Clearance Rack Happiness

Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m not an (American) football fan. While I’ll watch the Super Bowl this year because I like a good competition, I find myself interested in another contest that evening. No, not the Puppy Bowl – the “ad war.”

The ad war is the timeless American tradition of super-rich multinationals spending ridiculous amounts of money to not only buy air time during the Super Bowl, but also to win the hearts and minds of every American by creating the best commercial. While we’ve come to expect a hypersensitivity to commercials on Super Bowl Sunday, it seems the vast majority of the rest just pass us by the other 364 days of the year. Normally that’s true for me, but one caught my ear and eye just this past week:

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2013 Advent Devotional: “Home Alone”

“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” -Luke 2:7

Do you remember the 1990 movie “Home Alone?” It was a staple of my childhood. (Showing my age there, huh?) If you haven’t seen it, the movie revolves around young Kevin who is left at home after his entire family leaves on a trip to France. (Don’t ask me how that happens.) The movie gets interesting when two would-be thieves attempt to rob the house, thinking they’ll have no problem taking care of an eight year-old boy. Of course, nothing is ever that simple in the movies.

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2013 Advent Devotional: “Parenthetical Directions”

“Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, “Look, here it is!” or “There it is!” For, in fact, the kingdom of God is within you.’” – Luke 17:20-21

Have you ever been in a play or musical, or read a script? Besides the spoken lines themselves, the writers sometimes include parenthetical asides, seemingly to guide the actor in embodying the character – at least this was true when I was in high school. One direction might inform an actor that this line is to be delivered (sarcastically) or (wryly), while another might indicate that the line should be delivered (jumping up from the chair). They’re the helpful context clues that guide us in fully understanding what is intended to be conveyed. What if our passage from Luke’s Gospel came with parenthetical directions?

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The “Holiday Tree” Trap

I really dislike the “Holiday Tree.”

No, this doesn’t rise out of a sense of self-righteous piety; sorry to disappoint. I don’t like it because it completely misses the point. It fails in almost everything it intends to do.

Yes, I understand the Christmas Tree shares a common ancestor with the Yule Log of European paganism, but is that why some call it a Holiday Tree? Could it be that those who promote the Holiday Tree believe we can somehow all find the “lowest common holiday denominator” in the pagan practices of the late middle ages in Europe? I doubt it.

Alternatively, it seems the Holiday tree arises out of the myth that we actually can please everyone, all the time. The concept that somehow we can simultaneously honor fervent Christians and the realities of a pluralistic society in one symbol. Call the Christmas Tree what you will, but at the end of the day, despite the practices of long dead Europeans, it’s never going to be a Holiday Tree. To quote an expression we heard way too much about during the 2008 Presidential Election: You can’t put lipstick on a pig.

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Love Outside Eden

I don’t believe the Garden of Eden was an actual historic place.

This isn’t to say I have a problem with people who do think it actually existed, I just find that the Bible contains more truth when it isn’t true.

Have you ever seen the movie Signs? The movie unfolds around a town of mid-westerners searching for answers regarding a series of ominous crop circles. As an audience member, you quickly discover aliens are responsible for the designs but you never get to see them; you spend the whole movie just missing them. The result? Your imagination runs wild. Who are they? What do they look like? They could be anything; nothing is more terrifying than our own imagination.

Sometimes I think that’s how the Bible works.
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Here and Now: NPR Inspired Thoughts on Advent

There’s a program on NPR, broadcast out of Boston’s NPR affiliate WBUR, that I really love called “Here and Now.” Hosted by the wonderful Robin Young, the website describes the show as:

Here! Now! In the moment! Paddling in the middle of a fast-moving stream of news and information.

Every year, after Thanksgiving and before Christmas, I always feel like I’m in the middle of that fast-moving stream. (Except I’m pretty sure I lost the paddle and I’m just hoping I don’t crash into the shore.) No matter how many years I spend on earth, I’m consistently taken aback but the sudden change of current and intensity in the stream. Before I have time to prepare, I’m travelling way faster than I prepared for, thrown all over the canoe, and soaked to the bone. Between Black Friday and the hype of holiday shopping, if you’re not careful, that stream will throw you right out of your canoe.
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The Occupy Movement isn’t perfect.

There are certainly some things to criticize.

But when I would hear people run through their list of problems, some legitimate and some not, I would scramble to deflect. I wanted to have the right words, the right excuses.

A typical criticism, usually mingled with a laugh, is the suggestion that most of the occupiers are probably homeless. I never quite thought about it, about why that would be a problem, but I found myself frustrated that I couldn’t find a statistic to prove them wrong.

What was my problem?
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