Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Santa Can't Compete

An Inkling
How did a 4th century Bishop from Myra, in modern day Turkey, get morphed into a fat guy in red at the mall with kids in his lap?  It’s hard to imagine. 
Many have written in recent years tracing the course of the Santa legend.  Bishop Nicholas was known for his generosity, and thanks to a couple of miracles associated with his ministry, he was designated a Saint.  Over the centuries legends accrued about St. Nicholas, with each country giving the legends their own flavor.  For example, the Dutch came up with the story of Sinterklaas (a “dutchification” of St. Nicholas) filling Dutch children’s shoes with nuts and candies, according to his magical knowledge of their behavior.  Other spins on the story found curious combination in America’s melting pot culture, setting the stage for a formative twist on Santa, Clement Clark’s 1822 poem, “The Night Before Christmas.”  From there it was but a hop to Coca Cola’s artistic embellishments of Santa’s rotundity, and then to his throne at the mall, where Santa is orbited by tearful children, fawning parents, and a photographer.  While the steps are traceable, it’s still amazing how we got from the good Bishop to the photo prop Santa.
What a striking contrast to another story, one that has remained constant across the centuries and cultures – the story of Jesus’ birth.  There have been some cute stories that have grown up beside the Christmas story, such as that of the drummer boy.  But the central story of Jesus’ birth has remained the same since the gospels first told it. It’s hard to improve on the truth!  
Parents often worry about whether Santa will eclipse Jesus at Christmas.  They need not.  Santa can’t compete.  Certainly we must make sure that Santa is not all that our children hear.  But when they hear the story of Jesus’ birth, they will surely be drawn to its wondrous mystery. 
O come let us adore Him!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Discovering Our Sister

An Inkling
I’ve posted pictures here that I’ve wanted to share with you since Thanksgiving.  They show our grand Thanksgiving-eve venture with our sister church, Westwood Baptist.  Pastor Michael Black and the saints of Westwood came that evening for dinner, and then we joined in worship.  What a grand time it was!
Okay – what’s the big deal?  So a couple of neighboring churches get together for a joint meal and service.  Is this significant?  Yes, I believe it is.  Here’s why:
It’s a privilege.  For years most of us at St. Giles didn’t even know that our closest church neighbor was an African-American Baptist Church.  That’s because Westwood is tucked into the midst of a neighborhood that most of us had never seen.  In the days of segregation it was supposed to be that way – unseen.  But thankfully in this season God has brought down many of those barriers, and we have the privilege of building a visible relationship that shows how we’re joined in Christ with our neighbors.
It’s fun.  The saints of Westwood have a joy about them that is contagious.  We’re seeing that in the conversations we have in our planning meetings with them, in the joint ventures the women have held, and in the two Thanksgiving services we’ve had together.  It’s fun to get to know a “long lost sister,” and all the more so when we discover she’s so joyful.
It’s stretching.  Baptists and Presbyterians?  Can you mix passion and reserve?  We’re doing it, and it hasn’t been too arduous.  To the denominational distinctives add our African and Anglo church cultural differences, and you can see that we’re getting a good stretching.  That’s a sign in itself that God is at work. 
It’s promising.  What might come of this?  We’ve had some intimation with these early joint ventures, but we’re just beginning to see the possibilities.  This is something God is doing, which makes us all the more eager to unwrap this promising gift.  Pray that the Lord will form this new relationship with our long lost sister in ways that bring him honor and joy.
Here’s to Michael and the Westwood saints,