Parable of the Osprey—26 JUL 22

Our summer travels often take us to the top of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, to a place where Osprey, or sea eagles, love to nest and play.  They are marvelous birds, masters of the winds, often making it seem effortless to just hang motionless in the air.  They spread their broad wings to catch the breeze just as they were created to do, suspended on the wind in an awesome display of the power of what can neither be seen nor touched.

Sometimes people say that God can’t be real, as God can neither be seen nor touched either.  But just as that makes the wind no less powerful and real for the osprey, the fact that God can never be seen nor touched can also never be “evidence” that God is not real.  And just as the osprey were made to effortlessly soar and rely on the wind that can never be seen nor touched, we, too, were made to effortlessly soar and rely on the invisible and untouchable, though awesomely powerful God.

I love the fact that the Greek word used in the Bible for “Spirit” is pneuma, the same word used for “wind.”  We were made to soar on the power of pneuma—the Holy Spirit—in the same way that osprey were made to soar on pneuma—the almost constant wind on the coast.  But baby osprey don’t soar right away—they have to grow their wing muscles and learn to trust that they were made to soar—not to stay earth-bound, just to watch and envy others that do soar.

We, too, need to grow our muscles for soaring on the power of the Spirit.  And just like the osprey, the only way we can soar, is to eventually trust the power of the pneuma, and take a leap of faith.  Osprey safe in the next aren’t very impressive.  But when they soar, they are glorious, and reflect, if ever so dimly, the glory of their Creator, just doing what they do best.  When we take a leap of faith and do what God created us for—blessing others at every turn—that’s when we truly soar!

Spread your wings to catch the power of the invisible, untouchable pneuma, to soar like the osprey–and be a sign of the glory of the God who made each of us to soar in our own way!  Or just sit in the nest—but that’s not where any of us were made to stay!

“… and God will raise you up on eagles’ wings…”  Pastor Jim

Concrete Fix

—12 JULY

We’ve had a problem with the concrete walk heading to our back door for the whole 21 years we’ve been in our home.  It’s been on my fixing to do list ever since we moved in, but like usual, the fix only comes when we’re moving out.  It’s a small enough fix that after the prep work late in the afternoon, I was able to do the patch after a meeting last night.  When I was trying to get the mix of concrete and water right, I was reminded of the old M*A*S*H  TV series episode in which they laid a concrete operating room floor.

The bunch of medical folk at M*A*S*H 4077 had no idea about how to mix or work concrete, so CPL Klinger piped up to offer “I helped my uncle with some concrete when I was a kid…” so he instantly became the expert.  They really SHOULDn’t have gotten mad at him when the mix didn’t work—had had been only a kid helping occasionally, after all—but the first effort was a disaster!  But they finally got it right, and when I finally got my concrete mixed right, I knew there had to be a message mixed into the concrete as well.

Concrete is a mixture of water, aggregates and portland cement.  The aggregates are normal things like gravel and sand.  The magic is in the portland cement paste that is formed when mixed with water, and when it completely covers, surrounds and encases the aggregates.  The chemical reaction that then occurs forms a growing number of nodes on the cement particle that grow together with surrounding cement particles, that become virtually as hard as stone.

The cement paste, as it surrounds and encases all the aggregates and forms links with one another, is what provides the magic of the strength of the final product.  This sounds so much like how God created us to work—we, like the ordinary aggregates in concrete, are nothing special in and of ourselves—until surrounded, held together, and encased in the power of the Holy Spirit.  The spiritual reaction occurs in us, much like the chemical reaction occurs in the concrete, when we’re shaped by the water of our baptism, to then become intertwined and interconnected as the Body of Christ, one strong, malleable substance to be shaped by God’s master Mason’s hands.

Don’t you just get covered with spiritually excited goosebumps when you hear how this works?  I just LOVE seeing in the most ordinary things around us how the hand of God works!  And it does sometimes seem like we have the intellectual prowess of a box of rocks when we get away from the all-encompassing power of the Holy Spirit.  Though it might not always feel so good to be hosed down and scrambled all together for a while, those trying actions are the catalyst that envelopes us into the Holy Spirit, so are essential to our spiritual growth.

Dive with me into the mix that God has in store for us.  It can be a rocky ride sometimes, but it’s a small price for the priceless gift of being a part of the living temple God is building with us to be His presence in the world!

Ever in the mix–Rev. Jim

Yesterday— 7 JUNE 22

Yesterday Karol and I celebrated 35 years of marriage.  But how can that be?  It barely seems like it was yesterday when I first met her by stealing her pillow, or when I first heard those three most magical words from her lips?  Yesterday we just heard from both our kids, deeply involved in their own adult lives of touching others, but how can that be, when just yesterday was filled with sleepless nights of colic with one, and endless worlds of toddler discovery with the other?  Yesterday I called one of the Veteran organizations to help with some challenges with my impending Army retirement, but wasn’t it just yesterday when I was first swearing in, then going on my first deployment?

Today’s moments and blessings are too easily lost when they so quickly slip into yesterday without our noticing it.  While this is hardly a new thing— it was almost a million yesterdays ago when the wisest of men, after gaining the world, but nearly losing his soul, first wrote in Ecclesiastes: “vanity, vanity, all is vanity… (it is all) a chasing after the wind…”  Is there any way to somehow stop all our yesterdays from being just a chasing after the wind?

I’m sitting back on my new porch as I write this, being kissed by reminders from the gentle morning chasing raindrops across the yard, that while many of those raindrops are merely drizzling into the mud, many other of those raindrops are watering the freshly planted blessings of our herbal prayer labyrinth just a few feet away.  And while others of those raindrops are quenching the thirst of the evil mice trying to invade our citadel in paradise, others are watering the also freshly planted veggies around back.  Those herbs and veggies may not be much of a blessing yet, but each one is full of the promise of perhaps blessing our palate, or better yet, blessing others of whom we as yet know nothing.  So are those raindrops merely a chasing after the wind?  Some may be, yet others provide the essential gift of life, provided by nothing else under the sun.

So what of our yesterdays?  Perhaps some have merely been a chasing after the wind.  Some may have even fed the evil mice of our lives, sometimes merely pests, sometimes worse.  Yet 35 years’ worth of those yesterdays have watered my beautiful marriage; twentysomething years’ worth are investments as nothing else under the sun could be, in the countless unknown blessings my kids will bring into their worlds, often to people as yet unknown.  And I can pray that a lot of those yesterdays have watered the blessings and washed the tears of many of the other souls God has put in my path across years of yesterdays.

The morning breeze caresses me again, and the raindrops become more insistent in their reminders that though many do seemingly just vanish into the mud, each brings its own kind of blessing that nothing else under the sun can– bringing a bright life to what otherwise would be yet another lifeless rock drifting in space.  Perhaps chasing after the wind is not so bad after all.  Here’s to sending as many blessings into our yesterdays, as are the blessings of each raindrop!

Thank you, Lord, for the reminders chasing me in the wind.

Rev. Jim

Ebeneezer

Pastoral Ponderings- Ebenezer- 1 JUN 22

We have all kinds of monuments these days as memorials– whether a tombstone for a loved one, or the big monuments gracing our nation’s capital to help remember our heroes who made us free.  Memorial Day calls us to remember those who have died in their service to our country.  But Memorial Day has also become an important family day.  It was a perfect day on Monday to be Cedar Point for Memorial Day.  How such getaways are a facet of the remembering of the day, I’m not sure, but sometimes we make sacrifices for family…

Our son Kristopher had to bring some of his meds, so we ended up at the first aid stations at the park with their very helpful teams several times across the day.  During one of those stops, a mom stopped by, already in a huff, asking for something minor they couldn’t help her with, and she left even more angry than before.  While I’m not THAT big a roller coaster fan, SOME would say this is one of the best parks in the world– and on as a beautiful day as you could get, with no big crowd, and blessed to be with family, could it get better than this?  Yet the mom was still angry, for what seemed to be a rather minor issue (she WAS rathe talkative about her anger…), rather than living in an attitude of gratitude for the blessings of the day.

I was at another “pit stop,” so only came in at the end of the exchange as she was angrily walking out, but Darling Wife, Karol, caught me up on it while we were waiting.  Karol had said she tried to share with that mom a little ebenezer–a reminder of blessings—but the mom in the midst of her anger, wasn’t very receptive.  In that brief interaction, I had a flash of insight into a lot of the anger we seem to be stewing in across the board these days, an insight about memorials, ironically enough, on a Memorial Day trip.

The Old Testament is full of piles of “memory stones,” in at least one case, set up by Samuel, called “Ebenezer” (I Sam. 7:12), a word meaning “stone of help,” or a commemoration of divine assistance.  So an ebenezer is a reminder both of all God has done to bring us to where we are, and a reminder as St. Paul said about his “thorn in the flesh,” that God’s grace is sufficient, God’s power works through our weaknesses, and that “when I am weak, then I am strong” (I Cor. 12: 7-10).

Might the thick soup of anger our society seems to be stewing in these days, point to a need for better ebenezers– reminders of the gift of God’s grace, reminders of how thankful we COULD be—especially on a beautiful day with family at a great place to spend time together?  Anger often comes when we lose our “attitude of gratitude,” and think we’re entitled to what we’re not getting, or when we’re not getting our way.  I seem to recall someone saying something about “blessed/happy are the meek…”

That mom wasn’t particularly receptive, but what about us?  Are we receptive to the need for reminders of how God has blessed us and our forebears before us?  What memorials or ebenezers work for you to remind you of how blessed you are, of how blessed we all are, so we can stay in that place of meek gratitude, and be thankful, rather than losing that attitude, and falling into the bitter stew of anger?

While Robert Robinson’s 18th century lyrics may not fit our world so well these days, the intent of his song certainly does: “Come, thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace;… Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by thy help I’m come;… O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be! Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee.  Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.”

What’s your ebenezer?  Keep being thankful—Rev. Jim

Run For Missions

I’ve never been that fond of running.  And yet when people come together for running events, it becomes a powerful, magical experience.  While I certainly can’t say for all of them, for those I have been involved in– as a runner, as a supporter, or just experiencing a glimpse of them in passing– it’s almost like I’m seeing a glimpse of the Kingdom of God.  Even though such events may not be faith-related at all, and many involved wouldn’t want anything to do with “the Kingdom of God,” many still consider their running to be spiritual experiences.  I’ve never been in a more supportive environment, where it’s common, even in a competitive “race,” to see those who finish early to go back and run alongside and encourage those who are lagging and struggling to make it.

What can we as a church, eager to show God’s hospitality and encouragement to others, learn from running events that too often seem more like a taste of the Kingdom of God than church gatherings do?  Maybe you’ve had some experience with such events you could reflect on to help explore this question.  While I certainly don’t have all the answers, some observations I’ve made might include:

–          It’s a judgement-free zone—those who are there are eager and happy to help others of all levels of skill and experience come and join the fun.

–          Themes of encouragement and building each other up—essential to our calling as Jesus people according to I Thes. 5: 11, are lived out more than anything else

–          The community is built by shared purpose, accomplishment (and suffering?) is a community of support

–          The community recognizes that essential to encouragement is accountability, and helping each other “run the race with endurance”

–          ALL of any skill level, capacity or disability are welcomed, embraced, encouraged and have a place of belonging!

–          The culture of encouragement empowers even the reluctant (like me!) to embrace the opportunity, the community, the experience

–          They’re not afraid to talk about money, an essential tool for making it all happen

I’m eager to hear more insights, and how we might be able to put them to good use in our own hospitality!  Perhaps we might even consider sponsoring our own run?

“let’s rid ourselves of every obstacle… and let’s run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12: 1)—Rev. Jim

Money raised by pledges for runners for the Annual Conference Run for Missions on June 9 will go to the Conference Board of Missions grants for community engagement.  I will be one of the runners, and pledges or donations could be made through the church or through the website.  The run will be out and back at Canal Park in Akron, and even if you’re not involved nor a part of the Conference, they’re encouraging our church folk to come out and cheer along those of us who will be running.  The event is slated to start at 6, so folks will start gathering by 5:30, and most people will complete the run in about 30 minutes, so it won’t make for a long evening, but a good one to practice coming out and cheering people on!

Cultivate Smiles

She smiled at me—it was such a lovely thing!  Shy, hiding behind her mom’s skirts at the Meadow Stream family greenhouse outside of Plymouth, about 5 years old and cute as a button, I first asked if she would help me count the seedlings I was getting.  That didn’t quite do the trick, but after sharing a few of my smiles and a little chat with the mom, she finally shared one of hers!  I didn’t find something at another greenhouse, so back to Meadow Stream I went to get the last of the plants.

There she was again, playing on the lawn mower, so not with her mom when I checked out this time.  But the mom shared another of the little girl’s smiles with me– a smile the little girl had colored after I left the first time, on the bottom of one of the cardboard plant carriers, so I was able to take this smile home with me!  In the process, I think I might have left a smile or two with the mom, who might even have shared them with the rest of the family, too.

Believe it or not, I never used to talk much with strangers.  But when I keep preaching this Jesus stuff, some of the virtue of reaching out and cultivating smiles has been rubbing off on me.  Hexis is the Greek word often translated as virtues.  I’ve not been able to find this exact word in the Bible, though the closely related term, arete—excellence or moral virtue–is used a bit in the New Testament.  Hexis is often translated in Latin as habitus, from which we get “habit” in English, but it’s more of a habit on steroids—habitual behavior PLUS tastes, preferences, tendencies, interests.

A lot of people have heard of Aristotle, even if we don’t fully appreciate this ancient Greek philosopher and founder of Western education these days, but he was all about cultivating, or working to grow more excellence (arete) in virtues (hexis/habitus, or good habits/tastes/inclinations).  He, too, would have gotten a good smile from my exchange with the good folk at Meadow Stream, because my habit/habitus/hexis of talking with strangers, is something I have learned and developed over time, which fits so well his model of education, or personal formation of excellence in virtues.

Whenever I talk about reaching out or sharing with people outside our normal bubble of relationships, I very often hear responses like “I’m not comfortable…” or “that’s just not me…”.  But even though this habit/habitus IS a part of me now, it never USED to be something I was comfortable with, and certainly not something that came natural to me.  Until I started cultivating smiles.  And like our gardens, it starts with just a little seedling, or even smaller, with a planting of seeds that we then water and care for, and uproot the weeds around it that would choke out what we’re trying to cultivate.

Cultivating smiles is a lot like propagating in the garden.  We cultivate smiles by sharing smiles—especially with cute little kids with whom it’s so easy to smile!  Then when we keep on sharing smiles a little bit at a time, and weed out the grumpiness that too often gets in the way, it becomes easier.  And a smile– as with that mom at Meadow Streams– often leads to a conversation—even though the other may be a stranger.  And you CAN smile, even when you feel like frowning!  When you do, the smiling muscles in your face are directly connected to the happy neurons in your brain, and a plastered on smile starts working right away on changing your feelings.  Ask any neurologist, they’ll tell you!

Most of the time, too, sharing smiles is like a two for one deal—you share one, and get two or more back in return—so you never run out!  It’s that time of year anyway for cultivating—both our gardens, and our smiles!  So keep cultivating those smiles, and be abundantly blessed in return!

–Pastor/Farmer Jim

Seasons

The sun shining and the warmer temperatures are unmistakable signs of the change of seasons that is almost upon us—or even on us already! The changing seasons mean so much more for many people that the earth’s being in a different position in its orbit around the sun. I grew up in FL with very little by way of evidence of the changing of the seasons—Darling Wife Karol even less so, with her having grown up in Miami. Believe it or not, one of the attractions that caught our hearts years ago when we were in seminary in Dayton, and that made us eager to come back, was the dynamics of the changing seasons.

You ever hear the seasonal joke about the guy from Minnesota? As the seasons were changing into fall, he was talking with a friend, who commented, “That was a great summer, wasn’t it?” To which he replied, “I’m not sure, I was sick that week.”

At least our seasons here last a bit longer than just a week! And I imagine for many of us, even though we love to sing about a white Christmas, and that “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” by this time of year we are more than ready for a change, and eager to feel the sun on our backs rather than “Jack Frost nipping at your nose.” So how come we’re so eager for change when it comes to the seasons, yet in other facets of our lives, we’d rather fight change than embrace it?

As we start to think about SOME day, finally moving past the COVID pandemic restrictions (for which we are also more than eager for change!), I need to keep reminding myself that crisis merely accelerates change, and that what we will some day do to “get back to normal” just won’t be the “normal” we used to know. And somehow, despite how uncomfortable some of these changes can be, can we still have faith that God is somehow sovereign, and can we still say “we know that in ALL THINGS God works for the good of those who love Him and are called to His purposes” (Romans 8:28).

When winter changes to spring, we know the snows will melt, the air will get warmer, new flowers and new puppies will come, and we’ll see the bursting forth of new life all around us—because we’ve seen it happen so many times. But with whatever comes post-COVID, we don’t have these same assurances, because it has not happened in our lifetimes. Last time a pandemic came around, deaths brought on by the 1918-19 Spanish Flu would have caused 2 million deaths in today’s numbers. Yet the world kept turning, and somehow afterward, the sun rose again for a new day, and the same will happen for us. While there will still be uncertainties for our post-pandemic life, just as we can trust that the world will keep turning, we can trust that God is already there, and that God will still be calling us to “make and mature Disciples for the transformation of the world.”

So here’s to change—may we find God’s path both in and through change—but also to the on-going call too, to keep being the Body of Christ in the world, and keep making disciples, no matter how things change!

Rev. Jim

Pastoral Ponderings – What is Truth? Or WWJD– “What would Judas do?”

Not too long ago, “everybody” just knew that the world was flat. We now laugh at such an attitude as being ridiculous, because even though the world may SEEM to be flat, we now know the truth—based on all kinds of evidence—that our Earth is far from flat.

This question “What is truth?” was famously raised by a well-known, if controversial politician of old to try to understand how to do the right thing. We’re seeing too often in the news across this past week how very important that question still is, and how differently people act based on their idea of what truth is. So “what is truth” in deciding how to act?

In many ways, the recent war in Iraq was a war over truth, where the bloody Battle of Fallujah was iconic of those dynamics. The people fighting in those days “knew” they were doing the right thing, based on the “truth” coming from passionate speeches rather than evidence. But something happened not long after Fallujah that led “The Sons of Iraq” to start siding with Coalition forces in what became known as The Anbar Awakening, which was the beginning of the end of the fighting there. Tribes that had been bitter enemies found that working together, even when they strongly disagreed, was more effective toward their common, greater cause, once they started to change their epistemology.

That fancy word just asks “how do we know what is true?” Western society as a whole, and American thought in particular, has evolved to where our primary way of knowing truth (epistemology) is based on either legal or scientific evidence, not clan tribal loyalty. Few Americans now think of themselves as following a tribe or tribal leaders, but any time we identify with a group that helps shape our behavior, we become tribal in a sense–which is not a bad thing–unless our tribal loyalty blinds us to what it true, good and real.

This question of truth was put to one of the greatest moral teachers in history by a politician to help decide what to do. You guessed it, I’m talking about Jesus, but the moral teacher Jesus whose moral code is widely respected by most Americans, whether they follow the religion of Jesus or not. We all recognize the power and strength of his moral teaching, best remembered today in the Golden Rule, in his maxim to love your neighbor, to even love your enemies. And while he did wreck a temple that was twisting religious practice, he also said to “render up to Caesar what is Caesar’s” in a day when his government was far from righteous, and told those taking up a sword in his cause that was not the right way. That infamous politician of old asking the question, though, is most remembered for feeding into the mob rather than holding to the truth.

This is where Judas comes in. Most of us know his story—he was so blinded by hatred of the oppressive government that he betrayed his friend in what seemed to him to be the true and only way to fix it: to incite an insurrection. In doing so, he became one of the most reviled persons in history. So do we really need to ask “What would Judas do?”

Our whole country, religious and not, just finished celebrating that moral teacher as “The Prince of Peace,” as if peace just might be really important to real Americans. While that teacher certainly said “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” probably even more famous are his words “blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be more like Jesus and called a child of God as a peacemaker, rather than being more like Judas, blinded by hatred, eager to start an insurrection. What, then, shall we say to all this? And will we be remembered as peacemakers by what we do?

Rev. Jim Lewis

Tasty Blessings

Pastoral Ponderings—Tasty Blessings

I grew up in a family that always made Christmas cookies, and Karol and I have continued the tradition for as long as we’ve been together (though I’ll confess that not all the “red hots” candies made it onto the cookies!), but our cookies have never looked anything at all like the “homemade” cookies on the Christmas movies!  Inspired by those movies, I even made an extra effort on my gingerbread people and trees last year, but alas, my (not so) artsy tradition continues. It looks like this Saturday we’re having our son and his girlfriend over to bake this year’s round of cookies, and even after years of practice, I still doubt they’ll look like anything other than cookie images of the Island of the Misfit Toys, and our gingerbread houses will never earn a single column inch in “Better Cookies and Gardens!”

I LOVE the idea of making Christmas cookies to take to our shut-ins!  But remember neither are we Hallmark Christmas movie bakers, nor are our recipients looking for perfect cookies!  In fact, when I see perfect cookies, I automatically think “store-bought”(even if someone I know really IS that talented)–which is nice I suppose, but not seasoned with love in the same way as REAL homemade cookies, with frosting falling off, cross-eyed gingerbread people, Christmas stars that only shine on the taste buds, or cookies that someone might be able to convince you is a Christmas tree if look at it just right.

We’ve always made more than enough, so have always shared cookies with our neighbors.  This year we have new neighbors on each end of the block, so what better way to start a sweet relationship with them?  Whether you’re a baker (or a baker wanna-be as we are!), one who sews, or are gifted with crafting or singing, maybe there’s a way you can use your God-given talents and interests to share a little Christmas cheer with your neighbors.  Some of them probably need that cheer a whole lot more this year than usual, and I bet you’ll find that even if YOU are one needing some extra Christmas cheer, you’ll probably find it while trying to share it with others.

On this thought of sharing Christmas cheer, let me ask for your thoughts—how might our little church spread the cheer with some kind of virtual “ugly sweater” party or contest—especially if we can use it to help share the REAL meaning of Christmas?  I’m wearing one of mine for the first time this year, and it’s already lifted my spirits!  Please share your thoughts so we can have a little ugly sweater fun!

So whether the blessing tastes great like cookies, or is in great taste like our not-so-ugly sweaters—how might you and your crew share Christmas blessings this year?  Keep being a blessing!

Pastor Jim

No Room

Pastoral Ponderings—No Room

My mom was the classic preacher’s wife when I was a kid, running children’s ministries from Sunday Schools to the Christmas Pageant.  She must have thought I was a rising star, because I remember her having me play (whether I wanted to or not) the Little Drummer Boy, The Littlest Angel, or some shepherd or wise guy more times than I had years as a kid!  (Though I don’t remember ever playing an angel—was she trying to say something keeping me out of the angelic role?)

She used a song called “No Room” in those pageants so much over the years, that I thought it was like “What Child is This”—one of the unforgettable classics, until in my ministries from church to church I would always suggest it, but no one knows it!  With a few extra repeats, it goes “No room, only a manger of hay, no room, he is a stranger today; no room, here in this world turned away, no room… No room, here in the hearts of mankind, no room, no cheery welcome could find, no room surely the world is blind, no room, no room.”

Maybe no one knows the song because these days we make sure we have room for Jesus in countless nativity scenes around and on trees, churches and homes.  I know of a couple from one church who has hundreds– a museum’s worth of nativity scenes from all over the world–with room for Baby Jesus in every one!  But how real is that room, or is it no more than another sparkly ornament?

In recent years, barely the hint of a suggestion of a Christmas Pageant—even before COVID—brings cries of “NO ROOM!”—no room in family schedules, no room in church schedules, and no room is schools to even have Christmas anymore!  I’ve heard of some creative types trying to ZOOM pageants with parts literally divided up from home to home, but even though you can’t get kids (of ALL ages…) off their digital doo-dads, “we’re so ‘zoomed out,’ we’ve no room to do yet another zoom…” we often hear.

There’s plenty room for Santa in our Christmases, and toys on both real and virtual shelves.  Toys for Tots has plenty room using a blimp hanger for their collections.  But when shoppers desperate to buy the joy of Christmas seem more like Grinches than humble shepherds eager for Jesus, the words of that old song come again to mind: “no room, here in the hearts of mankind… no room, surely the world is blind, no room, no room.”

Sure, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” but there’s no room for Jesus in his sleigh, nor is there room for Jesus in “the real meaning of Christmas” anymore.  Yet families of all shapes and sizes can still find ways to make a “cheery welcome” for Jesus in their celebrations and shine the light of his star in their neighborhoods!  We were checking out some of the household dancing light displays set to music when we found one house with an Electronic Dance Music version of “Amazing Grace” driving their lights! (a cool witness, even though it’s not much of a Christmas Song…)  It made me wonder what other Jesus songs strangers would drive miles to hear if you set it to dancing lights!

A lot of our neighbors could really use and appreciate some extra Christmas cheer these days.  I bet there’s countless ways to make room for Jesus among the cookies, cards, snow shoveling, and other ways families can share Christmas in safer, socially distant ways with neighbors.  And often your kids or grandkids have the best of ideas for how to do so!

I hope that song doesn’t describe your Christmas, or how you share Christmas with others. After all, when we take “Christ” out of “CHRISTmas,” it sounds an awful lot like no more than a “mess”!

Make room—Rev. Jim