DOES MY LIFE HAVE MEANING?

Does my life have meaning?

This will be one of the things I’m speaking about at a conference in New Jersey this weekend.

I define “meaning” as: fitness in a coherent context. I only understand what a certain joke means if I understand the socio-linguistic context. And, that context must be coherent and narratival.

I understand the meaning of a pawn in the coherent, narratival context of the game of chess. But a chess pawn standing on a tennis court is meaningless because it has no “fitness” there. So, for there to be meaning, there must be fitness within a coherent context.

The movie Mad Max: Fury Road takes place in a land called “Wasteland.” Max sums up the meaning of his life with these words: “My world is fire and blood” where everything “is reduced to a single instinct: survive.” The movie longs for redemption as a woman named Inperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) smuggles five women out of wasteland, hoping to take them to a destination called “the green place.” Context affects meaning; meaning changes relative to context. And if there is no coherent context at all then life is meaningless, and nihilism prevails. “Mad Max is about a road that goes nowhere but exists only for itself. It’s meaningless mayhem.” (“Mad Max: Fury Road – Finding a forgotten Eden in the midst of post-apocalyptic anarchy“) The film ends with these words, as a epigram:

Where must we go, we who wander this wasteland,

in search of our better selves.
Where can we go to find the meaning of our lives? The options are:

1. An incoherent context where nothing fits.
2. A coherent context where I do not fit.
3. A coherent context where I fit.

Option 1 is atheism and nihilism, ultimately and logically.

Option 2 is the kingdoms of this world which, as a Jesus-follower, I was not made for.

Option 3 is the kingdom of God, which, as Jesus said, is “not of this world.”

In the pre-modern existentialist biblical book of Ecclesiastes the Preacher weighs the meaning-options and finds them all wanting, except for one.

He looks for the meaning to life in Nature (Eccl. 1:5-9). But nature is a closed system of cause and effect, and endless circling of sunshine, wind, and rain. The answer, the key, is not in Nature.

He looks for the key to life’s meaning in Mankind (1:3-4) and humanity’s efforts and accomplishments. But this yields only an endless seeking for happiness through this and that, but to no avail.

He looks for an answer in human Wisdom (1:12-17; 2:13-17). But even the most brilliant are only learned ignoramuses (cf. Ortega y Gasset) who fail to make sense of it all.

He looks for the meaning of life in Pleasure and sensual delight (2:1-11), but finds the same reality: it’s all nothing but “vanity and striving after the wind. (Here it feels like Bertrand Russell’s atheism has borrowed from Ecclesiastes – see Russell’s “A Free Man’s Worship.”)

The answer? Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 concludes:

Now all has been heard;

    here is the conclusion of the matter:

Fear God and keep his commandments,

    for this is the duty of all mankind.

14 For God will bring every deed into judgment,

    including every hidden thing,

    whether it is good or evil.

To answer the question of life’s meaning we must first answer these two questions:

Who, or what, made me?

What was I made for?

The answers to these questions will lead you to either Option 1, Option 2, or Option 3.

I’ve opted for 3. By experience and by reason. My life’s meaning and purpose are found in these words of Jesus:

You shall love the Lord your God

with all your heart,

with all your soul,

with all your mind,

and with all your strength.

And you shall

love your neighbor as yourself.

5 THINGS THE CHURCH MUST DO TO REVERSE DECLINING CHRISTIANITY IN AMERICA

Mike Luckovich  Copyright 2015 Creators Syndicate

Here are 5 Things the Church Must Do to reverse declining Christianity in America.

1. Preach the Biblical Text.

Forget about trying to make people happy, or relaxed, or comfortable. (See here, e.g.)

2. Tap into Power.

Major in two biblical words: dunamis (power) and exousia (authority). Culture these. (Like this.)

3. Lead people into The Presence of God.

Think like Moses here: “Unless Your presence goes with us, we’re not moving.” (See here.)

4.  Teach Apologetics as Spiritual Warfare. Help people know why they believe what we believe. Watch, e.g., this.

5. Form Community around 1-4. This is something the “nones” will never have. Community does not form around what people don’t believe in. See this, e.g. And read this. No one in history has formed community better than Christianity has.

WHAT THE SAME-SEX MARRIAGE ISSUE IS AND IS NOT ABOUT

 
Reflection in the river, my backyard

A few people have been discussing this with me. Note: their discussion has been civil – thank you! To have a civil discourse about same-sex marriage means laying aside ad hominem abusives and other logical fallacies of irrelevant premises. So here we go!

  1. It’s not about “marriage equality”; it is about the definition of “marriage.”

The current gay marriage issue is not really about “marriage equality.” “Marriage equality” is a euphemism. It’s actually about “marriage redefinition.” The issue is about the definition of “marriage.”

Pro-gay-marriage advocate John Corvino seems to define “marriage” like this:

“Marriage is the institution in which people live out the commitment … to have and to hold; from this day forward; for better or for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish; until death do us part.” (Corvino spends many pages defending why he is not thrilled about defining the term. See Corvino and Maggie Gallagher, Debating Same-Sex Marriage (Point/Counterpoint), p. 41. This is an excellent book to read to see the legal arguments from both sides.)

But note this. If “marriage” is what Corvino seems to think it is, then of course there is no problem with same-sex marriage. And the issue is not “marriage equality,” since by definition any persons (two or more, which Corvino admits) can make and live out this kind of commitment. Anyone meeting this definitional criterion has a “right” to be married. Of course!

But if “marriage” is legally defined as between a man and a woman, then of course the “right” to be married is reserved for opposite sex partners who make the stated commitment. It would then read this way: “Marriage is the institution in which a man and a woman live out the commitment…” If “marriage” is defined this way, by law, then same-sex partners have no more right to be married than a 10-year-old has a legal right to vote. The 10-year-old should not complain that voting is being “denied” to them, since legally they have no right to vote. Or, I have the legal right to leave my computer, get in my car, and drive.  Should anyone tell me I cannot do this, it would be they who are violating the law.

So the issue is not really about “marriage equality” or denying people the “right” to be married. The discussion stands or falls on the definition of “marriage.” The question “Should same-sex couples be allowed to marry?” is like, legally, the question “Should 10-year-olds be allowed to vote?” If Corvino is correct and we change the legal definition of “marriage” then of course, legally, same-sex couplesmust be allowed to marry. But talk about “marriage equality” is irrelevant on whatever definition of “marriage” we take.

Here’s an imaginary dialogue:

X – Gays cannot be denied the right to marry!

Y – But if “marriage” is legally defined as between a man and a woman, then gays are being denied nothing.

X – Then we must change the definition of “marriage” to include gays.

Y – If that happens then gays will be denied nothing again, since by legal definition they have the right to marry.

As Princeton’s Robert George et. al. state: “What we have come to call the gay marriage debate is not directly about homosexuality, but about marriage. It is not about whom to let marry, but about what marriage is. It is a pivotal stage in a decades-long struggle between two views of the meaning of marriage.” (Girgis, Sherif; Anderson, Ryan T; George, Robert P. What IsMarriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense, p. 1)

  1. It is not about “rights”; it is about the definition of “marriage.”

The same-sex marriage issue is not about “rights.” It’s about the definition of “marriage.” The definition of “marriage” settles the matter of “rights.”

For example, I am the “owner” of a car. I have ownership rights. I have the right to a key to this car, the right to put the key in the ignition and turn the car on, and the right to drive the car. This legal fact (I am the car’s owner, you are not) means you cannot complain that you are excluded from some “right”; viz., the right to drive my car. All this is implied in the definition of “ownership.” If you wanted free access to the cars of other people then you would need to revise the legal definition of “ownership.” But as it currently stands driving other people’s cars without permission is called “theft.”

I do not have the right to drive my car wherever I please. I do not have the right to drive on your lawn, for example, or through your patio door. Should I complain that you or the state are “taking away my right to drive on your lawn” you should reply that no “rights” are, in this case, being taken from me. Legally, there is no existing “right” that I possess that is being taken from me. Legally, I am being denied nothing.

Laws involve definitions. Definitions create parameters. Parameters delineate “rights.” I do not legally have the right to enter your house at night, wake up your children, tell them to put their clothes on, and come shopping with me. How absurd it would be for me to complain that I cannot do this, and argue that some “right” has been taken from me.

In order to civilly discuss issues of marriage, the term “marriage” must be defined from the beginning, elsewise the discussion will go nowhere. If you and I are working off different definitions of “marriage” we will be involved in constant dual equivocation, with me using the term in one sense, and you in another.

This is why the real, primal matter in the same-sex “debate” is over the definition of “marriage.” Those arguing for the legality of same-sex marriages are revising the existing definition of marriage (which, BTW, they have the legal right to propose). We now have two competing definitions. Which are:

Traditional Definition (TD):

Marriage is intrinsically a sexual union of husband and wife, because these are the only unions that can make new life and connect those children in love to their co-creators, their mother and their father (from Maggie Gallagher, in Corvino and Gallagher, Debating Same-Sex Marriage(Point/Counterpoint), p. 95. Oxford University Press.).

Revisionist Definition (RD):

Marriage is the union of two people (whether of the same sex or of opposite sexes) who commit to romantically loving and caring for each other and to sharing the burdens and benefits of domestic life. It is essentially a union of hearts and minds, enhanced by whatever forms of sexual intimacy the partners both find agreeable. The state should recognize and regulate marriage because it has an interest in stable romantic partnerships and in the concrete needs of spouses and any children they may choose to rear. (Ib., p. 99)

If RD is received as law, then of course, ipso facto, gays have a legal right to marry. If TD remains as law, then gays do not have a legal right to marry. And in this case no “rights” are being denied to gays, since by legal definition gays would not have the right to marry.

It is important to understand this. If the core issue is over the legal definition of marriage, then statements like “marriage rights should be extended to gays” and “gays deserve marriage equality” are only euphemisms used to spin an argument in one’s favor. Given TD to say “marriage rights should be extended to gays” is like saying “ownership rights should be extended to all people” (so that my car and your car is our car), or like saying “the right to be called “fish” should be extended to Scandinavians.” (I am Scandinavian, and have never felt denied of some right because I cannot identify myself as a fish on my passport.)

“Rights” and “equality” talk is, initially, irrelevant; legal definitional talk is what matters. “Rights” and “equality” are pursuant to legality. Legal definitions, whether of “marriage” or “ownership” or “legal guardianship” or whatever, determine and delineate “rights” and “equality,” not the other way around.

***

BTW – I’ve talked with a few people who think the state should not be involved in the issue of defining marriage. I think that is incorrect. If we lived in a perfect world then laws would not be needed. Laws protect; marriage laws (especially TD) protect children’s rights, and spouse’s rights. And just because a father or mother are Christians does not mean (though it should mean) that their children are protected.

***

For further study see especially:

Corvino and Gallagher, Debating Same-Sex Marriage (Point/Counterpoint)

Girgis, Anderson, and George, What Is Marriage?

III. The Issue Is That There Are Two Issues (at least for Christian theists). The Supreme Court Discussion Is About Law, not about Biblical Ideas of Marriage

For Christian theists concerned about the way the same-sex marriage discussion is going in America, I suggest there are now two debates going on: one legal, the other religious.

  1. The Legal Issue

Regarding the legal matter, the real issue is about the definition of “marriage.” Might we in America have a civil discourse about this? The truth or falsity of the statement We should allow for same-sex marriage rests heavily on the meaning of the term “marriage.” Some of us, myself included, feel like many of our government leaders are rushing forward to change the meaning of marriage, without discussion.

Please read the editorial in CNN by Robert George (prof. of jurisprudence at Harvard and Princeton), Sherif Gergis (Princeton and Yale), and Ryan T. Anderson – “Gay Marriage, then Group Marriage?

They write:
“Of course, if marriage were simply about recognizing bonds of affection or romance, then two men or two women could form a marriage just as a man and woman can. But so could three or more in the increasingly common phenomenon of group (“polyamorous”) partnerships. In that case, to recognize opposite-sex unions but not same-sex or polyamorous ones would be unfair — a denial of equality.” Please read this entire editorial.

For a more complete version see their recent, essentially non-religious book What is Marriage? Man and Woman – a Defense. As you read it jump off the cultural bandwagon and think your way through it.

  1. The Religious Issue

There is a second debate going on, this one within religions, and within Christianity. (Irreligous people, of course, will be uninterested in this.) It is over the statement: Does the biblical text disaffirm homosexual unions? I believe it does.

If someone says they are a “Christian,” then I reason as follows.
1. We are obligated to follow God’s will.
2. God’s will is given to us in the Bible.
3. The Bible forbids homosexual behavior.
4. Therefore, homosexual behavior is against God’s will, or is wrong.

On P1 (Premise 1): I believe virtually all Jesus-followers affirm this to be true.

On P2 – again, Jesus-followers will have little problem with this. There may be discussion on the nature of biblical authority. That is another, and important, discussion.

Note again: Let’s say you are an atheist. As an atheist you see little or no authority in the Bible.But of course. Christian theism is not your worldview. The Bible means little or nothing to you as a life-guide, just as Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion means nothing to me as a life-guide (and yes, I read it, and made about 45 posts in response to it). But if you are and claim to be a follower of Jesus, then it follows that you place a high premium on the words of the Bible. For those few billion people in this camp, we can and should have discussions over the meaning of the biblical texts, their interpretation, and the nature of their authority. 

Re. P3 – this is where the intra-Christian discussion lies. If you want to go straight to the heart of this discussion I can suggest nothing better than Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views, by Dan O. Via and Robert Gagnon. See, e.g., these reviews, which I copy to defend the scholarship contained therein.

“Christians challenged by questions surrounding Scripture on same-sex relations will find an invaluable chart for navigating these confusing waters.” — Joel B. Green, Dean of the School of Theology and Professor of New Testament Interpretation, Asbury Theological Seminary (endorsement inside book)

“Gagnon’s brilliant condensation of his arguments should be a significant asset for clergy and laity, while Via opens new challenges.” — Catherine Clark Kroeger, Associate Professor of Classical and Ministry Studies, Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (endorsement inside book)

“I know of no finer presentation of all the main issues.” — Graham Stanton, Lady Margaret’s Professor of Divinity, University of Cambridge (endorsement inside book)

“I know of no other work that so clearly illumines the biblical issues at the heart of the controversy.” — Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics, Duke Divinity School (endorsement inside book)

“Presents a vigorous, illuminating debate about the implications of scripture for contemporary attitudes toward homosexuality. I strongly recommend this book.” –James F. Childress, Hollingsworth Professor of Ethics, University of Virginia

Via is pro-gay marriage, Gagnon is against gay marriage. Both are New Testament scholars. But note this. Via agrees that one cannot interpret the biblical text as supportive of same-sex marriage. In spite of this he presents a loving principle that seems of God to him as a justification for allowing same-sex marriages today.

For Gagnon’s even more complete biblical argument against textual support of same-sex marriage see his The Bible and Homosexuality: Texts and Interpretation. Of this book reviews include:

“…In its learnedness, [Gagnon’s] book will…be in the vanguard of its position and cannot be ignored….” — Martti Nissinen, University of Helsinki, and author of Homoeroticism in the Biblical World (From the Jacket Flap)

“…the fullest and best presentation of the conservative position….expressing the case same-sex intercourse sympathetically and convincingly.” — I. Howard Marshall, Professor of New Testament, Emeritus, University of Aberdeen, Scotland (Blurb Inside Book)

“…the most thorough examination of the scriptural and theological…perspectives on same-sex relations….a tour de force.” — Marion L. Soards, Professor of New Testament, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary (From Jacket Flap)

“Gagnon has offered a learned, judicious, and comprehensive examination of the biblical testimony….fair and compassionate…a major resource….” — Brevard S. Childs, Sterling Professor of Divinity (Hebrew Bible), Emeritus, Yale Divinity School (From Inside Book)

“Gagnon’s book is an extremely valuable contribution to the current debate….I recommend this book wholeheartedly.” — C. E. B. Cranfield, Professor of Theology (New Testament), Emeritus, University of Durham (From Inside Book)

“Gagnon’s incisive logic, prudent judgment, and exhaustive research should make this book a dominant voice in the contemporary debate.” — Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, O.P., Professor of New Testament, Ecole Biblique, Jerusalem (From the Back Cover)

“I believe that this volume will become a classic in the ongoing discussion of the church’s…response to homosexuality.” — Duane F. Watson, Professor of New Testament, Malone College (From Inside Book)

“I know of no comparable study of the texts and interpretive debates that surround homosexual behavior.” — Max L. Stackhouse, Stephen Colwell Professor of Christian Ethics, Princeton Theological Seminary (From the Jacket Flap)

“No Christian concerned with homosexuality can afford to ignore this book.” — John Barton, Oriel and Laing Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture, University of Oxford (From the Back Cover)

“This is a brilliant, original, and highly important work,…indispensable even for those who disagree with the author.” — James Barr, Distinguished Professor of Hebrew Bible, Emeritus, Vanderbilt University

I’ve read and studied these books, and others. If you really want to enter into this discussion, you will do well to do the same. Among other things this will help you avoid hermeneutical errors such as conflating Old Testament ideas about marriage with New Testament ideas.

I am currently studying, especially, the legal issue.

I began to study the biblical issue in the early 1980s. For those of us who have done something similar I suggest the area we should now be most concerned to address is the legal issue, and not the religious issue. This is because, overwhelmingly, we don’t legislate biblical morality. For example, biblically, gossip and gluttony are sins. Engaged in, they mitigate against human flourishing. But I don’t think we should legislate against them. I don’t think we should make a law against gossip, or a law against gluttony (in spite of New York Mayor Bloomberg’s attempts to do so).

Address the meaning of “marriage.”

Focus on this now. (Stay focused – there are so many rabbit trails in this discussion!)

Don’t be intellectually seduced by the bandwagon fallacy.

***

See also:

RESPONDING TO THE MATTER OF SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: PART 1 – INTRO AND BIBLIOGRAPHY

 “Arsenokoitais” (ἀρσενοκοίταις) in 1 Timothy 1:10 (et. al.)

N.T. Wright on Gay Marriage

and

N.T. Wright on Gay Marriage: Nature and Narrative Point to Complementarity

RELATIONSHIPS CLASS (REDEEMER MINISTRY SCHOOL)

rms LOGO

RELATIONSHIPS

Sunday evenings, 6-7:30 PM, March 29, April 12, 19, 26, May 5, 12, 19

This course will do two things:

1)   Examine the qualities of healthy relationships (of any kind – friendships, family, work place, marriage), and

2)  Present ways of helping and counseling troubled relationships.

One of the required reading books will be Real Relationships:From Bad to Better and Good to Great, by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott.

Teachers: John & Linda Piippo

Signup will be in our church lobby, or by emailing me (johnpiippo@msn.com) or calling our office (734-242-5277)

STUDY SERVANT LEADERSHIP THIS SPRING IN REDEEMER MINISTRY SCHOOL

 

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Course:  Servant Leadership

Led By:  Denise & Jim Hunter    www.jameshunter.com

Dates:  6 Consecutive Sunday Mornings (April 12, 19, 26/May 3, 10, 17)

Time:  9:00-10:15am

Course Description:  Denise & Jim will lead the group through the principles of servant leadership including:

  • Defining Leadership
  • Leading with authority versus power
  • Meeting needs versus wants
  • Community Building & Leadership
  • Leadership & Abiding in Christ
  • Practical Applications
  • Texts utilized: “The Bible” by God & “The Servant” by Jim Hunter

To enroll, please register in the church lobby, or call the office (734-242-5277)

HOW OUR K-12 EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM IS MORALLY FAILING OUR CHILDREN

Most of my college philosophy students are moral relativists without justification. That is, they seem scandalized by the idea that there are moral facts but, if asked, can give no coherent reason as to why moral facts do not exist. In addition to this they contradict their disbelief in moral facts by expressing outrage that anyone would push their morality on someone else. They believeIt is wrong to push your morality on someone else, which is itself a moral fact. Some students even seem to want to push this moral fact on others.

Most moral relativistic students, when pressed, seem to agree that certain moral facts exist. For example, most would concur that It is wrong to rape and torture little girls for fun.

How did my students come to be inconsistent moral relativists? Philosopher Justin McBrayer answers this in “Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts” (New York Times, 3/2/15). McBrayer writes:

“What would you say if you found out that our public schools were teaching children that it is not true that it’s wrong to kill people for fun or cheat on tests? Would you be surprised?

I was. As a philosopher, I already knew that many college-aged students don’t believe in moral facts. While there are no national surveys quantifying this phenomenon, philosophy professors with whom I have spoken suggest that the overwhelming majority of college freshman in their classrooms view moral claims as mere opinions that are not true or are true only relative to a culture.”

Where did this idea come from? While there are academic philosophers who are moral relativists, none of my students are familiar with them (OK, maybe .001% have at least heard of a philosophical moral relativist). McBrayer says this incipient-yet-unreflected-on moral relativism comes from our K-12 educational system.

To demonstrate, when McBrayer visited his son’s second grade open house he saw a pair of “troubling” signs hanging over the bulletin board. They read:

Fact: Something that is true about a subject and can be tested or proved.

Opinion: What someone thinks, feels, or believes.

These signs represent the norm, not the exception. McBrayer writes:

“Hoping that this set of definitions was a one-off mistake, I went home and Googled “fact vs. opinion.” The definitions I found onlinewere substantially the same as the one in my son’s classroom. As it turns out, the Common Core standards used by a majority of K-12 programs in the country require that students be able to “distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.” And the Common Core institute provides a helpful page full of links to definitions, lesson plans and quizzes to ensure that students can tell the difference between facts and opinions.”

The fact-opinion distinction is wrong. Why?

  1. The definition of a “fact” associates it with “proof.” But this is wrong, since “things can be true even if no one can prove them. For example, it could be true that there is life elsewhere in the universe even though no one can prove it. Conversely, many of the things we once “proved” turned out to be false. For example, many people once thought that the earth was flat. It’s a mistake to confuse truth (a feature of the world) with proof (a feature of our mental lives).”
  2. Students are taught that claims are eitherfacts or opinions.”But if a fact is something that is true and an opinion is something that is believed, then many claims will obviously be both.” What a person believes can be a fact. I believe George Washington was the first president, and it is afact that he was the first president.

Working from this false distinction the K-12 educational program places moral value claims as “opinions.” Which means, according to the above false distinction, moral value claims are not “facts.” So, there are no moral facts. “And if there are no moral facts, then there are no moral truths.” By this confused, false reasoning the moral statement It is wrong to rape and torture little girls for fun is only an “opinion” and therefore is not true. So “it should not be a surprise,” says McBrayer, “that there is rampant cheating on college campuses: If we’ve taught our students for 12 years that there is no fact of the matter as to whether cheating is wrong, we can’t very well blame them for doing so later on.”

My students, and our children, deserve better than this. McBrayer concludes, correctly:

“Our children deserve a consistent intellectual foundation. Facts are things that are true. Opinions are things we believe. Some of our beliefs are true. Others are not. Some of our beliefs are backed by evidence. Others are not. Value claims are like any other claims: either true or false, evidenced or not. The hard work lies not in recognizing that at least some moral claims are true but in carefully thinking through our evidence for which of the many competing moral claims is correct. That’s a hard thing to do. But we can’t sidestep the responsibilities that come with being human just because it’s hard.

That would be wrong.”

REDEEMER BASKETBALL LEAGUE COMING THIS WINTER – Registration Information

REDEEMER BASKETBALL LEAGUE COMING THIS WINTER: 

Registration is TOMORROW, Dec 13th, NOON – 5 PM. 

The league will start on Saturday, January 10th.

The league will be open to children from 5th through 12th grades.

We will play 10 weeks, playoffs March 21st and 22nd. Contact Chris Verhille (734-731-2373), or Daniel Reaume (734-652-3657). We are also looking for volunteers for coaches, kitchen workers.

For information please call the church office at: 734-242-5277

DECONSTRUCTING THE “HOLIDAYS” TO UNCOVER THE MEANING OF “CHRISTMAS”

“Black Friday” and “Cyber-Monday” are over. the Thanksgiving days of feasting are now days of healthy, moderate eating. I’m about to sit down for a bowl of cereal with bananas.

I turn on the TV. “Holiday” stuff is on. So is a special on Christmas and the White House. I actually heard, on TV, the word “Christmas” several times!

But little of this “holiday” stuff really concerns “Christmas.” Because…

#1 – Christmas has nothing to do with shopping. I’m not against shopping. I like to go to the mall with Linda and look around. I like the crowds and the lights and the music and the candy. I like eating red and green M&Ms. Yet all these things have NOTHING to do with Christmas. What, then, is Christmas about? There’s a big clue in the word itself. Christmas has to do with “Christ.” What does that mean? The word “Christ” means “anointed King.” Jesus is “the Christ,” the anointed King. “Christ” is the Greek word for the Hebrew word “Messiah.”

“Christmas” = Messiah has come.

#2 – Christmas has nothing to do with gift-giving. But what about the wise men who brought gifts? They came after Jesus was born. Remove them from your manger scene and place them somewhere outside the house, perhaps down the road a ways. They did bring gifts to honor Jesus’ birth. They did not go shopping to buy gifts to give one another. Is it wrong to do that? I don’t think so. I love giving gifts to my family. I like opening gifts. But giving gifts to one another has NOTHING to do with Christmas. Except that, in Jesus, God gave a great Gift to all humanity. For that Gift, I remain eternally grateful.

Christmas” = A Gift, from God, to us.

#3 – Christmas has nothing to do with tree-decorating. Is it wrong to have a Christmas tree? I don’t think so. I like decorating the tree every year. I like the lights, especially old-fashioned large multi-colored ones. I enjoy going to Bronner’s, just 75 miles north of us. But decorated trees have NOTHING to do with Christmas. Read the original Christmas story in both Matthew and Luke and see for yourself. There were no trees or lights or tinsel. And, it didn’t smell like fresh-cut pine.

“Christmas” = the birth of God’s Son, who would eventually be crucified on a tree.

#4 – Christmas has nothing to do with snow. When first-century Jews hoped for a Messiah (a “Christ”), not one of them was dreaming of a white Christmas. Those ancient people were under great political oppression. They could care less if it snowed or not. I care. Linda doesn’t. Nonetheless “snow” is neither an essential attribute nor a contingent attribute of “Christmas.”

“Christmas” = Messiah who comes to make us, righteously, “white than snow.” (Ps. 51:7)

#5 – Christmas has nothing to do with the economy. I have friends who are local retailers, and I hope they do well. I like a stable American economy. But Christmas has NOTHING to do with a consumer economy. The angels were not rejoicing because Christmas sales were up as a result of the Christ being born. Get this: God’s Son was born into radical poverty. Mary ended up singing about how God would now finally help the poor and the hungry and the marginalized and the oppressed.

“Christmas” = the beginning of the “Great Reversal,” where the proud, mighty, and rich are brought down and the poor, hungry, and lowly are exalted. (See Luke 1:46-55, e.g.)

I like the holidays. They remind me of times with my parents and brother when I was growing up. And times Linda and I had with our sons. They remind Linda and I of a son of ours, David, who died, which made one holiday season not so jolly. And they remind me of Linda’s father Del, who lived with us for 6 1/2 years until he died on New year’s Eve 2012. (Deck the halls with melancholy…)

Still, I like the holidays and I love Real Christmas Music (like “Trio Mediaeval,” which I’m listening to right now). But mostly I love Jesus. When I became a follower of Jesus I left a life of drug and alcohol abuse forever. I doubt I’d be alive today if not for Jesus. Jesus still fills my life, now more than ever as I grow older. This time of the year is another opportunity to experience and encounter and think about the Christ, my Savior, and your’s too.

“Christmas” = love, worship, and adoration of Christ the Lord, King, Savior, Redeemer, Rescuer, Bondage-Breaker, Lamb of God, Revolutionary, promised Messiah, my Lord and my God.



*****
On “deconstruction” see – More Thoughts on Deconstruction

Redeemer Basketball League Winter 2015

REDEEMER BASKETBALL LEAGUE COMING THIS WINTER: 

Registration on Dec 13th.

The league will start on Saturday, January 10th.

The league will be open to children from 5th through 12th grades.

Redeemer Fellowship Church

5305 Evergreen, Monroe, MI 48161

For information please call the church office at: 734-242-5277

REDEEMER BASKETBALL LEAGUE WINTER 2015

 REDEEMER BASKETBALL LEAGUE COMING THIS WINTER: 

We plan on having registration on Dec 13th.

The league will start on Saturday, January 10th.

We plan on playing 10 weeks with an 11th being playoffs, and taking a week off for Pinewood Derby at the beginning of March.

The league will be open to children from 5th through 12th grades.

For information please call the church office at: 734-242-5277