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There are so many things that I love about the Christmas season. Among them the food, the gifts, the decorating, the lights, the stories, the movies...! It is a season that I am always eager to lean into.

So much of it rekindles my imagination of being a child and seeing that same imaginative wonder being forged in my own children.

But there is a struggle for me. A struggle with how this Christian season of Advent fits in with our very commercialized Christmas season.

I wonder if there is any mutual benefit or is it just a clearly separate celebration. There is my celebration of the secular part of the holidays and then there is my deeply formed religious experience.

But it is hard to do that because everything is overlapped.

I am conflicted because deep down I really love how the secular holiday season makes me feel. Just now I started thinking about eggnog and National Lampoon's Christmas vacation and my heart got really happy.

Though a part of me wonders if the secular celebration keeps me from experiencing how radical the Advent season actually is.

The Advent season calls us to imagine that something good is coming out of the darkness. It is a season that gives us hope when life seems bleak.

One of the scriptures we read during Advent comes from Isaiah where he prophesies a day that "swords will be turned into plowshares." And that one day our enemies will be our allies and we will worship together. Really? We believe this stuff just about as much as we believe that Santa's sleigh delivers presents all over the world Christmas Eve (now everyone is mad at me?). But to say that there will be a day when we will turn our weapons that signify death into farming tools that signify life seems a tad bit far fetched? But Santa doesn't?

That is the beauty of Advent. It is radical. It is real. It calls us to carry real hope in something we can't see and incredibly hard to fathom.

At the end of the day, I don't know if celebrating the holidays with all the things that come with it necessarily needs to leave for us to have hope.

But most definitely Advent should deepen our sense of hope in the disparaging circumstances we all face and the resolve that they will not have the last word.

Litany for the first week of Advent

Loving God my reality says there is no hope

You turn our weapons to plowshares

The ceaseless conflict have made us bitter

You call us to peace and healing

We all claim that we carry the truth

You call us all to a new mountain

We believe our enemies will one day defeat us

You say one day we will feast

We think weapons will give us peace

You said a child will be born

For those who suffer

Lord Jesus, Comfort

For those hurt by war

Living Christ, Peace

For those tattered by cynicism


Those hurt by the church

Kindness and healing

Those covered in shame

Love, Amen

  • Writer's pictureStoried Church

Salvation comes in many moments. One of those saving moments for me was when Brene Brown said these words,

"It is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy."

I thought when you felt "joyful" then you would feel "grateful". But it doesn't work that way. And never has.

And that gratitude wasn't just going to magically show up in our lives.

I spend a lot of time complaining about people. People that take to long at the grocery store, complain about having to do yard work, complain, complain, complain. And it is of no surprise that complaining doesn't make me feel joyful.

Gratitude is expressing appreciation at every moment. Even when it is hard to see something good.

Gratitude is saying that goodness is always near. God is here.

Or maybe if we are complaining about someone it is remembering they have a story and that God is doing something good in their lives even if we can't see it.

This isn't easy stuff and I think it is why many of us rather complain a lot. It is easy.

Just like getting healthier doesn't come without practice so it goes with gratitude.

It is something we have to practice. Daily. And we do it for the sake that we might be joyful.

Ideas that I stole from another website that is helpful in practicing gratitude.

1. Carry a gratitude journal

2. Spend time daily give thanks through meditating and praying

3. Cultivate a practice to share what you are grateful for at the table.

4. Write regular thank you notes.

And maybe we will discover that thing that will save us... isn't another thing... but just the mere practice of being grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Writer's pictureStoried Church

My daughter Laurel, three and a half years old, has revolving best friends.

I remember this season of my life well. In first grade I remember asking a friend, in the bathroom of all places, if he would be my best friend. He said, "no". But good news I could be second in line.

From a very early age we realize that we need friendship and community. And something seems off with out it.

This isn't just the story of our generation.

This is the reality of our humanity.

The book of Genesis narrates a story of God’s beautiful creation and the hidden desolation and bareness in creation. We exist in a world that is more connected than ever. It is amazing that it merely takes seconds to communicate with people all over the world. Technology has provided this beautiful opportunity yet it has seemingly exposed this desolation and bareness of loneliness.

Our society is described as the most connected and also the loneliest.

This is nothing new. This is the story of scripture. It details a story about humanity and creations deep need for communion, friendship and belonging. The most familiar story of Genesis is when Adam and Eve took a bite out of some fruit that is when this brokenness and desolation was exposed but for me this wasn’t the defining moment.

It was the moment God said, “It is not good that humankind should be alone” and God’s response was to make a “partner” someone that could navigate life together.

The story scripture tells us this…

Loneliness isn’t good and it is an ever reminder that we need friendships. Let me pause and talk about my own life. I am married to my wife and best friend Kiah and we have two wonderful children Isaac and Laurel. And yet I still feel this deep need for friendship and connection with those outside my family. Friendship is hard to come by in your thirties especially now. We want easy friendships. Friendships that don’t take work or let alone an investment of time. Friendships are never fast and always take a commitment. This is why Jesus doesn’t call his disciples friends at the beginning but at the end. But the enduring question for society is are we willing to make the long, commitment to one another? Unfortunately, this is the desolation of our culture because we all want it now and it perpetuates our loneliness.

The more enlightening part of this scripture is that God doesn’t create another Adam. God creates and forms someone different. Someone suitable. Someone that is unique yet different yet connected to Adam.

The cure to our loneliness isn’t people who look like us or talk like us. The cure is people who are vastly different than us who have had vastly different experiences than us. It is these connections that make for beautiful friendships and help us understand each other’s God-created uniqueness. Often times we demonize difference and are suspicious of one another (who doesn’t give every person they meet at background check?) and don’t embrace the God-sized story in each us of our lives.

Our slogan as a church is “Every story matters. Every story is unique. Every story deserves to be told.”

The question I struggle with is how can I provide a God-sized space for communion to happen. And how open am I to celebrate the uniqueness of each other without judgment or condemnation? Because when we occupy that space that is where beautiful friendships flourish and grow.

This is where we discover the yearning of humanity now and in generations past and in the writers of Genesis.

So maybe the call, conviction, and response are to take out your phone. And make an old-fashioned phone call to that distant friend or person that isn’t a friend but could be and begin to make space for that beautiful friendship to grow. And it will be there and only there that we will truly discover what God meant when God said, “it is good.”


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