Occupy the manger #8: A season of peace?

Yesterday, I had to do the devotional for our church staff meeting so I chose Isaiah 9:2-7 which is the Old Testament reading for this final week before Christmas. This is the passage that describes Jesus as the “prince of peace.” We pondered together what it means to understand peace as the agenda for Christmas. Continue reading


Occupy the manger #7: Mary’s uncomfortable prophecy

As our call to worship this Sunday in church, we read Mary’s Magnificat, a prophetic song that she bursts into in Luke 1:46-55 after her cousin Elizabeth confirms that she has the son of God in her womb. Verse 53 made me flinch because I wasn’t sure how people would react. It says, “He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.” This sounds a lot like what political pundits nowadays term “class warfare.” Is that what Mary’s advocating? Is she saying that God rejects people with money? I know quite a few people with money who like to spend it on God’s kingdom, and I don’t think that God sends them away empty. So this verse is worth wrestling through. Continue reading

Mary: God-bearer

Sermon preached at LifeSign, Burke UMC on 12/17/11
Text: Luke 1:26-38

“Mr. Guyton,” she said, “I’m pregnant.” Sadie was one of my best students. I had been impressed enough by her writing in my 10th grade English class that I recommended she join our school newspaper staff, which she did and continued to excel so I promoted her to an editor position and was grooming her to be our next editor-in-chief. The high school where I taught didn’t send many graduates off to college, but Sadie was unusually bright, so I had held high hopes for her future. Continue reading

Occupy the manger #5: Giving up on perfect

Chapter 2 in Mike Slaughter’s Christmas is Not Your Birthday is called “Giving up on perfect.” He talks about the way that Christmas has become a time when we put enormous pressure on ourselves to make it the perfect experience. I’ve been a little sheepish to hear all the chit-chat that other people have been making about all the decorations that they’re putting up: the lights, the tree, etc. So let me just come out and say that my family does not have our Christmas tree up, nor our lights, nor any of the other knicknacky things that are still in a box somewhere. We haven’t even gotten done with raking our autumn leaves yet. Continue reading

“I am not the messiah!”

So how many of you know something about John the Baptist? If you had to describe him in one word, what would it be? What about humble? Well it’s not the first word that comes to my mind either. Some of you know that Pastor Larry and I try to preach on the same passage each week. So when Pastor Larry told me the topic for this week was humility and the model for humility was John the Baptist, I was perplexed. John the Baptist was loud and rude and judgmental. He was a fire and brimstone sidewalk preacher. Continue reading

Occupy the manger #3: the eternal Word (Isaiah 40)

Isaiah 40 is our Old Testament reading for Advent this week. Isaiah 40 is famous for being the prophetic text about John the Baptist: “the voice of one calling in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord,” etc. But I was drawn to a different aspect of the passage when I read it:

All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them…
The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever. [Is 40:6b-8] Continue reading

Occupy the manger #2: a landscape of glory (Psalm 85)

The word “glory” is one of those Biblical words that we use a lot without necessarily contemplating what it really means. I know there’s a movie Glory about black soldiers fighting in the Civil War that I’ve never seen. In one of my favorite childhood Disney Channel movies, The Fighting Prince of Donegal, Prince Hugh says before the climactic battle, “The greatest glory shall go to him who takes the greatest risk.” And then of course, there’s the popular church hymn that says, “To God be the glory for the things He has done.” Continue reading