The Western World has largely discarded Christmas as the story of God becoming man to save humanity and all creation. In our historical ignorance we forget Saint Nicholas, and in our skepticism we deny Santa Claus. All that is left is warm feelings, decorations, and presents. Isn’t there something more?
By Mark D. Harris
My father was driving me to Hadley Preschool on a chilly December morning when I declared, “Daddy, there just can’t be a Santa Claus. He couldn’t fly all over all over the world in one night.” My father looked at me, smiled and said, “Your mommy and I knew that you would soon figure it out.” My discovery of the absence of Santa Claus didn’t bother me, it was just a fact, cushioned by the reality that presents kept coming even without Jolly Old Nick.
The Predecessors of Santa Claus
Years later, I discovered Saint Nicholas (AD 270-343), a Christian Bishop in the Eastern Roman Empire city of Myra, in the Antalya province of modern Turkey. Nicholas was born to a wealthy Greek family and was famed for his generosity. One story recounts that St. Nicholas secretly gave gold coins for the dowry of three daughters of a poor man in his parish. He dropped the coins down the chimney, and the coins landed in the girls’ stockings, which had been left to dry by the fire. Had Nicholas not done so, the girls would have been unable to marry and thereafter forced into prostitution to earn their living. Nicolas was reputed to have performed many other acts of great kindness and even miracles.
Continue reading “Yes, Virginia, and mankind, there really is a Santa Claus”
Life is exhausting for all. Christian ministry sometimes makes it worse. How can Christians be revived on our life’s journey?
By Mark D. Harris
Life on earth is exhausting, whatever one’s sex, health, race, socioeconomic status, religion, or anything else. Followers of Christ grow weary and sometimes fall away:
- Normal ups and downs of life and ministry – To be human is to encounter sickness, injury, and disappointment. Things break, opportunities vanish, relationships wither, and hopes fade. In ministry, people we love and serve angrily resist and reject. We labor for years with seemingly little effect.
- Major hurtful events and people in our lives – Sometimes even friends and loved ones succumb to the pressure of the world and reject us and our faith. Sometimes they end their own lives.
- Discrimination against and persecution of Christians throughout the world. This includes the United States (academic, political, economic), although the fact that I am able to write and publish this article reveals that Americans still have more religious freedom than many others. Still, Christians lose jobs and other opportunities due to the practice of the faith. Christian schools are threatened with loss of accreditation, and Christians are seen as unfit for political office because of their beliefs. Christians have become criminals simply for reading a Bible passage or saying something that others don’t like. For example, H.R.5 – Equality Act 2019 – LGBTQ rights states “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 2000bb et seq.) shall not provide a claim concerning, or a defense to a claim under, a covered title, or provide a basis for challenging the application or enforcement of a covered title.” Whatever one thinks about LGBTQ rights, religious beliefs would be no defense to prosecution (and persecution). Christians who believe what the Bible states about LGBTQ issues are specifically targeted.
Non-Christians encounter issues one and two, but increasingly Christians are facing problem three as well. It is so easy to despair. Amidst these challenges, how can believers in Jesus Christ be revived?
Continue reading “Reviving the Saints – Jeremiah 15”
Choruses in church are great, but let’s not lose our powerful legacy of hymns in Christian ministry.
By Mark D. Harris
Last night I led a Hymn Sing and Soup Supper in the Fellowship Hall at our church. Between bowls of vegetable soup, chicken soup, tortilla soup, bean soup, and a host of others, we sang To God Be the Glory, I’ll Fly Away, Victory in Jesus, and more favorites. Elderly women in the back, members of the choir when we had one, harmonized to tunes they had known as children, while teenagers in the middle sat in silence. We had no slides with words on a screen as we do in our sanctuary, but used white hymnals with gold embossing, small letters, and cryptic little symbols called notes along with the lyrics on each line. The piano was a little out of tune, but we all carried on, singing at the top of our lungs. There was no sound of strumming, drumming, or picking. Having grown up in church singing hymns, I appreciated the change.
Continue reading “In Praise of Hymns”
Christians are more than individuals, we are a community. And our community exists within a larger community. How do we share Christ with our larger community? How has God set us apart?
By Mark D. Harris
“Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever” opined the famous French general and emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. American society today seems to have taken him at his word. We are told to dream big, take chances, and make our mark on the world. To be remembered in posterity, “write something worth reading or do something worth writing about” wrote Benjamin Franklin. We are even told to misbehave, “Well behaved women seldom make history (Laurel Thatcher Urich).” It is as if 100,000 of us were standing in a stadium screaming to be heard, and spending our lives trying to be distinctive enough to feel important.
Sometimes the Christian community looks little different. In his book You Are Special, Max Lucado writes of a village of little wooden people called wemmicks who spend their days putting stars or dots on each other, stars for doing something that they like and dots for doing something that they don’t. The best had special awards (a sequel, Best of All) and perhaps even monuments to be widely known and remembered. These fictional children’s stories describe an all too common trap into which even followers of Jesus fall.
Continue reading “The Christian Community in Society”