Lauren’s toffee

Last week, a plain Tupperware container appeared in the office. The container’s appearance belied the unexpected delight to be found inside: an incredible combination of toffee, chocolate, and almonds. Melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness. Everyone was raving about it. But who had shared such an incredible delight?

This was Lauren’s chocolate almond toffee.

Lauren politely accepted our thanks, but let everyone know that the batch was a failure. Something about the chocolate layer wasn’t right.

This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.

It caused me to think about famous things that people use every day. Penicillin, pacemakers, and Post-It notes all started out as someone’s mistake. This wasn’t what those things were supposed to be.

And that made me think about the way God came at Christmas. God incarnate wrapped in swaddling clothes? This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. Had God made a mistake? What good could come out of this?

Lauren says she has no plans to quit her job and go into the toffee business, but if she did, I would buy stock in that company. Love and delight go into everything she does, even her “mistakes.”

Receiving God’s gift of the incarnation is a bit like trying Lauren’s toffee. You just need to set aside expectations, and let the love and delight sink in.

No Jesus, no light

We’re just a week away from Light Up Night (November 17th) in downtown Pittsburgh. Maybe it has to do with the unseasonably warm fall weather, but everyone says that the holidays have surprised them this year.

But lights are going up all over town. Everyone loves the lights. But do you know why we put them up? They’re a reminder that Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, has come. The good news for the church is that we get to explain this.

No Jesus, no lights.

The recent terrible shootings in Nevada and Texas, and the terror attack in New York, have left people crying out, “Do something!” Yet few folks really believe that the human solutions proposed will really make much difference against the darkness. In their heart of hearts, they know the problem is something deeper.

Christmas lights are reminders that God is doing something about what’s really wrong.

Christmas says that God came into a world of darkness. The darkness was so threatened by Jesus that the king ordered the murder of all the baby boys in the region where Jesus was born. Jesus’ family had to flee into exile to escape the slaughter. God in Jesus Christ was subject to the worst the darkness had to offer.

So, we must stand up against the forces of darkness that lead to murder and chaos. This isn’t the same as trusting in human solutions alone. We stand with the one about whom John, the Gospel writer, said, “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not understood it.”