Happy Hanukkah!

Today is the first day of Hanukkah. All over the world Jewish people will celebrate the Festival of Lights. It is a time of remembrance - it is a commemoration of the rededication of the Second Temple at the time of the Maccabean revolt in the second century BCE.

Read about it here.

Click here for readings and meditations on Hanukkah.


The Christmas Crazies

A couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with an illness that I know I have had for some time. Is this illness contagious? Yes. Is it fatal? It could be, depending on how far advanced it becomes. Do I have to change my lifestyle? Yes. Is there a cure? I think so.

The illness is what I call the Christmas Crazies. I diagnosed myself with it a few years ago and I've been trying to overcome it ever since.

So what are the Christmas Crazies?

The Christmas Crazies are brought on by ... Christmas. The disease reappears each year before Thanksgiving (sometimes as early as September) and fully involves its victim by Black Friday. Its symptoms include both compulsively impulsive and planned obsessive spending, high degrees of frenzied baking, making things, shopping, decorating, party-going and eating. Christmas Crazy victims feel an uncontrollable urge to drive to the mall or some other store, send Christmas cards to everyone in their address book, decorate every room in the house or even make their own wrapping paper. They also make sure that their houses are the the best-lit on the block, even to the point of causing power outages. Other symptoms include high irritability, which is often seen most when driving or waiting in long lines; zoning out; obsessive list making, and the need to stay up late at night to work on projects. Those who suffer from Christmas Crazies may even become severely irritable or depressed if a lack of money or time prevents them from fulfilling these deeply felt urges. Christmas Crazy victims may call in sick to work when they are not ill or may skip church in order to sleep in or work on projects. Not all Christmas Crazy victims exhibit every one of these symptoms but most suffer from at least two. My symptoms include obsessive baking and making things, although I haven't tried making my own wrapping paper - yet.

So what is the cure for this onset of craziness that usually ends in a heap of exhaustion on December 25? Practicing the discipline of simplicity. According to www.renovare.us, "Simplicity is the joyful unconcern for possessions we experience as we truly 'seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness' (Matt 6:33). Persons living in simplicity realize freedom from anxiety by viewing possessions as gifts from God, remembering we are stewards to care for God’s gifts to us and making our goods available to others. Simplicity is a declaration of war on materialism and it reorients our lives, perspectives, and attitudes."

Simplicity is lived out in the Christmas story. As we see in the scripture, the Holy Family did not have many possessions. They even had to resort to delivering the baby Jesus in a stable because there was no room for them in the inn. Yet, Joseph and Mary were both righteous and obeyed God by allowing him to use them to bring his son into the world. It is an amazing story - one that convicts and encourages me every time.

Although poverty forced Mary and Jospeph into a simplistic life, they did not resent it. We as American Christians must strive to practice freedom from materialism. As we attempt to do this throughout the year with the help of the Holy Spirit, I believe we will sense a spirit of freedom by Christmas that we have never previously felt. Somehow the bondage of having to do so much and buy so much will be lifted and we'll enjoy the holiday for what it is - the birthday of Jesus. I am going to strive toward this for next year (because I've already blown it this year). Will you?


Keeping Christ in Christmas

During your Christmas celebrations, remember our brothers and sisters in Iran. It seems like they are making a dent and are about to be dented themselves. This just in from Crosswalk:

Pre-Christmas Rise of Threats and Intimidation Against Iranian Christians

Reports show a sharp increase of activities against Christians in Iran in the weeks leading up to Christmas, including the interrogations of house church members and activists at local state security offices, ASSIST News Service reports

A number of Christians in Tehran and six other cities have been ordered to show up at the state security centers after the Islamic police were instructed by a senior general to "be on guard to find out the reasons behind this massive and country-wide distribution of the Bible. It is obvious that this illegal act could not have been done without the help and cooperation of Christian businessmen, and we are looking for proof of their involvement." 

Iran's top Islamic leaders say they will continue to follow the Supreme Leader's direct orders to prevent the spread of house churches in the country.

Here in this country Christians feel persecuted because the clerk at Walmart wishes us a happy holiday rather than a Merry Christmas. In light of what our Iranian brothers and sisters are going through, our complaints about greetings and about replacing the word Christ with an "X" in the word Christmas seem microscopic by comparison. "Pathetically petty" does not seem too strong to me, especially when contrasted against the vision of ordinary people being dragged out of their homes by Iranian secret police, or the mullahs' "Islamic police."

In fact, before complaining about "X" replacing Christ in Christmas, I encourage you to read this article:

The origins of Xmas

from the Christian Resource Institute.

Even if people are trying to replace Christ with an X because they don't like him their plot has been foiled by the historical context, wouldn't you say?

The best way to keep Christ in Christmas is to keep him in our hearts and remember those who are less fortunate, as our imaginary pal Ebenezer Scrooge found out in Charles Dickens' work "A Christmas Carol."

God bless your day.


All is not well in Egypt

A few months ago the world was shocked to see that Egyptians were rebelling against their government in hope of a better life. Now we see, however, that a better life only depends on who you are, and in Egypt, you'd best not be a Coptic Christian.

Here is what I read on Crosswalk news this morning. You can sign up for daily news at this site.

Egypt: Thousands of Muslims Attack Christians, Kill Two

Thousands of Muslims attacked and besieged Copts in the majority-Christian village of el Ghorayzat, killing two and seriously wounding others, as well as looting and torching homes and businesses, ASSIST News Service reports. A property quarrel between a Coptic man, John Hosni, and his Muslim neighbor, Mahmoud Abdel-Mazeer, on Nov. 28 led to Abdel-Mazeer calling some extremists to set Hosni's store and home on fire; Hosni then hit Abdel-Mazeer on the head, leading to his death later in the hospital. Fearing backlash, Hosni fled the village with his family, and in revenge, a Muslim mob stormed the village, murdering two Christian brothers and going on a rampage of looting and burning Coptic-owned homes and businesses. "This is not revenge; this is simply an excuse to kill people because they are Christians, as well as loot their property," an eyewitness said. Despite the attack, the Muslims insist they have not yet avenged Abdel-Mazeer's death, and they have refused to bury Abdel-Mazeer until they kill "all Copts in the village."

Pray for our brothers and sisters in Egypt. The heritage of the Coptic Christians can be traced back to the gospel writer Mark.