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What Linus can Teach Pastors at Christmas

Violet just stared at the pathetic little tree.  “Boy, are you stupid Charlie Brown.  You were supposed to get a good tree.  Can’t you even tell a good tree from a poor tree?”

Patti gave a long sigh and shook her head, “You’re hopeless Charlie Brown.”

Then Lucy chimed in, “You’ve been dumb before, Charlie Brown.  But this time you really did it.”

Pastors know that feeling.  

Revised Reading for the 3rd Candle of Advent

The third candle of Advent, the candle for this Lord's Day, is the Candle of Joy.  The recent horror and heartache of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings prompted Stephen to rewrite it.  That revision is provided below.   Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Revised liturgy for the Third Candle of Advent

We have lit the first two candles, one for hope and one for peace. Today we light the third candle, the candle of joy. During Advent we remember that light came into our darkness; we remember that the God who gives life entered into our violent world of death. We remember that in the midst of her suffering and poverty, the word came to a peasant girl that God was even now making good on his promise. Because of this, we rejoice. This joy is not a pious optimism that everything is really okay. It is rather the assurance that God is not okay with the world as it is, and through Jesus, God felt the pain of the world. We rejoice now because we believe that God weeps with us so that one day we may laugh with him.

(candle lighting)

Let us Pray:
Faithful God, we live in a land of deep darkness,
and you have shone a great light on us.
Teach us to rejoice rightly in this light.
Open our eyes to the suffering of those around us,
and to the future you promise us.
Make our joy a joy that can only come from you.
Cleanse us of our sin and prepare our hearts to be transformed by you,
That we might walk in and share the light of Christ. Amen.  

-Revised by Stephen Lawson (Hopwood Christian Church, Johnson City, TN)

The Church's War on Christmas

The church waged a long and sometimes heated war on Christmas. Laws were enacted against it. Sermons were shouted against it. It was all pretty much insisting, year after year, that Christmas is a humbug and people who love Jesus ought to ignore it. Surprised?  That’s because it’s a war we lost.

Advent in the Dark

This guest post on Advent was written by Stephen Lawson for the Hopwood Christian Church (Johnson City, TN):

We are beginning to see a lot more sky around east Tennessee. The canopy of leaves, recently ablaze with reds, yellows and oranges has now largely fallen to the ground leaving limbs naked and providing us with an unobstructed vision of the blue-grey above. Perhaps it is one of God’s many small gifts to us that during the season when the sun seems to sprint from one horizon to the other we have the clearest vision of it.

At first brush, it seems strange that Advent and Christmas fall during this dark season. Why do we remember the mystery of the Incarnation, that most joyous event, when the earth is barren, dark, and cold? Doesn't summertime, with its flowering life ,seem like a better time to celebrate the birth of the life-giving Christ?