Saturday, December 29, 2007

Word Without End

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."
- John 1:1-5, 14 (ESV, adapt.)

John 1 is one of the great Christological passages in all of Scripture. Few other passages so concisely proclaim both the divinity of Jesus, who is the Word, as well as his humanity. The baby born on Christmas is a very real, vulnerable human baby...who is also God...the one, true, only God...who created all that there is or ever will be. Good, good stuff.

It's part of the lectionary for Christmas Day, but I'll be preaching from it tomorrow.

I've always been a bit intrigued by verse 5: "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." Though the rest of John 1 tells a story from the past, this verse suggests something that's ongoing...that the light that is Jesus Christ is still shining, and the darkness - which is very real - still does not overcome this light.

The familiar liturgical phrase "world without end", taken from the "Gloria Patri", emphasizes the eternal nature of the Holy Trinity, but we can certainly think of Jesus as the "Word Without End", for he never fails us and will be waiting for us at the end of every year and at the end of time, to embrace us and walk with us into eternity.

As I prepare my heart for the end of 2007 and the beginning of 2008, I am thanking God for Robyn and our children, our family and friends, our congregation and our home, our Connection and Christ's Holy Church, but, most of all, I am thanking God that Jesus is always near, a light in the darkness, even when I'm having trouble seeing. Have a blessed and fruitful new year!

Monday, December 24, 2007


"'Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel' (which means, God is with us)."
- Matthew 1:23

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Hawkman ROCKS!

The Nativity scene on our mantel.

Merry Christmas; HAVE FUN!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Rerun: Merry Christmas from Harry Reasoner

"The basis for this tremendous annual burst of gift buying and parties and near hysteria is a quiet event that Christians believe actually happened a long time ago. You can say that in all societies there has always been a midwinter festival and that many of the trappings of our Christmas are almost violently pagan. But you come back to the central fact of the day and quietness of Christmas morning - the birth of God on earth.

"It leaves you only three ways of accepting Christmas.

"One is cynically, as a time to make money or endorse the making of it.

"One is graciously, the appropriate attitude for non-Christians, who wish their fellow citizens all the joys to which their beliefs entitle them.

"And the third, of course, is reverently. If this is the anniversary of the appearance of the Lord of the universe in the form of a helpless babe, then it is a very important day.

"It's a startling idea, of course. My guess is that the whole story that a virgin was selected by God to bear His Son as a way of showing His love and concern for man is not an idea that has been popular with theologians. It's a somewhat illogical idea, and theologians like logic almost as much as they like God. It's so revolutionary a thought that it probably could only come from a God that is beyond logic, and beyond theology.

"It has a magnificent appeal. Almost nobody has seen God, and almost nobody has any real idea of what He is like. And the truth is that among men the idea of seeing God suddenly and standing in a very bright light is not necessarily a completely comforting and appealing idea.

"But everyone has seen babies, and most people like them. If God wanted to be loved as well as feared he moved correctly here. If He wanted to know His people as well as rule them, He moved correctly here, for a baby growing up learns all about people. If God wanted to be intimately a part of man, He moved correctly, for the experiences of birth and familyhood are our most intimate and precious experiences.

"So it goes beyond logic. It is either all falsehood or it is the truest thing in the world. It's the story of the great innocence of God the baby - God in the form of man - and has such a dramatic shock toward the heart that if it is not true, for Christians, nothing is true.

"So, if a Christian is touched only once a year, the touching is still worth it, and maybe on some given Christmas, some final quiet morning, the touch will take."
- TV news commentator Harry Reasoner
(quoted in "Illustrations Unlimited",
J.S. Hewett, ed., Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988,

First posted 12/22/06.

Friday, December 14, 2007

TJ State Champions!

Congratulations to the Thomas Jefferson Jaguars football team!

Class AAA PA State Champions 2007!
(Story here.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Rerun: The Blessings of Commercialization

"'There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
Then they will see "the Son of Man coming in a cloud" with power and great glory.
Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.'
Then he told them a parable: 'Look at the fig tree and all the trees;
as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near.
So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.'"
- Luke 21:25-31 (NRSV)

Jesus said to be on watch for the signs of the times, because when the signs are "just right", miraculous things will happen.

In Luke 21, he is primarily talking about that glorious Day when he returns to fulfill God's Promise to reconcile all creation to heaven.

But while we wait (sometimes rather impatiently) for the blessed return of Our Lord, we can also look for other signs marking other times, other miraculous seasons, other incredible opportunities to praise Almighty God and to reach out to others.

This is why I don't condemn the commercialization of Christmas, as many do; on the contrary, I revel in it.

Why? Because the signs are all around us! Trees, lights, bows, candles, greens, snow...and the wonderful music! The world is reminded during this time that we are about to commemorate one of history's greatest events, as God became incarnate in human flesh in a grand effort to save the world! (Why we evangelicals don't make a bigger deal out of the date of Jesus' conception is beyond, Christmas it is.)

Because the culture has decided to commercialize Christmas, we are given a great opportunity to share the gospel. Everywhere people look they are faced with the nativity scene...they are reminded in song of the miraculous birth from the womb of a maiden...they must deal with the beautifully powerful message of the greatest and most profound of all Christmas carols, "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing".

So, bring on the bright lights, the cookies, the candy, the presents, the reindeer, and the cocoa by the fire! For at least one more season, the world is faced with an opportunity to meet Jesus in his most vulnerable state - that of a newborn infant - and is given one more opportunity to consider (or ignore) the kenotic miracle of God's love!

Merry Christmas!

First posted 11/30/06.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

First Sunday in Advent Review

What a day!

This morning was a special worship service at JUMC. We introduced some technology into our worship service, with power point-type visuals and a film clip (from It's A Wonderful Life), and celebrated the Eucharist with a liturgy which we sang to the tune of Christmas carols. The sanctuary was packed...standing room only. It was a blessing! The techno stuff really matched up well with my preaching style, which was both a surprise and a relief. The feedback was extremely positive. is possible to mix traditional style worship - robes, Wesley hymns, candles, etc. - with 21st century technology. It was really neat.

After the service, we adjourned to our fellowship hall for a Christmas party. The hall was filled to capacity (and a bit beyond) and we had a wonderful time. The people of JUMC are simply the best, and God is blessing us in abundance! It's a great time to be a part of this fellowship. We are getting more and more visitors, and I'm having a heck of a time scheduling all the baptisms. Hallelujah!

Tonight, Robyn and I are heading for Heinz Field. Some kind friends from JUMC gave us their tickets for tonight's game against the Cincy Bungles, and we are hyped up to go! Look for me on TV; I'll be the shirtless guy with the Cross & Flame painted on his chest. God is so, so good!