Archive for Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pastors’ Corner

December 23, 2008

Story reveals message behind scripture passage

There is an old story about a little homeless orphan boy in a northern city on Christmas Eve. A policeman took him to a local mission house. He said, “They have a warm bed and food and you can spend the night, but you have to know the password. It is John 3:16.”

The little boy knocked on the door of that big mission house and said, “John 3:16.” They let him right in.

The man in the mission house said, “Son, you look like you are cold. Are you cold?” The boy said, “Mister, I am about to freeze to death.” He told the boy to put his feet up by the fire until he was warm all the way through. The little boy said to himself, “I don’t know what John 3:16 means but it sure does make a cold boy warm.”

Then the man said, “You look like you are hungry.” The boy said, “I haven’t had a good meal in I don’t know when.” He took the little boy to a table and gave him a huge Christmas dinner. He ate and ate and ate and he said, “I don’t know what John 3:16 means but it sure makes a hungry boy full.”

Then the man said, “Son, you look like you might need a bath.” He said, “Yes sir, I am very dirty.” He got him a perfumed bar of soap and the little boy took a bath. He said, “I still don’t know what John 3:16 means but it sure makes a dirty boy clean.”

Then the man gave him some nice warm pajamas and a comfortable bed with nice clean sheets and a big heavy quilt. The little boy woke up the next morning and he said, “I don’t know what John 3:16 means but it sure makes a tired boy rested.”

The little boy went to the man and said, “What does John 3:16 mean?” The man explained how God loved the world so much that He sent Jesus and how Jesus was the perfect Christmas gift. And the little boy opened his heart and received Jesus as the free gift of God. God wants you to receive that same gift of Jesus by faith.

— Mike Bronson is pastor at West Haven Baptist Church in Tonganoxie.

Let’s sing the praises of Christmas

Call me Scrooge, but I’m one of the few people in Kansas City who doesn’t like the “continuous Christmas music” stations. It’s not that I’m opposed to the songs; it’s just that playing them nonstop for the past six weeks seems a bit over the top.? It’s gotten so bad lately that I find myself singing along, but using lyrics inspired by how children hear these Christmas songs (found in “Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations & Quotes” by Robert J. Morgan). For example:

• Deck the Halls with Buddy Holly

• On the first day of Christmas my tulip gave to me

• Later on we’ll perspire, as we dream by the fire

• He’s makin’ a list: chicken and rice

• Frosty the Snowman is ferret elf, I say

• Sleep in heavenly peas

• In the meadow we can build a snowman. Then pretend that he is sparse and brown.

• Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, you’ll go down in Listerine.

• Oh, what fun it is to ride with one horse, soap and hay

• Good tidings we bring to you and your kid

Seriously, though, this season is truly about song. To start my holiday celebration, every December I trek down to Quality Hill Playhouse in Kansas City, Mo., to take in the “Christmas in Song” show. This intimate 150-seat theater seems the perfect setting to hear favorite tunes sung live by a quartet. This year’s show featured secular songs in the first half; sacred songs in the second. I was particularly moved early in the second half by a song I’d never heard before: “A Baby Changes Everything.” The piece captures what Mary might have felt after agreeing to become the Mother of God. The opening speaks about her as a pregnant teenager — worried about the disruption of all her dreams and plans, concerned that she will lose the trust of Joseph, and frightened that the baby is coming and there’s no place in an inn. A number of times the song repeats, “And she cries.” Now, I’m sure that if I’d thought things through, I would have realized that tears would be a natural part of Mary’s pregnancy. But somehow, hearing these heartfelt words sung made the situation of Mary come alive for me. Then, just as all these worries seem to overwhelm Mary, the song takes a marvelous turn. Soon we hear of choirs of angels singing to the newborn king. And we suddenly understand, as Mary does, what it really means to say, “a baby changes everything.” Mary cries again, but her voice proclaims, “Hallelujah!” The conclusion of the song has Mary singing: “My whole life has turned around/I was lost, but now I’m found.”

Now, theologians would probably quibble over all that Mary is feeling, but this song is not a formal presentation of dogma. Instead, it presents a flesh-and-bones glimpse of Mary and invites listeners to experience the Incarnation in a whole new way — not only with the mind, but with the heart as well.

When I got home after the show, I got online to see if I could get a copy of “A Baby Changes Everything.” I needn’t have worried. It was recorded by Faith Hill and is found on her Christmas CD, “Joy to the World.” There are also a couple of YouTube versions of her singing it as well. (And, yes, it’s also been on those “continuous Christmas music” stations.) It’s well worth a listen.

As Dec. 25 inches closer, we are again reminded that a baby changes everything. Honestly, the only way to adequately express this great mystery is through song. This Christmas I hope you’ll add your voice to those angel choirs.

— Mark Goldasich is pastor at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Tonganoxie.

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