Christmas Ghosts December 24, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christmas.
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Having just watched the 19th different version of Charles Dickens’, A Christmas Carol, this year, I am impressed by how universal and enduring this story is. The redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge is so compelling, even as simplistic as it is. The visitation of four ghosts that result in total conversion resonates with both Christian and non-Christian alike. We all wish our better selves would emerge and transform us, not only at Christmas, but every day of the year. But I believe there is a simpler attraction to Dickens’ Christmas tale. It is the human fascination with spirits. Our current cultural climate is steeped in the supernatural — wizards, angels, demons, vampires, zombies, werewolves, gods and goddesses… as well as ghosts.
Christians are caught in a dilemma when asked if they believe in ghosts. It is hard to claim we don’t believe in ghosts when a ghost constitutes one-third of the Holy Trinity. Yet, there is serious question about the existence of discorporate spirits. Evidence and proof is in short supply, regardless of the best efforts of Ghost Hunters International. Still, it is interesting how easy it is to get people talking about ghost stories and personal strange encounters. Even my super-rational scientific/academic friends will open up with a few weird tales once you get two or three beers in them. I’m not exactly sure what I believe about ghosties and spooks, but I do have a couple “unexplained” stories of my own that I am just as happy to chalk up to beneficent spirits as any other cause. One in particular has a Christmas twist.
The Emma Dilemma December 14, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Christmas, Core Values, Generosity & Giving.
Tags: Christmas, Giving and Generosity, Values
Who deserves grace? In this season of giving and goodwill, who should be helped and who warrants disdain? I listened to a table-full of pastors lament this time of year when some unfortunate few attempt to exploit the system of charity for their own benefit.
I won’t let anyone have anything until I talk to them. I can tell if they’re pulling a fast one. If I even think they are trying to take advantage of us, I will show them the door — empty-handed!
We only give to people we know. We don’t offer assistance to strangers.
We used to give food and clothes away all the time, but I put my foot down when I got here. We hardly even have people stop at the church any more.
One courageous young pastor said,
We try to help everyone who asks…
This was met with stony silence. The consensus around the table was three-fold: you can’t trust people who come to the church for help, you can’t help everyone, so you need to have some standard by which to decide who deserves help and who does not. It was only a couple of weeks ago that I attended a church where the preacher confessed that he helps appreciative people much more than those who act like they are entitled to assistance. Apparently, generosity is conditional — we give to those who earn our approval.
The Reason For the Season: Evil December 6, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Advent, Christmas, Religion in the U.S..
Tags: Advent, Christmas, Religious Trends
I have been laid up with a bad sinus infection pretty much since Thanksgiving, so I spent an inordinate amount of time surfing daytime TV. What an amazing amount of noise passing for entertainment… However, two tidbits caught my attention while navigating the vast wasteland of morning programming. First, I caught a Lutheran pastor’s sermon, “The Reason for the Season,” and anticipated getting all bent out of shape about another “advent” sermon that misses the point. That wasn’t exactly what I got — at least, it missed a completely different point than the one I expected. Second, I listened to a panel of people discussing how “Christians are ruining Christmas” for the general population — a truly novel idea.
Interestingly, I learned that Jesus isn’t the reason for the season; evil is. An earnest, sincere older white Lutheran pastor focused in on the advent theme of Jesus’ last week before his crucifixion to illustrate that our world is corrupt, violent, merciless, arrogant and disgusting to God. God looked at our world approximately 2,000 years ago and saw how filthy and diseased it had become and he sent Jesus to clean things up — however, the world was so far gone that instead of receiving the Son of God with joy and thanksgiving, we annihilated him. We “took God’s gift and spit upon it,” the preacher proclaimed. “And if we thought we were filthy then, just take a look at how foul we have become since!” Christmas, it seems, is like an annual flu shot — an inoculation against the corruption and disease that we call “the world.” Without Christmas, “evil wins.” He digressed to talk about the rampant cultural values that are destroying Christmas — mentioning that “Santa” and “Satan” employ the same letters for a very transparent and insidious reason. Then he said something that I found chilling and incredible: “The light of Christ come down 2,000 years ago has been extinguished — evil has won, the devil is the victor — it is up to us to reignite the flame!”