Pastor Henry's Memo

December 2019

Santa Has Been Discounted!

SPOILER ALERT!  SEND THE CHILDREN OUT OF THE ROOM!  Santa has been discounted!  Oh, the humanity!  I was in CVS last week and the Santa figures were discounted to $129.99.  Originally, Santa was going for $400.  He's been discounted just under 67%.  Is that a deal, or what?  I think it fits in the category of "or what."  Being the universal cultural symbol of this season, to have him reduced by such a large amount might be sending an unintended message.  Santa is Santa all over the globe.  He, the elves, and the reindeer (and Mrs. Claus) are ubiquitous.  Their presence in advertising and songs and TV specials can't be exaggerated.  They can't be ignored.  Neither can they be taken for granted.  They aren't just necessary additions to the holiday gift giving season, they've become near reality in our culture.  However, let me gently remind you about what you already know.  Santa and Jesus are not twins.  Santa comes only once a year in December.  And while the baby Jesus also comes in December, as the Only Begotten Son of God, he is present and alive and real every minute of every day all year long.  If you want to talk ubiquity, it's Jesus.  While a drug store Santa can be discounted for clearance purposes, the child of Mary remains un-discounted because he isn't for sale.  He's for sharing and praising and worshiping.  It is he whom we await.  O, come, O come, Immanuel.  And ransom captive Israel.

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Advent Expectation

Advent is a season of expectation.  The Church waits for God to keep a promise.  While the world listens to holiday music on the radio, the Church makes plans for a child.  Yes, the Church also listens to the holiday songs and attends Christmas pageants and participates in the shopping and wrapping this season encourages.  But a word about Advent seems a small thing to offer in the days leading up to December 25th.  Prophets foretell the coming of God's Messiah; the one who will deliver Israel from her bondage and warfare.  That God will be faithful to His ancient promises isn't doubted.  Israel's trust is patient.  She believes the deliverance God has promised will come to pass.  So she waits and watches and makes ready.  The Church waits with her Jewish cousins.  She, too, trusts God and proclaims the Messiah will change history.  While there is much hustle and bustle in the weeks before Christmas, Advent reminds us to be patient in our waiting.  God's time is dawning in an unexpected way.  Soon the angels will sing out and a virgin will bear a son.  As we shop and wrap and prepare to give, remember He will be God's gift to all of humanity.

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Love God, Love your Neighbor, Love your Enemy

Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote a remarkably readable book about theodicy (the justice of God) entitled When Bad Things Happen To Good People.  It's been almost forty years since it was published and, across that span of time, his question has continued to haunt thoughtful minds.  Rabbi Kushner wasn't the first to pose the question.  It's as ancient as human existence.  Poets and theologians have struggled with that question and in spite of their efforts our human family is no nearer an agreed upon answer than those who first asked it.  Why DO bad things happen to good people?  Are good people exempt from the vagaries of life?  Does being good inoculate one from pain or suffering or grief?  Can any person escape from life's vicissitudes. (From the Latin, meaning turns or changes.)   Bad things happen to bad people, too.  Now what?  Do we smile and express satisfaction?  Is our response more like "serves them right" or "what goes around comes around" or "karma, baby, karma?"  Truth is, and we know it, life is not fair.  Never has been.  Never will be.  And if there is a "fixer of fairness" somewhere in the world (or above it) he or she is asleep on the job.  Perhaps it's up to us to be the "fixers," so to speak.  In Jesus we have the perfect example of how to live in such a world as ours.  Love God, love your neighbor, love your enemy.  Do good, eschew evil, turn the other cheek.  Jesus has taught us enough things to keep us busy for this life and the next.  Pray God we remember this in the season of God's Advent.

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