Motivated Spirituality


See how Christmas-y we are?
In our house we loooove Christmas. You know those houses you pass that are covered with lights and blow-ups and candy cane path lights and life size nativity scenes... Well, ours looks kind of like that, only it's all on the inside. We have a tree with about a thousand lights and ornaments, those dancing, singing table-top things that use a lot of batteries (like the Homer Simpson in a Santa suit that sings, among other things, "Deck the Halls with Buddy Holly, fa-la-la-la-la...") We have nutcrackers on every surface, stockings hung by the chimney with care, lights around the windows, Santa nesting dolls, seasonal throw pillows and quilts, Christmas coffee table books... Bill even has his own little tree in his room. 
At the Christmas parade
It's all kind of insane, I know, but I do love it. We are a relatively young family, but we have established our own traditions already... mostly involving regular events like marching with the cub scouts the Chapel Hill-Carrboro parade (one year we saw John Edwards!), and our families, like our annual Sneed-Moore throwdown the Saturday before every Christmas... during which we manage to "throw down" a large amount of traditional holiday vittles and try to tell each other everything we wanted to say during the previous year. 
Even though I am creeping up on fifty, I have never really gotten over the sweet magic of Christmas, and I love passing it on to Bill. I know that as a Christian, I am supposed to be appalled at the commercialization of it all, and freaked out by how the secular world has co-opted the celebration of the birth of Our Lord... but I'm just not. I mean, I think you can have Christmas without spending a ton of money, and it doesn't to hurt to go to church on Christmas Eve and get into Advent, which is a good way to remember and anticipate the celebration of Jesus' birth... because then you're on board to remember what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown... 
In my opinion, there is no such thing 
as too many Sneeds (or Moores!) at a party...

Yes, instead of seeing it as the world stealing our celebration of Christ, I prefer to see it as the time when our celebration of Jesus invades the world! When else do you turn on commercial radio and hear someone singing about adoring Christ the Lord? We Tivo'd the tree lighting at Rockefeller Center the other night and were surprised to see Neil Diamond, a Jewish fellow, singing Christmas carols... and not just the ones about snow and chestnuts roasting on an open fire! It's like everything is turned upside down... in a good way!
I have a great Christmas album called Christmas Time, which has a bunch of local (North Carolina) artists on it - including Peter Holsapple singing O Holy Night. It is a mellow, non-pompous, very earnest rendition, and I just love hearing it. The sad thing is - whenever I hear it, my head is filled with questions like, "Does he believe what he's singing? Or does he just think it's a good song? Or is he just singing it to help his friend and fellow dB Chris Stamey who is putting the record together? Or is he just hoping to make some money from it?"
What's a nice Jewish fellow like Neil 
Diamond doing singing Christmas songs?
But really, who cares? I mean, whatever his reason for singing it, at least for the time it took to rehearse and record it, he was actually conscious of Jesus. And then all the connoisseurs of local music who bought the album, whenever they listen to it, THEY will be aware of Jesus, even if they're not listening to the words, and it's just creeping through the back door of their minds... Because God can be sneaky that way. ("But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached." Philippians 1)
Peter Holsapple and his friends, the dB's -
great '80s power pop from Winston-Salem
I once heard a Christmas Eve sermon by a man named Jim Thomas, who, while speaking of Jesus' birth, also talked about an incident at Jesus' death. See, when He was on the cross and breathed his last breath, the temple curtain split in two. I'll give a little background here: in the Jewish temple, there was a secret area called the "Holy of Holies" and no one was allowed in there except a priest, and he could only go in one time a year. And even then he had to have a rope tied to his ankle in case something happened to him in there - that way they could drag him out without having to go in there. That's where they kept the 10 Commandments... and the Mercy Seat... and where the sins of the whole nation were washed away on the Day of Atonement. And anyone who went in there other than the appointed priest on that special day, would die... I'm not sure why - maybe because God is so great and wild and glorious, no one can stand to be that close to Him.
Jim Thomas - he fights
AIDS in his work at the UNC
School of Public Health
and gives amazing sermons
in his spare time

Anyway, Jim Thomas said (and I paraphrase): "It is usual to think that the curtain split because Jesus death made it possible for ANYONE to come into God's Presence. But I like to think it was so God could spill out.... out into the main temple area, into the court of women, farther out into the court of the Gentiles... and then across the world..." As Jesus told his disciples (Acts 1): "You shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." And Jesus' message - His birth, life and death are for everyone - all over the world... as we sing in Joy to the World, "far as the curse is found." The shepherds were itinerants... the Wise Men were Gentiles - possibly sorcerers, but they got the message...
And even if Christmas as we know it is busy and gaudy and Mariah Carey in a sexy Santa suit and Justin Bieber singing All I Want for Christmas Is You, it's also a time when the name of Christ is OUT THERE... invading the airwaves, our schedules ... and our souls, if we let him!

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The Hit List

  • Supplications, Prayers, Intercessions, and Thanksgivings +

    Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, O Lord, turn from yourfierce wrath; change your mind and do not Read More
  • Thanksgiving +

    Why should we give thanks to God? Why should we come to him with our praises,? In the scriptures, there Read More
  • ACTS (Adoration, Contrition/confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) +

    Following this introduction to prayer, there are links to articles involving each of the four types of prayer-adoration, contrition/confession, thanksgiving, Read More
  • Thanksgiving: ACTS, A Blueprint for Prayer by Alex Kirk +

    Alex Kirk of Chatham Community Church discusses Thanksgiving, part 3 of his series on prayer-Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. Read More
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Gems

  • Avoiding Casualties: A sermon by Jim Hugerich +

    Spiritual warfare is something that few Christians, regardless of their denomination, are accustomed to thinking about, let alone engaging in. Read More
  • Does God Control Everything?: Tim Keller sermon +

    Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC, has an insightful discussion about free will, pre-destination and God's omnipotence, Read More
  • A Healthy Obsession: a sermon by Jay Thomas +

    Jay Thomas's sermon in November, 2010 at the Chapel Hill Bible Church, "Why Am I So Obsessed with the Gospel?", Read More
  • Just People: a sermon by Francis Chan +

    Francis Chan's sermon at the Reality Church August 22 and 29, 2010. http://realitymessages.com/audio/20100822-Fearless-32kbps.mp3 http://realitymessages.com/audio/20100829-Fearless_Part2-32kbps.mp3 Read More
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