Mary and Joseph with baby Jesus, bracketed by ox, ass and lamb, framed by wooden stable, faced by shepherds and wise men, overseen by suspended angel and unmoving star. Frozen and immobile, this scene, this still-frame from Continue reading

Poinsettias – More Than Just a Pretty Plant?

Poinsettia_thumbnailHave you ever wondered why every year around this time, grocery stores are flooded with poinsettias?  It would be strange to see them any other time of the year, but where do they come from, and why are they associated with Christmas?

As it turns out, the plant we know today as the poinsettia has a very interesting history! Native to an area of Southern Mexico known as Taxco de Alarcón, the Aztecs used it for Continue reading

The Best Way to Celebrate Christmas?

The infamous Grinch, who tried to steal Christmas by stealing the decorations and gifts. Click for source.

Christmas is a birthday celebration for Jesus, and wow, do we love to celebrate!  The Christmas songs started around Halloween, as did the decorations of tinsel and garland in all the stores.  Once the snow started flying in mid-November, I knew folks would ramp up the decorating and festive holiday cheeriness.  Twinkle lights of many colors started to show up on trees and on rooftops, porches and patios.  Blow-up Santa Clauses and reindeer and candy canes appeared overnight in lawns.  We love this season, and we love the anticipation of nearly two months of waiting for December 25th.

Is this the best way to celebrate Jesus entering the world he made, and eventually save it by dying on a cross?  I know I’m not the only one who feels like we’re missing something crucial if the Christmas season is reduced to gift-giving, cookie-baking and carol-singing.  Indeed, many Christ-followers Continue reading

Intimations of Mortality

Originally published August 13, 2010.

William Wordsworth’s most famous work is Ode: Intimations of Immortality From Reflections of Early Childhood.” It is one of my favorite poems, exploring the lost pleasures of childhood that Wordsworth believes are hints of the immortality we left behind:

It is not now as it hath been of yore;—
Turn wheresoe’er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

And again,

Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

Setting aside theological mysteries and controversies for another day, what has preoccupied me for that last month and a half has not been immortality, past or future, but increasing intimations of mortality:  My own,as I have experienced an unusual and thought provoking spell of genuine illness, something unusual for me; but also increasing intimations of mortality in the world in which we live, highlighted by the Gulf oil spill but buttressed by a host of other events. Continue reading

Black Friday and a very good Friday

Originally posted Nov. 29, 2011.  Not much has changed, except that stores are now starting their Black Friday sales at 6 pm on Thanksgiving.

Last Friday was  “Black Friday”, when the world goes crazy over shopping.  There was a lot of controversy in the days leading up to the event concerning stores opening not at 5 am, not at 4 am, not even at midnight, but as early as 10 pm the evening of Thanksgiving.  This controversy was misguided.  The issue should not have been Black Friday “invading” Thanksgiving’s time slot, but Black Friday happening at all… As for me, my experience of Black Friday was different and unexpectedly blessed. What did I do on Black Friday?  I went to a funeral.  

I am an incurable news-addict, so I suppose it’s my own fault that I had heartburn before breakfast on Black Friday.  I woke up to a story from the Los Angeles Times that many of you probably saw in some form sometime during the weekend:

Matthew Lopez went to the Wal-Mart in Porter Ranch on Thursday night for the Black Friday sale but instead was caught in a pepper-spray attack by a woman who authorities said was “competitive shopping.” Continue reading

A Conversation about God, His Creation and Our Role in Creation