In 1973, the O’Jays released the most covert Christmas song ever: For the Love of Money. At least that’s what the long lines, countless Amazon deliveries, and maxed out credit cards seem to indicate this time of year. Which makes one wonder what Christmas is really all about. Is it just money? Is it just about the big parties, huge gifts and company bonuses? If we let it be, yes. But Christmas could be about so much more, and you get to decide what that more... is.
The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas can be some of the most difficult. We’ve experienced the joy in one holiday and now wait––hoping to survive––until the next one arrives. Work feels monotonous. Family obligations are just...obligations. And something inside us longs for more meaning to all of it. So how do we make the every-day parts of our lives better? It starts with one simple truth: we can’t.
What do you call it when you get more than you need? When you get more than you thought you would? Bonus! More for us, right? There’s no such thing as too much fun, too much sleep or too much money in our world. This requires the assumption though, that extra and bonus are the same thing. Is it possible that God gives us extra to benefit someone besides us? Is it possible there’s a deeper purpose for the extra than just having it?
We have a tendency to think that everything we do or consume should be done or consumed at maximum capacity. Eat all you can eat. See all you can see. Spend all you can spend. Unfortunately it’s usually only at the maximum level that we realize it may not have been the wisest thing to do. In fact, sometimes we go over the max, causing more trouble than good. What if God means for us to live just shy of maximum, and discover the best life is in the gap.
In the classic Christmas movie, It's a Wonderful Life, George Bailey was the richest man in town, but he didn't know it. In fact, he was quite miserable "doing the right thing," but becoming weary and worn because of it. It literally took divine intervention for George to see the kind of life that he had been given. The interesting thing is that he had access to this life the whole time. He was missing it even though it was right there for the taking and the enjoying.
There is an important difference between these two: (1) I don’t believe. (2) I don’t want to believe. Did you lose faith over something that happened? Something you read? Or did you decide to stop believing because faith got to be inconvenient and then you began gathering data to support your unbelief? Is it possible this isn’t a matter of existence as much as it is of resistance? Perhaps it’s time to take another look…
One of the most common arguments against the existence of the Judeo-Christian God is the existence of evil. How can we be expected to believe in a just and good God/Creator when there often seems to be little justice or goodness in the world he supposedly created? The problem of pain is the biggest problem of all for most people. However, injustice in the world calls into question the justice of God, not the existence of God...so let’s talk about that.
When we consider God––who He is and what He’s all about––where do we start? Jesus said, “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” So maybe we should start with Jesus…maybe what we’ll find is that God is more knowable than we thought.
“Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Those lyrics are from the very first Christian song that most people ever hear. Which makes the debates about the Bible that have raged on for centuries so troubling. For many of us, the Bible is the reason we believe, so when it’s questioned, everything’s questioned. Perhaps it’s time to revisit what the Bible is and why it exists to begin with.
In our region of the country, more than 25% of people consider themselves irreligious and most of those were church attendees at one time. But something happened. They quit believing. They started asking adult questions about their childhood faith and were left stranded with an incoherent concept of God; who went the way of Santa Claus in their minds. What if though, that god was the wrong god to begin with?