This year's favorite Christmas carol line:

"The Word of God must learn to speak." (See below for Matt Osgood's "On Christmas Day")

Merry Christmas to you and yours! May you not miss the wonder of Christmas: the hope of a Savior, and the peace of eternal with Him.

On Christmas day, a humble girl
gives birth to hope for all the world,
this is Immanuel.
How awesome and mysterious,
the Lord of heaven draws near to us,
this is Immanuel.

The hands that once split night from day
now feebly clutch a blade of hay,
this is Immanuel.
Majestic king, now small and weak,
the Word of God must learn to speak,
this is Immanuel.

This is our God, seen by our eyes,
the love of the Father made known in Jesus Christ.
This is our God, worthy of praise,
the love of the Father revealed on Christmas day.

The shepherds come and bow to him,
the Lamb who takes away our sin,
this is Immanuel.
For God has entered time and space
to show the world his endless grace,
this is Immanuel.


Crossing the Pond

"It is desirable that a man be clad so simply that he can lay his hands on himself in the dark, and that he live in all respects so compactly and preparedly, that, if an enemy takes the town, he can, like the old philosopher, walk out the gate empty-handed without anxiety." Henry David Thoreau, Walden.

A long time ago I named this blog WordMarrow--partly in reference to Thoreau's "I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life..." and partly in reference to my aspirations as a writer. But a bigger reason was my desire to remind myself of the important things.

When I shut off all the noise--the TV and iPod and Facebook and etc.--it's easier to accomplish goals and remember my grander purposes. it's easy to see distractions for what they are: another jacket I don't need, a bigger house just for the sake of a bigger house, a film that i don't really want to watch but do just because it's there. When I turn the noise back on, I get bogged down like the masses of men who lead "lives of quiet desperation" and start listening to the ads telling me I need things and films promising distraction and Safari an escape.

In the luxury of twenty-first century United States of America, among other things, I think we've lost the gift of silence. With the gift of silence comes refreshment and reorientation of values. With it comes the ability to think clearly and rationally. (Is it just me or is there an increase of unreasonable people in this world?)

When I crossed my own pond (a.k.a the Atlantic Ocean) and I had more time to think than I had in a long time, I was a lot better off. I was healthier, happier, and more productive. I'm slowly getting that back, and I'm determined not to lose it as life gets busier.


Not Just Another Nativity

Just completed marathon week at our church, including a live nativity on Friday and Saturday night. With all the busyness, I didn't really take time out to think about the impact the nativity could have on the community. I take it for granted that Americans know why Christmas is celebrated, even if they don't want to personally celebrate it for the same reasons. Should it have surprised me that God exceeded my expectations?

In our "Journey to Christmas," event, visitors mingle in the refreshment room enjoying cookies and cider and hot chocolate, and then are led by a guide to witness various scenes around the church property from the Christmas story in Luke 2. At the very end, a narrator stands by Jesus' manger and explains the reason for Jesus' birth by pointing to three crosses that light up a few yards away.

Honestly, I thought visitors would see it as just another cute retelling of the Christmas story, and that it wouldn't have much emotional or intellectual impact. It was supposed to rain, so we had to hold it indoors. It was the first year our church put it on, so there were some minor glitches and a few rough artistic decisions. Like most churches, ours is limited in its number of volunteers, so we had some young actors, too.

Nevertheless, we prayed that the rain would stop for the three hours each night that visitors would witness the scenes, and we prayed that God would send the people and that his message would be heard.

It rained all day both days... but stopped for the three hours each night we performed.

Four-hundred and fifty people came, most of them new visitors, not members of the church.

And yesterday morning our Pastor shared with us stories from the guides who had led people through the various scenes. One woman admitted, "I finally understand what Christmas is all about..." and another man asked what the Cross meant.

It was a revelation to me that there are still people out there who don't know the true miracle of God becoming man. And I had to learn that God doesn't require innovative technology and professional acting to accomplish his purposes. We'll be much more successful if we just give it all to him.


Pillow Talk

I don't usually blog from bed, but just finished a fantastic book about the dangers of consumer Christianity: The Divine Commodity by Skye Jethani. A must-read. Refreshingly, it's not another how-to or new-paradigm type revival book. Instead he shares wise insights about Christians' relationships with the Church as an institution rather than people; on our attempt to aim for big-scale influence which can distract us from Jesus' example; and on our faulty reliance on our own efforts rather than the graceful work of the Spirit in our Church.

There's a lot of books out there... This one's worth your time.