Back in “the day,” a good part of my recreation involved doing something with sending some kind of ball across some kind of net, as in tennis or volleyball. What I quickly learned from those activities was that the person in charge of the serve most definitely had the advantage. It would be a lesson that I would come to see as having remarkable significance for Christian practice as well.
Everywhere I have gone in recent days it seems that all around me everything has been under some form of construction. Some of it has been new construction, others more a renovation. But regardless, the work being done has complicated my life by requiring detours, new routes, and in some cases a reversal of course. Needless to say, my level of exasperation has at times threatened to register off the charts.
Under the category of “New Year/New You,” I’d like to recommend a simple discipline that can hold remarkable promise for you in the coming days. I developed this discipline some years ago, and it has blessed me immensely. So, I offer it to you so that you too might know the benefits of practicing it in the New Year.
One of the worst parts of turning the calendar page from one year to the next is that we are inundated with messages intended to convince us that something is radically wrong with us and we need to commit ourselves full-bore in the New Year to make the necessary changes. You know what I’m talking about. These sorts of ads are relentless, promising to help us lose weight or exercise more or drop a bad habit – and all for a bargain price. While these ads always seem to get our attention (and strike a guilt chord or two in the process), we never seem to be able to follow through in seeing the changes materialize. To quote Jesus, “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”
Each of us has his or her favorite Christmas carol, and to paraphrase Luke’s birth narrative, we are “sorely disappointed” when it doesn’t get sung during the season. Of course, some we enjoy more than others, but the carol that most likely rates a place on everyone’s list is the old standard, “Silent Night, Holy Night,” which we sing at MBBC every Christmas Eve.
Some news simply was never meant to be kept close to the vest, like the news of Christmas. From the very beginning, the very core of the Christmas message was an angelic announcement that a Savior was to be born “to all people.” No one is to be left out of the Christmas celebration. Everyone is invited to join in on the “glad tidings of great joy.”
Music tends to take center stage in this season of the year more than any other, and rightfully so. Some messages are simply best conveyed in song. Spoken words are hardly sufficient in conveying the good news of Christmas. Perhaps that’s why on the night of Jesus’ birth when the Word became flesh, the message was conveyed in angelic song.
I doubt I’m the only pastor who’s ever been accused of being a “parrot head,” but I don’t know of many other pastors who have a deeper appreciation for the music of the legendary American country, folk, and rock fusion icon Jimmy Buffet than I. Part of it is because so many of his “island tunes” capture my love of the coastal lifestyle. But part of it is also because so many of the lyrics to his songs speak to our need as humans to learn how to accept both the happy and sad aspects of life as best we can.
I have always loved leftovers. While many rue the seemingly endless servings of turkey and dressing that post-Thanksgiving meals inevitably bring, I actually look forward to them. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems as if the flavors seep into the turkey and dressing even more and their tastiness somehow is intensified.
One of my favorite things about Thanksgiving worship is the opportunity the season affords us to sing songs we don’t sing any other time of the year. Not that we shouldn’t give consideration to saying our thanks through song throughout the year, it’s just that certain hymns seem to sound better when we sing them closer to the Thanksgiving holiday.