Pastor Hal

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The Office Feud

Stephanie Soliday, our office administrator, and I have been having a battle ever since the first substantive snowfall a few weeks ago.  Steph started playing Christmas carols as soon as the snow started falling.  I immediately went in and pleaded with her to turn off the Christmas music until we had made it through Thanksgiving. 

Which side of the argument are you on?  Better yet, which one of us is right?  The authoritarians will say Hal is correct because he is the boss.  The sympathetic folks will say Stephanie is correct and I should lighten up.  The truth is we’re both right and I’m not just being an appeaser, allow me to explain……………

I have very distinct memories of being in stores with my mother and hearing her complain about Christmas marketing being displayed AFTER Halloween and before Thanksgiving.  Boy have times changed.  As soon as Labor Day is over the red and green aisles start to appear.  What troubled my mother was the rush to bypass an attitude of the heart, thanksgiving, with a celebration of what was so commercialized.  I still hold on to that attitude that my mom instilled in me.  In fact, I enjoy Thanksgiving far more than Christmas.  There are no shopping lists to worry about, no wrapping to accomplish, no pressure to spend a bunch of money, no tree to assemble, decorate, de-decorate, and put away, no vast amounts of home decorations to be displayed and then put back in storage, and oh yeah…….the issue of lights.  Thank goodness for those starlight shower spotlights!!!  Before you label me a scrooge I’ll confess to exaggeration.  What I enjoy about Thanksgiving is family sitting around a great meal and reflecting on God’s goodness to us over the year.  I also enjoy watching the Bears play the Lions. 

We live in a culture of entitlement and it is more important than ever that as Believers in Jesus Christ we are intentional about showing gratitude to God for all He is and for all He has given us.  Over the next two weeks we will hear many people say what they are thankful for………..but prompt them to think about whom they are thankful to for that which they have.  Watch what happens.  Most people don’t think about the “who.”  They are far more fixated on the “what.”  All the “what” that we enjoy comes from the Father of Lights with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow, James 1:17.

So, don’t forsake Thanksgiving for the sake of Christmas.  God help us all to be Believers who prioritize gratitude.  And one of the things we can be grateful for is the plan of salvation, initiated by God in eternity passed, brought about through the person of Jesus Christ, and to be fully realized in the age to come.

Jesus Christ was a person and He had to be born.  God’s sovereignty over all history was demonstrated in preparing for the arrival of His Son.  Galatians 4 tells us that “in the fullness of the time God sent forth His Son.”  The purpose of God sending His Son was so that He would “redeem those under the Law and we would receive the adoption of sons.”  Oh, how thankful we should be for the birth of our Savior.  What humility He showed in coming to Earth and winning our reconciliation to God.  One of my favorite lines of the Christmas carol “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” goes as follows:  Mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die, born to raise the sons of Earth, born to give them second birth.”  There could be no death and resurrection of our Lord without His birth.

The incarnation is a reality that should be celebrated and sung year-round.  It is that staggering.  God became man, the Creator becomes like the created, and in doing so the sinless became sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God.  Christ’s resurrection is a visible demonstration of His victory over death and because He lives we will live also.  Christmas celebrates the miraculous and we should sing about it with all our might.

So, is it wrong to play Christmas carols before Thanksgiving?  The big issue is our hearts.  If you are just in love with the “feeling” of Christmas or the “holiday spirit” I would call you to purpose in your heart to be a Believer who is committed to being Thankful.  If your heart is one that is truly caught up in the miracle of the incarnation, then play your carols. But I also hope you play them in June, July, and August because the miracle of the incarnation transcends time, and we can all be thankful for that.

So, turn up the carols, Steph……………………. because we thank God for the gift of His Son.

Flower Children

I am a child of the 60’s……. I was born in 1961.  I remember the Vietnam war, the racial unrest, the hippies, and the flower children.  The flower children were teenagers and young adults who wore flowery clothing as a symbol of peace and love.  I remember vans being painted with flowery patterns.  I remember the iconic photo of a young college student placing flowers in the muzzles of M14’s carried by Army MPs guarding the Pentagon.  Do you remember the flower children?

 When my mom passed away there was a flower bouquet on top of her casket from each of us kids.  At the end of the interment ceremony I took the bouquet home with me.  Karen took the flower arrangement and tore off many of the different petals from the flowers.  She pressed them and super-heated them in the microwave.  Then she arranged them around a picture of my mother.  Karen’s work is beautiful and what is stunning is that the flowers’ colors are more stunning now than they were previously.

God is in the business of making flower children.  There are times when He knows that in order for us to truly demonstrate the rich colors of His work in our lives we have to pressed and super-heated.  Romans 8:28 tells us that all the things God takes us through has the purpose of causing us to look like Jesus.  The Apostle Paul said in II Cor. 4:8-12 that he was hard pressed on every side….. The ultimate outcome of his being hard pressed was the demonstration of the life of Christ in him and through him.  Pressed flowers give off an aroma that is very pleasant. 

 Perhaps one way to look at our struggles is to see them as God making a pressed flower arrangement for Himself using our lives.  We know from I John that we are His children.  Are you willing to be one of His flower children?  Not only am I a child of the 60’s but I am rapidly approaching my 60’s and while I remember the flower children of the 60’s, my prayer is that I will be a flower child in my 60’s.

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