They start as early as September. The decorations begin amassing before October. And the hoary holiday carols and pop tunes pipe through the airwaves pretty much non-stop starting Thanksgiving night. If not for Halloween, we’d be inundated with wall-to-wall Christmas commercialism for 3 solid months.

If it seems I’m complaining — I’m not, really. Although it always starts before I’m ready, I do welcome the long Christmas season each year. From the madness of Black Friday doorbusters to the excitement of kids’ anticipation to the inevitable hearing of my least favorite holiday song to the sweetness of the actual Christmas story, I’ve learned to embrace it all — if at an arm’s length just for sanity’s sake.

What I really do hate, though, is the sudden stop afterward.

Perhaps it’s because I don’t drink and breathe Christmas for all those weeks I alluded to above. But I’m not Christmas’d out by Christmas night. Indeed, I’m not ready for it to all end.

I’m not ready for stations that have been playing Christmas tunes 24/7 to just up and quit around 5 pm on Dec. 25.

There’s a good reason for it, too. The actual Christmas story, that we in the faith recall during this Advent season? Most of it happened after December 25. (Or whenever…we know it didn’t happen in December, all right? Shut up. 🙂 )

  • The shepherds probably got the manger well after the birth, maybe not even the same day.
  • The wise men, according to many bible scholars, may not have presented their gifts to the young King until he was two years old.

Point being: Christmas is the beginning, not the end.

Back in the early ’90s after college, I took a seasonal job at Toys ‘R’ Us. One of the things I loved about that job was the constant Christmas music and the fact that they kept playing it up into the new year. “TRU” knew, as I did even then, that the end of Christmas Day wasn’t the end of it all.

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Merry Christmas!

2011/12/24

 

Not a whole lot to say today other than to wish you a wonderful celebration of the absolute most incredible thing that’s ever happened: the incomparable, limitless Creator of the universe poured Himself into the human experience and was born a tiny, helpless baby boy.

That night (almost certainly NOT a winter’s night in December, but whatever), to paraphrase one of my favorite songs, heaven met earth like an unforseen kiss.

Merry Christmas, all.

It’s the evening of Easter Sunday as I write this, more than three weeks after I completed my 30 Days of Song thing. I used the same song — “Indescribable” by Chris Tomlin — for a couple of those days.

But I’ve quickly grown to love another song just as much: the David Crowder Band’s rendition of “He Loves Us”

This song inspires me as much as Tomlin’s and I absolutely want to weep with emotion when I hear it and realize anew just how much He indeed loves us.

See, in the Hebrew language, “love” isn’t just a fuzzy feeling. It’s action. And when Jesus took the cross on our behalf, He took action that is utterly staggering to contemplate.

Day 26-a song that makes you feel invincible

I resisted this one, because it seemed a bit too obvious. But it came up on my random playlist not two nights ago, and yes…it’s fitting.

“Love Invincible” by Michael Franti and Spearhead

“Touch me in the morning sun / When I feel impossible / Show me what is possible / Teach me love invincible…!”

Though I highly doubt it’s intended as such, this hook — the whole song, really — can be a powerful prayer. After all, Jesus is THE Love Invincible, and He’s the only thing that makes me ever feel invincible.

These kids in the video have inspired me. This song will be played at my wedding, too, if I have any say in the matter.

Day 24-a song that makes you cry every time you hear it

Time for the first repeat of the list. And despite the fact that I occasionally get teary when listening to my brother’s favorite, IT’S NOT THE ONE.

No, it’s this.

“Indescribable” by Chris Tomlin.

These lines, in particular, touch my heart deeply:

“Who imagined the sun and gives source to its light? / Yet conceals it to bring us the coolness of night? / None can fathom…”

Night is something we often associate with darkness, danger, fear, evil. But this song helps to reframe nighttime in a completely different…well…light.

It reminds me that even this fallen world is still created by a loving God, and that even its broken aspects are used by Him for the good of us, His most beloved creations.

Some people shout when they worship God. Others are quiet and holy-hushed.

Me, I shed tears when I’m cognizant of His awesome might and great glory and loving kindness. This song poetically reminds me of all those qualities.


Day 19-a song that you HAVE to sing

No contest. It’s “Indescribable” by Chris Tomlin

This IS my worship song. And it’s very apropos that this lands on a Sunday. Believe me, I didn’t plan it.

Day 03-a song that inspires you & why
“For Every Mountain” by Kurt Carr & Kurt Carr Singers inspires me to thankfulness to a great, powerful and loving God.

Why? The lyrics say it all. For every mountain He’s brought me over and every trial He’s seen me through and every blessing, I simply must give Him praise.

Cherokee County was threatened with a lawsuit if they went ahead with plans to hold high school graduations in a local megachurch building by Americans United For the Separation of Church and State.

The county’s board unanimously voted to go ahead with those plans and risk the suit.

I say: good for them!

First, it just makes good financial sense. The church only charges a few thousand dollars for the rental of its facility as compared with tens of thousands for other venues. In these cash-strapped times, that’s the right call.

Second, the level of discomfort some people have with religious symbols just bewilders me. Is a cross — in and of itself — really so offensive and threatening to the non-Christian that they suffer mental and emotional harm simply by being in its presence?

This isn’t just a problem for non-Christians, either. I know some Christians who are offended by the Muslim woman’s hijab (head covering) as a religious symbol.

What’s the common element here? These people aren’t reacting to the symbol itself, but are reacting to their own notions of what it means. To the Jewish student, the cross may be a symbol of anti-Semitism. To the Christian woman, the hijab is a symbol of Islam’s oppression of women.

Neither notion is a reason to avoid all contact with those symbols. Would it kill us to endure a little discomfort with these symbols to come together a little more closely as fellow citizens?

While scanning my Facebook feeds, I came across a link to a Salon.com piece entitled: “Just how offensive is Sandra Lee’s crazy Kwanzaa cake?”

The very-white lady, as is her wont, used various pre-made ingredients to create a pretty unappetizing dessert for her cooking show. For some reason, some folks took offense.

I don’t get it.

Admittedly, the cake doesn’t have a thing to do with Kwanzaa. Angel’s food cake?Chocolate icing? Apple pie filling? It doesn’t even sound good, and it looks worse.

But, as the article remarks, Kwanzaa has no food traditions. So what’s the big deal?

Kwanzaa isn’t even a legitimate holiday, having been cooked up by activist Maulana Karenga in the 1960s chiefly as an anti-Christian “alternative” to Christmas for black people.

Actually, that clears it up just fine, for me. Kwanzaa was born out of offense; specifically, Karenga’s being offended by the widespread celebration of the “white” holiday of Christmas. Consequently, anyone who seriously celebrates this reactionary “holiday” stands a solid chance of being easily offended in general, and thus is offended by this cake.

Sad, really. Anyone honestly being offended by this cake just needs to do at least one of these two things:

  1. Develop an ACTUAL Kwanzaa culinary tradition that someone would actually eat.
  2. Stop whining and grow a thicker skin.

That’s all. Maybe sometime this week, I’ll do a wrap-up of the Empire Strikes Back series that dominated this blog this year before remarking on more contemporary matters.

I learned a lot from this battle.

Wow. I originally intended to be done with this series by late June. But here it’s September and I’m just starting the final segment, which is going to run for at least 2 installments.

But enough with recrimination. On with the retrospective!

The duel doesn’t start with the first clash of lightsabers captured above, but several minutes earlier in the film, when Luke decides to abandon his training at a crucial stage to rescue his endangered friends. Thus was an earlier lesson I learned in the film reinforced: Don’t abandon your friends and comrades.

But there’s a tension in the lesson this time around, as Luke is defying the wishes and advice of both the greatest mentors of his young life. They fear that he will fail and only dash their hopes anew:

Yoda: “Strong is Vader. Mind what you have learned; SAVE you it can!”

That line chilled me a bit. Yoda isn’t even guaranteeing that his training is enough to survive, much less defeat Vader. But Luke, for his part, doesn’t even entertain the possibility of failure. It seems that Yoda’s earlier instruction for him to “Try not; do or do not” has finally taken root in the worst way. Luke says two things in this scene that resonate much later in the film and much later in my life:

“You won’t.”

and

“I’ll return…I promise.”

The first line is in response to the ghostly Obi-Wan’s voiced fear of losing Luke to the dark side the way he lost Vader, his previous apprentice. The second line is a similar vow given to Yoda regarding his unfinished training.

These exchanges remind me of an episode near the end of Jesus of Nazareth’s earthy life. Two of his disciples, James and John, conspire with their mother to jockey for right- and left-hand-man status with Jesus when He comes into His Kingdom. Jesus asks them if they’re able to pay the same price in suffering that He’s about to endure. In their blindly ambitious naivety, both say they can and will.

Like Luke, the “sons of thunder” had no clue what they’d just vowed to do.

The LIFE LESSON of this scene, then is this: don’t make vows you really don’t know if you can keep.

There’s one more element at the very end of the scene that underscores the danger that Luke faces. As Obi-Wan and Yoda stand in the glow of Luke’s departing X-Wing, they have this exchange:

Obi-Wan: That boy is our last hope.

Yoda: No…there is another.

Wait…what? You mean Luke might not walk away from this?

At age nine, I barely registered this bit of foreshadowing, but it really is a subtly masterful storytelling device and a bit of insurance on the filmmakers’ part if their lead actor is lost somehow.

Finally, after much Imperial maneuvering, Luke finds himself facing the dark Lord Darth Vader at last, who has his own chilling words with which to open the encounter:

“The Force is with you, young Skywalker…but you are not a Jedi yet.”

Suddenly, the weight of all leading up to this moment hit my nine-year-old consciousness:

Yoda’s warning that Luke’s training might save him.

Obi-Wan’s warning that he can’t help Luke this time.

Yoda’s revelation that Luke isn’t the only hope.

Vader’s demonstrated unilateral authority in the movie so far.

And, most of all, the Rule of Expectations. My earlier assurance that Luke was destined to win (based on a fellow kid’s spoiler) was dashed in the scene at the cave midway through the film.

I’ve never been as on-the-edge-of-my-seat in any movie experience before or since. Thus the first LIFE LESSON of my Empire Strikes Back summer was reinforced: expectations have a way of coloring and affecting everything we do or experience. But my (and Luke’s) naive expectation of Luke’s victory is, with this scene and the others represented above, put into serious doubt. Consequently, a corollary lesson emerges: the reality still trumps the expectation. Don’t get ahead of yourself, kid!

Next time, we’ll look at what we can learn from the actual fight.