Monday, December 19, 2011

browning was half right

This week, I used half of a famous quote in a status update to tell family and friends that we rejoiced over the safe return of our daughter after three and a half months. “All's right with the world.” And that's the way I felt, like the world had been put back to its rightful order.

The entire quote, as many know, is, “God's in His heaven. All's right with the world.” As you may not know, it's a quote from Robert Browning's Pippa Passes, a poem published in 1841. Which means, of course, that it has nothing whatsoever to do with Kate Middleton's sister, just as an fyi. She is not that old.

But I got to thinking about the line. And what I got to thinking, at Christmastime, was that, it's not true.

Not that I don't believe in heaven (I do), nor that I don't believe God has things under control (I most definitely do). But that more than anything, I believe that had he stayed in his heaven, nothing would be right at all. 

The unbelievable news of Christmas is that He didn't. He could have—but he didn't. He chose to leave. He chose to come here. He chose to make a way that all could be right with our world. He chose to sacrifice his own perfect world and turn it upside down so that ours could be made whole.

That's not a God who sits up in his heaven and benignly moves a few pawns and knights to make sure all is right, or at least nothing is going totally to hell. It's one willing to go there himself to make sure of it.

That's a Christmas message I can't truly comprehend but one I can get fully behind. It's no cute baby in a manger. It's no warm feeling about friends and firelight. It's a revolution. Which is what we needed. So, all's right with the world.

Monday, December 12, 2011


Twenty-one hours and forty-two minutes.

That is how long it will be until middle child's airplane from Guatemala (via Atlanta today) touches down in Chicago. But today, I'm wondering how long it will be before everything lands in order in the world she returns to.

Three months ago, a pretty mature nineteen-year-old left us for her first extended time away from home. Very extended, and very away. Tomorrow, someone else will return. Someone who has seen things I haven't seen, done things I haven't done, and thought thoughts I haven't thought. Someone who is ready to take her place at the adult table and be respected for those thoughts. Even if she is wearing her Disney Princesses tiara. And I wonder if she will find it difficult to make us move over and give her that place.

I've always been somewhat bothered by the phrase in church circles, "Our youth are the church of tomorrow." It has always made me wonder what we think they are today. Just place holders, like somebody's hat or jacket left on a seat to make sure the space is occupied until something more important comes along?

No, they're also the church of today. Here and now. And let's face it, next to God, the difference in wisdom, maturity, and time between 19 and 49 doesn't amount to a whole lot. We're on pretty equal finite footing compared to the omniscient and eternal.

It's time to move over and make space at the table. We might be surprised at what the church of tomorrow has to offer today. I don't think I will be, though. I think I'll just be very, very proud. Including the Princess tiara. Only a truly mature person could carry that off.

In twenty-one hours and 25 minutes.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

right down santa claus lane

A few days ago, I posted on Facebook that seeing a trucker driving down the road with a giant light up Santa as his copilot had made my morning. Judging by how many people 'liked' that status, few of you actually judged that statement. But I'm not naïve enough to believe that no one did.

I know that Santa is a touchy subject. I know that tacky holiday decorations can become grounds for divorce. I know that podcasts, blogs, and entire books are written blasting the lack of Christ in Christmas. What I don't know is why we Christians are so defensive about the holiday.

Because it just seems to me that, if we wanted to put Christ back in Christmas, we have the ability to do so fairly easily. It doesn't take a court case. It doesn't require refusing to shop at a place that says “Happy Holidays” to its customers. It doesn't mean telling someone else's kid that Santa is an invention of the devil.

All it takes is meeting people the way he would choose to meet them this time of year. A few thought I've been pondering:

  • Jesus is probably more offended by the ways we spend the money he has given us at Christmas time than whether we spell his name 'Christ' or 'X' (a perfectly valid 1st century shortened form).

  • Jesus would likely prefer we work as hard at displaying him in our lives as we do fighting to display him in a manger in public.

  • Jesus, I suspect, doesn't care nearly as much about whether we do or do not believe in Santa as whether we do or do not offer people grace and forgiveness whether they've been naughty or nice throughout the year. (Although, in fairness, I'm pretty sure he, too, would be revolted at having to listen to “Santa Baby” twenty-six times in department stores and doctor's offices.)

  • Jesus probably sees that cashier who said, “Happy Holidays” as an overworked, potentially hurting, person he loves, not someone to be snipped at for being too slow and offending my Christian sensibilities.

I want to be the kind of Christian who makes people want to celebrate Christmas the way it should be. I believe that comes from showing them that the baby in the manger changes lives—starting with mine. So, I think that's a little of what it would look like.

Finally, I'm fairly certain Jesus would not pepper spray anyone. Just an fyi.