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Plenty of Room at the Inn: The Nativity Scene Resurrected | On Being

Plenty of Room at the Inn: The Nativity Scene Resurrected | On Being

We must always be attentive to the edges of our own storytelling. Attractive as it may be to children, and lodged as it may be upon the portrayed scenes of religious Christmas cards, it is simply incorrect to think that Mary and Joseph were forced into a stable. They found shelter in the kindness of a family, presumably Joseph’s kin, in his traditional homeland of Bethlehem. This kindness was so ordinary, so expected, so taken for granted that Luke, the gentle evangelist, did not even make mention of the family whose home was used for what we consider to be the birthing of a godchild to confused parents.

Read more Plenty of Room at the Inn: The Nativity Scene Resurrected | On Being.


Mary’s Magnificat and ‘I am a thought in God.’


by Macha Chmakoff
The magnificat is beautiful and celebratory song. It is known as the magnificat, because that is the opening word of Mary’s famous song in Latin. In Greek it is Megalunei, which means to magnify, grow, enlarge! It is thought to be one of the earliest Christian hymns ever recorded and it is one of four found in the Gospel of Luke. It is the subject of much art throughout history and composers have loved to set music to the words: most notably Vivaldi and Johann Sebastian Bach.

For most of us, our experience of the announcement of a Child’s birth is cause for excitement. Even mores with Mary – the birth of Jesus, foretold by Gabriel is shocking news that causes the Singer song-writer in Mary to break out into a powerful number.

Just like her belly pregnant with the Son of God, she says her soul is growing, getting bigger because of what God has chosen to do through her.

DIY Reviews

The Moleskine of calendars @NeuYear (Review and 40% Discount)

I am a big fan of Moleskine – and Moleskine-like – notebooks. High-quality “analog” ways of note-taking, planning and sketching are where it is at for me. So you can imagine my delight when I learned about Jesse Philips NeuYear Calendars. After receiving mine for review I can say it truly is as she said “the moleskine of calendars.”

I received this beautiful planning calendar a couple weeks back and am loving it. It’s on high-quality heavy paper, the colors are lovely and the front of the calendar has all of the days running horizontal, and the back is laid-out vertically. So you have options! Finally, the fact that it has no gaps between the months and your whole year can be seen at once makes ministry planning (or any other kind of planning for that matter) much easier.

Check out the image gallery:


A Light Is Lit in Order to Give Light (Romero)

A Christian community is evangelized in order to evangelize.
A light is lit
in order to give light.
A candle is not lit to be put under a bushel, said Christ.
It is lit and put up high
in order to give light.

That is what a true community is like.

A community is a group of men and women
who have found the truth in Christ and in his gospel, and who follow the truth
and join together to follow it more strongly.

It is not just an individual conversion, but a community conversion.
It is a family that believes,
a group that accepts God.

In the group, each one finds that the brother or sister is a source of strength
and that in moments of weakness they help one another and, by loving one another and believing,
they give light and example.

The preacher no longer needs to preach,
for there are Christians who preach by their own lives. I said once and I repeat today
that if, unhappily, some day they silence our radio and don’t let us write our newspaper,
each of you who believe
must become a microphone, a radio station,
a loudspeaker,
not to talk, but to call for faith.

I am not afraid that our faith may depend
only on the archbishop’s preaching; I don’t think I’m that important.

I believe that this message,
which is only a humble echo of God’s word, enters your hearts,
not because it is mine,
but because it comes from God.

Oscar Romer – OCTOBER 29, 1978


The Shootings, With a “What?,” and a “Yes” – Luke 3:10-17

This is the message I gave at meeting for worship this morning:

And the crowds asked him, ‘What then should we do?’ In reply he said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.’ Even tax-collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages’ (Luke 1:10-14).


This has been a hard week. A terrible week. Things have happened this week that should not have happened. No mother, no father, no grandparent and no child should experience the kinds of things we have seen this week.

On Tuesday, 60 gunshots rang out where 3 people – following the normal routine of Christmas shopping, in a typical setting – a mall, died in Portland. Two were killed point blank and the shooter took his own life.

On Wednesday, there were two instances of students bringing guns to school, one at Evergreen High School and the other at Skyview – both schools in Clark County.

And on Friday, we have all heard the devastation that took place in CT, when a 20 year-old man who was believed to be mentally ill, killed his own mother, and then went on a shooting spree at an elementary school.

And that’s this week. There have been 6 mass shootings in America this year. This is terrible. It is scary. And it is enraging.


Romero on Christmas

No one can celebrate
a genuine Christmas
without being truly poor.
The self-sufficient, the proud,
those who, because they have
everything, look down on others,
those who have no need
even of God–for them there
will be no Christmas.
Only the poor, the hungry,
those who need someone
to come on their behalf,
will have that someone.
That someone is God.
Emmanuel. God-with-us.
Without poverty of spirit
there can be no abundance of God.

-Oscar Romero

Sermons Uncategorized

Parking Lots, Crooked Paths and Open Hearts (Luke 3)

This is the message I gave today at Camas Friends during meeting for worship. It is based on Luke 3:1-6.

Walmart Parking Lot

The Parking Lots

When I was in high school I did what many people my age have done for generations and that was work as a grocery store carry-out: a bag-boy as we called it back then. I have many fond memories from that first job, not least of which was my promotion to working in the dairy department where my colleagues and I would eat ice-cream from damaged cartons, and have the bakery bake us up frozen pizza’s that we’d “accidentally” sliced through while stocking them in the freezers.

As a bag-boy there were two main areas that I conducted my job: the end of the register where I bagged groceries, and the parking lot where I traversed the sea of cars next to the customer I was serving on many blistery Ohio nights in the rain, sleet and slushy snow.

Of these two locations, the parking lot was where I had some of the most profound experiences of my life as a bag-boy. As a young and very earnest Christian, I took every opportunity to talk to people about my faith, the worship band I was playing on, and even offer to pray with my customers. I remember many times in that 2-5 min. walk to a customer’s car having the opportunity to catch-up with my regulars, listen to someone who had just learned bad news, or hear of family troubles at home. More than once did I offer to pray for them whether right there standing by their car, or later on my own. I never had anyone turn me down. I used what little space was given carefully, I was never pushy, I didn’t always talk about faith, but you’d be surprised how many times in that parking in Alliance Ohio, I had an opportunity to be a listening and compassionate presence.

The Artful

Happy Xmas (War is Over) – Polyphonic Spree Covers Lennon

I love, love, love Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War is Over).” I always have and always will. It reminds me of growing up, I love the emotion of the song, and I share his optimism for a better world. Polyphonic Spree recently covered it and did a stellar job. From NPR Music.


Transitions, Temple and Reweaving the Bonds of Human Life (Mark 13)

This is the message I gave two weeks ago at Camas Friends Church on Mark 13:1-8.

Life Transitions

This past summer I found myself feeling drained, exhausted, uninspired and generally not myself. I felt like everything was slipping through my fingers, time was moving too quickly, things felt lifeless and draining to me. I didn’t know why.

Have you ever felt that? I don’t know about you, but in these times my prayers that are offered are also uninspired. They often feel like words that fall flat onto the floor like dead weights. In these times we struggle to connect in any meaningful way with ourselves, let alone with others.

Looking back I can now identify a number of things that happened that left me feeling anxious and isolated:

  • In a short time our third – and final child was born. Our family was growing.
  • We learned that the home we bought going to become a serious financial burden on us.
  • A number of my close friends moved or transitioned to new jobs.
  • I found myself again at a cross-roads in my dissertation.
  • And my work was going well, but had clearly shifted from being new, to thinking more about longevity.

None of these are tragic, a number of them are very good but even good things can leave you feeling bemused.

An insightful friend was initially the one to point out that I was leaning into a significant life transition. He told me that I had come to a point or moment in life when everything that was once easily marked by short deadlines – like college, grad school, start a family, get a job, get a house…all achievable goals that were in the past (minus the dissertation). Now I was now facing a wide-open life that was less about arriving at certain deadlines and more about patience, longevity, and endurance.