Author's details

Name: wtmcclendon
Date registered: March 3, 2012
URL: http://wtmcclendon.wordpress.com

Latest posts

  1. A Potter's View: Perspective and Opportunity in United Methodist Appointment-Making — January 22, 2015
  2. A Potter's View: Je suis Charlie — January 15, 2015
  3. A Potter's View: Our Baptism and the Lord’s! — January 6, 2015
  4. A Potter's View: Keeping Christmas and a Blessed 2015! — December 29, 2014
  5. A Potter's View: “Burlap, Boys, and Christmas” — December 22, 2014

Most commented posts

  1. A Potter's View: Trinity Sunday as United Methodist Hope — 1 comment
  2. A Potter's View: Church Conflict and United Methodist Zeitgeist — 1 comment
  3. A Potter's View: A Cord of Three Strands — 1 comment

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Jan 22 2015

A Potter's View: Perspective and Opportunity in United Methodist Appointment-Making

Original post at https://wtmcclendon.wordpress.com/2015/01/22/perspective-and-opportunity-in-united-methodist-appointment-making/

“Boy, do I have an opportunity for you!” are words that most United Methodist clergy have heard or will hear during their ministry. Within the next 6 weeks this phrase will be used a lot! The difficulty is that one person’s definition of “opportunity” may not match someone else’s. It is a statement usually said by district superintendents who are on the front-line of making appointments. They are at the point of the triangle between churches and clergy, matchmakers who have on-site knowledge of their churches and ministers. This knowledge is shared with the bishop’s whole cabinet, and through shared discernment, matches are made.

In the UMC system defining an “opportunity” is always a matter of perspective. It takes conferencing about the perspective of the local church and its perception of desired leadership needs; the perspective of the clergy and where they are in their ministry or the importance of family considerations; and the perspective of the bishop and cabinet who are scanning the needs of the whole annual conference and doing their very best to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

Connectionalism and working together is part and parcel of United Methodism. Therefore, appointments are made by the whole cabinet, though the Bishop alone is given constitutional authority (Par. 54, 2012 Book of Discipline) to do so after “consultation with the district superintendents.” Consultation includes local churches and clergy, too, and that appears in the form of church and clergy profiles. Therefore, everyone takes a hand, not least God, in our system of clergy deployment. Staff-Parish Relations Committees complete Church Profiles that describe the church, and clergy fill out Pastor Profiles that offer insights into their situations. By the way, both need to understand the importance of a well-presented profile. Those profiles will be pored over with microscopic attention when appointments are made. Please at least use spell-check!

A key paragraph from my perspective about appointment-making is found in Par. 428.4 which says, “All appointments shall receive consideration by the bishop, the district superintendent(s), and the cabinet as a whole until a tentative decision is made.” This fleshes out for me that our appointment-making system is a collegial effort, though the final decision indeed belongs to the bishop. As a former district superintendent who maxed out my tenure after 8 years, and one who is absolutely relishing being appointed to a thriving congregation, I think that a key word as we ramp up for the annual anxiety-laden period of possible clergy transitions is “perspective.”

The bishop and cabinet have a perspective about clergy and churches and the needs of the whole conference, and sometimes they have to make decisions about which only they know all the facts. Churches have their own unique perspective and rightly so if they can only count on one hand the number of effective ministers they have had in any given person’s lifetime. Clergy certainly have a unique perspective shaped by their family needs, and their sense of their gifts and graces and how they might be best utilized. So, what we have as we approach “appointment season” in the UMC is an “intriguing dance of perspectives,” a cooperative connectional effort to discern who goes where and who gets whom.

I pray for all those who are feeling the tensions rise in anticipation. Being on a trapeze with one hand letting go of one bar (pastor, church, friend, etc.) and willing to trust God enough to reach out for that the next bar (church, pastor, friend, etc.) is daunting, yet potentially thrilling. Throughout the whole process, as it is bathed in prayer, we absolutely must believe that God is in this enterprise, that Jesus will be glorified, however saddened or distraught we might be. In other words, we need more than a human perspective. We must affirm that a heavenly perspective is of highest importance. In our system we yield ourselves to a scary and vulnerable process not unlike the risk Jesus took in his incarnation.

So the word is “Perspective,” both divine and human. This is the essence of our belief in the system we call “itineracy,” the moving of clergy. John Wesley called itineracy the “apostolic plan of evangelization.” He thought that our “sent,” not “called” system was and is one of God’s best ways of mobilizing and energizing God’s salvific plan for humanity. I agree and have yielded myself to our peculiar process. Trust me, I haven’t always seen the wisdom of the bishop and cabinet, nor have all of my appointments been rosy. I do know this, however, that God has provided for me, my family, the local church, and the community. When we yield to a divine perspective all other perspectives come into focus!

Some people claim that their personal perspective is supreme and that their needs and/or agenda supplants and trumps everyone else’s. That’s not our system. I’ve seen people finagle their way upwards using manipulation and maneuvering, but, sooner or later, their solitary and self-promoting perspective will come to a halting stop. They have elevated what they want over saying “Yes!” and yielding. God help the UMC if that kind of personal aggrandizement ever wins the day.

Let me share a story that illustrates the illusion that getting our way and making what we think are unseen jabs is the way to go in appointment-making, whether by churches, clergy, district superintendents, and even bishops. Good appointment-making values everyone’s perspective, especially God’s. The story goes like this:

“During World War II, a general and his aide, a lieutenant, were traveling from one base to another. They were forced to travel with civilians aboard a passenger train. They found their compartments where two other folks were already seated – an attractive young lady and her grandmother. For most of the trip, they conversed freely. The train entered a long and rather dark tunnel. Once inside the tunnel, the passengers in this particular car heard two distinct sounds – the first was the smack of a kiss; the second was the loud sound of a slap.

Now, although these four people were in the same compartment aboard the passenger train, they came to four differing perspectives. The young lady thought how glad she was that the young lieutenant got up the courage to kiss her, but she was somewhat disappointed at her grandmother for slapping him for doing it; the general thought to himself how proud he was of his young lieutenant for being enterprising enough to find this opportunity to kiss the attractive young lady but was flabbergasted that she slapped him instead of the lieutenant; the grandmother was flabbergasted to think that the young lieutenant would have the gall to kiss her granddaughter, but was proud of her granddaughter for slapping him for doing it; and the young lieutenant was trying to hold back the laughter, for he found the perfect opportunity to kiss an attractive young girl and slap his superior officer all at the same time!”

Perhaps our so-called “opportunities” are not at all what they seem, or they are fleeting chances for us to “work” the system and “slap” the “Man” by bucking authority. We better be careful not to be so creative in our massaging the system that God’s video cam doesn’t catch us and we end up as our own worst enemy. I would rather trust the communal perspective of our appointment-making system than end up getting what I finagled for and be absolutely miserable. So, let’s trust everyone’s perspective, especially God’s! Everyone’s input has more opportunity for fruitful ministry.

Me, Narcie, and Josh at Josh's Ordination

Narcie, Josh, and I at Josh’s Ordination

The red Stoles represent the Yoke of Christ saying that We YIELD to where we are SENT!

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2015/01/perspective-and-opportunity-in-united-methodist-appointment-making/

Jan 15 2015

A Potter's View: Je suis Charlie

Original post at https://wtmcclendon.wordpress.com/2015/01/15/je-suis-charlie/

Some people are so narrow-minded that they can see through a keyhole with both eyes. As I think about the upcoming Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the terrorist attacks in France, I wonder how narrow-minded I am. As a planet we seem hell-bent on emphasizing our differences rather than our commonalities. I admit that diversity matters and that there are valid reasons for differences of opinions.

For instance, I’m a Christian and not a Muslim. Therefore, without apology, I am not one who believes that all religions are just different trains going to the same place. I do believe in the unique work of Jesus Christ to save us. I uphold, without reservation, what it says in Acts 4:12 about Jesus, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given by which we must be saved.”

Nevertheless, I do believe in common grace and that all humanity reflects the image of God. I am perfectly fine if the doctor who operates on someone that I love is Hindu or Muslim, just so they’re the best! I will resist the temptation to think that all Jews are money-grubbers, all Muslims are terrorists, all Chinese are math whizzes, and all Christians are hypocrites, although I resemble that last observation! In Biblical parlance (Romans 3:23), “We have all sinned and fallen short of the Gory of God,” and at the same time we’re all equally valued and loved by God.

All of this ramped up tension between Islam and Christianity makes me think about how we navigate our differences. I am reminded that this Sunday is Human Relations Day. I wonder how far we have come since Dr. King’s efforts. Paragraph 263.1 in the 2012 United Methodist Book of Discipline, describes Human Relations Day: “This Sunday occurs during Epiphany, the season of manifesting God’s light to the world. Human Relations Day calls the Church to recognize the right of relationship with each other. The purpose of the day is to further the development of better human relations.”

How can we promote better human relations? The quick answer is, “Love!” However, love for sheer love’s sake may be misguided, co-dependent, or, worse, do more harm than good. The United Methodist Church’s General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR), of which I’m a member, embraces a three-fold strategy for promoting better relationships that I think is practical and attainable: Intercultural Competency, Institutional Equity, and Vital Conversations. It may be helpful to think about what each of these means.

When I think of intercultural competency I think of ways that we can help more people exhibit the innocence of children. People aren’t born racists. Somewhere along the way, it’s learned. We need to unlearn it! That takes understanding another person’s culture, even within races. Church is so socio-economically driven and homogeneous. We belong to different denominations more by net worth than a common baptism and Lord.

I have to ask myself: Whom am I overlooking and thereby judging as having less importance? The only way for me to overcome this tendency is to get to know people that I assume are different from me. I have to ask why I’m the way that I am and why they are their way. Bottom line is that intercultural competency takes effort, vulnerability, and invitation. Who are the strangers in your life that might become friends if you worked at it, opened up, and invited them into the sphere of your daily interactions?

Institutional equity isn’t about monitoring who speaks at a meeting and whether they’re this race or that, and whether or not they represent a particular gender. Institutional equity has at its heart a bigger question of “Who’s not at the table?” which means to me that we need to make all the playing fields in society fair, and not just cater to specific demographics. Jesus came to save the whole world, not just my people or my segment of the culture.

GCORR asks it this way about institutional equity and the church, “How do we transform churchwide structures and practices so that decision-making and priorities reflect the whole people of God, including  younger people, more diverse people and people for whom English is not their first language?” Again, my summary of this asks that whenever a key decision is made that affects more than just me: “Who am I leaving out of the conversation?” It’s another way of asking the question of who’s not at the table, and if you ever had to sit at a child’s table where you went last and had to be quiet, you get what institutional equity is.

Finally, vital conversations are the engine to make this world a better place. I can learn about another culture and never get out of my chair, or so I might think. I can say I treat everyone fairly, but if I don’t have vital conversations and literally put my energy where my mouth is, I’m wasting time. Vital conversations are a must! On too many issues we are either Fox News or CNN and not much in between. Our government is polarized and I’m worried that the events in France will make us more “us and them” rather than “we.” I resonate with those who declare, “Je suis Charlie” because we are all “Charlie.” The US should have been better represented because America can’t fight terrorism alone. It is a human problem and we have to work together. Vital conversations are needed between disparate ideologies and peoples. Maybe when people can put a face on those that are different, then they’re not so different!

I am all for honoring the fine women and men in blue who protect us, but I, like many, have been taken aback by events in Ferguson, Missouri, New York, and even the hung-jury in Eutawville, SC where a white police chief shot and killed an unarmed black man. I know there is conflicting evidence and I honestly lean toward believing law enforcement over Citizen Joe no matter what their race or religious persuasion. But I wonder if I have been too trusting of authority and blind to those who are profiled into fear whenever they’re out in public. Such fear has no place in an equitable society where liberty and justice are indeed for all.

But frankly I am a profiler, too. Aren’t we all to an extent? I must get beyond my narrow-mindedness and my prejudices. I don’t want to resemble William James’ remark, “A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.”

We live in a difficult time where circumstances and world events make it easy to judge those who are different. We must not, however, allow fascism to re-emerge. Martin Luther King did not die in vain and neither have the citizens of Paris and many other cities and locations. We have to do better and this MLK Day I am pledging to follow GCORR’s advice by promoting Intercultural Competency, Institutional Equity, and Vital Conversations.


Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2015/01/je-suis-charlie-2/

Jan 06 2015

A Potter's View: Our Baptism and the Lord’s!

Original post at http://wtmcclendon.wordpress.com/2015/01/06/our-baptism-and-the-lords/

This coming Sunday is Baptism of the Lord Sunday. This has always been the focus of the first Sunday after Epiphany Day, January 6.  This whole season continues week after week with miraculous revelations of God’s mighty power. At Jesus’ baptism God’s voice spoke and the Holy Spirit like a dove landed on Jesus and claimed him as God’s – a beloved Son with whom the Father was well pleased. Baptism does that for each of us, too. In baptism we are affirmed and claimed by God, set apart for holy endeavors and divine companionship.

The problem is that often I don’t feel that special. I’ve been rebuffed, picked last, and criticized. Anyone who has played a pick-up game of basketball, sandlot baseball, or backyard football knows how the experience can be downright exhilarating or humiliating. It depends on your team, and when you were chosen. No one likes being chosen last. Sometimes your estimated worth in the eyes of your peers isn’t what you had hoped. If you’re not first, you’re the first of those chosen last. If you’re not top dog and first in line the view changes appreciably, and not for the better.

Check out God’s way of picking people. Does He go for the fleet-footed? The Scriptures describe a God who picks his team without regard for what seems to make for usual success. Abram and Sarai were awfully old to be making a cross-country trip and bearing babies. Jacob was a deceiver. Joseph was an egotistical dreamer. Moses had a speech problem. David was too young when he was first picked by God, and when he grew up he went down hill with his penchant for window-shopping; i.e., Bathsheba. Solomon’s untidy way of making alliances certainly raised a mighty harem, but also destroyed his family.

The list of neurotics could go on and on. God chooses the unlikeliest cast for his tasks. In the New Testament one doesn’t have to look far before bumping into the likes of impetuous Simon Peter, money-grubbing Judas, and Paul with whatever his “thorn in the flesh” was. Of course, everyone is neurotic in some way. We all have quirky little habits that help us avoid realities that we don’t like. Nevertheless, God says that each of us is of sacred worth, and chooses us for His team. The only person ever chosen by God who was perfect was Jesus, but the greatest epiphany for me during this holy season is that he picks the rest of us, too.

God picks us before we ever choose Him. Every human being has enough vestige of God’s image, a spark of resonance with God’s perpetual love affair with humankind that allows us to respond to His grace. We differ from those who might declare that Jesus’ atonement is limited in its scope – the elect and the damned. We are universalists with regard to God’s grace. We believe God chooses everyone. There isn’t anyone from whom God wishes to withhold His grace. However, we don’t believe in a universalism to which most people commonly refer.

We believe we must respond to God’s universal election for it to work. If we don’t choose to receive God’s grace then this isn’t the love affair that it’s meant to be. People of the West really can’t fathom arranged marriages anyway. We think marriage is best when two people choose each other. So it is with God! He wants us to choose Him as much as He has chosen us. God initiates the relationship, and it’s up to us to consummate it.

Perhaps you have a gift for someone that’s leftover from Christmas. Maybe you thought that you would see them at a family gathering or the like. No matter the reason, the connection wasn’t made and you’ve taken down your tree, the holiday goodies have been consumed, and all you have left to remind you of the season is that present all wrapped up but not yet delivered. What do you do?

Someone has to make the effort to deliver the gift, and the gift-giver is the one who has to do it. However, the recipient still has to actually receive the gift. A gift isn’t really given until it’s received. It’s the same with God’s gift of grace to us. The gift is wrapped in the incarnation of Jesus, and the gift has been delivered to the doorstep of our hearts. We must open the door and receive it, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…” (John 1:12), and “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in…” (Revelation 3:20). The gift of grace is yours through Christ! Hear God’s voice say to you, “You are my beloved, whom I have chosen,” and respond!


Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2015/01/our-baptism-and-the-lords/

Dec 29 2014

A Potter's View: Keeping Christmas and a Blessed 2015!

Original post at http://wtmcclendon.wordpress.com/2014/12/29/keeping-christmas-and-a-blessed-2015/

Christmas Day is past and New Year’s Day is almost upon us. Our secular and sacred senses of time collide at this time of year. After all, Christmas isn’t over until January 6th’s Day of Epiphany, the day that commemorates the Magi’s visit to the Christ Child. The secular calendar compels us to put all the hoopla of Christmas behind us and move on to a new year! A lot of people are ready for the scene in New York City to shift from the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center to the ball-drop at Times Square. Putting aside our liturgical sensibilities, most think it’s way past time to make resolutions, start shedding those excess holiday pounds, and get on with paying the bills.

But, wait a minute; hold on, Christmas isn’t over yet. Epiphany season reminds us that the mystery of Christ’s coming brings sustained revelations of God’s majesty. We are dared to savor the experience, not rush past it. God has more to reveal to those who still seek the truth. There are Twelve Days of Christmas and we’re only at number 5! To be honest in our faith, we believe Christmas can and has to be kept all year. The power of God-in-the-Flesh through Christ is a daily necessity in our rebellious world.

Henry Van Dyke sums up my point much better than I in his piece, “Keeping Christmas.” He gives us fodder for New Year’s resolutions and for a great 2015. Here are his words:

“There is a better thing than the observance of Christmas day, and that is, keeping Christmas.
Are you willing…
• to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you;
• to ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world;
• to put your rights in the background, and your duties in the middle distance, and your chances to do a little more than your duty in the foreground;
• to see that men and women are just as real as you are, and try to look behind their faces to their hearts, hungry for joy;
• to own up to the fact that probably the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give to life;
• to close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness.
Are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.
Are you willing…
• to stoop down and consider the needs and desires of little children;
• to remember the weakness and loneliness of people growing old;
• to stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough;
• to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear in their hearts;
• to try to understand what those who live in the same home with you really want, without waiting for them to tell you;
• to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you;
• to make a grave for your ugly thoughts, and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open—
Are you willing to do these things, even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.
Are you willing…
• to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world—
• stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death—
• and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love?
Then you can keep Christmas.
And if you can keep it for a day, why not always?
But you can never keep it alone.”

Let us keep Christmas and may doing so inspire us throughout 2015. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/12/keeping-christmas-and-a-blessed-2015/

Dec 22 2014

A Potter's View: “Burlap, Boys, and Christmas”

Original post at http://wtmcclendon.wordpress.com/2014/12/22/burlap-boys-and-christmas/

Maybe you’ve read of the hoopla surrounding Christmas worship services on December 28. The reasoning is that we will all be too tired of Christmas festivities by then. The thinking behind this is that the difference between Christmas on Thursday and Sunday’s services is so short as to not make much of a difference anyway. Try using that rationale with Good Friday and Easter! I think that we need Christmas and Easter’s messages every day!

Despite my opinion there’s one local congregation that is cancelling next Sunday’s “live” services just to give the congregation, choir, and staff a break. Their service will be available online. However, I need more than a digital Jesus to fight post-Christmas challenges. Other groups of Christians are dropping the December 28 service because it’s “anti-family.” How appalling! There’s no better time to celebrate family than this season when God chooses to become a part of the human race. The Incarnation of Christ demands that we celebrate this mysterium tremendum: God wants to be a part of all of our families! So I’m preaching every service on the 28th because I need to hear God’s Word as much then as ever. I need to participate in the profundity of God-in-the-flesh and unwrap this mystery anew.

Ralph F. Wilson, in “Burlap, Boys, and Christmas,” gets at the heart of the Incarnation’s tremendous mystery while musing over Christmas pageants: “Angels are clean. Angels are beautiful. They seem almost otherworldly especially since girl angels always seem to know their parts better than do boy shepherds. The angelic satin stuff goes pretty well in most Christmas pageants. The problems come with the burlap part. Do you know what real-life shepherds were like? Townspeople looked down on them. “Herdsmen!” they’d huff derisively. Shepherds would work with sheep all day, sleep outside with the animals at night and then come into town dirty, sweaty and smelly. Like boys. Tradesmen in the marketplace would be polite enough. Shopkeepers would wait on them, but everybody was happy when they moved along. Burlap fits the part. It really does. Angels get clouds and the Hallelujah Chorus for props. Shepherds get a stable. Maybe cattle lowing has a bit of romance. But conjure up the smells and the filth. No stainless steel dairy palace this, but a crude barn, with good reason for straw on the floor. Not exactly the setting you’d choose for a birth if you had the luxury of planning ahead. Angels seem appropriate to the birth of God’s son. But straw and sweat and burlap do not. Why, I ask, would the Son of God Most High enter life amidst the rubble of human existence, at the lowest rung of society, in obscurity and at the stable-edge of rejection even before he is born? And as hard as I think about it, I come back to one truth. God wanted to make it explicitly clear that He came to save each of us. He comes to the slimy, dark corners of our existence, the desperateness, the loneliness, the rejection, the pain. He comes to unswept barns and cold nights of despair. He comes because he understands them. He knows them intimately and came for the very purpose of delivering us from those raw stables to real Life.”

Wow! It is a miracle that God desires to enter this world at all, but how like our God and how grateful we are! Therefore, the reason we worship God together on the Sunday after Christmas is to celebrate this marvelous gift through Christ. The old Appalachian folk hymn aptly describes the worshipful attitude that this mystery should illicit, “I wonder as I wander out under the sky, How Jesus the Savior did come for to die, For poor on’ry creatures like you and like I.” The glorious meaning of Christmas is God’s unconditional grace spread across creation. It is perennially profound just as Frederick Buechner put it, “Year after year, the ancient tale of what happened is told raw, preposterous, holy and year after year the world in some measure stoops to listen.” Let’s listen all the more carefully this year! Christmas is absurdly Divine! Merry Christmas and see you Sunday!

Christmas Eve

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/12/burlap-boys-and-christmas/

Dec 18 2014

A Potter's View: Last-Minute Christmas Trees

Original post at http://wtmcclendon.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/last-minute-christmas-trees/

Even today, one week before Christmas, I notice on Facebook that some people are just now putting up their Christmas tree. Part of me thinks, “It’s a little late, isn’t it, and why bother?” There have been those years when we all wonder whether we should put up a tree or not. Family priorities, circumstances, or infirmity may make it an unnecessary luxury. Some of us are going to be traveling to someone else’s house so why not let them deck the halls and decorate a tree? Putting up a tree is such a hassle anyway, but isn’t the mess of Christmas part of the message?

Should we put up a Christmas tree, or not – that is the question for the procrastinators. Although the smell of a tree permeating the house is grand, there’s a cost. Getting a tree, fitting it to the stand, lugging all the ornaments down from the attic, and the sheer horror of untangling the lights is a daunting task. Then there’s the fact that children, pets, and underestimating the size of the tree relative to the ceiling could pose an unsolvable logistical problem, plus the weight of the tree might overwhelm the stand and collapse. So, why take the chance. After all, the whole Christmas tree idea is a co-opting of a pagan Germanic custom that celebrated the midst of life in bleak midwinter, an evergreen to remind the household that there is life after the long arduous cold. The idea isn’t even Christian, right?

But, doesn’t it still make sense? An evergreen does remind us of eternal life in Christ, and wasn’t the first Christmas pretty messy, too? Stables, animals, and shepherds aren’t sanitary hospital delivery rooms. Maybe those procrastinating or worrying about a tree can compromise and get an artificial one, and try not to think, “fake.” When I was a child in the age of modernity’s glory, we had a shiny silver aluminum tree. We used one of those revolving pinwheels of color to add the effect of lights. It was great, sanitized, and the only hassle was looking at the ends of the branches for the code that revealed the proper placement.

But, it wasn’t real, and there’s already too much that isn’t real about Christmas, so out with the artificial tree idea. So back to the real thing: the mess-maker. Old Christmas trees do what every dying thing does. They shed their needles. Don’t you love vacuuming up dead Christmas tree needles months after the holiday. Every time I see another needle, I wonder where they keep coming from. It’s a mess, but isn’t that part of Christmas’ charm: the hustle and bustle, the decorations, even the crowds? Although I long for a simple Christmas, the fact of the matter is that Christmas isn’t simple. It is God’s most elegant extravagance, in keeping with Golgotha and Easter. It begs for a mess and deserves it!

So what kind of tree should I get? Did you ever hear of the lovely legend of the three trees that grew near The Manger – the Olive, the Palm, and the Fir? The Olive made an offering of its fruit and the Palm of its dates. The poor Fir, having nothing to give but worship, raised its boughs in adoration and the Angels hung stars on its branches. Supposedly that’s how the Fir became the first Christmas tree. When Native Americans experienced a spiritual low tide, they revived their vitality by standing with their back to a tree, absorbing its strength and power. Therefore, whatever the tree, a real tree helps open up the real energy of God’s coming to earth as a vulnerable baby, one of us, Immanuel! That’s a message that I need to underscore this Christmas.

Ponder the familiar carol, “O, Christmas Tree” and notice the attributes of God, new life in Christ, and the Incarnation symbolized in the very essence of a Christmas tree – though messy, there’s a message:

Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree!

Thy leaves are so unchanging

Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree,

Thy leaves are so unchanging!

Not only green when summer’s here,

But also when it’s cold and drear.

Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree,

Thy leaves are so unchanging!

Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree,

Such pleasure do you bring me!

Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree,

Such pleasure do you bring me!

For every year this Christmas tree,

Brings to us such joy and glee.

Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree,

Such pleasure do you bring me!

Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree,

You’ll ever be unchanging!

A symbol of goodwill and love

You’ll ever be unchanging!

Each shining light, Each silver bell

No one alive spreads cheer so well

Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree,

You’ll ever be unchanging!

Christmas tree

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/12/last-minute-christmas-trees/

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