Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Contemplating Christmas

During this sacred season, I often find myself wishing I could retreat from the "hustle and bustle" of the holiday, and spend some time just thinking about -- and being thankful for -- the reason we celebrate this time of year.

As humans typically do, we find a myriad of reasons to nitpick about the meaning of the season -- and we demean and defame it everytime we do.

Consider the Scrooges who just cannot abide a manger scene in a public setting. How about the Grinches who've forbidden school children from even speaking the name of Christ, much less singing about Him in school programs. And how about those stores selling "holiday trees?" They seem to have no problem with "happy holidays," and they have a Hanukkah section, even a Kwanzaa section -- but nothing labeled "Christmas."

Then there is the overt, often grotesque over-commercialism of the season, the emphasis on getting more than giving, the insane shopping sprees and tramplings in the wee hours of Black Friday in front of the Wal-Mart's.... As Charlie Brown would say, "Good grief!"

But the secular world isn't alone in its defamation of, arguably, the second most holy day of the Christian year. The "church" is just as guilty.
Some on the more extreme fringe criticize everything from Santa Claus to the date we celebrate Christ' birth (or if we should celebrate at all) to whether or not having a Christmas tree is idolatry to...You get the idea.

Then there are those who go in the opposite direction. Christmas is on a Sunday this year. Some "megachurches" have decided that it's a "family day" so they won't be holding services. Excuse me? I realize crowds will be small. I realize family time is important. But, Jesus came for the church! To create it, build it... So, now we are too busy or selfish to worship -- on the Lord's Day, on the day we celebrate His birth??

When I observe all the ways humans tend to distort and abuse what IS the greatest gift ever given, is it any wonder that I'd rather contemplate the holiday alone, in solitude? I find a quiet time of reflection far more rewarding than the corrupt creation we humans have made this glorious holiday.

Still, on Christmas Day, I will be worshipping the newborn babe that became our sacrificial Lamb. I'll be with the few disciples who count it important enough to come. And if it's just Him and me, that'll be okay. That'll be just fine. The gift He gave to me is worth it....Every bit of it.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Whew!...Glad that's overwith...

As a professor, that's about the only thing left to say when the semester ends, the papers and exams are all graded, and your evenings are now all your own (well, except for the Christmas shopping and the honeydo list...). I hope now to be able to post a little bit more during the Christmas break. I will update my reading for the last month, and comment on a number of issues I haven't talked about yet. Look forward to it...

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Ekklesia - Caveats

My last several posts have addressed - in an informal fashion - the subject of "The Church." I've tried to demonstrate what I see as the difference between the made with hands churches of our day (Most denominations, institutions, organizations, local churches, etc.) and "The Church" -- that is, the true, living, Biblical, Christ-centered "Church." The latter IS the Ekklesia of God.

I have been hard on denominations, institutions, organizations and (most unfortunately) the majority of local churches. I've called these made with hands churches for reasons I explained in earlier posts. However, I want to offer a caveat to the remarks I've made.

My condemnation -- or at the very least deep suspicion -- of these made with hands entities is not a blanket declaration. Among this majority of "organized Christendom," there are exceptions. There remains a small "remnant." This remnant, in my experience, actually does reflect the priorities of Christ. Certainly, while they are not perfect -- no body composed of humans is -- at least their understanding of God's purpose in His Body on earth stands out among other entities.

It isn't just the rare "local church" that achieves this reflection of God's intent. Quite a few "parachurch ministries" also stand out. After all, many of these ministries were created to work around the "dead weight" of do-nothing made with hands churches, denominations and the like.

I could name some of these rare exceptions -- the rare churches, parachurch ministries, etc. -- that are a reflection of Christ' will, a remnant for His witness, but I trust the leadership of the Holy Spirit to guide astute disciples to find them and work in them and with them.

A final reminder, though: "The Church" God birthed at Pentecost can come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and shades. A building with a steeple and a sign out front that says "...Church"
does NOT make it a church. "The Church" is the universal, invisible Body of Christ on earth. Unfortunately, we only catch glimpses of "The Church" God intended in the made with hands
entities of modern -- or postmodern --Christendom today.

J. Dale Weaver, M. Div.