God in the midst

It seems to me that a lot of us relish these days after Christmas. As much as we might love gathering with family, exchanging gifts, and sharing meals, there is often as sense of relief that, as we often say, “we made it through” the holiday. We breath a collective sigh of relief and relax a bit.

This, of course, is only really possible from a place of privilege. Some of us enjoy a few days of lighter work schedules and plenty of new toys with which to engage the children. Most folks aren’t in that position. Most people must try to find moments of hope, moments of peace in the midst of often-chaotic lives.

That’s why I find the Christmas story to be such good news: God shows up in the very midst of our messiness, in the midst of our blood, sweat and tears, in the midst of our stressors and our fears. Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. All of us, all the time. And  not just with us, but also continually pushing us to share our love with people, especially people in need.

This prayer from our Advent Study book, James W. Moore’s  Finding Bethlehem in the Midst of Bedlam, seems apt for today:

God of all people and all creation, help us find Bethlehem in the bedlam of our lives. Open our eyes and our hearts to the light of Jesus Christ in our midst. Guide us as we mind the light of your peace, hope, and love. Amen.

Christmas candle

Happy Christmas 2013

Merry Christmas!

It’s my Christmas day tradition to post this Isaiah passage (which is a reading for Christmas Eve worship every year), Lennon’s “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” (the world’s best – and most challenging – Christmas song), and a lighter second song that changes each year. You’re welcome. 😉

Isaiah 9:2-7:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined…For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.

For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire.

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore.

No, not “all the boots of the tramping warriors” or “all the garments rolled in blood” have been burned as fuel just yet. But I do believe there will be a day when both the weapons and the uniforms of war will be obsolete. I think that’s why I like “Happy Christmas” so much: it simultaneously acknowledges that the reality of evil in the world and reminds us to hope for – and actively strive for – a better future.

Yes, our sisters and brothers in Syria and South Sudan know all too well that war isn’t over. The Prince of Peace wants all wars to end. To worship the babe born in Bethlehem means facing reality, means seeking to end war. But following God in the way of Jesus also means we don’t believe in hopeless! It means we’ve got some work to do.

(Trigger warning: some images involves children, many are difficult to watch.)

Still, childlike joy is also an important part of Christmas. This song has been around a long time now but still makes me laugh every time.

Merry Christmas from the Buerstetta’s to all who celebrate. Happy Wednesday to all who don’t. 

Changes for the Holidays

“One word can bring you round”

To say that change is difficult is no kind of insight. We know this is true. Yet change comes to us all and sometimes even proves to be a Good Thing.

This fall our wonderful partners at the West Suburban Community Pantry changed how they distribute food boxes at Thanksgiving and Christmas and how they distribute gifts at Christmas. Let’s face it, giving money and unwrapped gifts just doesn’t feel as involved – doesn’t feel as good – as giving a box of food or a gift chosen and wrapped for a specific person. But here’s the effect of that change: previous years the Pantry had food boxes for 400 families at Thanksgiving. With the change in procedure this year they gave food boxes to 1300 families!

But wait, there’s more…Previously at Christmas they only had gifts for families in Woodridge. But we know they serve people from all over DuPage County, not just Woodridge. The change in procedure this year means they have a gift for every child (up to age 12) who comes to the pantry!

Read that again: food boxes for 1300 families and gifts for every child. This change was most definitely a Good Thing. Being part of that rocks. Hungry people being fed rocks the most.

“This year, let the day arrive when Christmas come for everyone, everyone alive!”

Obviously, music is a huge part of our Christmas traditions. Everybody has a favorite. Hopefully we’ll sing yours on Christmas Eve. (If not, be sure to request it at the hymn sing on December 29!)

I love a lot of the regulars: “Joy to the World”, “Silent Night”, the aforementioned “Star-Child”. I’ve said before that I really like John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas” and the Bare Naked Ladies/Sarah McLachlan collaboration “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen/We Three Kings.”

My current favorite is “The Trumpet Child” by Over the Rhine. (H/T David Weasley.) I love, love, love the jazz references and the plaintive tone. Check it out.

How about you? What are your current favorite holiday songs?

Happy Christmas 2012

Merry Christmas!

Tradition can be a good thing. I’m making it a tradition to post this Isaiah passage (which is a reading for Christmas Eve worship every year), and to post the world’s best – and most challenging – Christmas song. I’m also making it a tradition to change the second song every year. You’re welcome. 😉

Isaiah 9:2-7:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined…For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.

For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire.

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore.

That middle line, “all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned” stands out to me. It’s so stark. Hearing that makes me think of this:

(Trigger warning: some images involves children, many are difficult to watch.)

The war in Iraq is over and the one in Afghanistan may end within a year. But other wars continue, many of which are undeclared wars. The Prince of Peace wants all of them to end. To worship the babe born in Bethlehem means facing reality, means seeking to end war. But following God in the way of Jesus also means we don’t believe in hopeless! It means we’ve got some work to do.

Yet, I don’t want to be too grim today. So here’s the fun Christmas song of the year. I defy you to keep still while listening to this song. Dance already! After all, it’s the birth of the Lord of the Dance that we’re celebrating.

 

Happy Christmas from the Buerstetta’s to you. May you be a blessing to someone in need today.

Happy Christmas

Merry Christmas!

The main reading for our Christmas Eve worship services was Isaiah 9:2-7:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined… For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.

For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire.

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore.

That middle line, “all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned” really struck me. I don’t think I ever quite heard that verse before. Hearing that makes me think of one of my favorite Christmas songs of all time:

(Trigger warning: some images involves children, many are difficult to watch.)

 

U.S. troops are out of Iraq. That war is over. But others continue. The Prince of Peace wants all wars to end. To worship the babe born in Bethlehem means facing reality, means seeking to end war. But following God in the way of Jesus also means we don’t believe in hopeless! It means we’ve got some work to do.

Still, I don’t want to be too grim today. So let me also offer another great Christmas song. This one might well be my all-time favorite to listen to.

 

Happy Christmas from the Buerstetta’s to you. May you be a blessing to someone in need today.