December 2, 2020

Saturday Ramblings 12.18.10

One more week until Christmas! Did I scare you? Have you finished your Christmas shopping yet? Have you started? Oh my. Looks like someone is going to need an extra helping of Saturday Ramblings to make it through the week. (Mr. Bones requested the week off, but I think we found a suitable replacement. Not sure which of Santa’s reindeer this is. Happy? Sneezy? Help me out here.)

The pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas has started to warn consumers in the Dallas metroplex of stores that fail to say “merry Christmas.” He feels it is important to let you know of stores that instead wish you “happy holidays.” The pastor, Robert Jeffress, says, “I believe our nation overall is going to be healthier as a nation with a public acknowledgment of God than we are if we allow the secularists, the atheists, the infidels to remove any mention of God from our public arena and that’s why I’m doing this.” Sigh…and you people get on my case when I make fun of Texas. With things like this, I don’t have to.

In the meantime, it appears we as a nation are divided as to whether businesses should say “merry Christmas” or “seasons greetings.” And then Michelle Van Loon wonders if we have strayed from celebrating the true meaning of Christmas even in our churches. Finally, Skye Jethani has some ideas of how to take the stress out of Christmas this year for your family and your church.

That new telescope you are getting for Christmas? You can put it to good use looking for universes outside of ours. Adam Palmer brought to our attention a researcher at Oxford who claims to have found evidence of a universe circling ours and—get this—bumping into ours. The nerve! Seriously, how big is our God if he is bigger not only than our universe, but all universes? (Answer: Even bigger than that.)

The leader of the Lutheran World Federation has invited Pope Benedict XVI to work together in planning the 500th anniversary of the Protestant reformation in 2017. Wouldn’t that be like asking your ex to help you plan the five year anniversary of your divorce? Am I missing something here? Maybe the two groups are closer than I thought.

Just what does it take to get into heaven anyway? According to one author, the majority of Protestants and evangelicals believe that you get to heaven by being good. Ok—your Rambler is just going to come out and say it. What else would we expect after a generation of churches teaching how to raise drug–free kids, how to have better marriages, how to stay out of debt, how to vote—everything but the Gospel. If our spiritual lives were Jesus-shaped instead of church-shaped, maybe we would realize that the only thing that qualifies us for heaven is death and resurrection. Try preaching that Sunday after Sunday and see how quickly you can shrink your church.

As St. Paul Harvey used to say, “It’s not one world.” A Vietnamese pastor was beaten until he lost consciousness on Tuesday in Ho Chi Minh City. Officials then bulldozed his Bible school. Meanwhile, Christians in Iraq are under renewed attack. Many are fleeing their homes for northern Iraq to live among the Kurds. It’s not one world.

John Piper plans to resume preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis the weekend of January 8, 2011. Piper took an eight-month leave of absence to work on “character flaws” and strengthen his marriage. This, of course, meets our quota for Piper mentions this week.

Birthdays celebrated this past week include Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn; Willie Mae ‘Big Mama’ Thornton (she sang “Hound Dog” four years before Elvis); Booker T. Jones (I just have to throw this in: Whenever I am driving on I-40 through Tennessee, I have to stop just outside of Jackson at the Booker T. and the M.G.s rest area to, uh, rest. It’s the right thing to do); Teri Garr; Daryl Jones (bass player for the Rolling Stones); Connie Francis; Dionne Warwick; Dickey Betts; Neil Peart (not only one of the best drummers of all time, but also an incredible author); Cathy Rigby; Dick Van Dyke; Christopher Plummer; Ted Nugent; Francis “Aunt Bea” Beauvier; Tim Conway; Arthur C. Clarke; and Ludwig van Beethoven.

For this week’s bonus video, we take you to North Point Church in Atlanta. This is, um, very unique. I have watched this a dozen times this week, and I still don’t know whether to be amazed and impressed, or totally disgusted. The future is here whether I like it or not. Is it ironic that I am showing this video the week of Beethoven’s birthday? In any case, watch and decide what you think. Enjoy!


  1. Dan Allison says

    If someone wishes you “Happy Holidays” and you are offended, you’ve got a problem so complex it’s hard even to discuss. What’s certain is that this is the pettiest kind of concern, a sign that one is easily offended and looking to be offended, and precisely the kind of thing that gives Christians an ugly reputation and drives people by the millions away from Christianity.

    • Worse than that, Dan. It fosters an “us versus them” mentality…

    • I totally support this initiative –

      – if Pastor Jeffress is also out there making sure that stores in the Dallas area wish customers a Happy Eid/Jewish New Year/Chinese New Year/Birthday of the Buddha and especially on December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

      I particularly want to see what his church is doing for the 26th December – you know, the feast of St. Stephen, Proto-Martyr?

      Otherwise, he’s not doing it because “our nation overall is going to be healthier as a nation with a public acknowledgment of God” but because it’s an easy, quick, cheap way to get the name of First Baptist (that’s FIRST BAPTIST OF DALLAS, ladies and gentlemen of the press, and don’t forget to spell my name with the two fs!) into the news and it’s less risky than burning Korans.

      • You didn’t say Divali, Martha. What’s wrong with Hindus? You Christians are so judgmental.

      • No “Happy St. Patrick’s Day”? Are you anti-Irish?

        • Kat, thanks for reminding me. Does Dallas even have a Paddy’s Day parade? If not, I’m offended!


          Good suggestions from you all. Naturally he should remember Diwali and Solstice and God Jul! And Hogmanay for the Scots! And the entire calendar because every day is someone’s celebration!

          I would love to see him trying to do this. Might clear out some of the nonsense. And I would love to see what his church is doing for the Twelve Days, and Epiphany, and Lent, and Pentecost.

          Does the reverend gentleman wear rose-coloured vestments for Laetare and Gaudete Sundays, and if not, why not?


          • You know, I always get a kick out of complimenting priests and pastors on their PINK vestments. They always are quick to respond, “They’re not pink! They’re ROSE!”

            Whatever you say, Father 😉

        • VOlAlongTheWatchTower says


  2. But if you say “Happy Holidays”, you are suggesting that there are people in the world who are not Christian. And as we have seen from bus adverts and marching bands lately, that is the single most evil thing you can do!

  3. Regardless of theological perspective, at least the iband was well done. In all honesty, however, I’m kinda surprised we aren’t seeing a whole lot more of these.

  4. Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a church,
    Maybe Christmas – perhaps – requires a deeper search.

  5. If Christianity survived the persecution of the Roman Empire, it can probably handle the Gap offering generic holiday greetings.

    • VOlAlongTheWatchTower says


    • On the issue of Merry Christmas vs. Seasons Greetings, just remember that axial tilt is the reason for the season. Literally. Without the earth’s tilt, those of us in the northern hemisphere wouldn’t be having colder weather.

      I think that’s something we all can agree on.

  6. I had seen this video earlier and linked it to my Facebook page. I don’t think it’s the music or even the “instrumentation” that bothers me. “Let everything that has breath praise him” extends to electronics, I suppose. But “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” for worship music? I don’t get it.

    What I find most disturbing is the slick production styling in which the whole thing seems geared to be a spectacle. The camera work and big screens are nice. I suppose. But I know how much work goes into producing something that is visually appealing and I wonder if the point gets lost in all the production values.

    • They where having a good time, I don’t think anyone there actually considered it “worship” music. I got a good laugh out of it, very creative and entertaining. They did a good job, and obviously had fun with it.

      When did it become a bad thing to have fun at church?


      • Well, I guess it depends on whether or not this happened on a Sunday morning. If it was just some church event, alrighty then. But if it was in a worship service, I think there is a problem. Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with using iPads to play Christmas music. You’re right, it’s fun, not a big deal. There’s nothing wrong teaching Chilean topography, or explaining how better helmets are being used to prevent concussions in football, either. But if either of those took up a good chunk of time in a Sunday morning service, you’d ask why, wouldn’t you? This is the same thing for me. It seems to me that what happens on Sunday morning is supposed to serve a particular end, and this has very little relation to that end.

  7. And in case you missed it, they have a holiday CD available for purchase. Here’s the promo:

  8. Jeff-
    I believe the Jesus-shaped versus church-shaped dichotomy is a false one. When churches preach about the Christian and the law on how we are to behave than the dichotomy is true. However, if the church is saturated with preaching that uses the law to point us to Christ and then preaches the free Gospel message of Christs crucified for sinners/me it is Jesus-shaped. Follow this with communion, Christ body/blood given to me for the forgiveness of my sins, and the pastor stating my sins are forgiven because of Christ’s death on the Cross (corporate or individual confession/absolution) then the entire service is Jesus-shaped, Cross-focused. Living a life in community of believers who give their time and money so that this message goes out every week and bring this grace to their neighbor is Jesus shaped, built and sustained by a Jesus-church.

    I have experienced many churches where Jesus-shaped and church-shaped are very different. I believe it was never intended to be this way.

    It is important to point out that any Jesus-shaped “spirituality” is also cross-focused. He came to die, for us, for the forgiveness of sins.

  9. Jonathan J. says

    The iBand reminds me of the scene in Revenge of the Nerds in which they do their best Devo impression. Let’s hope these hipsters win over the sorority girls and beat the jocks at their own game.

  10. I recently saw a bumper sticker, “Let’s put the Mass back in Christmas”. I googled it (bumper sticker is no longer available), and it led me to a good discussion about how the American Church has slid away from liturgy and the liturgical calendar. Apparently there is meaning in Advent beyond shopping for presents!

  11. I’m just trying to keep the “i” in Christmas. 😉

  12. I grow more and more weary of the ability shown by many evangelical Christians (in this case Baptists) to their understand their history. In this case, I was told so often that we (fundamentalist Baptists) were the heirs of the Puritans. We were the last of a breed and should defend our kingdom of America or God would destroy us as a nation and it was all our fault. The Puritans didn’t celebrate Christmas. They would never have said, “Merry Christmas” to anybody. They would have been shunning anyone who said took the day off or put up as much as a wreath.


    More the past that never was so we can protest for a future that never will be.

  13. Ah, but the good pastor is just picking up where Dr. Dobson, culture warrior par excellence, left off when Focus canned him. 😉

  14. Jeff,

    You just pointed out the incongruity of Christians around here. There are Christians in places like North Korea, Pakistan, Sudan, Myanamar and many other places suffering horrible persecution, and here in America, we’re more worried that some tired, overworked cashier in Walmart says “Merry Christmas?” Aren’t our priorites a teensy bit off?

    And anyway, isn’t the word “holiday” short for holy day? If we want to be all petty and legalsitic about it, the only thing about the Christmas holiday that isn’t pagan in origin is Santa Claus, who comes by derivation from St. Nicholas, a true-life saint and martyr.

    Most people know by now Jesus wasn’t born on December 25. But I don’t worry about it. It shows the victory of Jesus over paganism. We dont’ celebrate Saturnalia on Dec. 25, we observe Advent and share the hope that is within us.

    • That Other Jean says

      Just for the record, Saturnalia began yesterday, December 17. If there were still worshippers to celebrate it, the merrymaking would have lasted for a week. December 25 was the birthday of Mithras, son of the Sun, born from a rock. Mithraism was a quite popular with Roman soldiers (My Roman history professors would be so happy that I remembered, all these years later!).

    • Bishop Nicholas of Myra was not a martyr.

  15. This year, with my wife being out of work since April and my daughter also being jobless since she graduated from high school last June, we are having a very different Christmas. Bankruptcy, emergency mortgage refinance, and being humbled by the generosity of friends and family have focused our celebration of Christmas on what truly matters, that is, our faith.
    Next Friday there will be no gifts under the tree, we are just fortunate to have a roof over our heads, food in the pantry, and utilities that are paid, even IF paid a little late. This is ALL more than our Savior had at His birth, and MUCH more than most of the rest of the world. The god will we express will indeed come from our hearts, NT our wallets.

    • Also, I wanted to say that seeing a wealthy and successful church celebrate by displaying a group of hipsters banging out songs on $700 multi-media devices does absolutely Nothing to raise my spirits. It makes me glad that I am part of a small church tat focuses on Christ, FIRST, and foremost!

    • Oscar, I hope you find that this is your most joyful Christmas yet. It may well be; I speak from experience. May God bless you and keep you.

    • Oscar thank you for that jolt of reality.
      My family faced the same situation this year. Our church family helped us pay our rent this month. We will keep you in our prayers this up coming year asking God to provide your family with His blessings.

  16. Businesses should just say “ching, ching” as they close the drawer to the cash register. None of this stuff is about Jesus.

  17. Sitting here reading this morning while enduring a nasty cold, feeling miserable, but I had a good, laugh out loud moment regarding the Lutherans inviting the Catholics to celebrate the Reformation. Priceless!

    • This probably is mostly due to the “ecumenism at any cost” mentality of the ELCA. Since much of the leadership is universalist, they minimize the significance of the Reformation in their own minds.

      • As a confessional pastor working in a denomination that is NOT part of the LWF(God forbid!!), I need to say that I appreciate this move. The Reformation caused a tragic (but necessary) division within Western Christendom. We should at least be able to talk about it with the Roman Catholic Church.

        PS: the ELCA is not the entire Lutheran World Federation. The vast majority of Lutherans in the world (especially in Europe) is not as liberal as the ELCA and not as conservative as the LC-MS.

        PSS: when evangelicals will be more concerned about the work conditions of the cashier at Wal-Mart than about whether he says “merry Christmas” or not, they will regain some credibility in my eyes.

    • Speaking from the Catholic viewpoint, does the Lutheran World Federation represent all the Lutherans? I’m given to understand that there are at least three different versions of the denomination just within the United States – Wisconsin, Missouri and the ELCA.

      So it would seem to me that if he concentrates first on getting all the Lutherans in agreement, then he can have a chat with the Pope about reunion.

    • But why shouldn’t the Catholic church celebrate or at least commemorate the Reformation? After all, it kicked off the Counter-Reformation which resulted in a number of corrections to various problematic practices. Heck it caused Trent and even the more Catholic than the Pope crowd love Trent!

  18. “This, of course, meets our quota for Piper mentions this week.” HAHAHAHAHAHA!

  19. With regard to the iBand, I am simultaneously amused, delighted, troubled, dismayed, embarrassed, impressed, entertained, and angry.

    Why am I a post-evangelical? Because there is nowhere in evangelicalism where it is acceptable to be all those things at once.

  20. Kevin Corbin says

    Why in the world would we expect the world to say “Merry Christmas” or to have prayers in school or exhibit any form of Christian tradition (however we define it)? They are not believers. Perhaps is we spent more time following the Great Comission and Great Commandment and changing the world one person at a time through Christ than trying to legislate behavior or make no-believers cater to our beliefs it would actually make a difference.

    • Kevin Corbin says

      Ooops – no coffee yet this morning “Perhaps is we spent” should read “Perhaps if we spent”

  21. I read this week from Reinhold Neibuhr that “When many hearts are cold anything that warms them will seem religious to the undiscriminating champion of religious values”.

    So, go ahead. Send out the Merry Christmas Police (“they live inside of my head” – Cheap Trick). Make retailers pay their royalties to Christianity by promoting the “true meaning of Christmas”. I hope it makes you feel better, and the realization that it’s all a sham won’t damper your Christmas spirits too much.

  22. Here is an interesting article that delves into the history of the December 25 date, and tells why Christians chose that date for Jesus’ birth, from very early on. It wasn’t because anyone was trying to “christianize” a pagan celebration. Worth the read.


  23. may you celebrate Christ mass in the Love of God, through Christ Jesus our Lord.

  24. Re: the iBand thing…

    I’m intrigued, no doubt. I, too, am not sure what to think. I will say this… if these folks were not musicians and only spent their time learning to play the i-instrument apps, then I think it would be a sad thing. But from what I see, I think these are probably real musicians who wanted to try something fun and novel and pulled it off quite well. Hopefully when the fun is over, they’ll go back to learning new skills on real instruments.

    It reminds me (somewhat) of Guitar Hero/RockBand video game stuff. Some people spend hours upon hours with that trying to get good at it but wouldn’t ever touch a real instrument. One time I played Rock Band with my sister-in-law’s family (this was my first ever encounter with it). As a drummer, I couldn’t get a handle on the pads very well. My sis-in-law’s husband requested that I play along on our electronic drums while they did the game. He was completely astounded and asked how I could do that so well without looking at the prompts on the television screen. I told him, “I’m an actual drummer; I don’t just play one in a video game.”

  25. Purple Nurple says

    But Piper was great in “Hell Comes to Frogtown.”

    • For a moment I thought John Piper, then I realized Rowdy Roddy Piper, then for a moment, I pictured John Piper in a kilt with a STEEL chair!

  26. If I still worked in a retail job, I have a couple of greetings I’d like to try out. First, “Happy Holy Days,” until someboy told me to stop, and then I’d go to “Wishing you a plus-good suitably politically correct festivity of your choice.” Until someone told me to stop. And then I probably would have quit . . .

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      doubleplusgood, not plusgood.

      Other than that, I can get behind either of those greetings.

      (You can tell it’s December when all the War on Christmas stuff starts. Just like you can tell it’s October when all the Satan’s Holiday stuff starts.)

  27. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    That reindeer looks happy…

    • …actually it looks like it is laughing. Yeah, the reindeer is laughing at the silly hair-splitting notions humans resort to during the holiday season. Lord have mercy… 🙁

  28. I’ve always made it my habit to simply say, “Something Else!” during the traditional Christian holidays. Sure it gets the raised eyebrow every single time, but then it gives me ample opportunity to witness to the confused check-out assistant or Salvation Army bell wringer. I love the look of mild curiosity it elicits & how it makes me feel since no one is offended by such a sincere wish+response. Of course, it does not get me any brownie points in heaven or win any spiritual cultural battles here on earth, but then the motivation it is delivered with the real issue, isn’t it? Have a very Something Else saints & sinners alike! Pax.