Month: December 2017

The Elusive Christmas Spirit

Most of us struggle to find it, to feel it, to know, to experience it… that special feeling of Christmas when there is a sense of joy in the air, peace in the heart, and benevolence in the wallet.  The Christmas Spirit is elusive in the midst of the hectic pace of modern life.  It’s sometimes hard to capture, even harder to hold for more than just a moment in time.  It seems to me that it was easier to lay hold of as a child.  There were school plays and gift exchanges and constant reminders of the season with each carefully-crayoned winter landscape or every hand-made construction paper ornament.  The excitement built through the month of December until the glorious release of Christmas break when the schedule altered and the focused turned to the presents collecting under the tree.  Ask any kid how many days till Christmas and they will answer with exacting measurement.

But it’s different for adults.  It’s hard to escape the stress of the season long enough to capture a moment or two of its glory.  Maybe it’s because the “success” of the season rests more on our shoulders than it once did as children.  We have to consider things like budgets, travel, meals to prepare, houses to clean, and presents to wrap.  It’s easy to let the Spirit seep away without ever holding it for very long.  When I was a pastor, the Christmas season was intense.  There were sermons to write, services to plan, hospitals to visit, and articles to author.  In fact, I often found myself settling into my recliner late on Christmas Eve, after the final Service of the season was put to rest, before I actually relaxed and let the Spirit wash over me.  Sometimes the Christmas Spirit would find its way into my life in the midst of the craziness of the season.  Somewhere in the writing of words, or structuring of a service, or the listening to the music of season I would find it.  But not always.

It is interesting to me how most of us strive to capture the season in our hearts.  We listen non-stop to Christmas music.  We decorate the house to excess.  We shop until both our bodies and purses are exhausted.  We bake.  We wrap.  We eat.  But still, so often we find ourselves a day or so after Christmas morning wondering how another year passed us by without our ever really getting into the spirit of things.  Charlie Brown once mused to Linus about the “commercialization” of Christmas… and that was decades ago when the 30-minute cartoon presentation first came on the air.  Even now when I watch those old reruns, I get a little nostalgic for the simpler days and the slower pace.

My wife and I do a few things to put ourselves in the Christmas mood.  She bakes a lot of really good pumpkin bread and it brings her joy to give it away to family and friends.  This year she made Christmas cookies with our oldest granddaughter, Hannah Rae.  It brought both of them a lot of gladness.  One of the things I enjoy doing is taping all of the Christmas cards we receive to the wall outside our kitchen.  It’s nice to be reminded of family and friends.  I also like to set out the Christmas china on the dining room table.  Can’t explain why that brings me some joy… maybe a reminder of the way my mom always set the grandest table at Christmas.

I’m not sure there is any one “set-in-stone” answer for capturing the Christmas Spirit.  But the most fool-proof answer that I can offer is bound up in the idea of giving yourself away.  Perhaps we are most like our Father each Christmas when we value the satisfaction and pleasure it brings us to give something important to someone in need.  It may be that you give your spouse a special, well-thought out gift that is much appreciated but unexpected.  Maybe it’s the check you write to a non-profit that is making a difference in your community.  Maybe it’s in the time you offer as a volunteer this season to brighten someone’s day.  All I know is this… until you offer the gift of your heart, your life, your energy, and your resources to bring hope, encouragement, or peace to a troubled life or situation, you will never fully capture the Spirit of the season.  So, think outside of yourself… think outside of the box… think outside of your comfort zone, and see if the joy of the season doesn’t sneak up on you in some special and mysterious way.

-Dr. Jon R Roebuck, Executive Director

Podcast: A Story for Christmas – 2017

This podcast features an original Christmas story written by Dr. Jon Roebuck, entitled, “First Responders.”  The story, set in modern day Kentucky, attempts to remind listeners of the unique events surrounding the birth of Jesus, celebrated each Christmas.  Additional stories of Christmas can be found in Dr. Roebuck’s collection of Christmas stories, Christmas Then & Now… Stories of the Season.  (Available on-line at and Barnes & and is also found in local Lifeway stores here in Middle Tennessee.)

It’s the Guns, Stupid.

If you think that after the tragic shooting in Texas this past Sunday that gun laws are going to change in America, think again.  They won’t.  Collectively we thought that after New Town, things would change.  They didn’t.  After the Pulse shooting in Orlando, people called for change.  Nothing happened.  After hundreds were gunned down at a country music concert, the nation mourned, but that’s all that happened.  And after Texans were slain while in the most sacred of spaces, nothing will happen yet again.  And why?  Because somewhere along the line we have accepted the premise that 2nd Amendment Rights should trump the promise of the Declaration of Independence which states that ALL of the citizens of this noble republic can cling to the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  The simple, selfish truth is that the right to bear arms has a greater place in the hearts of our nation than the desire to offer people a nation where the well-being and safety of every citizen matters.

When will we admit, that not everyone should have the right to own or possess a firearm?  There are many who should have forfeited that right out of violence, criminal history, domestic disputes, or mental instability.  We cannot allow ourselves to continue to advocate for gun rights over human rights.  Consider the actions of the Southern Baptist Convention just this week.  In a spirit of compassion, they have offered to pay for all of the funeral services for the victims of the Sutherland Springs massacre.  While having the generosity to respond to a need, they lack the courage to act politically.  They are unwilling to decry gun violence or enter the political debate to enact stricter gun laws.  Doesn’t it make better sense to encourage change at the ballot box than it does to wipe up the blood of those slain because of inaction?

All of us can recite the rhetoric of the gun proponents.  “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” or, “If you take away all the guns, then only the criminals will have guns.”  The truth of the matter is that guns do kill people whenever they are placed in the hands of the misguided, the angry, the disturbed, or the revenge-seeker.  And no one can deny the enormity of the problem.   There are currently an estimated 283 million guns in civilian hands here in the U.S.  An additional 4.5 million are sold each year.  When that many people have guns, the potential for someone to become victimized grows exponentially.  Each year on average, 111,779 people are shot in America by a firearm.  32,964 of them will die.  Of those committing suicide each year, 20,511 do so with a firearm.  It’s easy to do the math.  In the past 10 years, over a million Americans have been shot and nearly 350,000 Americans have died as a result.  And yet politicians lack the courage to even remotely consider better legislation.  Who are they pretending to protect?

Why is it so unrealistic to legislate stricter gun control laws?  Why is it so hard to take a commonsense approach to the sale of military-style assault rifles?  Why is it not the law of the land that certain criminal infractions should force the immediate surrender of firearms and the prevention of future firearm sales to those individuals?  Why is it not considered child neglect when guns and rifles are not stored safely and securely in each home?  No, I’m not coming to take away your guns.  I’m not suggesting that the government needs to do so either.  But I am saying that until we are willing to legislate better gun laws and enforce greater compliance concerning those who have forfeited the right to own a gun, that mass shootings, be they in churches, schools, movie theatres, or night clubs, will continue to be the norm and not the exception.  May God grant us the wisdom to think rationally, act wisely, and live respectfully.

-Dr. Jon R. Roebuck, Exec. Director