The Candy Cane

Peppermint Candy Canes
 
The candy cane is a festive Christmas decoration, one of the many that blend into standard Christmas decorating. At first look, there doesn’t seem to be anything religious about the candy cane, and so they are often part of secular Christmas displays. Yet if the candy cane is given a second look, it will tell a lot about the real meaning of Christmas. 
 
Legend has it that in 1670, the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany handed out sugar sticks among his young singers to keep them quiet during the long Living Creche ceremony. In honor of the occasion, he had the candies bent into shepherds’ crooks. The red stripes weren’t added until much later, when the candy cane as we know it finally appeared.
 
The candy cane teaches us a lot about the true meaning of Christmas. It is a sweet candy, for Jesus, the Christ (Messiah) came to earth as a sweet baby, a sweet gift from God.

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The Practice of Longing

candles
 
The season of Advent is upon us.  For most people this term means nothing.  Just more churchy jargon.  For church people this term is somehow associated with Christmas, but on its own means nothing.  For those who do know what it means, in practicality it plays out as nothing.  Maybe “Advent” is just more jargon?
 
In the liturgical church season Advent consists of four weeks before Christmas.  Advent is associated with the idea of waiting.  In our Wednesday nights at church we have been singing a song with our kids that goes through all the books of the Bible.  As we finish up the Old Testament and move on into the New the lyrics make a bit of a parenthetical thought: “Zechariah, Malachi and 400 years go by; Matthew, Mark…”  That little insertion of 400 years is very instructional, and yet hard for us to understand.  God’s people went through nearly twenty generations of silence from God! There were no prophets proclaiming his message, no signs or wonders. 

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Thanksgiving: It’s a Lifestyle

turkey
 
Thanksgiving is upon us and if someone didn’t know better, they might just assume that Thanksgiving is yet another part of our celebration of Christmas.  The wider culture seems to blend the two pretty well these days.  And in the larger scheme of things, we ought to be thankful on both occasions anyway.  However, this week is a week of preparation.  We are cleaning and cooking, packing up for a trip or decorating our homes.  We are excited for a few days off from school and work and are afforded the chance to spend some time with our extended families.  There is a lot that goes into this one day.  Afterwards, we return home to the daunting tasks that Christmas “presents” us with.  More and different decorations, shopping lists, travel plans, higher stress levels and the occasional headaches. 
 

I Thessalonians 5: 16-18 simply says, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  


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Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving
 
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” -Colossians 3:17 
 
The Thanksgiving holiday was set late in the autumn in honor of when the Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving. By coincidence, then, it falls right before the preparations for Christmas. Or perhaps it is no coincidence.
 
Normally we think of Thanksgiving as a time when we stop to appreciate the harvest–that has grown all season long but now as harvested–we are blessed to enjoy. We also expand Thanksgiving as a time to stop and take a look at our lives and intentionally give God thanks for all the blessings He has given us throughout the year. In both senses, Thanksgiving is a time of looking back and being appreciative.

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Hammering Out a Story

Thor
 
Mythology has long fascinated mankind.  It became a way of explaining natural phenomenon and provided comfort in a vast realm of the unknown.  As natural science has continually advanced our understanding of the way things work, we have no more need of a myriad of gods and their drama.  Except of course when it comes to fulfilling our entertainment quota.  Where would we be without powerful gods with their vengeance, lust and vitriol?  Where would we be without Thor?  We need a hero who is divine.  A hero who has long flowing hair, biceps and an enchanted hammer.  In the eyes of this world, Thor is cool and, like all other gods, a fiction only good for entertainment. 

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A Powerful Assembly

Avengers
 
Admittedly, it’s been a lot of fun to peruse the Marvel Comics catalogue of characters in order to pull out some insights and applications for our journey of faith.  In some circles, comic books are considered works of art, and as with any art, we would do well to absorb it and consider what it might have to say to us.  In addition, as Christians, we filter all messages that might be preached at us through the lens of Scripture.  We hold any claims up to the Truth to see how it compares. It’s the same with novels, movies, paintings or other works of art. 

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The Parable of the Pumpkin

pumpkin
 
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” -Psalm 139:23-24
 
Are you going to carve Jack-o’-Lanterns for Halloween this year? It’s a tradition that goes back a few hundred years to Great Britain using turnips (check out http://www.history.com/topics/halloween/jack-olantern-history). But today we can learn a lot about God’s salvation for us if we see carving Jack-o’-lanterns as a parable. 

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Happy Halloween!

Every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. -1 John 4:3-4
 
A lot of Christians are troubled with Halloween. They feel it is a holiday that celebrates the demonic and relishes in the dark forces. Well, that certainly is true for some. And in American culture, anything that is scary or unexplainable seems to be dumped into Halloween…everything from the creepy to the crawly, from the spooky to the gory, to whatever gives you the chills. In America, the “melting pot of the world,” all the monsters, villains, evil characters and local myths from every part of the world have been dumped together in the melting pot (cauldron?) of Halloween. Current Americans seem to be fascinated with evil and the mystic (think of the epidemic popularity of “Harry Potter” and “Twilight”), and Halloween has become America’s second favorite holiday (after Christmas).

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A Life of Action

wonderwoman
 
When it comes to Superheroes, my mind does not immediately think of Wonder Woman…or any woman for that matter.  Girls are supposed to be the ones who are saved from distress, who can’t fend for themselves.  Girls depend on a big strong man to protect them…besides, they have cooties.
 
I’ll admit, my mind might still be in a child-like state when it comes to the comic book world.  I like the simplicity of evil bad guys and good heroes, strong men and weak women, dark cities with even darker alleys.  Being a grown adult however, I realize that life does not fit so nicely into such stark categories.  We all walk this earth with the potentiality for both good or evil and I can attest to the fact that I am just as dependent on my wife as she is on me.  Without each other, we’d fall apart.

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The Sixth Sense

Daredevil
 
Since our school-age days, we have all learned that humans posses five senses.  These senses help us navigate the world, provide information about our surroundings and more or less keep us alive.  Having all our senses intact and in working order is a blessing.  Those who lack a full array of sense information can still get along very well in life, but they face unique and complicated challenges.
 
Sometimes when we are out to have a little fun, we might play games with others that include a blindfold.  It is hilarious to watch someone swing furiously at a piñata or pin the tale on a donkey’s face. Once the round is over, the blindfold comes off and sight is restored.  But what would it be like to be truly blind?  Maybe we should extend our blindfold practices to include eating dinner and brushing our teeth.  Blindly engaging in the everyday activities of life might help us better understand the gift we have in our eyesight.

Read more...

 
 
 
 

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