Your family is a Christmas tree 

 

Wikimedia Commons

A newsroom argument over whether colored lights or white lights look better on the Christmas tree:

“Colored lights make a tree look messy,” I said.

“Christmas trees are like families. They’re supposed to be messy.”

It effectively ended the debate, and those words have been jingling around my head since.

Family drama can place a strain on this mistletoed holiday. When people bounce from house to house, relative to relative, old arguments are dredged up, new ones spring to life.

As we near the cusp of Christmas, remember this is a season of great love, of the greatest love. No earthly thing can overwhelm that.

I encourage you to remember the reason we gather these next two days (or, for those with larger families, for the next week, repeatedly). This is a time based in love. It is a time to put aside squabbles and arguments and drama. The homemade ornaments on the tree are far more important than what is under them.

A Christmas tree is like a family. It may be big or small, messy or neat, picturesque or haphazard. No matter the kind, it is twinkling and loved all the same.

Merry Christmas. Peace on earth.

 

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After Orlando: An open letter to the Christian community

I am not even sure where to begin. Tragedy has struck Orlando, and America as a whole. My heart breaks for these victims and for their families.

49 dead. 53 injured.

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Image originally from Jetblue.com

It both matters and does not matter that the victims of this tragedy were members of the LGBT community.

It matters because of their attacker. Omar Mateen reportedly pledged alliance to an Islamic terrorist organization. Islam has long been known to condemn homosexuality and identities related to it. Pretending these victims were not in a gay club when they were shot would be an insult to them. Pretending that is not why they were attacked is ignorant.

Do not sweep this fact under the rug. It is important to remember who they identified as, because it was the reason they were targeted.

At the same time, these identities, whether they were gay, bi, or trans, also do not matter at all. Even to Christians, it should not matter that these victims were members of the LGBT community. This could have happened at any club, at any school, at any supermarket, at any church.

Victims are victims are victims are victims.

Mourn them. Do not qualify your grief. Do not add an addendum. Forego the “even though.”

This is not the time to get on a pulpit. This is the time to stand beside people who are hurting. Show Christ through love and support.

Christ suspended judgement and showed love.

In this time of grief, do the same.

Merry Christmas, Starbucks

Christmas seems to come earlier each year and, with it, controversy. The latest being, of course, Starbucks’ new holiday coffee cups.

Each year during the holidays, Starbucks switches its classic cup design to one with a little more holiday feel. This year, it was a simple two-toned red design with their logo.

And, apparently, some Christians are angry about this.

The “Merry Christmas” versus “Happy Holidays” debate has been around for a long time, and it certainly is a valid one, but how far does this extend? The cups have not had Christian symbols on them in years, if they ever did (and I certainly can’t find evidence for it). They don’t have anti-Christian messages. In fact, this year, they don’t have anything on them at all.

You can view a slideshow of Starbucks’ holiday cups here 

People seem to forget two important facts about the entire thing.

First, it has been long-established that Starbucks is not a Christian corporation. They support gay marriage and donate to Planned Parenthood (which you can read about here and here). If you’re going to not support Starbucks, perhaps it should be because it endorses the breakdown of marriage and murdering of babies, not because their coffee cup doesn’t have a Christmas tree.

Second, a company as big as Starbucks is going to appeal to lowest common denominator—what will get them the most money. They are not trying to witness, to spread Christ’s love, or tell the Good News. They are trying to sell coffee.

Something in which they are succeeding tremendously. In fact, a whole movement called #merrychristmasstarbucks centers around buying that coffee in order to protest it. Customers give their name as “Merry Christmas” at the counter, forcing baristas to shout “Merry Christmas” in the store.

The movement was jumpstarted by Joshua Feuerstein, an internet personality who posts short videos about Christianity. You can see the original video here

Although good in theory, it has one major flaw: people are protesting a company’s product by buying that company’s product. Counterintuitive, to say the least.

It’s also worth noting that Starbucks still does use the term “Christmas” on some of their other products, such as the coffee blend here.

While “taking a stand” against the “un-Christian” coffee cups is well and good, there is a point where it does more harm than good. Because of it, Christians are being perceived as shallow and nitpicky. Movements are only beneficial until they start being counterproductive.

You can view a collection of #merrychristmasstarbucks tweets on my Storify here.

Besides, at the end of the day, whose job is it to spread the love and word of Christ: ours or the corporations’? Perhaps that coffee money would be put to a better use as a donation or gift.

At the end of the day, if you let Christ shine through you, you won’t need a coffee cup to spread the Good News.

Conversations

I am a Christian, who comes from a family of Christians, who has long-time friends who are predominately Christians. Despite—or perhaps because of—this, I find myself lacking the very thing I should be having in abundance: conversations about Christianity.

It’s not that my friends and family don’t talk about subjects like gay marriage, abortion, modesty, or growing in our faith. It just turns out that when you already know what your friends are going to say, having those difficult discussions just isn’t the same.

When I came to Summit, I expected to hear about those particular topics (and others) and maybe talk about them. After all, small groups and class discussions provided a built-in a space to listen to others’ thoughts and share your own. As promised, I have been completely challenged by the lectures. Not only have they strengthened my faith, but they have given me the tools to understand exactly why I believe what I do and how to challenge others’ beliefs.

What I didn’t expect were the conversations outside the classroom. Summit is full of students who are not only willing, but eager, to share their thoughts on Christianity and the tough topics. Whether staying up to talk about Catholicism with my roommate or hiking and discussing what modesty really is, I am consistently surrounded by people who are ready to have in-depth discussions about difficult subjects.

As someone who learns best through discussion and debate, these talks have been the highlight of my time at Summit. Comparing ideas—with or without mutual agreement—feeds me in a way mere lecture or Christian companionship cannot.

One discussion that particularly struck me took place at lunch. As someone who is interested in the film industry, I frequently become frustrated with Christian movies because they are often poorly written, directed, and acted. As a result, they often fall short of their intent: sharing the gospel with a fallen world. I started talking with group of students about the well-known Christian movie God’s Not Dead and how it was largely ineffective. We discussed not only this movie, but the entire Christian movie industry and what needed to change to make it effective. Knowing that other students see the same flaws and share the same passions as I do—and are willing to discuss how to fix them—excites me. Although this discussion wasn’t a “hard-hitting” topic like homosexuality or abortion, it allowed me to hear others’ thoughts about a subject close to my own heart.

The students at Summit are what really make Summit. The speakers spark the thoughts, but the students drive them home. Being surrounded by students who not only live a Christian life, but discuss it as well is something that is different for me. It turns out, though, it is exactly what I needed.

I am a Christian, who comes from a family of Christians, who has long-time friends who are predominately Christians. And I plan to start having more of the very thing I should have in abundance: conversations about Christianity.