Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Winter Weather Woes

You might have heard of the ice storm that knocked out electricity to much of Tulsa, Tulsa County, and nearby areas. Fortunately for me, I only experienced brief blink-outs, and sometimes when they happened repeatedly, I had to leave the computer off for a while. The worst effect on me is that electricity is still out at my employer's main office, and they have not been able to forward any calls to me. My employer did contact the software distributor and gave them my number, but so far I've received only one call.

The only other complaint about winter I have is the cold temperatures. My mucous membranes don't like it. I can see the beauty in snow and even a glaze of ice. Skiing, snowboarding and skating do look like fun. I can see why some people like winter, but the rest of us are sane.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Christmas is coming!

Yes, Christmas is coming in less than 2 weeks. Many in Tulsa and surrounding areas aren't thinking too much about it right now. They are waiting for their electricity, phones, Internet, and in some cases, water to come back. Until then, they are coping as best they can.

Still, this is a good time to think about Christmas and what it means. What is Christmas about anyway?

It's not about presents, Santa Claus, reindeer, decorated evergreen trees, wreaths, candles, carols, candy canes, angels, camels, shepards, Magi, snow, snowmen, parties, pies, turkey, dressing, cookies, fudge or any of the trappings of the season. It's about family. More specfically, it's about God's family.

The Father wanted a bigger family, so He sent His Son to die for our sins, rise from the dead, and provide a way for us to join God's family.

I know the objections that some have to celebrating Christmas. They don't matter to me.

One objection is that we don't see Christians celebrating Christ's birth in the Bible. Well, we don't see Sunday School or many of the everyday practices of the church in there either.

Some then would get "spiritual" and point out that Jesus said He only did what He saw His Father do, and we should follow His exapmle. In that case, we then have a good reason to celbrate His birth. Read the accounts in Matthew and Luke and you'll see the Father celebrating! He had angels singing and invited people from all social classes, from shepards to royal advisers. He even set a beacon in the sky to invite the Magi.

Then some point out that from the Bible and historical/cultural/geographic background information about that time and place, Chirst could not have been born on December 25th. They say the clues point to the Jewish feast of Succoth, which occurs in September and includes the more well-known celebrations of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. In that case, He was probably conceived in late December, and we can celebrate His conception.
This indeed is something to celebrate. The Incarnation (God became flesh) sets the birth of Christ apart from the birth of every other person. As C. S. Lewis pointed out, the Incarnation is the grandest miracle associated with Christ, for this one miracle made all of His other miracles possible. That indeed is something to celebrate!

Now, some will ask if we need to, or if it's right to use some of the trappings of Christmas because of their pagan origins. Well, let's look at something Chirst's earthly ancestor, David, did centuries earlier. Look at the heading of Psalm 8, often regarded as one of David's most beautiful psalms and as a prophetic description of Chirst. You will see a note there in the heading. It's not part of the psalm itself, but it is part of the orginal text. Many psalms have such notes, and they serve either as a despcritpion of the psalm or instructions to the choirmaster in the Temple.

This heading note mentions the Gittith. A Gittith was a musical instrument of the Philistines, the enemies of Israel. David stayed with them for a time when he was hiding from Saul,and he must have heard their music and liked it. He must have acquired a few Gittiths for the Temple music, and wrote some songs to be played on them. So, David, the Lord's anointed, a man after God's own heart, appropriated a pagan instrument and pagan music for worship in God's own house, to be used before the Ark of the Covenant where God's Holy Presence would dwell. And we worry about using a few evergreens and such for celebrating the Incarnation.

Of course some will grouse about the commercialism. I don't have any problem with merchants getting commercial with Christmas, because that's just part of our capitalist system. I'd be more surprised if mercahnts didn't get commercial this time of year. What disturbs me more is if Christians don't take advantage of the season to spread the Good News of Jesus.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Let's hear it for Capitalism!

Yes, you read that title right. Capitalism had been getting a bad rap lately, and I feel it is undeserved. The insidious thing is that no one comes right out and says that capitalism is bad, but they blame social problems on business and suggest that some government program or regulation is the answer. That sounds like socialism to me.

Capitalism has given this country the highest standard of living in history. Many of our citizens that we regard as poor would be seen as rich in other countries. People often criticize big corporations, but what would our lives be like without the products made by big corporations (cars, TV's, phones, computers, etc.), or the services they provide (TV programming, Internet service)?

I am tired of hearing about corporate greed when gas prices go up. When the prices come down, I don't hear anything about corporate generosity. Why is that? Is it because people don't understand how the price at the pump is set? Do people really know how much of what the pay for gas goes to the oil company and how much goes to taxes? Do people know how much the oil industry is regulated?

Ironically, one of the most capitalistic things a person can do is to produce a book, a song, a movie or TV show criticizing capitalism. The next time you read such a book, look at the name of the publisher. Chances are, the publisher is a big corporation. The next time you go out to see a movie, the theater you go to might be locally owned, but the movie was most likely made and/or distributed by a big corporation. Think about this also the next time you watch a TV show on one of the major networks.

Have you ever thought about going into business for yourself? If so, you've wanted to become a capitalist! Good for you!

So, let's hear it for the entrepreneurs and capitalism!