It’s almost Christmas– one of the holiest days of the year for Christians, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, who was called the Christ.
But did Jesus even exist? Was he a real historical person?
It seems around Christmas or Easter there’s always some agnostic or atheist friends who make the claim that Jesus never existed as a historical person, or at least, that there’s “no evidence” he existed.
We’ve all been there. Trying to find the right word to say. The right word to say to a friend who has lost her mother. The right word to say in a letter seeking acceptance. The right word to let someone know how much you love him or her.
It’s true that words are not the answer to everything. Sometimes silence is healing. Sometimes silence lets you think. Sometimes just listening, either to a friend or to God or to your own heart is all that’s needed. But when the silence is deafening, when the silence is lonely, we need to hear a word. A word of hope. A word of encouragement. A word of love.
The Bible is the story of a God who tries a multitude of ways to speak to us. A voice in the wilderness. Commandments written in stone. Oracles of prophets seeking justice and mercy.read more
It was more than two thousand years ago that the historic figure we call Jesus lived. It was a life of relatively short duration, only thirty-three years. At most only three of those years were devoted to a public career. Yet, that life appears to have been a source of wonder and power to those who knew him. Tales of miraculous power surrounded him. Words of insight and wisdom were believed to have flowed from his lips. Love and freedom seemed to be qualities that marked his existence. Men and women found themselves called into being by him. Those laden with guilt discovered, somehow, the joy of forgiveness in him. The alone, the insecure, the warped and twisted found him to be a source of peace. He possessed the courage to be who he was. He is described in terms that portray him as an incredibly free man.read more
Christmas is quiet and intimate and I get to sing the carols I love with my beautiful bowls. The other night James and I decided to make a little video of one of my favorites — an old carol from Ireland — The Wexford Carol. Here it is, just for you. I have loved this song for years, from the moment I first heard its arching melody. I hope these sounds fill your heart with peace and pray you continue to shine your Light all through this magical season and in the year to come. Enjoy! And if you love the video, post a comment and share with family and friends to pass along the light. I read every single one and I so much appreciate hearing from you.read more
The Christmas holidays are even trickier for those who give even a token nod to a long-held doctrinal claim
of orthodox Christianity; that a theistic god somehow enters into the human story, rather than arising out of
our own consciousness and human imagination.
How then might a self-professed non-theist celebrate the nativity of a Galilean sage from days long gone
by, and call it holy? It lies in an ancient message that – more often than not – runs counter to the cultural
and political climate; but is central to the character and teachings of Jesus.
More than a decade now, when this holiday season rolls around we can always count on a yearly kerfuffle about what the appropriated season’s greeting should be, exemplifying the continued chapter in the culture “War on Christmas.”
This year we can see the divide between both religious and political party lines.read more
The Christ Child reminds us of the infinite possibilities of life available to us, and we celebrate that vitality in the season of good cheer, gift-giving, and community. Christmas also offers an opportunity to get in touch with our own mystical side, to recreate the Nativity in our hearts. “If we could but mix just a small measure of the child’s naïveté with an intelligent appreciation of the traditional Christmas symbols, myths, and images,” Moore asserts, “we might be surprised at the profundity.” The enchantment of Christmas is a taste of what is possible if human beings could really love each other. The infant in the manger symbolizes new life, the potential all human beings have to be a new kind of being dedicated to agape, a love of the other—whoever that “other” may be.read more
In 2008, our little congregation played host to John Dominic Crossan who has been acclaimed as world’s most famous New Testament scholar. Crossan’s visit to our congregation began with a public lecture based on his best-selling book The First Christmas in which he and Marcus Borg provide a splendid historical outline of the development of the birth narratives. I had the dubious honour of standing before his enlightened audience on Christmas Eve to preach in the great man’s wake. What follows is the Christmas Eve sermon I preached just three weeks after Dom’s illuminating visit.read more
It’s Advent, and the same old lies about Mary are slipping over pulpits and out of parish letters, Christmas cards, public prayers, TV holiday movies, and late night comics’ jokes.
The subjugation of Mary, the maligning of her as meek, mild, and mindless, has been harmful to millionsAnnunication Dante Gabriel Rosetti B_FourthSundayofAdvent of women over many centuries.read more
In these uncertain times, we may feel overwhelmed by the needs of the world and the deficits of our leaders. The biblical story of Mary metaphorically tells us what to look for from God, “however we understand” our Higher Power.
How did God help Mary—the Mary we seek to emulate in her willingness to bring something new into the world?
God first sent an angel, a messenger from God who told her not to be afraid, explaining what was happening, how God was working out a purpose in her life, giving her vision of her sacred worth, as well as calling her out as an instrument of God’s in-breaking kingdom, or commonwealth.read more
“Las Posadas” is an old Mexican tradition enacting the effort by Mary and Joseph to find a place to stay on Christmas Eve. Actors depicting Mary and Joseph wander from “inn” to “inn” asking for a room, with a singing candlelight procession following them through the town. Here I offer my own words for the tune:read more
I think it was the martinis. A wintry cocktail hour, mystified by the St Olaf College choir singing Silent Night and one of my old favorites, Beautiful Savior. The combination brought tears to my eyes. When I was a kid, as I mentioned in my introduction to these reflections, I went to church every Sunday, and an integral part of that service every week was the first verse of that hymn, Beautiful Savior, so it’s pretty well established in my subconscious.read more
his past Sunday, many people began celebrating Advent, the season in which the majority of Western Christian churches commemorate the birth of Jesus. As we progress toward Christmas, there will be a many sermons preached about shepherds, wise men, innkeepers who are total jerks, and unplanned visits from angels. However, there is one passage from the birth narrative of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew that I think truly captures the meaning of Christmas.read more
A Not So Obvious Message
For instance, most everyone I know contends that the mustard seed parable (Matthew 13:31-32) is about faith. I think that’s an easy route to take. When you read the parable, on the surface it’s about something tiny growing into a large tree or bush, and it seems to make sense why someone may think it’s about faith. For me the power in Jesus’ teachings is that he posited the NOT SO OBVIOUS, in order to short-circuit and dismantle our conventional ways of thinking and being.read more
When Yeshua was born, a star exploded in the sky, angels sang, and three astrologers from the East came to honor him. And shepherds came, too. They sat before the manger where the little baby lay. The astrologers placed treasures of gold, frankincense, and myrrh before the child. One of the shepherds took a little clay bird-shaped ocarina out of his tunic and blew a simple, joyful tune, his fingers dancing over its little holes as he blew through the hole in the bird’s mouth. Then he set it next to the other treasures as a gift to the baby.read more