2019 Advent Devotion 19

A little bit?

At our church communion is served by intinction. People come forward and there is a serving station with one person holding a plate with small pieces of bread and another person holding a chalice. The people take a piece of bread, dip it into the cup, eat it, and return to their seats.

On a recent communion Sunday, upon arriving at the serving station, a congregant commented, “I just want a little bit.” Considering the piece of bread is usually about the size of a peanut and can’t hold much juice when dipped, what is “a little bit”? It seems that everyone only gets a little bit. Why would someone want to be sure to get just a little bit of a little bit?

Is the message, I only want a little bit – of Jesus? Like, I can only take a small dose of this Christianity thing? I’m not too sure about this; maybe just a little to see what it is like? Not too much, though. “I only want a little bit.” Maybe.

But I like another way of seeing this. I only want a little bit. Because that’s all it takes. You only need a little bit. Of this Jesus thing. This Christianity. This Gospel. A little goes a long way. It makes a huge difference. Only a little bit and everything is affected. I just want a little bit because that will make all the difference.

Maybe this is good way to think about Christmas. Instead of thinking of all of our manifold plans and parties, remember that it only takes a little bit. Just a little bit of Christmas can go a long way. Make a huge difference. Be transforming. Just a little bit – of Jesus. It’s all we need to turn our lives right side up and leave us singing. We only need a little bit of Christmas. That’s all it takes.

In a world where we always want more, we are drawn to Jesus and with him a little is enough. May we look for a glimmer, a morsel, a hint of the holy for that is all we need. Love is potent and in plentiful supply at Christmas and all year long! Amen.

2019 Advent Devotion 18


Maybe by this time in December you are starting to abandon some of your grand designs for Christmas and thinking about what actually needs to happen. What must I do before Christmas? Maybe you are lowering your expectations so that you can have a successful Christmas.

But what is a ‘successful’ Christmas? The word successful can mean different things to different people.

I got a holiday greeting this season from Congressman Charlie Crist. It was sent to me at the church. Here is the message on the card: “As your public servant, it is my goal to live by the Golden Rule. When we work together, and find common ground, we build a more successful world. I hope your holiday season is filled with love and joy.” The card is signed by Charlie Crist. [And paid for by Charlie Crist for Congress.] What is a more successful world? That can mean different things to different people. To some it may mean better schools and health care for everyone. To some it may mean fewer obstacles to business and profit. To some it may mean turning around global warming. A more successful world can mean many different things and I think we, as citizens and human beings, should be having conversations about what makes the world more successful; what a more successful world looks like. I think conversations of that nature among diverse people could be very illuminating.

As a Jesus follower, I am going to look to Jesus for ways to think about what it means to be successful and to build a more successful world though I don’t think he would use the word ‘successful.’

As for Christmas, Jesus was born. So Christmas has already been successful. And we didn’t have to do anything!

We are grateful for the birth of Jesus. Everything needed to make Christmas a time of joy and love has already happened. May our celebrations reflect what has already been given to us. May we follow Jesus and learn from him what it means to be fully human and build a loving, just, and peaceful world. Amen.

2019 Advent Devotion 17

Morals and Money

This has been quite a week. Lots of news. Which is nothing new. But the impeachment hearings and votes were noteworthy. Many people did not listen this go round unlike impeachment processes in the past. The situation with Nixon, though it did not end in impeachment, was followed very closely by most Americans. The impeachment of Bill Clinton was also closely followed by most people. But then sex sells. But it was not so this time with the impeachment of the current president.

This got me thinking about many things. One is morals and money. If money and power are your game, then you have your perspective on this situation and there is no reason to be bothered with additional information including any facts. The love of money and power predetermine the narrative you will endorse.

If you are concerned with morals, then there is no point in bothering to listen because the facts have spoken. Nothing more needs to be heard. So why tune in to the hearings and debates? Listening to that verbiage can be toxic. Who needs that?

Morals and money. In the birth stories of Jesus in the Bible, there are some very clear messages about morals and money. Mary and Joseph are not wealthy or prominent. God chooses to work through these everyday people not through rich and powerful people with status and position, to bless the world. Money doesn’t get you in with God.

And Joseph could divorce Mary, we are told in Matthew, but he doesn’t. He follows the moral guidance he is given by God instead of protecting his male status and his property rights over Mary. Instead, he does what is morally good.

And the magi mentioned in Matthew, come from a foreign land, seeking to validate this newborn king who will rule with moral authority not with money.

And then the angels in the birth story in Luke go to the shepherds. They do not to the high priests in the Temple or to the governor. But to the shepherds out in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks, to announce the good news of the birth of Jesus. That’s like making an announcement to the Hispanic farmworkers out in the fields picking strawberries in Plant City. What about Tallahassee? What about Miami? What about Orlando??? Nope. Think Immokalee.

In the Christmas stories, morals talk and money and its accompanying power are silent. It’s a far cry from our current condition. Which is why we still need Jesus and we need Christmas again.

This holy season, may we reflect on our values and what we care about. Are the angels coming to us? What moral authority are we validating? Do we let money do all the talking? May we find our way to the manger and go home a different way. Amen.

2019 Advent Devotion 16

Too busy?

Are you too busy? This is a bad time of year to ask that. Of course we are busy! But are we TOO busy? Are the days so full that there isn’t enough time for rest? For healthy eating? For church? For self-care? For quiet? For exercise? For friends and family? For music? For whatever feeds the soul?

I had to admit to my daughter today that I have done nothing about Christmas presents for my family. With one exception. The 6 month old grandchild. “That’s all that matters,” she said. Whew! I hope her brothers and her husband feel that way!

What is too busy? I heard something in passing on the radio that mentioned being too busy for beauty. I think that is a good definition of TOO busy. When we are too busy for beauty, we are too busy. When we are too busy to notice the beauty of nature, the beauty of a smile, the beauty of art or music, the beauty of a kind word, we are simply too busy.

For me, this time of year the test of ‘too busy for beauty’ is Christmas lights. I love Christmas lights. When I am too busy to notice Christmas lights when I am driving at night, I am too busy. When I am too busy to go out of my way a few blocks to see some beautiful lights, I am too busy. When I am too busy to turn on the Christmas lights at our house, I am too busy.

What does too busy mean for you? We should never be too busy for beauty.

There is so much beauty in this life and in this holy season. Amidst our busy-ness, may we still notice the beauty around us. Jesus saw beauty in every person. May we look at the world with his eyes. Amen.