Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Day in paradise

Here on the North Shore of Oahu the sun is out, the wind is blowing and the waves are ripping. We are staying down the road from the Bonzai Pipeline which was the place to be for the surfing competition this past week. Today is Christmas Day and after years of being responsible for Christmas church services it was different beginning the day opening gifts with the grandkids and then taking a long walk along the beach. Later we spent some time by the pool and tonight it's fish and shrimp on the grill. Like I said a different Christmas day from all those spent leading church services in northern climes.

Not yet used to the five hour difference in time from the east coast I was up way too early. I read a psalm and the beginning of John's gospel. Then, I read a challenging piece by Christoph Blumhardt in a book of essays entitled Called to Community. Blumhardt was a German pastor who lived in the late 1800's but his writings influenced a whole generation of later theologians including Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He writes simply yet powerfully. His big theme was God's kingdom is now. How can we preach freedom from worry (Jesus said, Do not worry!) when we do nothing to alleviate what people are worried about. Don't just say, Don't worry, simply believe in Jesus to a person who is burdened by life. Don't tell a man who is without a job and worried to get a job to make his wages. Worries can and should cease in the church because we really care for each other. In this way the kingdom comes. In the little flock that is free from the anxieties of life because they live a shared life where each is responsible for the other - there it can be said, Do not worry.

In the world we are full of cares and worries. They are evident even in a paradise like Hawaii. There were warnings this weekend to be on the alert for possible terrorist attacks at Christmas celebrations. In a couple of weeks, I will be preaching on Herod's attempt to kill the baby Jesus. The reality is we live in a world where there is little hope, or peace or love. The little flocks of today are signs  of what the kingdom of God can be and is. There we find the hope, peace, and love that that we celebrate this day in birth of Jesus - fleshed out.

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