Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Gary: My Role Model for Ministry


October is Pastor Appreciation Month.  Not sure how I feel about that really.  October is also Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, Apple Jack Month, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, National Popcorn Popping Month, and Sarcastic Month.  I suppose we are all so busy that if we don’t have something to remind us, we’ll forget to appreciate most things.

But all that aside, could I say a word about the first Baptist pastor I ever had.  His name is Dr. Gary Fenton.  He wasn’t yet Dr. Fenton when he was my pastor.  He was fresh out of seminary and in his mid-20s then.  He was nine years my elder.  And he made an impact in my life.  He is the pastor who baptized me, counseled me in regard to my call to ministry, gave me the opportunity to preach my first sermon, and preached my ordination sermon a couple of years later.  Dayna and I would have liked for him to officiate our wedding too, but First Baptist, Branson, had a new pastor then, Gilbert Spencer, and we wanted to affirm Gil's ministry too.

Gary was a pastoral mentor to me.  He’s one of the few pastors I’ve known in my life who is the complete package.  The man can preach, provide shepherd care for his people, and lead the church toward its mission.  I worked for him for him during my first college summer at First Baptist in Branson.  He took time to talk with me about Bible texts and commentaries.  I watched how he related to people with compassion and love—all kinds of people too, not just the power people and the largest donors.  He was accessible.  And Gary was the hardest working pastor I ever knew.

From the moment of my call to ministry, I knew God wanted me to be a pastor.  I served in staff roles about five years before God gave me my first pastorate, but I knew the pastorate is where God was leading me all the time.  And here’s one thing I distinctly remember from the year or two Gary was my pastor: I wanted to pastor like Gary.  He set a high bar I strived to reach.  I’ve never reached his bar just yet but striving for it—striving to be a good preacher, a good shepherd for the people, and a good leader—has made me a better pastor than I would have been without Gary’s influence.

Last week, we were able to have Gary preach revival services in the church.  He’s recently retired.  It was great to spend some time with him.  Dayna and I treasure the moments we shared together with Gary during those few days in Hot Springs.  And even though I turned 62 during that revival, Gary is still teaching me and mentoring me in ministry.

So in this Pastor Appreciation Month, I want to say, “Thank you, God, for Gary Fenton, a man after your heart, the man who helped me begin my journey toward pastoral ministry, and a man whose fingerprints are on every good thing you’ve ever done in my nearly four decades of pastoring!  And thank you, Gary, for investing in a nobody from nowhere who had nothing to offer you in return except an eagerness to serve Jesus and to learn.”

Peter concludes a brief word to pastors in his 1st letter in the New Testament by writing, "And when the chief shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory."  There's a crown waiting for Gary.  And he's going to look really good in it.    

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Granddaddy, I Never Knew Ye


I never knew a grandfather.  My mother’s dad was killed in a hunting accident when my mother was six-years-old.  That was 1934.  She barely knew him.  I never had the chance.  My father’s dad also died a violent death.  He was City Marshal in Lake Village, Arkansas, when he answered a disturbance call in a local cafĂ© to deal with a man who was drunk and disorderly.  Tragically, he was also armed.  He shot and killed my granddaddy on the spot.  That happened in 1928.  My dad was only 14 at the time.



On the way back from the beach, Dayna and I passed through Lake Village, Arkansas.  That’s where my dad’s family settled in the 1920s when they left the farm in Union Church, Mississippi.  My grandfather and grandmother are buried there—as is the uncle for whom I’m named.  I’ve passed through Lake Village a few times across the years, but I never visited the cemetery.  This time I did.  I wanted to visit my granddaddy’s grave.  I’ve visited the grave of my mother’s father numerous times.  My mother is buried in the same family plot.  But I’d never visited the grave of my Granddaddy Samuel Tucker McCallum.

Dayna and I made the short drive to the local cemetery though we had no idea where his grave was.  We figured it would be in the oldest part of the cemetery.  We weren’t there two minutes till Dayna spotted it.  We walked to the graves and stood over them.  I took a couple of pictures.

I so wish I had known him.  He was obviously a man who loved his family and his community.  He was a man of courage and a man of faith.  I share his name.  But I never met him.  Never heard his voice.  Never felt his touch.  Never sat in his lap.  All I know of him is what I learned from his six children.

My life has been diminished, I think, because I never knew him.  My father had his issues, and once my parents were divorced we didn’t see him much for the rest of his life.  It would have been nice to have had a positive male role model in my life.  A grandfather would have fit the bill nicely.  But it wasn’t to be.

I have two consolations in this matter.  First, God has given me the pleasure of being granddaddy to seven grandchildren.  No one is going to vote me “Grandfather of the Year,” but I think I add to the quality of my grandchildren’s lives.  They surely add to the quality of mine.  I was never grandfathered, but I’ve had the opportunity to grandfather my grandkids.  I’ve enjoyed that experience from one side anyway.  That’s a consolation.

And so is this.  My grandfather is a believer.  He loved Jesus and trusted him for salvation.  He is with Jesus now.  And when it comes my time to join him on the other side, I will have plenty of time to get to know him.  There are many on the other side I so look forward to seeing again.  Strange that I may look most forward to meeting a man I never saw for the first time.  Right now, that meeting feels a little awkward, but in that moment, it will probably feel as comfortable as a feather bed.  That’s a consolation too.

Granddaddy, I never knew ye.  But because of what Jesus has done for us both, because of his death and resurrection, and because Jesus is the resurrection and the life, that’s going to change.  I’ll be too big to sit in your lap, but I look forward to hearing your stories and sharing with you how your faith continued to thrive in the generations that followed you.  I hope you’ll feel like I carried your name well—your two names actually: McCallum and Christian.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Is It Okay to Re-Preach a Sermon?


It’s summer.  The time of year when pastors and church members go on vacation.  Most churches slump a bit in attendance.  Most pastors try to catch their breath.  So what to preach?  A lot of pastors I know who come up with a good sermon series idea for the year, don’t look to preach that series in the summer.  They want maximum hearing and maximum impact.  Even in the days of live-streaming, it’s hard to get that in the summer.  So it begs the question: is it okay to preach a sermon you’ve preached before?

I’ve been preaching every Sunday since 1981, and I admit that I don’t re-preach much from those early years of preaching.  That’s when I was still trying to find my voice.  But by the same token, I have preached sermons several times from the shell of a handful of my earliest preaching even though I’m not sure some of my earliest preaching was worth preaching the first time.  God, who makes something out of nothing, used it then; God can still make something of it now even if it bears little resemblance to the original.  But is it okay to do this?  Does it break some kind of preacher-code of ethics?  Does God roll his eyes and think, “Oh no, not that again.  It’s a good thing I never sleep or slumber, or that sermon would put me in a coma.”   

So far as I know, God doesn’t weigh in on re-preaching sermons.  But others do, and some think it’s anathema: “God isn’t stuck in the past.  He has a new word for the church.  Listen for that word and preach it!”  True.  But that doesn’t mean a pastor can’t re-preach a sermon from the past.  Isn’t God the one who can make all things new?  Can’t a word that God used in the past, be a word he can use in the present?  It seems to me the Bible is a word like that.  Why would God give a preacher a sermon that only has a 30-minute shelf life?  It is not anathema to preach a sermon you’ve preached before.  It could be wisdom.

Sometimes pastors are hesitant to re-preach sermons because we overestimate the power of our sermons.  We assume people remember it.  I hate to bust your bubble, but they probably don’t.  When I’m sorting through older sermon titles, I can’t even remember what most of the sermons were about, and I spent hours preparing it.  The folks won’t either.  They tend to remember novelty sermons and transforming stories but not the meat and potatoes of our Sunday to Sunday preaching.  I know this from experience.  I’ve had a man say to me, “You’re preaching just seems to keep getting stronger and stronger.”  I hate to disappoint him and tell him that I preached that same sermon or that same series in 2009.  I’ve had a woman say to me, “That may be the best sermon I’ve ever heard you preach.”  I hate to disappoint her and tell her that she heard me preach that sermon in 2006.  People hear sermons through the lens of their current experience and needs.  We read that Bible that way, finding things in old texts we never noticed the 37 times we’d read it previously.  People hear sermons the same way.  Oh, and every church has a few members who record next to your text in their Bible the date you preached a sermon on that text, right?  I’ve had one man in particular who will approach me after the service, smile, and say, “You preached that sermon on May 3, 2005.”  I smile and reply, “Did you remember it?”  He smiles and says, “No.”

I have re-preached numerous sermons and some series over the years.  I’ve only served two churches in 37 years: one for about 14 years and one for 23 years.  If you serve a church for only 3-5 years, re-preaching a sermon has different challenges.  But I want to advocate the re-preaching of sermons from time to time—especially in the summer time or on holiday weekends.  And if you serve in one place long enough, even some repetition in Advent or Lenten/Easter preaching can be a helpful thing for pastor and church.

In my view, it’s okay to re-preach some of your sermons now and then.  If you’re thinking of re-preaching a sermon or a series, here are a few tips:

Be prayerful about the process.  Don’t just pull a sugar-stick; think: what does God want to say to the church?

Keep good records of past sermons.  I always record date and place preached on every sermon manuscript and in my sermon file.

If it doesn’t light a fire in you, it won’t light a fire in your people.  Leave it on the shelf.

Make necessary tweaks and changes: Do you think a bit differently about the text than you did when you preached the sermon the first time?  (If you’ve got a new commentary on that text, check it out.) Are the illustrations (stories, stats, figures of speech) out of date? Do applications need to change to fit the current situation in your church and community?  Necessary tweaks will make the sermon feel new to you and to one or two in the congregation who remember it. (By the way, if you’re re-preaching a sermon you preached in your previous congregation, make sure you adapt it to your current situation.)

How could I make more of Jesus in the sermon?  Is there a different or better gospel connection you can make this time around?

Don’t be afraid to use compelling sermons from a series as stand-alone sermons when you need them.

Early in my pastoral ministry, I heard Calvin Miller (a great preacher, longtime pastor, and preaching author/professor) say, “I never preach a new sermon in the summer.  I go back at least five years, find something relevant for the current day, rework it a bit, and serve it as fresh as I did the first time around.”  Miller went on to say that the hours he saves on sermon prep in the summer he uses to plan his future preaching schedule and do some more reading and learning.  Miller was a wise pastor and preacher.  I want to be one too.

What do you think, pastor?  And for you folks who listen to sermons rather than preach them, what do you think about a pastor re-preaching a sermon?



Sunday, May 20, 2018

A Graduation Prayer


I attended the graduation ceremony for Ouachita Baptist University a week ago.  (Go Tigers!)  I was pinch-hitting for the Chairman of the Ouachita Board who couldn’t make it.  My one responsibility was to say a prayer over the graduates.  Several people have since asked me for a copy of that prayer.  That has motivated me to post that prayer to my blog.

So, in this graduation season, here is a prayer that might spark your own prayers for the graduates you know and love …

********

Father, thank you for Ouachita Baptist University.  Thank you for faithful faculty administration and staff who love the students and work for their best.  Thank you for these graduates and for the education they’ve received and the lifelong friendships they’ve forged here.

Lord, as these graduates commence into their future, would you give them …
·         gratitude enough to remember from whence they’ve come
·         dreams enough to discern and live the great dream you have for each one
·         courage enough to try new things
·         skills enough to succeed
·         persistence enough to stay with it
·         joy enough to stay positive
·         friends enough to know they’re not in their journey alone
·         wisdom enough to give their lives to kingdom things that last forever
·         hunger and thirst enough to keep them in Scripture and prayer and righteousness and   church
·         trouble enough to keep them always leaning into you
·         peace enough to rest in you
·         hope enough not to let disappointments get them down for long
·         love enough to be a blessing to many
·         faith enough to keep their eyes on Jesus in good times and in bad
·         and desire enough to do all they do for your great glory.

And now, Jesus, as they launch into the next steps of their lives, please go before them as leader and guide, behind them as redeemer and love, above them as provider and guard, below them, as supporter and strength, beside them as companion and friend, and within them as Savior and Lord.  In your name, amen.


Monday, May 14, 2018

A Mother's Day Prayer


For the first time in I can’t remember when, I didn’t preach on Mother’s Day.  We focused on the issues of foster care and adoption, so our Youth Pastor, Bill Newton, whose family provides foster care, seemed like the right person to preach the sermon.  For me it would have been words alone.  For Bill it was word and life experience.  He did a great job.  Our congregation will grow in our commitment to foster kids and support those who do.

So I didn’t preach, but I prayed.  I spent some time fashioning a prayer for Mother’s Day.  Rarely have I had more people comment on a prayer.  I struck a nerve in some.  And I think I know why.  If your family is healthy, Mother’s Day is a great day.  If your family is hurting, Mother’s Day is a day you just want ignore or survive.  I loved my mother and she loved me, but our relationship wasn't perfect.  She was probably the most formative influence in my life, most of it good.  But our relationship was a bit complicated by family circumstances and our own stubbornness.  Mother's Day stirred a variety of emotions in me, not all of them the best kind.  So I tried to pray the range of emotions people brought with them to worship.  Here’s my prayer.  I hope it encourages you.

*******

We thank you, Father God, that you understand mothering too.  We thank you for the image in Isaiah where you described yourself as shepherd holding your lambs near your bosom.  And we thank you for that time where Jesus wept over Jerusalem and said, “How I have longed to gather you under my wings as a hen gathers her chicks.”  You understand mothering too.  You sure picked a good one for your son Jesus.

So, on this Mother’s Day we remember our mothers in prayer. 

For those who know the joy of motherhood and find parenting a delight, we ask that you deepen their joy.

For those who long to be mothers, yet for whatever reason cannot, we pray that you would help them fill their empty arms with a child somehow, some way.

For those who are brokenhearted over wayward children, children who died too soon, or the grief of miscarriage, we pray for comfort, peace, and the confidence that you do all things well and can bring good out of sorrow.

For those who have fostered and adopted children, caring for the least of these, may they find joy in doing for those children what you do and have done for us.  Give them patience and understanding, and peace.

For single moms who feel like the carry the whole load of parenting, please give them strength made perfect in their weakness, and the auxiliary help they need.

For those who are challenged by difficult children marked by disabilities or behavioral problems, we pray for wisdom, insight, patience, perseverance, and a sense of your presence in their struggle.  Please give such mothers enough victories to keep them joyful in their parenting.

And we also pray this morning for those for whom Mother’s Day is a difficult day.  Some are missing their mothers who have passed in death.  Others have difficult relationships with their mothers—relationships that make everything from picking the right card to making a Mother’s Day phone call a chore and a burden rather than a joy.  And still others have mothers that are difficult to honor and recognize on this day.  We pray that those for whom this day is hard will find your peace and mercy and strength to face their difficulties with faith.

So thank you again, our Father, for this day and for its meaning.  We pray that you’ll bless all women and make us a blessing to them.  In Jesus’ name, Amen


Thursday, March 29, 2018

Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie, and Pastors


It’s opening day in Major League Baseball.  Hope reigns eternal even for my Baltimore Orioles who play in a division that’s loaded with high-dollar players.  This time of year I like to reflect on how a little baseball wisdom can inform a pastor’s ministry.  A caveat: these nuggets sound more earthy than divine, but God’s overarching providence and power are assumed.  Here goes.






·         The team belongs to the Owner; the coach’s job is to manage and develop the team.

·         The coach is going to take some criticism.  He needs to learn what he can from it and let the rest of it go.  His primary job is to please the owner.

·         Our opponent is a tough out.

·         Coach the team up, not down.

·         There are no roster limits—you can’t have too many players on your team.

·         I’d rather go down swinging than take a called third strike.

·         Laying down a sacrifice to advance a teammate is a worthy at bat.

·         Sometimes you’ve got to play small ball to manufacture runs.  Small ball = don’t swing at bad pitches, a walk is as good as a hit, bunt for a base hit, sacrifice to move the runners, take the extra base every chance you get.  Small ball is neither flashy nor glamorous, but it can get the job done.

·         A long fly ball to the warning track is still an out.

·         Every player and every team are prone to a slump now and then—coaches too.

·      If you bat .300 in sharing Jesus, you are an all-star; if you share Jesus at all, you’re a starter on the team.

·         Don’t forget to thank the bat boys, the grounds crew, and the folks who clean the locker room—they’re part of the team too.

·         Pound the strike zone.

·         Even though you’ll probably never change the call, it’s okay to argue with the umpire once in a while on behalf of your team (see Job, Jeremiah, and the Psalms).

·         Everybody makes an error now and then, so lighten up.

·         Make sure the team gets plenty of practice.

·         The positions are different but every position matters.  If one is mission, you don’t have a complete team.

·         Shuffle the line up every now and then; change the batting order once in a while.

·         The guys in the bullpen need to get their innings.

·         Don’t lose touch with the players on the Disabled List; they’re still part of the team.

·         Talk with each other in the field so there are no collisions and we don’t hurt ourselves.

·         The guy who scores and the guy who knocks him in count the same.

·         It’s okay to let a player rest and sit out a game now and then.

·         Work to maintain unity in the dugout and the locker room.

·         When you’re on a serious losing streak, a team meeting may be in order to clear the air and get refocused on the goal.

·         Don’t let the guy on the bench who would rather watch than play soak up all your energy; give your best attention to the ones who take the field.

·         Don’t be afraid to bring up the guy from the minor leagues and give him a shot at the big-time.  He just might become the rookie-of-the-year.

·         Most every team member thinks he’s a free agent, and some of them will leave your team to join another.  Don’t worry too much about that; you’ll probably grab your share of free agents too … whether you want them or not.

·         When team members get too old or infirm to play and have to take a seat in the stands, tip your hat to them now and then and honor them for all they’ve done.

·         In the course of a long season, some games are more important than others.  It’s important to discern the difference.

·         When on a winning streak, stay humble and stay hungry.

·         Eat a hot dog and some apple pie now and then but not too much or you won’t be in shape to do your job.

·         And no matter what happens with the team, remember this: the Owner always has your back.

Go Pastors!  Go Church!  And go Orioles!

What would you add to this list?

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Remember the Manger

Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr said that on Christmas, he preferred to go to a church where there was no sermon, only music, art, and drama.  "Words just aren't up to it," he said.[1]  Niebuhr’s right.  Words aren’t up to it.  That’s why we’ll keep our words to a minimum today.  But there is good news in Christmas worth telling.  A few of those words are found in Luke 2:8-12.  Mary has just given birth and laid Jesus in a manger.  They were ready for visitors, and God invited some shepherds to come visit the baby Jesus.  Fitting, huh, because Jesus is the Good Shepherd who is also a lamb.  Hear the word of the Lord … 

8 In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: 11 Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped tightly in cloth and lying in a manger.”

Near the end of November a few years ago, I was driving up Higdon Ferry and noticed the message on the sign at what was then Roland’s Barbecue.  (Hated to see that place close.)  I wasn’t sure what the sign meant.  So the next time I was in there, I asked the lady who waited on me, “What’s up with the manager?”

“What?” she asked.

“The manager—is everything okay?”

“You want to see the manager?”

“No, I just was concerned that something was wrong because of your sign.”

“Our sign?”

“Yes, your sign.  You know, it says ‘Remember the Manager.’  So I figured the manager needed prayer or something.”

“Our sign doesn’t say ‘Remember the Manager.’  It says, ‘Remember the Manger.’”

No wonder she looked at me like I had lobsters crawling out of my ears.  And you’ll be glad to know that I neglected to tell them that I was the pastor of First Baptist Church.  (I told them I was Methodist.)  You’d think if anyone would be able to read that sign it would be a pastor.  Trust me, my antennae are usually pretty honed in to anything of a spiritual nature I see in our secular world.  But boy, did I miss that one!

Well, I’m not going to miss it today.  It’s Christmas Eve.  It’s time to remember the Savior who is Christ the Lord and that his first bed was a manger.  Remember the manger.

We’ll remember a lot of other things today: to pick up that extra gallon of milk, our favorite eggnog recipe, to purchase a couple of more stocking stuffers, the words to the familiar Christmas song on the radio, to make up the bed in the guest room.  There’s a lot on our minds today.  And not just adults either.  Kids too: “What’s in that big box?” “How much is in that envelope on the tree?”  “Will Christmas morning ever get here?”  Lots of things on our mind, lots of things to remember.

Just don’t forget to remember the manger.  Eternal word putting on human flesh and making his home among us.  Deity in a diaper.  Creator in a cradle.  Lion of Judah a helpless cub.   Feeder of multitudes nursing at his mother’s breast.  Eternal Word unable to speak a word.  Sinless perfection trusting himself to human beings broken by their sins.  Remember the manger.

Remember the depths to which God would stoop.  Christ has always existed, eternal in the heavens, the Word was with God and was God.  When Christ emptied himself to come down and save us, he didn't just do it halfway.  Jesus checked his pride at the door on the way down to earth.  He didn't say, "I'll go so far and no farther."  He didn't say, "I draw the line at a manger."  He didn't say, "I refuse to be born in that dump."  No, Jesus was willing to do whatever it took, willing to stoop as low as he had to go, willing to make his beachhead on the earth in a musty stable in Bethlehem.  Jesus came all the way down.  Now, no one can say, "Jesus, didn't stoop low enough for me."  No one can say that—not the poor, not the outcast, not the man without a home.  Born as he was in a stable, Jesus demonstrated total commitment to go as far as he had to go to seek and to save lost humankind.  Remember the depths to which God stooped.  Remember the manger!

Remember the lengths to which God would go.  We’re not talking a mission that takes him from Hot Springs to Dallas, or Little Rock to Paris, or even Pine Bluff to Siberia.  We’re talking heaven to earth, eternity to time.  We’re talking safe house to danger zone, holy habitat to Sinville, sure thing to risky business.  We’re talking about going from being the subject of worship to being subject to abuse and scorn and murder on a cross.  But God’s love was so true, his promise so sure, his commitment so deep, that no length was too far to go on his mission to rescue us from our sins.  James Irwin was part of the crew of Apollo 15 that landed on the moon in 1971—one of only 12 men in history to have walked on the moon.  He did a lot of speaking in churches after that moon flight.  And the tagline for his talk and for the autograph he signed on a picture of him standing on the moon was this: “It is more important that God walked on earth than man walked on the moon.”[2]  Irwin’s right.  Irwin and his crew traveled 238,900 miles to walk on the moon.  Jesus traveled way longer than that on so many levels to walk on the earth.  And his was no triumphant landing in some exotic place like the moon, televised for all the world to see.  Jesus landed in obscurity, in a podunk town where few eyes would see him.  Jesus landed in a stable there.  Jesus was laid in an animal’s feeding trough.  Remember the lengths to which God would go.  Remember the manger.

And remember the price God was willing to pay.  You think Christmas costs you a lot?  Consider what it cost God.  The price of condescending to the likes of us, the price of emptying himself, taking on flesh, humbling himself—the Lord becomes the servant—the price of subjecting himself to the care of sinful, broken people in a sinful, broken world, seems steep enough price already.  But the price ratcheted even higher when, as a man, he gave himself to be broken on a cross to save us from our sins.  The sinless one died for sinners, taking our sins on himself so he could kill sin’s penalty and power for those who put their trust in him, for those who come to him for salvation and life.  God sacrificed his only Son.  Jesus gave everything thing he could give so that we could be saved, so that we could enjoy abundant, eternal life on earth and beyond the grave.  Crucified.  Dead.  Buried.  And raised from the dead on the third day.  That’s the price of our salvation.  Jesus refused to sit on his throne twiddling his thumbs and let you die in your sins.  No!  Jesus was willing to stoop lower than you can imagine, travel farther than you can chart, and pay a price so high only God the Son could pay it.  Now, if you die in your sins and spend eternity in hell, it’s on you.  It’s not because God stood by and did nothing to save you.  He paid it all.  I know: it’s not Good Friday; it’s Christmas Eve.  But hulking over the manger on that dark night was the shadow of the cross.  It’s why he came.  It’s why he was born to die that we may have life.  So even here at Christmas, remember the price God was willing to pay.  Remember the manger.

John Shea tells a story he calls “Sharon’s Christmas Prayer.”  It was about a little girl—she was five-years-old, sure of the facts, and recited them with dignity, convinced that every word was revelation.  This is what she said:

“They were poor, they had only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to eat and then went a long way from home without getting lost.  The lady rode a donkey, the man walked, and the baby was inside the lady.  They had to stay in a stable with an ox and a burro but three Rich Men found them because a star lighted the roof.  Shepherds came and you could pet the sheep but not feed them.  Then the baby was borned.  And do you know who he was?”  Her quarter eyes inflated to silver dollars.  “The baby was God.”

And Shea says she jumped in the air, whirled round, dove into the sofa and buried her head under the cushion—which is the only proper response to the Good News of Christmas.[3]

Don’t impoverish yourself in the face of such good news.  Even in the hectic busyness of today and tomorrow, take time to remember the manger.  And when you do, it’s okay to whirl and twirl and fall on your face in worship too.  It’s Christmas: God is with us.  God has come to save us.  Remember the manger.





[1]Cited by Leonard Sweet, Giving Blood: A Fresh Perspective for Preaching (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 212.
[2]Cited by Mark Galli, The Galli Report, Jan 16, 2015 ChristianityToday.com.
[3]John Shea, “The Hour of the Unexpected,” Christianity Today (Dec 6 1999), 48.