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Advent outrage: Would Jesus curse?


The PG version. For the real Advent devotional, scroll down.

(WARNING: If you are offended by coarse language. Don’t read this.) Advent is here! Advent is a time for Christmas trees, lighting candles, waiting for the coming of the celebration of Christ’s birth and… dropping F-bombs?

A new Advent devotional is pushing the edges of decorum with such words and hashtags as…

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Kirk Cameron, Chuck Norris, and War on Christmas

It seems every year there is an outcry from Christians who bemoan culture’s lack of acceptance of Christmas displays and call it the War on Christmas. Kirk Cameron is the latest to defend Christians from a supposed secular atheist attack with a candy cane and Jesus snow globe. Even Chuck Norris is getting in on the War on Christmas with a drop kick of truth!

If there is a War on Christmas, then there must be casualties.

A War on Christmas means that people are not free to worship or celebrate Christ’s birth, right?  Where are the storm troopers coming into churches and shutting the place down? Why use such charged language of “war” like “war on terror”, “war on drugs”, and now “War on Christmas”? Rumor and speculation of a “war” via talking heads does not make a War on Christmas.

The truth is that there is no War on Christmas.

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Advent devotional dropped to your inbox


Looking for a great, spiritual, and thought provoking Advent devotional dropped into your inbox daily?

Look no further than the folks at Blue Truck Publishing to give you what you want!  Each daily devotional are emailed daily. The daily devotionals draw from the rich Biblical texts surrounding the birth of Jesus, as well as the prophecy of his coming. Not only are the devotionals useful for personal growth but could also be used with:

  • Interesting opening to lead a class or small group.
  • Quick ideas for public speaking.
  • Sermon starter
  • Friends & family gifts

What’s great about Blue Truck content is that it is very affordable and usable. Blue Truck Publishing writers are leaders, speakers, pastors, and authors who specialize creating content and devotionals that address contemporary topics. This Advent devotional is only $1.99, which is delivered daily for the season of Advent. This is a great price for a devotional sent to you for the Advent season.

Check a sample:

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The Gospel according to St. Rowan

In keeping with the Divine mystery of Christ’s birth into humanity and divinity, St. Rowan Atkinson provides us with some reflection of “God’s Mysterious Ways”. This clip comes from the movie, “Keeping Mum”, where Atkinson plays a preoccupied pastor obsessed with writing the perfect sermon. His character fails to realize his family is falling apart in the wake of his preoccupation. The problems upsetting the family start to fade away after the new housekeeper, arrives and starts tending to matters. Enjoy!


Christmas: Peace In the Midst of Chaos

Melissa was enjoying dinner with her husband and their three children at a restaurant recently—until the waiter disappeared for 20 minutes. Her husband, Tim, began muttering. Melissa braced herself. “Uh-oh, here it comes,” she remembers thinking.

“EXCUSE ME!” he screamed across the room to another waiter, then stormed off to complain to the manager. When the original server finally returned to the table, her husband yelled, “Where the hell have you been for the last 45 minutes?” and continued berating him until the man walked away.

Chaos ensued.

People at other tables stared. Melissa put her head down and a hand over her eyes. In the car on the way home, she told her husband, “You know I hate it when you do that. It ruins the dinner.”[1]

Who has not experience such an event? When you are enjoying a nice dinner and something sets someone off? All of sudden you go from peace to chaos in a matter of seconds.

Dealing with chaos during the holiday season is almost a fact of life. The family is trying to enjoy a nice dinner and Aunt Bettie complains about her divorce.  Uncle Bill is angry about his job.  Grandma is yelling about how her neighbors are stealing her trash!  Grandma, come on who is stealing your trash?

I’m sure scenes like this play out in your family sometimes.  Chaos in the midst of a well indented peaceful family dinner.  What is it about families that bring out the best and worst in us?  All of us have some sort of dysfunction in our families. All of us must have an embarrassing family scene we remember?

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Mary’s Baby Bump: A Divine Scandal?

Much is made about Jesus’ birth in the Christmas story, but often preachers do not comment on Mary’s “situation”: an unwed mother who is pregnant.  Culturally, this would have been disastrous. Mary, most likely just a teenager, is visited by the angel Gabriel to bring Good News: she is to give birth to the Anointed One of Israel. Luke chapter 1 reads:

“Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

It has been well documented that Mary’s pregnancy would be cause to shun Mary out of her community.  A scandal!  To be pregnant before marriage was grounds for divorce in the Old Testament.  Even Joseph thought about leaving Mary, but a divine message changed that.  However, apparently there has been some scholarship to suggest that Mary’s pregnancy may have not been that scandalous. Christianity Today‘s blog for women features a new perspective from Lynn Cohick, associate professor of New Testament at Wheaton College.  Cohick’s take on Mary’s situation:

Mary was betrothed to Joseph, which was a legally binding arrangement in the Jewish culture. All that awaited the couple was the wedding. If they engaged in sexual intercourse with each other, that was not seen as a violation of any cultural norm. Later rabbinic writings allowed that a future groom who had sexual relations with his bride-to-be at her father’s house was not guilty of immoral behavior.

If pregnancy occurred before the wedding, this was not a problem because the parentage of the child was secured. What is shocking is that Mary is pregnant and Joseph knows he is not the father. The problem is not that a betrothed couple had sex, but that presumably Mary had sex with another man — she committed adultery.

This insight, the author contends, in no way diminishes Mary’s faithfulness and strength.  For decades, scholars and seminaries have taught students about the negative moral implications of Mary’s situation.

I’m not sure what to think about this new perspective.  Much of the argument of the author hinges on “later rabbinic writings”, which were after the time of Jesus.  Mary must have experienced some sort of tension with her family and Joseph’s. Even though the marriage was a legal contract, sex and pregnancy before marriage was still a serious issue.  Besides, the contract did not start until the marriage ceremony. I agree with one blogger’s take on it:

So, at this point I’m straddling a fence. I don’t think Mary’s family, however many knew, were jumping for joy at the news of her pregnancy but I think Cohick’s point is that the shame motif has been perhaps pressed too far. I have no idea what kind of relationship Mary had with her family to surmise what kind of reaction she would have received. I imagine the story of a virgin birth would not have been received well (no matter how close they were).

Some background on divorce and marriage may be helpful from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:

The advantage was always with the husband, and yet a wife was not utterly helpless, for she, too, though practically without legal rights, could make herself so intolerably burdensome and hateful in the home that almost any husband would gladly avail himself of his prerogatives and write her a bill of divorcement. Thus, though a wife could not divorce her husband, she could force him to divorce her.

Joseph had two options:

  1. Joseph could continue the engagement and join Mary in her shame and marry her.
  2. Following the law, Joseph could accuse Mary of sexual immorality and releasing her from their betrothal contract. The penalty for adultery was  stoning a woman.

Despite all the social and cultural implications, Mary literally becomes the bearer of good news.  Mary’s faithfulness and strength are to be admired. Her story is a story of how God uses very unlikely people to accomplish his wonderful plan for salvation. No matter what shame she did or did not feel, Mary still proclaimed of God’s goodness in Luke 1:

My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has been mindful  of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.

May you, in this last week of Advent be a “bearer” of God to others.

Advent 4C

The Big Daddy of Patience

Academy Award-winning American actor, writer and folk music singer Burl Ives was made famous by playing the role of “Big Daddy” in the play turned movie Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Big Daddy is portrayed as an impatient, selfish, and harsh father to his son Brick, played by Paul Newman.  Big Daddy epitomizes impatience: agitated, red, sweaty, shaky, and hot.  All signs of high level stress.

In a comedic exchange in the play/movie, Big Daddy and his wife have a conversation:

Harvey ‘Big Daddy’ Pollitt: Let’s go home.

Ida ‘Big Momma’ Pollitt: Don’t you want to ride with the children, honey?

Harvey ‘Big Daddy’ Pollitt: No!

Ida ‘Big Momma’ Pollitt: [laughing] He’s his sassy old self again, all right!

Harvey ‘Big Daddy’ Pollitt: Be quiet, woman!

Throughout the play/movie, Big Daddy does not have much patience for Big Momma or for that matter his entire family in general.

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It’s Black Friday! But, Christmas is Coming!

Well, today is Black Friday!  The craziest shopping day of the year!  Did you go and brave the crowds for all those insane deals?  I could never get up at 4 a.m. and wait in line just to get a better price on a Christmas gift.  Just of thought of the crowds, the lack of order, and crazy moms fighting over the newest toy (this year its some robotic hamster).  Just check out all these people waiting in the cold:

Did you notice the throngs of store employees standing there to keep order?  We have all heard the stories of people getting injured, trampled, and even killed by mobs of angry shoppers.  Crazy!  From the looks of this video, it is an orderly procession of people waiting for that great deal on that perfect gift for Christmas.  From the shouts of joy in the video, I can only imagine the excitement, adrenaline, and hope that people experienced.  They are excited about the deals.  Their adrenaline is pumping because they know they have to run to be the first.  And, they hope that their Xbox or Wii will be there for them to buy.

Why is it so exciting to wait and line at 4 a.m. to get the “best” deal?  Why all the excitement?

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