We all know the scene: it’s nighttime, probably a little bit chilly. A faithful carpenter and his pregnant fiancé are far from home, living as oppressed but obedient people under Roman law. She goes into labor, but they can’t find a room or any other suitable place for a safe childbirth, so they settle for a barn. There are animals and all the fun sounds and smells that animals make. There’s straw, and dirt, and poop.
It’s an undignified and unsexy entrance into the world for anyone, let alone God himself.
The prophet Isaiah foretold of this baby, and even some of the events surrounding his untimely birth. When the ancient Israelites were going through a bit of a rough patch, God used Isaiah to promise his people a sign, a solution to their problems. A child. Born to a woman – a virgin mother. In a rando village. And she’d call him Emmanuel, which means God with us. Continue reading →
A couple of weeks ago a really bizarre controversy played out in America, wherein people freaked out about a Starbucks cup. While a refugee crisis heated up in Europe and the Middle East. And while thousands of college students took to the public square protesting racial inequality. But you do you, American Christianity.
This chatter means that we’ve reached an important moment in the church calendar: the annual war on Christmas is well underway. Now, I count myself among the many reasonable Christians who believe that this alleged war is total bullshit. Even so, there does seem to be something wrong about how our culture recognizes this season. Would I go so far as to say that we’re at war? That seems like quite a stretch. But for the sake of drama, let’s say that we are. It’s not a war on Christmas though – it’s a war on Advent.
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The December edition of Real Simple magazine arrived in my mailbox a couple of weeks ago. Sprawled across the cover are some glitzy Christmas lights and the words “Holiday Spectacular: Your Happiest Season Ever Starts Here.” The November issue (“The Ultimate Holiday Planner”) was pretty similar in nature and content. These two magazines contain dozens of helpful articles covering a wide range of holiday-centered topics: affordable gifts, make-ahead recipes, quick cleaning solutions, winter skin care, avoiding awkward moments with family and friends, easy decorations, and, my personal favorite, “How to Teach Gratitude.”
All of this information promises a simple, cheerful, and stress-free holiday season. Which makes me wonder, why do we meticulously plan for and strategize about the holiday season? We turn to guides, lists, and diagrams to help us “get through” the holiday season, as if it is something that needs to be accomplished. This suggests to me that as a culture, we are doing hospitality wrong. Continue reading →