Monthly Archives: December 2013

“Christmas Must Be Tonight!”


“Christmas Must Be Tonight!” Christmas silhouette 2013-1

I’ve been singing that song and that line a lot this year! It’s a great song by Robbie Roberson (who wrote it in the seventies) and it’s the first song on my Christmas album.

And, as I write, tonight it’s absolutely true! To get that album ready to go, I’ve been singing Christmas songs since February, and loving it! I may just keep on all year around. I love seasons and try not to slight any of them, particularly the “holy-days” much of Christendom has been keeping for a scad of centuries. There’ve long been Puritans and their fear-throttled descendants around trying to throw cold water on such, but not in my spirit, they won’t! We have nothing to fear from too much genuine joy or beauty because, if the joy and beauty are genuine, they are God’s, and they blaze with His glory, far more brightly than human vessels can perceive. One day we’ll see them in their full splendor; until then, even the glimmers we see here are a magnificent gift from God. I’ll not slap my Father in the face by refusing or distrusting such a gift!

“Silent Night” points to the coming of genuine Joy, simple and exquisitely beautiful words about the coming of the Word, the greatest Gift. And joy is there. But for God’s people, all joy is God’s joy, and I figure we should sing “Let It Snow!” with more gusto, joy, and fun than anyone. And if you hear “Let It Snow!” warbling from the inside of my pickup cab in July, well, what better time to sing it with genuine feeling! Yes, the changing seasons are another of God’s gifts, but I must admit, it’s becoming clearer to me all the time: winter and snow and mountains and fireplaces and . . . Christmas! Those are my favorite things!

Yes, I’ve been especially attuned to Christmas this year, but I knew it was right around the corner when a sweet granddaughter awoke in our room one early morning and, as this little beauty often does, just launched, suddenly completely awake, into excited speech: “PawPaw, I heard sleigh bells and reindeer paws!” And another little beauty chimed in, “Me, too, PawPaw!” Well, if you’re hearing such, it’s proof positive that Christmas is well on the way, right?

And now, well, Christmas must be tonight! Our family cheated just a little and rushed it up a bit. We gathered around the tree and by the fireplace and tore into the presents last Merry Christmas 01weekend, to the delight of all, I think. I doubt it will confuse the sleigh-driver or the reindeer. And I’m casting my vote with the great song: I’m looking for a white Christmas, and this year have decided to take no chances. My wife and I were invited to snow country, to Red River, New Mexico, where I’ll be leading and singing in the Christmas Eve service at the Community House here. So, I’m looking out the window of the cabin and Christmas is already white!

Oh, yes, it starts tonight! And wherever you are, whether you’re thrilling to the beauty of the snow, hearing the sounds of reindeer paws, loving the carols of worshipers welcoming the Child, enjoying the presence of people you love, or quietly trusting in a dark time that His light is the truest of hopes and the source of it all, don’t forget on this Christmas night and all during this season of beauty and joy, God’s best Gift. Invite Him again into your heart, and feel His hope anew. All because of Bethlehem.  


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Copyright 2013 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

Christmas Is Only As Strong As Its Weakest Link

Cross-Advent 01

I don’t usually think of Christmas and chains as going together, unless I’m reading about the ponderously-chained Ghost of Christmas Past who so terrorized old Ebenezer Scrooge! But I believe this to be true: Christmas is a “chain” which is only as strong as its weakest link.

If Christmas deals only with lights and tinsel, egg nog and poinsettias (all of which I enjoy very much, I hope you understand), and the Yuletide joy and peace, love and good will, we sing about are just artificial twinkles and largely illusory light, then Christmas is a weak and pathetic thing which can’t possibly stand the test of life and time and which will fade a long time before the January sales (and credit card bills) end.

If Christmas has to do only with parties and good times, but nothing to do with hospital rooms and disgusting diagnoses . . .

If Christmas has to do only with smiles and “Merry Christmases” and nothing to do with hope at a graveside . . .

If Christmas has to do only with sales and not souls, presents and not His Presence, holiday cheer but not lifelong Joy . . .

If Christmas has to do only with Jingle Bells and nothing to do with “God with us,” well, then, Christmas is not up to the task of making a real difference in our lives, and it’s just one more momentary diversion for the despairing, one more false hope for people who know no hope, and it certainly won’t make much difference in life, or in death, or in anything at all very real or substantial.

But if Christmas, and all that is best about this good season, points to real light and hope, glimmering reflections from the Father of Lights, the Giver of Joy, the Sender of the very best Gift, then the Christ of Christmas can use this time of celebration to point us to light that truly is stronger than darkness, hope that is genuinely stronger than despair, and life that is ultimately and infinitely stronger than death.

Then we discover that the Light of Christmas is real indeed because He is real, and life is far more substantial than death.

Then Christmas means something beautiful and wonderful and real. And Christmas joy can and will last forever.


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Copyright 2013 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

“If You Want To Know What a Man’s Like . . . “



I just wanted a good story, nothing especially profound, as I was reading one of J. K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” books a few years ago. But from the mouth of one of her characters came this bit of wisdom: “If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”

If you wonder about the quality of Pious Pete’s piety, go to a restaurant with him and see if he turns into a demanding, unwilling-to-be-pleased jerk, snaps at the staff, and tip-stiffs the server.

If you want to know if the CEO of the company believes the mission statement about “valuing all employees,” it might be good to notice if he knows the name of the janitor who cleans his office.

A Santa who doesn’t at least make some effort to know the names of his elves’ spouses and kids (and the real Santa better know ’em all!) is just a loud fat glory-hound on a sugar high. He needs his red tail section kicked down to Central Shipping low in the Pole for a week to see how the little guys live while he’s flying around in the Mark V fly-by-wire sleigh.

The real tests for most of us aren’t off at the North Pole or even down at the office. They come close to home. The guy who sits in his recliner barking orders at his wife, or gets hoarse shouting at the kids who know to avoid him in his “moods,” who has never washed a dirty dish or changed a dirty diaper in his life . . .  The gal who fancies herself more “spiritual” than most folks around her but who most folks around her are happy to avoid . . .

Those folks needn’t wonder if they’d pass the faith-test that would come with serious persecution; faith-tests come every day, and the most important are the ones we don’t recognize as tests at all, the ones that catch us by surprise. Who do you hold the door for at the Post Office? Who do you just walk by and never “see”?

I’ve failed most of those tests often, I’m sure. But as I’ve been singing a bunch during this season, one of many surprises has been a reminder I needed. At several events, as I’ve been setting up or tearing down, guess who were the only others there? The serving staff also setting up, cleaning up, or already re-configuring the room for the next of a jillion hot-on-their-heels Christmas gatherings. Those workers are as human and flawed as the rest of us, and I’m sure they have their share of Grinches, but I have found myself amazed at the Christmas spirit of such folks who work longer, harder, and for less return than most of the folks they serve.

I love all the “Merry Christmases” I’ve received this year. The words are a simple gift, and only cost a very little breath to give. But perhaps the most precious “Merry Christmases” I’ve been given this year are the heartfelt wishes kindly and generously given by these hard-working folks as I’m headed out their door.

Hmm. That calls to mind another Servant. Another Gift.


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Copyright 2013 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

A Sad Conclusion: Some People Are Afraid of Joy


I really didn’t want to come to this conclusion. But I’m afraid it’s true: Some folks are afraid of joy.Christmas tree-manger scene-01

We’ve all known some folks who, for a variety of reasons, don’t seem to have much joy. And, we might as well admit it, some folks, sad to say, are expert at chasing away the joy of others. They are good folks to avoid lest you catch their misery-virus.

And have you noticed that folks who are joy-less or joy-deficient are “attractive”? No, I don’t mean that they’re good-looking; they tend NOT to be that. I mean that they certainly seem to attract others who are joy-less or joy-deficient. Misery really does love company and, for some twisted reason, enjoys mutual misery.

The patron saint of the joy-less should be a gal named Michal. She was one of the daughters of King Saul who became the wife of King David. It’s sad but worth noting that when Saul found out that Michal was in love with David, the “rival” of whom he was insanely and murderously jealous, he was glad, the Bible tells us, because he thought, “She may be a snare to him.”

So what was wrong with Michal? Was she dour and sour, selfish and “high maintenance,” carping and critical from early on? So much so that even her royal father had long thought, “Whoever gets hold of her will rue the day!”

Much later when David is reigning as king and the sacred Ark of the Covenant finally comes home to Jerusalem, the Scriptures tell us that David, the “man after God’s own heart,” danced before the Lord and the returning Ark “with all his might.” Michal, we’re told, looked at him from her window and “despised him.” In so doing, she despised his worship to the God of all joy. Cold and frosty through and through, Michal disdained David’s joy and, in the process, his God. The Bible says sadly, “She remained childless all her days.” Evidently, she remained joyless all her days.

When the Psalmist writes, “The joy of the Lord is my strength,” I think he’s implying that all true joy is God’s joy. Any “joy” we try to manufacture apart from God is counterfeit and fleeting.

Is it possible to really be close to God and not feel joy? I don’t see how. He IS joy.

Why would opening ourselves up to God’s joy be frightening? Because it implies losing our right to hang onto anything that separates us from the Source of joy. Bitterness, anger, resentment, pettiness, strife. There is no joy in letting such things define us. There can’t be.

In this wonderful season, we talk a lot about joy, and well we should. What is more full of joy than God coming near to us at Bethlehem? Let Michal’s children (Oh, she has some!) snidely deride if they wish. Their punishment is self-inflicted. Just be sure you share the joy of the angels, the shepherds, the wise men, the Lord.


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Copyright 2013 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

An Odd Calendar and “Merry Thanksgiving!”



I’m writing this column between meals on Thanksgiving weekend. Our family’s absolutely gargantuan meal is still coming, sandwiched between meals that are just really amazingly big, and I’m sitting in a food-induced stupor pondering the calendar.

The calendar is playing some tricks on us this year. Thanksgiving and the turkey, dragging their heels, showed up way late, which means that Advent/Christmas will be upon us way early. By Sunday, Thanksgiving weekend and December will have crashed right into each other, a bit of a wreck with ramifications. If you’re a retailer, you’ll have six fewer days to “re-tail” this year. If you are, say, a guy who has just recorded a Christmas CD, that means six fewer days to sing Christmas concerts (and it’s six days closer to post-Christmas singing depression).

And, yes, if you’re a pastor planning a variety of seasonal church and worship activities, services, sermons, etc., well, it might be helpful to know that this year when the wise men show up it probably won’t be with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. More likely they’ll be bringing turkey, dressing, and giblet gravy.

It is, you know, simply because three gifts were mentioned the first time around that we just assume those first wise guys were a trio. If that first Christmas had been as close to Thanksgiving as this one, I figure our Christmas cards would be featuring an additional wise fellow, the song would be “We Four Kings,” and one more little guy in a church Christmas pageant would need to borrow his dad’s bathrobe to dress up for the journey down the church aisle to Bethlehem under the star up front.

I’m betting that somebody’s wise wife would have packed his camel bags with some cranberry sauce as a gift to go along with the other three guys’ tasty offerings. And that makes four. Four gifts. And four wise men.

Anyway, it’s leftover turkey and dressing for lunch this Sunday, after the service where we light the first Advent candle. Merry Thanksgiving!

But maybe this year’s calendar crash is not as much of a clash as I first thought.
You see, Thanksgiving reminds me that no matter how hard I’ve worked, the most noteworthy thing about my life is how completely needy and poverty-stricken I am when it comes to saving myself. The blessings I need the most are blessings straight from God, blessings that only he could give, blessings that I could never earn, deserve, or procure myself.

Guess what? Here comes Christmas with much the same lesson, written large: “Get over yourself, pilgrim! The Gift given to save you is God’s Gift, not one you could ever have given or even imagined. You can’t improve it, add to it, or in any way deserve it. You can just accept it.”

Peanut butter and jelly. Turkey and dressing. Joy and thanksgiving. Some things just go together. A good lesson from an odd calendar.


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Copyright 2013 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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