Good to see you again. I'm in a Panera Bread in Birmingham, losing my masculinity and eavesdropping on a conversation by the leadership of an 'eclectic spiritual community' planning their Christmas Eve service.
Life's been a bit nutty - we're in a pretty major creative construction phase at Christ Church - connecting our leadership structure to our long-range plan, continuing discussions about other future plans, hunting for the $100K + that God is hiding to kickstart us as a church, etc.
I'm also studying for, praying through, thinking about, writing down two sermons (or one and a half - the sermon for the evening gathering is around 15-20 minutes...yeah, I know you don't believe that, but it's pretty much done and actually going to happen I think).
To catch you up with notes of interest from around Al Gore's interweb (BTM has informed me that he, in fact did not invent this contraption), here's a hodgepodge of stuff, most of it pertaining to Christmas. As I've said before, getting the meaning of Christmas is harder than it looks. I hope something here will help you get your hands around that this year.
These are in no particular order, other than where they are on my Firefox tabs:
1. Al Mohler comes close to giving a thumbs up to CNN's recent exploration of historic Christianity. His overview is worth the read. On a side note, it appears that Liam Neeson and Kiefer Sutherland are battling to replace James Earl Jones and Charlton Heston for the title of Guy Whose Voice You Want Selling Your Product.
2. Speaking of Kiefer, he turns 40 today (and Samuel L. Jackson turns 58 - is there another day in the calendar year that has produced two guys more effective at looking like the baddest men on the planet?). And the trailer for the new season of 24 is up here - start up the Jack Bauer as Jesus debate again.
3. If you ever wanted to know how the Nintendo Wii works, the NY Times is your hook-up.
4. Mark Taylor, a religion and humanities professor at Williams College, writes about the need for uncertainty in religious thinking. Here's a blurb: For years, I have begun my classes by telling students that if they are not more confused and uncertain at the end of the course than they were at the beginning, I will have failed. A growing number of religiously correct students consider this challenge a direct assault on their faith. Yet the task of thinking and teaching, especially in an age of emergent fundamentalisms, is to cultivate a faith in doubt that calls into question every certainty. You know, I'm all for questions and doubt - my concern with stuff like this is that it seems that there's an obsession with uncertainty with little desire to come to any conviction or conclusion about anything other than the enlightened status of uncertainty. I think this severely limits our ability to connect people to the kingdom of Christ. I'd prefer to see us connect certainty to a gospel-created humility that includes the ability to patiently listen to others. Those of us who have been met by Christ have the one thing that provides for the needs of those around us - our mistake is far too often a failure to listen and connect Christ to the details of people's real lives.
5. Okay, on to the Christmas stuff. Here's an article by Eugene Peterson on 'Christmas shame' - a great story about his parents' decision to not have a Christmas tree in their home when he was 8 years old. Great writing, vintage Peterson.
6. John Piper takes another visit to Barnes and Noble and walks away resolved to give the rest of his life to the truth of Christ. He ends with this: We know no truth aright, if we do not know and love Christ himself as the ground of it and the goal of it and the way it looks in true life. So we exist to spread a passion for Christ, not just ideas about Christ. That’s more, not less. He was born to bear witness to the truth. Let’s resolve this Christmas that we will live for this.
7. Bob Kauflin shares some thoughts on Christmas, gleaned from Mark Dever's excellent work on the New Testament - this time from a sermon Dever preached on I Timothy on December 19, 1999. If you don't have Dever's works on the Old Testament and New Testament, you need to take some of that Christmas money you get and go here and here and buy them both.
8. Joe Thorn writes about the connection between Christmas and the American spirit in a good, brief article at the Relevant Magazine website. I loved this at the end: I do not feel the need to fight with the
world about the true meaning of Christmas. Instead, I can find common
ground from which we can talk, really talk, about Jesus. Sure,
Christmas is about the best in humanity—the need to be compassionate,
restorative, kind, generous and selfless. The stories we tell at this
time of year ought to be held up, because all of this, in one way or
another, points to Jesus. Who else more perfectly demonstrates love for
the poor, compassion on the broken, the forgiveness of sinners and
redemption to all. Who has sacrificed more? Who has given more? Who has
loved more? Who has shown us a better picture of all that we celebrate
at this time of year? Who else can make the holiday hope of humanity’s
restoration a reality?
9. Almost forgot this one - Anthony Carter posted on the partnership between a prominent Atlanta minister and leaders of the Nation of Islam for the purpose of community renewal. Carter questions the legitimacy of such a partnership on the basis of its impact on the uniqueness of Christ. A good reminder for those of us committed to leveraging relationships with others for the sake of kingdom redemption and renewal.