Category Archives: seasons

smaller and less


Recently there has been talk about making Christmas bigger and better than ever. And something about this just hasn’t set right with me. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas and big family gatherings and all the festivities around the church. But bigger and better than ever? I’m not quite sure those are the values that should qualify Christmas. It almost seems like more and more this is how society is trying to shape what began as something very different. You need to buy this better gift or your friend, spouse, kid, coworker, etc. won’t have a Merry Christmas. You need to make sure your debt ratio is getting bigger and bigger or Christmas won’t be complete. We have to make sure we capitolize on this season in our churches with as many activities to draw people in because this may be the only time of year we get to see them (well at least until Easter). We need to make sure everyone around us knows how big and important this holiday is because otherwise they’ll never understand the true meaning of Christmas.

To me it just all feels a bit off. The idea of shopping and planning and stressing and exhausting schedules seems so far removed from Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago. One of my favorite versions of the Christmas story in scripture was actually written by Paul to the church in Philippi. “Though he was in the form of God, he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit. But he emptied himself by taking the form of a slave and by becoming like human beings. When he found himself in the form of a human.” – Philippians 2:6-7 The Christmas story is best categorized by words like emptied, slave, less, weak, humility, frail, fragile, etc. Not words like bigger and better. When God stepped into our world He became less. God became small. In fact, if you weren’t a shepherd or a magi (I’m not sure if I ever got to be one in one of the kid’s Christmas pageants) you probably didn’t even know about the first Christmas.

You may ask yourself though, why am I taking such issue with this? Because Christmas should represent our values as Christ followers and not as economists. Perhaps we should seek to embody the shepherds and seek out those who appear to be weak, vulnerable, less, frail and fragile this season. And when we find them it might be an opportunity for us to practice a Christmas value as we seek to enter into their situation with them. Perhaps Christmas is more about becoming like the broken, outcast, unloved, untouched, smaller and weaker because that is what God did for us at Christmas. So maybe for a moment this holiday season we all might find a way to try something different. It doesn’t have to be a huge gesture or anything massive, but maybe the smallest thing might become the most Christ-like as we seek to emulate the God who emptied Himself and became smaller and less for our sake.


open house

For those of you who don’t dwell in the state shaped like a mitt allow me to enlighten you for a bit. There are a few certain seasons that Michigander’s mark their calendars by. One is of course deer season, winter (which lasts about 9 months sometimes) and the season we currently find ourselves in…open house season. In Michigan we not only celebrate the achievements of our high school graduates, we flat out party. We’re talking tents, food, outdoor games, themes, gifts, cards, student shrines, etc. And as a youth pastor this season becomes all the more daunting as you are expected to (not that I mind at all…I usually enjoy them) attend every open house. Now some open houses are great. You know the family; and most of the attendees are familiar as well. You walk up to the party and you feel right at home. And then there are the other open houses. Through no fault of the students or even their families there is an environment that is…well it’s not like the other one. Which got me thinking (you’ve never read that phrase before) I wonder how many people walk into church feeling like the latter instead of the former? After all, shouldn’t our churches best be described as open houses?

In an epistle which gets under the skin of most the writer of James says this, “My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” – James 2:1-4. And I am not even sure it is even always about rich vs poor. I think it is all to often who we are comfortable with vs those we aren’t. Now put yourself in the place of the one coming in. I don’t think in any church today we would actually tell guests where they have to sit based on how they look, but do we sometimes turn our attention to those we already know instead? Or maybe when people enter our houses of worship we approach new people who look like us, dress like us, smell like us, etc. and leave others to find their way on their own.

No one likes to feel awkward (even thought I think I may have made a career of being that way). Everyone wants to feel accepted and loved right where they are. And shouldn’t our churches be the very place where this happens? Maybe we can take a cue from this season and the open houses that make us feel like family to rethink the way we do church. Maybe everyone who enters our church doors will start to feel like family from the start….after all, we are all God’s children.

times change

I remember loving the fall time change when I was younger. All of a sudden I was blessed with another glorious hour of sleep just before a glorious fall Sunday. But then…I had kids. Children are no respecters of daylight savings time. They are like the rogue states who refuse to submit to the system. The clock may say 5:30 AM, but it is still 6:30 AM as far as they are concerned. So needless to say, the “fall back” in time that used to be so joyous, seems to lack a bit of luster lately.

If I step back and look at this from the outside, I realize that this is just a season in my life. I am sure many of you who are reading about this are thinking about those teens you have who used to be the one’s getting you out of bed and who won’t get out of bed now even if their life depended on it. And there are even those of you whose kids are already moved out of the house and the noises of little feet still pit pat in your ears from time to time as memories instead of present realities (not trying to bring forth tears…just helping me understand my point). Whether you are presently losing sleep because of little ones or sometimes wish you still were, it reminds me that all we are guaranteed is the present.

And I wonder, do we really take advantage of that guarantee? In Matthew 6:34, Jesus reminds us “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” But so often we are so busy worrying about our children’s futures that we find ourselves not being present with them in the moment. I find myself guilty of this all the time. What is even more alarming is that our present actions have eternal implications. Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it this way in one of his early sermons, “the whole of human history there is always only one really significantly hour-the present. If you want to find eternity, you must serve the time(s)”* We live in God’s eternity now…in each moment. He is creating each new eternal moment and inviting us into it. Do we exist in the now or are we living for the next moment?

There are times I still wish I was getting that “extra” hour of sleep. But when I get to see the faces of my little disciples (children) a little earlier for a few days, I realize I only have so much time with them and maybe that is better then a little more sleep.

* Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas 2010 Thomas Nelson

is it still Easter?

So this morning as I walked downstairs with my soon to be six-year-old he asked me, “Is it still Easter?” Not thinking about the gravity of this question, I almost casually answered no, but then I thought the better and gave the response, “Yes. It might not be Easter Sunday, but it is still Easter.” I think this is so easy to overlook in our westernized mindset towards our calendar. Our calendar is easily organized into dates and those dates are sometimes set aside as holidays. We look forward to the holidays (like Easter, Christmas, etc.), we celebrate them, and then we are done with them. But this has not always been the case with the calendar that we cling to in the church. I believe I commented earlier in m post for lent regarding the Christian calendar, but it starts to take on even more bearing now.

Rather than focus on certain dates, the Christian calendar instead focuses on seasons. There is the Advent Season, the season of Epiphany, the Lenten Season, the Easter season, and the season of Pentecost. I believe the early church may have been onto something here. Instead of anticipating the day of Easter and being done with it the Monday after, they anticipated the season of Easter where they lived in the joy of the resurrection until the time came to celebrate the season of the Holy Spirit or Pentecost. Doesn’t that seem to make so much more sense. So it was easy to answer my son when I thought about the question in those regards.

I think the only other real issue is that we don’t always sense the transformation in our lives that these seasons bring. Living in Michigan, I have become very attuned to seasonal changes. During the long, cold winter I find myself begging for spring to arrive…longing for warm weather and the absence of snow. I crave it so much that when it arrives I all but go crazy. All of a sudden I have to be outside, I have to run barefoot, I have to go swimming, I have to fly a kite, kick a ball, BBQ, fill in the blank with your favorite warm weather activity: I have to do it! But this is how crazy the transformation is from one season to the next.

And why shouldn’t it be so with our Christian calendar as well. I am so keyed up for Easter that I have to live out the resurrection! I have to be excited, I have to be spontaneous, my routine has to overflow with new life because that is what I am celebrating! Think about it. If we started celebrating the Christian calendar in seasons and started getting our lives in tune with the excitement that surrounds this calendar how passionate would we seem for life. How contagious would our spirits be? This is what it means to celebrate Easter! By conforming to the seasons of the life of Christ, we take on new life! Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will – Romans 12:2

May we find new life in the seasons of our Lord!

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