Today I get to be “Uncle Josh”. I’m in Memphis with my brother, sister-in-law, and my nephew. We have been spending a few days together hanging out, having fun, and just spending some quality time together.
Yesterday was the 23rd anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols carried out a plan to bomb the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building killing 168 people and injuring hundreds of others. It is still the worst act of domestic terrorism our country has ever seen.
Have you ever wondered why today is called “Good Friday”? After all, this is the day we remember the crucifixion and death of Jesus. It seems like a weird thing to call this day “good”. The reality is that, as Christians, we can call this Good Friday because we live on this side of Easter. We know that crucifixion and death is not the end of the story. As terrible as that first Friday was, death did not get the final word.
Last Friday I became an uncle for the very first time! Eli Aleksandr Attaway was born about 8:30 in the morning one week ago today. My brother and sister-in-law live out in Memphis so I have only seen him through pictures and videos, so far. I am anxious to go see him in person, but I have to admit I already think he is pretty awesome!
Like many of you, I heard the sad news Wednesday morning that Billy Graham had passed away. Billy Graham left an incredible mark on our world and on this country. He was known by many as “America’s Pastor”. He was one of the pioneers of using technology and media to share a message of faith in Christ as far as he could.
This year’s theme at St. Luke’s is “Telling the Story”. One of the reasons I love this theme is because stories were the method that Jesus often used to teach people about God. It’s what we often refer to as a “parable”. A parable is simply a story that is told in order to teach a lesson. Jesus told parables about sheep, coins, sons, banquets, Samaritans, and all kinds of other things. They were simply stories that he made up in order to reveal something about God’s Kingdom to us so we can understand it a little better. God’s Kingdom is too big for us to be able to grasp on our own, but by putting it in more modern imagery, Jesus was able to teach people about that Kingdom.
The holidays are over, Christmas decorations are coming down, the New Year has begun, the kids are back in school, and most people have gone back to work. It always makes me a little sad when I begin to realize that the festivities are coming to an end for the year and the beautiful decorations are being put away until next Christmas. Life begins to go back to normal for many of us, and if we are not careful, our lives can seem unchanged.
Yesterday morning I was sitting in my office working on my sermon for Christmas Eve when I got an unexpected knock on my door from the cutest Christmas carolers I’ve ever seen! Some of the kids from our childcare center came to sing “Jingle Bells” to me. I think that might have been some of the best inspiration I could have received in that moment to help me prepare for Christmas, and it definitely put a smile on my face.
It’s Black Friday so that means it’s time for the Christmas season, right?! Well, not exactly. At least not in the Church calendar. Historically, in the Church liturgical calendar, this Sunday begins the season of Advent. Advent is the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. Each Sunday is marked by the themes of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.
Last Thursday evening I had an opportunity to attend an awards banquet for the Oklahoma Conference of Churches. I was there in support of our Senior Pastor, Dr. Long, who was receiving the Distinguished Ecumenist Award for his ecumenical work across all denominations and faith traditions. It was a great time to celebrate the work that the Oklahoma Conference of Churches does to bring groups together and promote a message of love and kindness.