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A reflection on the meaning of Christmas

The time has come! It’s Christmas! Yes, I know you may have already celebrated Christmas Day (if you celebrate Christmas), yet, the season continues!

Finally all this anticipation has come to some kind of fruition, our entrance into the story of Christ’s first coming has brought us to a 12 day party called the season of Christmas. We know the story: Prophesied of Old, a Savior finally comes to the world in the form of a vulnerable baby. Angelic visitations and visions, miracles and more all mark his birth, yet there is a quietness to it all the same. There’s no earthly fanfare, no immediate liberation, and no definitive defeat of injustice on the night of our Messiah’s birth 2,000 years ago.

What does it mean? Why would the savior come in this extravagant, yet still so-ordinary way? Sure he was born from a royal lineage, but we know he would soon be raised as a refugee, become an outcast to his own people, and be crucified as a criminal. This hardly seems to be the victorious savior our ancient forebearers were expecting. In all our Advent preparations, is this who we are expecting? A baby that cries and nurses and poops, a young man that made a practice of challenging his religious superiors, a political trouble maker that died in disgrace? Why would God send a savior like this?

The answer, which St. John gives us so incredibly beautifully in his Gospel, is simple for me to state to here today. It’s simply a matter of repeating the Evangelists own words. Yet it is also so deep that entire books have been written about it. Lives have been given to studying it. Entire systematic theologies are built around it. The reason “the Word became flesh” (v. 14) was so he could “dwell among us”, so that we (you and I!) could see his glory, receive his grace, and live in his truth.

The answer to the question of why God would send a savior this way is that God knew the only way to save us from ourselves—our own inclination toward selfishness and destruction—was to deal with our sin at the source. God knew that to deal with our sin at the source, he needed to be in relationship with us. God knew that to be relationship with us, had to reveal himself to us. God knew that to reveal himself to us, he had to become one of us.

So that’s what he did. In Greek the word logos is translated in English as the capital-W “Word.” It was the idea of the internal logic of the universe, the intent and creative purposes of God that necessarily pours out of him because of who he is. And John gives us this remarkable concept of this Word of God as not just an attribute, action, or power, but truly a divine person. Distinct from the Father, to be sure (he was “with God”) yet, so closely identified with him that St John writes he “was God” (John 1:1). It was this second person of the Holy Trinity, the eternal Son, that became flesh and dwelt among us.

God came to be with us as one of us so he could rescue us. And we needed—currently need!—rescue. Sin has so saturated this world and our hearts that we are powerless on our own to do it. We can’t fix our mistakes, our own pride, our own issues, much less our neighbor’s. The fact is that we are doomed to certain death if we continue on the course we are each set on from birth. We all need an intervention and that’s what God accomplished in Jesus. Incredibly, miraculously, and mysteriously, God claimed us as part of himself permanently by taking on human flesh. Since Jesus was both God and a human being, he did what no human being could ever do: he took the entire curse of sin on himself on the cross the single most selfless act in history. But it didn’t stop there. Jesus was raised from the dead, so we witness to a living Jesus, who even now is applying his redeeming work to the world through the Holy Spirit who lives inside every baptized believer!

So you see that God is always with us now, in us and with us through each other. He has revealed to us the truth of our need for him and his ability and action to meet that need as pure grace…a pure gift of himself. And he has revealed so much about himself to us in how he accomplished it: by becoming a vulnerable baby…by telling the truth…with a sacrificial love…a refusal to use violence…the formation of a called-out people.

As the Incarnate Word, everything about Jesus embodies the intentions and character of the Father perfectly. If you and I want to know how each of us was created to live, we can know! If you and I want to know how God would save the world we can know! We can look to Jesus! We can receive his way of thinking, his way of life, and even his willingness to die, knowing that if we have received him, we will be with him forever no matter what.

At the end of the day, the eternal value of everything we do and are as individuals and as a church hinges on whether we receive what Jesus has already done—in his life, death, resurrection, and ascension as Lord over all—and allow his life to shape ours. How do we receive it? By believing it. By accepting his gifts of grace offered to us at the altar. By allowing the Holy Spirit to conform our attitudes, actions and affections to the heart, mind, and will of God in Christ.

Yes, this is the meaning of Christmas. That Jesus is God come to us in the flesh, giving grace and revealing truth—the grace of sharing in his life and the truth of who God is so that…“… to all who…receive him, who…[believe]…in his name…[have the] right to become children of God…” (John 1:12 ESV)

This is grace and truth and the Good News to you today. Jesus has come. He is here. You can receive him. And if you do, you are a child of God, now and forever.

Super stoked to start using these beautiful Scripture journals that I got for Christmas, but I must confess I have some decision paralysis! Should I use them for sermon prep, general devotional reading, focused book study??? The possibilities are endless!!!

First time playing Ticket to Ride tonight with Amber! Pretty fun game.

A 2018 Media Review

According to my records, I finished 20 books, 5 graphic novels, 21 movies, and 6 TV series in 2018.

Here are my favorites:

Books

On the Thirty-nine Articles: A Conversation with Tudor Christianity by Oliver O’Donovan - Wonderful historical essays on how we can engage with a document hundreds of years old that nevertheless continues to have profound relevance for Christianity today.

The Courage to Be Disliked: How to Free Yourself, Change Your Life, and Achieve Real Happiness by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga (Audible Audio Edition) - I was disappointed with the authors’ jabs at religion, but appreciated the insight into Adlerian psychology. I came away with several very helpful insights. I plan on re-reading this one.

Faithful Presence: Seven Disciplines That Shape the Church for Mission by David E. Fitch - This turned into a summer sermon series at DMAC.

Subversive Sabbath: The Surprising Power of Rest in a Nonstop World by A. J. Swoboda - Beautifully written reflections and practical advice on rest from a Christian perspective.

The Holmes-Dracula File: The New Dracula, Book 2 by Fred Saberhagen (Audible Audio Edition) - Super light, fun (yet still smart) read that finds Sherlock Holmes and Dracula teaming up to fight a conspiracy to infect London with the plague! Lots of clever twists and turns on familiar mythos. What’s not to like?

Graphic Novel

Captain America: Secret Empire by Nick Spencer and Steve McNiven - Incredibly crazy and immersive story that really had me wondering what was going on. An interesting take on Cap, and fun way to get back into comics this year.

Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi - This deconstructed Star Wars in a good way. I get that it was super divisive, but I loved it from beginning to end, especially the subtle message of non-violence that comes through.

A Quiet Place - Absolutely riveting, was on edge every single moment. Beautiful story of parental love in the worst situations.

Venom - Wasn’t expecting to like it that much, but honestly I had a blast.

Spiderman - Into the Spider-Verse - Great story, great voice acting, amazing art. Hands down the most interesting and creative adaptation of the comic medium to film I have ever seen.

Christopher Robin- A touching film to see with the kids. I shed a tear in the theater as the enduring power of friendship and love was explored.

TV Series

Daredevil: Season 3 - Most shows I watched this year were meh at best, but this was a standout. Amazing action, a step up in acting, and a fitting conclusion to the best superhero show on the small screen.

New Girl: Season 6 - This show continually strikes the perfect balance between silly and sweet, and the exploration of the Nick/Jess relationship in this “off again” season kept me rooting for a reunion.

When Anxiety in Children Looks Like Anger, Tantrums, or Meltdowns

When children are under the influence of an anxious brain, their behaviour has nothing to do with wanting to push against the limits. They are often great kids who don’t want to do the wrong thing, but they are being driven by a brain in high alert.

This is so helpful.

🍿 Just saw Aquaman with Amber. What a fantastic fantasy adventure film! Jason Momoa owns the title role with infectious glee, and director James Wan gives us a ton of mesmerizing and immersive visuals (although the CGI de-aging in places is creepy as usual).

I fully intend to watch this movie again (which is saying a lot for me). Second best DC film for sure, right after Wonder Woman.

Spent the day in the snow.

The Christmas fun continues with tea, pipe, and novel.

☕️ Trader Joe’s Candycane Green Tea
💨 Sutliff Christmas Spice in my Cassillero
📚 Dark Fire by C. J. Sansom

Great time at Lights of the World with the fam.

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Just getting out of watching Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse with my 8 year old son. Quite possibly my new favorite superhero movie…in the top three for sure! Loved the story, the action, the voice acting, and the incredibly beautiful and thoughtful art. Hands down the most interesting and creative adaptation of the comic medium to film I have ever seen.

🍻 Christmas cheer, Christmas beer. A wonderful Irish stout.

Merry Christmas to all! It’s been a wonderful day around the Hale House. I love watching our kids enjoy giving and receiving gifts, and I love having a day with nothing on the schedule except enjoying each other’s company. Amber made a delicious breakfast and got me incredibly thoughtful presents. I so enjoy our simple way of celebrating Christmas Day. I have really needed this.

“Jesus, Lord at thy birth.” Love that line.

🌲Eve🏃🏻‍♂️

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Jesus statue popping out of the ground at Abtei Himmerod Germany

The KJZZ Holiday Show with Blaise Lantana & Friends at The Nash is about to start!

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Put ADOT under the tree because they are a gift

I am really loving facilitating pre-marital counseling for a couple I am performing the wedding ceremony for in February. Today we talked about the ceremony and I love the traditional elements they are choosing to keep in the liturgy, as well some some of the unconventional-yet-meaningful additions they are making. This book has been a great guide through the conversations so far.

You know what’s great about most personal blogs like the ones hosted at Micro.blog compared to other more comercial websites? Very little or no ads. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against advertising in principle but sites like Wired, Mashable, and even the Atlantic have made their sites such a chore to read. I love the clean aesthetic that’s encouraged in this new blogging movement.

Via this great guide on web typography.

Happy Hipster Christmas via the Church Humor Newsletter

🍻A new one. Came in the Winter seasonal pack, but would make a great summer beer. Tastes of citrus and melons.

THIS IS HAPPENING PEOPLE

Spending some time chaperoning my daughter’s class field trip to the Science Center!

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View from the Skytrain at PHX.