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Thirty years ago Stephen Covey published his now-famous book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In it he poses the question, “What’s the one activity, if you did it consistently and did it well, would yield dramatic results in your life?”
With the days getting warmer (although soon growing shorter!) it’s natural to want to slow down in the summer. And with the influx of the summer population, traffic and the time waiting in lines is guaranteed to slow us down, even as life grows hectic for a season.
Almost 20 years ago, a rather obscure passage from the Old Testament became instantly popular in some Christian circles, providing the basis for a best-selling book, bible studies, and a plethora of decorative merchandise.
If you’ve got an eye for detail, you may notice that the Sunday bulletins refer to the “Second Sunday in Easter” (and “Third Sunday in Easter,” and so on). I’ve got to admit, I always used to see “First Sunday AFTER Easter”… at least until we got to Pentecost Sunday.
As we journey through the rest of Lent, we remain mindful of Christ’s passion and encounter our own complicity in his death and the brokenness of this world. On Maundy Thursday we will strip our worship space of ornamentation and its bright reflection to represent the darkness which Christ was sent to dispel. On Good Friday we will honor Jesus’ offering of himself, even unto death, as both a sin offering and a guilt offering on our collective behalf. And on Easter morning we will celebrate the triumph of the empty tomb, signifying that death is not final… and that because Christ is risen we too may be risen to new and abundant life everlasting.
You may remember a while back a catchphrase used by the U.S. Army in their recruiting ads: “Be All You Can Be.” The gist of it was that by signing up for Army life you’d grow into something far greater than you’d be if you didn’t do so. And if you think about it, all of the growth and change in your life wouldn’t happen right in the moment when you sign your name on the recruiting papers.
Robert Burns once wrote, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley,” or to render it in contemporary English, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” We live in a chaotic world, in which our best hopes and dreams so often are laid out into elaborate plans that soon disintegrate into dust. Church and governmental institutions grow increasingly dysfunctional.
In all honesty, I’ve never been very keen on making New Year’s resolutions… partly because I’ve felt they’re over-hyped and partly because the few times I’ve made them I haven’t followed through all that well. But, as we move through the Christmas season, entering a new year along the way, I’d like to suggest that we can all (and I’m including myself here) make a resolution and meet it with success.
For over 50 years, viewers of A Charlie Brown Christmas have been reminded that, although we can all lose “the Christmas spirit,” if we look past the glitter and sentimentality that have come to characterize the weeks leading up to December 25 and remember the real reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place we will find the joy, hope, and peace we were looking for in the first place.