Showing posts from December, 2012

No Vacancy - Oh, Joy...

One of my favorite "Christmas" hymns is Joy to the World . It's a simple but powerful song. It's few short verses are packed with high Christology, the redemption of creation itself, and the sovereignty of Christ over all the universe. But the most convicting line in the song, in my opinion, comes in the first verse: Let every heart prepare Him room. The arrival of Emmanuel is ripe with bittersweet irony. The King of kings, the Prince of Peace, was not born in a palace, but in a stable. He was not birthed in a sterile birthing room in the maternity ward of the local hospital. His first sensations included the scent of day-old animal dung, the sound of domesticated livestock, and the scratching of dried out hay, which was likely infested with small biting insects similar to bed bugs. God made room within this infantile body, enough room for His fullness to dwell. Yet there was no room in the town for this newborn baby. It's even more heartbreaking to understa

Christmas Songs vs. Christ Songs

I like Christmas music. The music is one of my favorite parts of this time of year. Just like all good movies have killer sound tracks, it isn't really Christmas without those heart-warming songs. But there are a few things that make me sad about Christmas music: Folks who work retail are sick of it by mid-December. The growing emphasis seems to be on the more secular songs that have nothing to do with the holiday (by which I mean the "holy-day"). It's awkward to sing Christmas hymns any other time of the year in our worship services. I want to focus on number 3 for a few blog posts leading up to Christmas. I don't know about you, but in my religious tribe and upbringing, Christmas was met with a certain level of taboo. Most families celebrated it, but as a church we never really did. Some families didn't celebrate ANY holidays, which is fine... But the church didn't emphasize Christmas in order to avoid offending those families, or in order to app


There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. - Ecclesiastes 1:1-8 Time is such a weird thing. It's constantly moving forward, yet there is no end in mind. The more things change, the more they stay the same. There is nothing new under the sun. Yet this thing called "time," enigmatic as it may be, is of utmost importance to us. Animals don't really have a sense of time

When the Ball Drops

Ecclesiastes is a journey. Like I said last week, the book of Ecclesiastes mimics life itself - full of twists and turns and loops. The premise of the book is that everything is Hebel , lit. vapor, breath, wind, mist. Hebel  is that which is here for but a moment and then vanishes away. Even the conclusions reached in Ecclesiastes seem to be hebel . One moment, the Teacher tells us that pleasure is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. He says toil is pointless because you don't get to keep that for which you have labored. Everything is hebel , meaningless, futile, a chasing after the wind. So what's the big conclusion? Enjoy the pleasures of life and find satisfaction in your work. Wait...what? Teacher, I'm confused! So are we supposed to enjoy the pleasures of this life or aren't we? Is life meaningless or isn't it? Is hebel  a good thing or a bad thing? I don't get it. The Teacher realized what all lottery winners learn the hard way - more money, m

What's Missing?

Ecclesiastes can be a very depressing book. At times it feels more like Nietzsche than Jesus. It feels more like nihilism than Christianity; more like existentialism than living for God. It's confusing; very difficult to understand at times. Other times, the point is very clear. The whole book can make your head spin. It's enigmatic, living comfortably in the paradox of meaninglessness and purpose. Ecclesiastes is not just a book about  life, it's a book that  mimics  life. It's a book that makes me think of a quote from Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy , "I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." That's true of life, and it's true of Ecclesiastes. The book opens up with a poem that sounds like it has no business being in the Bible: What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the eart