Monthly Archives: December 2021

New Year Visions

new year visions

On the cusp of a new year, we like to envision a fresh start, a change for the better, a bright future. We can so often put all our hopes and dreams on a new year. And there is nothing wrong with doing that, as long as we recognize that life does not always go the way we planned and we may be disappointed on any one of the 365 days to come.

The difference for us as Christians is that we put our hopes and dreams on Christ and not on a particular set of days. Putting our hopes and dreams on Christ opens our minds to the fact that every morning is a new start because of his forgiveness. Every day is a new opportunity to serve him. Every 24-hour period is a gift from our Savior, who died that we might live for him. Yes, there will be troubles, there will be detours, there will be unexpected bumps in the road, but our confidence in our risen Lord assures us that we will grow and learn and become stronger because of his presence with us.

As Ephesians 4:15 tells us, “We are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” No matter what your age, make growing up into Christ your goal for the year. He will make it happen! Happy new year to you all!

Christmas Moments

Christmas moment

There are always those special Christmas moments: children running down the stairs to find presents under the tree; families gathered around the dining table for a delicious dinner; phone calls (and maybe Zoom calls) from distant relatives. I hope and pray your Christmas has included one or more of these moments.

But the most important moment for me on Christmas Day has been when my father reads the Christmas story from Luke 2 from the King James Bible. That moment centers me on what the day is all about: the birth of Jesus and the story of his humble coming among us amid animals and angels, shepherds and straw to save us. The story is not that flashy, but it frames everything we do. Just as God gave us the gift of his Son, we give gifts to one another. Just as shepherds ran to be with Jesus, we travel to be with one another. Just as angels sang in the sky, we speak messages of peace and goodwill through satellite connections in space.

Jesus came at just the right moment that all our moments might be special because of him. Merry Christmas to you all!

Speech Acts

speech acts

The field of linguistics often uses the term speech acts. Speech acts are expressions by a person that not only present information but also perform an action. Speech acts commonly include such things as apologizing, promising, ordering, answering, requesting, complaining, warning, inviting, refusing, and congratulating. We experience speech acts when a couple says, “I do,” to one another in a wedding ceremony, when witnesses swear in court to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, or when we confess our sins in church. Speech acts such as these change the reality of the situation and often require a response from the addressee.

In Genesis, we read of God using speech acts one after the other:

“Let there be light,” and there was light” (Genesis 1:4).

“Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so (Genesis 1:9).

“Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so (Genesis 1:24).

You get the idea. When God speaks, things happen. The same can be said of Jesus who proclaimed: “Be healed,” and people were healed, “You are forgiven,” and sins were removed, “I am with you always,” and he was.

From his very birth Jesus as the Word Made Flesh accomplished that which God purposed and succeeded in the thing for which God sent him (see Isaiah 55:11). And the Word of the Lord is still at work in our world today as pastors say through water and the Word, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The Lord speaks in Holy Communion through the words, “Take and eat; take and drink.” Reality changes through these speech acts: children of earth become children of God; partakers of blessed bread and wine become united with Christ.

The Word of the Lord matters. The Word of the Lord has power. The Word of the Lord speaks into existence what we need most: a relationship with him. Let the Word dwell in you richly (Colossians 3:16).

Homeless Jesus


On the campus at Valparaiso University is a bronze sculpture called Homeless Jesus, by artist Timothy Schmalz, which depicts Jesus, identifiable by the wounds on his feet, sleeping on a street bench wrapped in a blanket. Other installations are located outside of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Davidson, North Carolina; at Sts. Peter and Paul Jesuit Church in Detroit, Michigan; in downtown Charleston, West Virginia, and on a street leading to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The image is designed to portray the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:35-45, in which he explains that when we care for the sick, poor, naked, hungry, thirsty, imprisoned and strangers, we are really caring for him.

The statue is convicting, when I think about times when I have looked the other way, walked on the other side of the street or turned around completely when I have come near a homeless person. The statue reminds me that Jesus is often present in places where we do not really want to go. Even in our discomfort, we are called by Christ to do such things as say a word of blessing, give a granola bar or bottled water, or provide a gift card to someone we encounter whom we recognize is truly in need.

It is important to stay safe, of course, but it is still vitally important to expand our caring capacity in ways that extend our comfort zones. Jesus himself did not stay at home or steer clear of “the least of these.” He touched lepers. He spoke to beggars. He ate with sinners. No one was beyond his care, and no one should be beyond our care. We must open our eyes to the wounded among us and not shrink back in fear but reach out in faith that God will use each one of us in some way to bring relief to a hurting world, one precious person at a time.


Advent candles

We are now in the season of Advent, the weeks the Church has set aside to prepare for the birth of Christ on Christmas. What do we do during this time? There are any number of things you can do to get ready for Jesus. Counting down the days on a calendar, lighting candles on an Advent wreath, reading a seasonal devotion each day, attending special worship services in your church are just some of the activities you can engage in.

But the most important thing for you to do is to prepare your heart for Jesus. As the hymn says, “Prepare him room.” What does that mean exactly? It means ridding yourself of those things that have distracted you for the Christ Child—overindulgences on food, TV and smartphone time, for instance. It means clearing more space for thinking about Jesus and praying to him. It means making Jesus a priority in your personal decisions and planning.

When Jesus is at the center of who you are, then what you do will follow in line with his will and his way. As John the Baptist said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). What Jesus wants for you must take precedence over what you want. His life must become the driving force of your life. So Advent becomes a turning over of the reins of your life to Jesus and letting him steer the course of your future.

Advent then is deeper than candles and candy and decorations. It is about faith and trust and total dependency on Christ. It is about becoming a vessel in which he exists and thrives. It is about letting him be mangered in you forever.



One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. Psalm 145:4

There are currently 7 living generations in the United States:

• Greatest generation (born from 1901 to 1926)
• Silent generation/traditionalists (born from 1927 to 1945)
• Baby boomers (born from 1946 to 1964)
• Generation X (born from 1965 to 1980)
• Millennials/Generation Y (born from 1981 to 1996)
• Generation Z/iGeneration (born from 1997 to 2012)
• Alpha generation (born from 2013 to 2025)

Passing on the Christian faith from generation to generation is a highly important aspect of the role of the Church today, no matter what generation you are a part of. I am a member of Generation X, and I remember my grandparents, part of the Greatest generation, teaching by example when I went to church with them and when I would hear them reading their devotions every morning with breakfast when I came to visit them. My parents, who are part of the Silent generation, enrolled me in a Christian school and would pray with me every night and at mealtimes. My teachers in school were Baby boomers and taught me the faith by prompting me to memorize Bible verses and teaching me songs with motions like “His Banner over Me Is Love,” “If I Were a Butterfly.”

When it came my turn to pass along the faith to my nieces and nephews, I did it through decorative wall crosses they could hang in their rooms to remind them of Jesus’ sacrifice for them. My brother and sister pass along the faith to their children through illustrated Bibles and books about Jesus that engage their children in new ways. I see my Millennial nieces and nephews sharing their faith through witness statements at their confirmations and through kind texts to their less-than tech savvy uncle.

Each generation has a new way to share Jesus, I realize, and no way is better or worse than another. As long as the Word is placed into the hands of the next generation in some form or fashion, the work of the Lord is done and the story of salvation continues. What can you do today to place the news of the Gospel into the hands of a member of another generation?