Everyone knows that there's no surer way to make friends than going around telling people they are wrong, right? OK, I know you're wiser than that: People hate to hear that they are wrong. They fire back with insults, accusations, rationale and everything else to avoid the dagger of those words. We don't like to hear that we are wrong, but that's the message John the Baptist was screaming in our section of Scripture today, from Matthew 3: "Repent." And that's a message we all need to hear.
Christmas is a time when we celebrate the paradoxical story of God becoming a human being. It is a story which upends most of the world's history of approaching God. While other religions usually attempt to span that unfathomable gap between God and humanity by human effort, Christianity claims that God solved the problem by becoming one of us.
The section of God's Word we're looking at today is Luke 23:35-43. It's the story of Christ on the cross. That might seem like an odd section of Scripture to be looking at at this time of the year, but it's chosen because here at the end of the church year, we have this Sunday called "Christ the King" Sunday. And this text with Jesus on the cross is all about Christ being our King.
There's a scene in the movie version of "The Sound of Music" when Sister Maria (Julie Andrews) led the Von Trapp kids in singing "These Are a Few of My Favorite Things." There were no iPods or Wii's to chase away their fright that stormy night. Instead, they dreamed of snowflakes on their eyelashes, and warm woolen mittens.
A few years ago Garth Brooks released a song thanking God for unanswered prayers. The gist of the song was that he was thankful that he didn't always get what he asked for because that meant God had something better in store for him.
For those who do not follow the liturgical Christian year, it may seem strange to think of this Sunday as the beginning of a new year. The notion that a new year is upon us may not seem right when leftover Thanksgiving turkey is still in the fridge. But for those attuned to such things, this Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is relevant not only to those who celebrate Christmas for twelve days beginning Dec. 25, but also to those for whom the Christmas (shopping) season begins today, Black Friday.
Thanksgiving, for all its joy and stress, is a time of tradition. Every family I know can name five or six traditions they follow every year without fail. Some have little to do with the official day of giving thanks declared by Abraham Lincoln, but they have everything to do with forming memories that give us a sense of family and community.
In high-stakes poker, there usually comes a time when one player has an advantage over the others and declares, "All in," meaning he is betting everything he has. This forces other players to put up their fortunes, or fold.
War leaves a mark. Yesterday, on Veterans Day, we honored those who have that mark from physical war. But even more serious is the ultimate battle we are all in, a spiritual battle against sin. And on this Sunday in the Church Year (Last Judgment Sunday) we talk about its end.
"Trick or Treat." Are you ready to hear it? Chances are, you'll hear it a few times this weekend. This is the one time a year that when someone asks a child, "What do you say?" the correct answer is not "Please" or "Thank you!"