Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Advent Quiz is Back!

No sooner do you clear and clean up the dishes from Thanksgiving Day dinner and everyone’s thoughts are now in full Christmas mode.   Same thing happens in church.

This past Sunday we lit the first of our candles in our Advent wreath.  I thought I might offer this little Advent Quiz again this year to see if you've learned anything from last year. 

Take Tom's Advent Quiz and let us know your score!

1. The word ADVENT comes from Latin and means what?
a. To cook
b. To come
c. To rest
d. To sing

2. The liturgical color for Advent is what?
a. Purple or violet
b. Green
c. Red
d. Red and green

3. The observance of Advent probably started in:
a. 1492
b. The 6th century
c. The 1st century BC
d. 1776

4. Who was it who said, “Prepare Ye the way of the Lord’?

a. Santa Claus
b. The Heavenly Host
c. John the Baptist
d. Home Depot

5. The “mood” of Advent is:

a. Hectic
b. Stressful
c. Repentance and Reflection
d. Full of holiday cheer

Long ago,  the exhortation of John the Baptist was to “prepare” for the coming of the Lord.   How are you and your family preparing for the birth of Christ?   What preparations are we making to welcome His coming into our hearts?    How might prayer, quiet time, reading Luke’s story of Christmas, and attending worship help you reflect and prepare yourself spiritually for the greatest gift of all?

Quiz Answer Key: B, A, B, C, C

Friday, November 21, 2014

"Gobble, Gobble"

The other day I Googled, “Little known Facts about Thanksgiving.”   I was overwhelmed with how much I did not know about Thanksgiving.  

Here are just a few items that caught my eye:

  • The famous pilgrim celebration at Plymouth Colony in 1621 is traditionally regarded as the first American Thanksgiving.  However, there are actually 12 claims to where the “first” Thanksgiving took place: two in Texas, two in Florida, one in Maine, two in Virginia, and five in Massachusetts.
  •   President Jefferson called a federal Thanksgiving proclamation “the most ridiculous idea ever conceived.”
  • Now a Thanksgiving dinner staple, cranberries were actually used by Native Americans to treat arrow wounds and to dye clothes.
  •  Thanksgiving Day became an annual national holiday upon a proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln at the height of the Civil War in November 1863. It was set as the last Thursday in November. 
  • Thanksgiving football games began with Yale versus Princeton in 1876. Princeton lost!
  • Baby turkeys are called poults. Only male turkeys gobble and therefore are called gobblers. 
  • Sarah Josepha Hale, who tirelessly worked to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday, also was the first person to advocate women as teachers in public schools, the first to advocate day nurseries to assist working mothers, and the first to propose public play grounds. She also wrote the poem, "Mary Had a Little Lamb”.
When Sarah Hale championed the cause of Thanksgiving to President Lincoln, one of her goals was that it would “awaken” in us “a love of home and country, of thankfulness to God, and peace between brethren.” Those still sound like worthy goals to me.
There are no perfect families in American, but that is OK; we still love our families, warts and all.  We love this land, not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but still an amazing place to live in this beautiful world. Thank you for home and country.

The pilgrims came to this land to worship God as they pleased and not have any state or king impose on them whom they must worship. The separation of church and state still carries a lot of wisdom.  Thank you for religious freedom.

Learning to live peacefully as brothers and sisters is never an easy task, but always worthy of our highest effort. Appreciating and respecting diversity and difference are as critical today as when the Pilgrims and Natives sat down together years ago. Thank you for differences.

If we ever took the time to think about all the people and things for which we are thankful, they would far outnumber our complaints. As one wise person wrote, the most perfect prayer in all the world is simply, “Thank you, Lord.” Hope you have a great Thanksgiving Day.

Friday, November 14, 2014

"New Inductees"

It has been a year since I blogged about which toys made it into the Toy Hall of Fame, at the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, NY. A year ago I never knew there was a hall of fame for toys, but now I wait to see who are the newest inductees.
Chris Bensch, the vice president for collections at the museum, announced that the Rubik’s cube, bubbles, and little green army men finally made it into the hall.  They beat out paper airplanes, My Little Pony, Slip’N Slide, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. 
Bensch said that the new inductees represented three important aspects of play: intellectual challenge (Rubik’s cube), physical skill (bubbles), and make-believe (little green army men).

Can you believe there is a 23 member national selection committee that includes toy collectors, professors, and psychologists? The toys must be iconic, innovative, and best of all, encouraging of learning and creativity. Interestingly, none of the new inductee toys required batteries or a computer.

I am not sure what toys you enjoyed as a child, and I am not familiar with all the toys that fascinate children today. I wonder, do kids still have toy chests or does everything come with wires?

There is something wonderful about taking a moment to capture a pleasant memory from childhood. Toys seem to have that magical power to return us to a simpler and more carefree life.

The early years of Jesus remain hidden from us, but I wonder what toys he enjoyed. I wonder if Joseph carved him a special stick or if Mary made him a pouch to carry smooth stones for skipping on the water. 
Jesus reminds us to not lose touch with the child that is inside of us. He uses children to define greatness and says they set the standard as to what it means to have faith.

Of all the important things about us, one of the most spectacular is that regardless of our age, we are called children of God. Yet so many adults seem tired, stressed, and worn thin from all the demands of work and family. I believe we all need to rediscover a sense of play and the simplicity of our childhood. In other words, with everything else we do, we must not forget to have some fun in this life!


Monday, November 10, 2014

"What is in a Name?"

I am a Luddite. Well, maybe not that bad. I am not planning to smash any machines. But, I really know very little about the Internet and much of today’s technology. I do use the Internet to gather information and I do email and know how to text and even Blog. I do not know how to use Twitter or Instagram. I do not have a Facebook page, and I have never visited anyone’s Facebook page. I am just not that interested. I am a peaceful Luddite.

The other day I heard about “”, which was founded by Michel Fertik. In today’s world with the proliferation of blogs, Facebook, and the like, it is easy for someone to post something about you that may or may not be true. In fact, it might not even be you, but someone who has your same name! I think the purpose of is to help protect a person’s name or reputation on line.

Expressions of concern about having a good name or reputation go way back before the Internet was invented. Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.”  It was true back then and even more so today. It takes a lifetime to build a reputation, but like all good things, in the end, it is well worth it.

There is an even greater truth in the Bible about names and that truth is the power of God’s name. In Exodus 3:14 (NRSV) God revealed his name to Moses saying: “God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’”  The Hebrew letters involved, YHWH, known at the Tetragrammaton, were felt to be too sacred to pronounce. The writer of Proverbs also said: Proverbs 18:10  (NRSV):  The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and are safe.”  Jesus understood that.  He encouraged us in John 14: 13-14 saying I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”  His name is powerful for we who are His followers.

So what’s in a name? If it is our name, it is fragile, to be protected, and to be cultivated over a lifetime.  If it is God’s name, it is our refuge and strength.  No need for there. What do you think? Do you feel you can use your name to God’s glory? How do we as Christians or Sardis as a congregation achieve that end?