I Was Robbed!

I celebrated my 51st birthday just a few days ago and it was wonderful.  I really have nothing to complain about.  Ralph Starling mentioned it during the opening announcements at church and everybody who shook my hand on the way out after worship wished me a happy birthday.  And then my Facebook friends outdid themselves; I spent a good part of my birthday afternoon smiling through all their good wishes and funny comments.  I went to see a great movie that evening (“The Blind Side” at the Byrd Theater) and then caught up with some friends for dinner where we talked and laughed until way past my bedtime.  As I said, it was a wonderful day.  I have nothing to complain about.  Except…

When I was talking to my daughter Catherine on the phone last night I realized that the Daylight Savings time change had occurred on my birthday, that the whole “Spring Forward” thing where you set your clocks up an hour at 2:00 a.m. had happened at 2:00 a.m. on my special day.  Which means, of course, that out of the 24 hours allotted to every man, woman, and child for birthday celebration I (and the others who were born on March 14) only got 23!

I didn’t think that was fair.  Catherine didn’t think it was fair.  I told her I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but somehow I was going to get that lost hour back.  And then it dawned on us both at the same moment:  “Fall Back.”  That’s right, when the time changes back in the fall I can reclaim the lost hour of my birthday.  I can get up at 2:00 in the morning, set my clock back an hour, and party like it’s 1959 (my idea).  I can crank up the Beatles “You Say It’s Your Birthday” and dance around the living room in my pajamas (Catherine’s idea).  Either way, or another way I haven’t even thought of yet,

I’m getting my hour back.

A Time to Dance

Christmas just isn’t Christmas until sheep form a conga line and begin dancing in celebration of the Savior’s birth, at least it’s not to He Qi, China’s most sought-after contemporary Christian artist.  It’s a good illustration of what I talked about at last night’s Christmas Eve service:

“There is a time to mourn,” says the writer of Ecclesiastes, but there is also “a time to dance.”  And if there is such a time don’t you think that this time, Christmas time, is it?  I can imagine God putting the Incarnation together like a father bolting a bicycle together on Christmas Eve, anticipating the look of delight in his child’s eyes.  He would want to keep it a secret, of course.  He wouldn’t want to give away the surprise too soon.  So he might choose a virgin from a little town in Galilee to bear this gift.  Who would ever guess?  And he might choose a stable in Bethlehem as the place to deliver this gift.  Who would ever imagine?  But then, when the gift arrived, he might be so excited about it that he would want the whole world to know, and the last thing he would want the world to do is recite a litany of celebration in a dull monotone.  No!  He would want the world to clap its hands, to burst into song, to do a few, quick dance steps.  And so instead of announcing the news of Christ’s birth to the pastor of the First Baptist Church he sends his angels to some shepherds, abiding in the fields by night.

He did it for two reasons, I think:  one, because he knew the shepherds would be awake, and two, because he knew the shepherds would know how to party, that the one thing they would be wondrously free from was inhibition.  So when the angel tells them something big is happening in Bethlehem they don’t say, “Well, we probably ought to stay here and keep an eye on the sheep.”  They say, “Let’s go!”  “And they made haste,” Luke says, they ran, they raced, they tripped over rocks and roots and stumbled through the door of the stable breathless, laughing, and suddenly struck dumb with wonder.  But they didn’t stay that way long.  When they left that place they apparently banged on windows and doors, woke up their neighbors to tell them good news of great joy:  “God is with us!  God is here!  Let’s have a party!”

Merry Christmas everyone.  May your stocking be full of hope, peace, joy, and love, and may you too be inspired to do something a little crazy for Jesus’ sake.

Jim

The Church of Jesus Christ

woman-dancing-outside-green-dressAfter spending two days with my staff talking about what the church should be, what the church can be, what the church will be, it’s nice to remember what the church is in its best moments, something captured beautifully in this poem by Ann Weems:

 

The church of Jesus Christ is where a child brings a balloon…
is where old women come to dance . . .
is where young men see visions and old men dream dreams.
The church of Jesus Christ is where lepers come to be touched . . .
is where the blind see and the deaf hear . . .
is where the lame run and the dying live.
The church of Jesus Christ is where daisies bloom out of barren land . . .
is where children lead and wise men follow . . .
is where mountains are moved and walls come tumbling down.
The church of Jesus Christ is where loaves of bread are stacked in the sanctuary
to feed the hungry . . .

is where coats are taken off and put on the backs of the naked . . .
is where shackles are discarded and kings and shepherds sit down to life together.
The church of Jesus Christ is where barefoot children run giggling in procession . . .
is where the minister is ministered unto . . .
is where the anthem is the laughter of the congregation and the offering plates
are full of people.
The church of Jesus Christ is where people go when they skin their knees or their hearts . . .
is where frogs become princes and Cinderella dances beyond midnight . . .
is where judges don’t judge and each child of God is beautiful and precious.
The church of Jesus Christ is where the sea divides for the exiles . . .
is where the ark floats and the lamb lies down with the lion . . .
is where people can disagree and hold hands at the same time.
The church of Jesus Christ is where night is day . . .
is where trumpets and drums and tambourines declare God’s goodness . . .
is where lost lambs are found.
The church of Jesus Christ is where people write thank-you notes to God . . .
is where work is a holiday . . .
is where seeds are scattered and miracles grown.
The church of Jesus Christ is where home is . . .
is where heaven is . . .
is where a picnic is communion and people break bread together on their knees.
The church of Jesus Christ is where we live responsively to God’s coming . . .
even on Monday morning the world will hear . . .
an abundance of alleluias! 

                                                                               —Ann Weems