The Blessing of Advent

The first day of Advent comes on Sunday. Some people take this more seriously than others. I personally won’t police the songs we’ll sing in worship over the next few weeks to keep out things properly reserved for Christmas, for example, but I do know of pastors who will do everything in their power to keep a sharp demarcation between Advent and Christmas — and that means no “Joy to the World” until the Lord is come. On the one hand, a legalistic adherence to the church calendar helps no one. I can’t think of a single instance in which responding to “Merry Christmas!” with “No, it’s only Advent, you can’t say that yet” would be both spiritually beneficial and a decent, kind thing to do. (In

Empty Chairs at Empty Tables

Thursday is Thanksgiving, a day of food, family, and friends. It's the day that we who have been so richly blessed by God will simply slow down and say, "Thank you." This year, though, things won't be normal for countless families. They will, for the very first time, observe the holiday without a family member. A parent has died in the last year, a sibling disowned his or her family, a spouse did the unthinkable and the other was forced to end the marriage in a bitter divorce. Chairs across the country will be empty, and those who remain will remember the ones who once sat across the table. Those people never really leave us; they live on in their families. We all share traits with those who

Winter Wonderland

The first snow of the season has flurried, according to some of you, thus having everyone give fall a miss and go straight from summer to winter, it seems. Last night we decorated the church for Christmas as best we could, and Saturday we'll box Thanksgiving meals before setting up the Nativity scene out front. As the song goes, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas -- even though it's still mid-November. Despite the fact it feels far too early for all this, it's time to get ready for all our winter and Christmas events. We gave out coats last Saturday, we'll distribute our meal boxes on Monday, the Hanging of the Greens is two weeks from Sunday (and the Christmas play the week after t


I'm still thinking quite a bit about stories. I don't just mean fairy tales, and I don't just mean fiction in general. I'm talking about all of them, for every story can teach us something worthwhile, fiction or nonfiction. A kerfuffle once arose between me and a woman I know over the purpose of stories. I maintain they aren't designed to teach morality, per se, but they are designed to teach us how to be human. Odds are the book you consider to be the worst you've ever read earned that ignominious distinction because it utterly failed to connect to you on a human level (and the writing was probably pretty bad, too). What it said didn't matter to your soul. All the best stories make that con

Pure Imagination

Trevor recently reminded me of one of life's ultimate truths: the greatest toy in the world is a big box. Every kid loves playing in anything they can fit inside of, but appliance boxes (especially the coveted refrigerator boxes) seem particularly popular. But why? Why is a cardboard box so amazing? Imagination. A toy is what it is, but a box can be anything: a barn, a spaceship, a house, a fort, you name it. The cardboard is a blank slate upon which to paint in wide strokes of imagination. Things aren't limited to what they truly are; the only limit is the end of what could be. There is a deep and abiding beauty in a child's imagination at play. Adults seem to lose this over time. The real

Your Friendly November PSA

This is your annual friendly November public service announcement! I know we're all excited to make it to November. This means Christmas is now officially next month, and that's usually a big hit with most people. Just sensational. But before we get to the part where we put dead trees in our living rooms, we come to another holiday. It's a pretty big hit, too, especially if you like parades or cartoons of dogs making toast. Thanksgiving. I repeat: the holiday is Thanksgiving. This annual friendly public service announcement is to remind you the holiday is called Thanksgiving. It it not, no matter what anyone may think, say, or eat, "Turkey Day." If you would like a Turkey Day, I would recomm

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