Archive for the ‘Evangelistic Graces’ category

Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Secure the Perimeters.

December 10, 2013

A Little Golden Book storybook edition of the ...(A reprise of last years’ Advent call to worship, with some emendations)

Yes, I sound like a bit of a Grinch. But you would be too, if on CyberMonday you sat at the Credit Union filling out twenty-nine forms, one for each separate purchase made on Black Friday by some blackguard who boosted your Visa Debit card. And all the while, “Frosty the Snowman” is playing on the Muzak machine. That was me last Monday. I wanted to bang my head against the wall because I couldn’t plug my ears and write down my sixteen digit account number twenty nine times simultaneously.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, all right. And already I am exhausted by its it’s din and demands.  I’ve  begun to envy the man in the red suit–he only has to check his lists twice. So rather than continuing to be a Debbi Downer at this party that gives my children such joy, I  got out the Advent wreath. I defiantly hung up the handmade Advent banner, a relic of my Martha Stewarty days. Santa may be lurking on the outskirts of town,  but Jesus dwells in my  little house. I will welcome this season that remembers Immanuel’s  imminence. That is what celebrating Advent means — to anticipate and cherish the promises of the Incarnation and Return of Christ.

It is a centering tradition that is well-made for this restless season, and it is my favorite activity, next to gathering stuff to fill shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child. Both activities are an antidote to the toxic wastes of Xmas, with all of its orgiastic gluttony and greed. I urge you  to also celebrate Advent as a family. It can be done simply, you don’t need to craft an ornate banner, you just need to raise one. Download John Pipers devotional for free here, and make your own war against Frosty the Zeitgeist.

Last night we set up our own perimeters. We lit the first Advent candle on the wreath, and read our devotional and hung the first motifs on our gorgeous  banner.  One of my sons got out his violin to accompany us on “O Come All Ye Faithful”, and that provided the key for our Rat Terrier to croon along with the rest of her pack . We sounded so terrible we were all convulsing in laughter at the chaotic mess of it– a typical Butler family scene — but we made a  hilarious and joyous noise unto the Lord, and if Jesus liked our worship half as much as we did, he was edified, indeed.

If you want to make your own heirloom banner,  this  book by Ann Hibbard  has a pattern for one — and in this Google preview, you can read some practical tips on avoiding the pitfalls of Xmas. Ann has written a devotional with Scriptures and interesting questions that all manner of ages can discuss, with hymns to sing everyday, all this to accompany the hanging of ornaments on the banner. In the appendix of the book you will find the directions for both an Advent wreath and banner, and also some suggestions for celebrating Epiphany as well. When I made my own banner I gilded the lily–  instead of the suggested felt, I used a pre-quilted fabric, and green velvet for the tree. The tree’s ornaments I copied and outlined with metallic and glittery fabric paint.   I’ll post a picture of it here soon.

Jenn Wilkin’s advice on dealing with the red-suited fat man is just the tactic we used to address the Santa question. She is strategic, and does well to establish her family’s boundaries about him. We too didn’t lie about him, and we didn’t ignore him — we dealt with him diplomatically, considering him the ambassador for that neighboring culture of  Xmas. We wanted to give our children the gift of some silly fun, and to relieve them of the burden of being, in Jenn’s words  “an apologist for an adult view of Santa. In other words, we didn’t want to send him into preschool having to conceal from (or reveal to) his friends the terrible secret that Santa was a fraud. By giving him the chance to figure out the secret of Santa on his own, we bought him some anxiety-free time with his peers in which he could share their excitement over Santa without having been deceived by a parent.”

I share her measured and wise approach — except that our children never sat on Santa’s lap, ever. Yuck. That is a kind of scary-clown ritual I have never understood. But our tribe does not do its hunting and gathering in the malls, and grandma never was interested in subjecting the children to such a terrorizing visit either, so it never presented itself as a problem for our family, as it seemed to do for the Wilkins.

So as these Gospel Coalition writers urge, consider skipping the Christmas season.   Celebrate Advent with your family instead. When your heart is filled with those ancient songs, like the Crusader hymn, “o Come o come, Emmanuel; To ransom captive Israel” you will not be a captive yourself  of the spirit of this age. You will not be exhausted by Xmas. You can actually contemplate with excitement the Billy Graham Organizations “25 Ways to Make Advent a Season of Gospel Sharing” and know that you indeed have resources to share, have that answer for the hope that is in you, the promise of Messiah’s return, when all things will be made new.  Because He is renewing you.

Halloween’s Darkness Can Be Scary, But…

November 20, 2013
Butler Halloween Outreach

Jesus is the Light of the World!

Those who walk with Jesus shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life! Yes, sometimes we can forget, in the immortal words of Larry the Cucumber,  that “God is bigger than the bogeyman.” Halloween is sometimes a Christian bogeyman. Once it used to be mine. We hid our kids inside our churchy Harvest Celebrations, and once we joined some friends who were tiptoeing through Calvin’s Tulips, in  “Reformation Day” festivities.  Then as I grew in faith, I began to agree with this writer at the Gospel Coalition who suggests that, “instead of fleeing the darkness in fear, we should view Halloween as an opportunity to mock the enemy whose power over us has been broken.”

Sharing the Gospel in a winsome way is a wonderful opportunity to mock the enemy on Halloween. As these photos illustrate, I do a variation of “Trunk or Treat”, decorating my car’s outside with all manner of ghastly things — spiders, snakes, dragons,skeletons, witches, ghosts — with a glow-in-the-dark sign saying “The darkness can be scary, but…”

Butler Trunk or Treat Halloween Outreach

I had to coax some kids to open the trunk!

The kids have to navigate past all kinds of warning signs, some have to be cajoled to pop the trunk open, but in a classic bait and switch, they are surprised to see a beautiful glowing, smiling sun shining radiant sunbeams in a rainbow of colors, (Eric Carle style, of layered tissue paper on mylar, so I can backlight it)
And another sign painted in rainbow colors says:

“But Jesus said, “I am the Light of the World!”

Those brave children who have navigated past the terrors on the outside can reach into the trunk to get yummy candy. I try to share my joy, and tell them as much as I can of the good news of Jesus’ power over death in his resurrection. One Halloween, the children and I made an art project of this, creating pop-up cards, with gorgeous blazing suns inside, and the full text of John 8:12 emblazoned all around it in the best italic they could manage. It was very fun to pass those out to trick or treaters.

I would like to get this tract done professionally,with a full Gospel message included on the back, to pass out in bulk. Any graphic artists are welcome to steal this idea — and I would love to see your productions. Post a link below!