“Merry Christmas.” We greet each other this way at this time of year, casually or with warmth, and a host of meanings attend the phrase.
Exploring the Word
One of the great mysteries of Christian faith concerns the silence of God. It’s the one mystery that can make or break us as believers.
None of us is a stranger to doubt. Sometimes our lack of confidence is a small matter, as when we doubt the suitability of our clothes for an upscale occasion. We may wonder whether a new acquaintance has been favorably or negatively impressed by us, or if an old friend is annoyed by something we’ve done or failed to do.
I was at a liturgy celebrating the reunion of old classmates, and the song leader invited us to turn to page so-and-so to sing that chestnut from my Boomer youth: "Let There Be Peace on Earth."
Action heroes, credit cards, and Christmas Day. What do these three things have in common? They provide instant gratification for our chronic desire to see results.
"Priest, prophet, and king.” These are the titles conferred upon Jesus and upon all those baptized in his name. If given the choice of only one of these titles, most of us would opt for king. Prophets are terribly unpopular people who make a career out of antagonizing others and are consequently prone to violent deaths.
Every year at this time the wisdom of the church invites us to consider the Apocalypse. We can be forgiven our reluctance to take up the topic, as preachers or parishioners. The end of the world is a hazy unreality in the best of times.
A tragedy is unfolding in my neighborhood—and perhaps in many others as well. A woman is about to leave her husband of 10 years. They are a loving couple, well suited to each other in terms of temperament, wits, interests, and abilities. What they don’t share—and these have become the deal-breakers—are values and goals.
We like Zacchaeus. Doggone it, we do. He’s the American brand of hero: small, unexpected, and unpromising at the start. He’s the scrappy little player who’s going to make it by the skin of his teeth. And we’ll be rooting for him every step of the way.
Unless you are the chaplain at a federal penitentiary, chances are you face very few murderers in your average Sunday assembly. But even the prison chaplain can anticipate a bit of righteous one-upmanship within his community, as most human beings hold certain crimes as unthinkable even when others have proven quite tempting.