When St. John’s UCC is at its best

This Advent season I am going around different church groups to find out what our church does best. Here are today’s responses:

When we are sharing a meal together or working together. Family Ministry reaching out to our shut-ins and those in need! Having each other’s back by helping when needed without having to ask.
Showing up for families in crisis. Showing love and concerns for all offering prayers. To see before church the people conversing, laughing and coming together. covered dish meals
it responds to unexpected challenges when reaching out to serve the needs of others unselfishly, caring for others, being the hands and feet of Christ Each member brings their best gifts / talents to share. Everyone has a time to give of themselves and even if it is a moment of prayer it is best!

Please note: None of these have anything to do with worship! The one hour of music and proclamation is not even mentioned. That’s not where church happens when it’s most meaningful. Here with St. John’s UCC, church is not a place or event you go to, but a movement that makes people’s lives better. St. John’s is the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; 6and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’

Delilah’s Fake News

In 2017 the Word of the Year was FAKE NEWS. The phenomenon has not diminished. Mirjam, the kids and I were driving home after enjoying the beautiful Houston Zoo Lights. In order to keep the holiday spirit alive on our way home we listened to 99.1 which plays Christmas music this time of year. At night they also have a talk show: Delilah. Most of the time she is benevolent and just wants to reassure people that God means it good with them regardless of how challenging their lives may be. Delilah preaches a Gospel of comfort. I cannnot blame her for that. But when feel-good is all it is about I sometimes have to cry foul. So there was this one caller who with a Jewish-Christian blended family celebrates both Christmas and Hanukkah. That is awesome. Everybody’s faith journey is influenced by a multiplicity of traditions. Delilah is really good at celebrating diversity and I applaud her for that. But then she went over-board this time. Delilah stated that Joseph and Mary went to Jerusalem for the Festival of Lights and that is why it would make perfect sense to celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah together. Let us not forget the cold hard facts: Joseph was ordered to appear in his home town by the Roman Empire. They were not going for the holidays. And why would anyone go to Bethlehem for Hanukkah? If anything the Temple Mount in Jerusalem would be the place. Hanukkah is the celebration that commemorates how the oil ran low at the dedication of the temple but miraculously lasted for eight days. The little town of Bethlehem was not good for anything back then. No, Christmas and Hanukkah are different holy days. There are three lessons to be learned from this incident:
1. it is great to celebrate diversity
2. faith is more than just comfort
3. pretending that everything is the same leaves people confused and ultimately makes hope-giving holidays irrelevant.
The power of Hanukkah is the celebration of a miracle that God provides light in dark times.
The power of Christ being born in the city of David is the beginning of God’s reign on Earth.
Both are really good news and both need to be celebrated but they are not the same.

So when you wish somebody “happy holidays” this season it would behoove you to inform yourself what you are talking about and learn about the holidays. A blanket statement like, “we all do not really know and just try to love another”, may be well-meaning but does not take serious anybody’s belief – to include you own. Diversity does not mean we are all the same. It means that we are celebrating one another for who we are and that we work together to make the world a better place. That is really good news. There is nothing fake about that.