Christmas 2.0

Christmas 2.0

Luke 2:1-7

Dr. Jim Denison

A couple of Christmases ago I wrapped Janet’s presents in birthday paper and never noticed (though she did). On Monday I received an email essay forwarded by a compassionate friend. It reads:

This is the time of year when we think back to the very first Christmas, when the Three Wise Men; Gaspar, Balthazar and Herb, went to see the baby Jesus and, according to the Book of Matthew, “presented unto Him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”

These are simple words, but if we analyze them carefully, we discover an important, yet often overlooked, theological fact: There is no mention of wrapping paper. If there had been wrapping paper, Matthew would have said so: “And lo, the gifts were inside 600 square cubits of paper. And the paper was festooned with pictures of Frosty the Snowman. And Joseph was going to throweth it away, but Mary saideth unto him, she saideth, ‘Holdeth it! That is nice paper! Saveth it for next year!’ And Joseph did rolleth his eyeballs. And the baby Jesus was more interested in the paper than the frankincense. ”


From Virtual To Reality

From Virtual To Reality

Revelation 22:1-5

Dr. Jim Denison

Historians will call this era the “technological revolution.” It’s an amazing time. For instance, just in time for Christmas, a fashion student in England has developed a way for Internet shoppers to feel clothes through their computer screens. Since 40 percent of all clothes bought online are returned by dissatisfied customers, there must be a better way, or so she theorizes.

With the help of her technology, soon you’ll be able to use your mouse to test the thickness of fabric by lifting up its edge and dropping it. You’ll be able to stretch garment and watch it return to its original shape. You’ll be able to stroke the fibers of a garment to test their quality. It won’t be the real thing, but it’s the best we can do.

Christmas is a little like virtual reality, an image you can see on your computer screen but aren’t sure is really there. We all have the picture in mind: a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger protected by his peasant teenage mother and her carpenter husband. Shepherds watching, Wise Men coming. But how do we know it’s real, or that it’s relevant?


Jedi Spirituality

Jedi Spirituality

Acts 1:3-14

Dr. Jim Denison

You have probably heard the news that America’s ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, will not return to his position. You may have missed the other piece of important U.N. news: A pair of London science fiction enthusiasts are petitioning the world body to recognize the Jedi Knights of Star Wars as a legitimate religion.

According to the 2001 British census, 395,000 followers of Star Wars recorded their faith as “Jedi.” That’s more than the number of Jews or Buddhists in England. The petitioners want to be able to wear their Jedi robes in public as an expression of their religion. And they want the International Day of Tolerance to be changed to the Interstellar Day of Tolerance. They signed their petition, “May the Force be with you.”

I never thought I’d preach a sermon based on Jedi theology, but they’re right. As Obi-wan Kenobi said, there is a “Force” which “surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.” When we submit to this Force, our lives are empowered with joy, peace, and purpose. When we refuse this Force, our lives are filled with frustration and defeat.


Unopened Christmas Gifts

Unopened Christmas Gifts

Matthew 3:1-12

Dr. Jim Denison

I have always been jealous of those who have an easier time decorating for Christmas than I do. For instance, a friend in Atlanta had a closet built in his new house specifically for his artificial Christmas tree. He put the tree on rollers, then glued on lights and ornaments and tinsel. Each Christmas he rolls it from the closet and plugs it in. Each New Year he unplugs it and rolls it back into its closet. I know that coveting is forbidden, but it’s hard.

This week I heard a new angle. A friend in our church tells me that his family hates to wrap presents. So they wrapped up some empty boxes and each year set them under the tree. The same boxes, year after year. Then on Christmas Day they open their unwrapped presents, saving all the time and hassle of dealing with shredded paper and sticky tape and such. Again I’m coveting.

I can picture unopened empty boxes. But I cannot imagine unopened boxes with gifts inside. Presents our family and friends chose and bought and wrapped for us, stashed in the attic unopened because it’s too much trouble to unwrap them.