Friday, December 26, 2008

Relooking Christmas: Why is Christmas worth celebrating?

An original entry by ltrulez on December 24, 2008, found here.

Attention has been brought many a times to the downfall of Christmas though commercialism. Surely there is some merit to that when we look around and we see the ‘spirit’ of Christmas being fueled by advertisements that tell us we need things that are really just wants. Every generation rebels against the previous generation and now bitter or disillusioned Christians are starting to look at Christmas and wonder why we celebrate it. Is not Jesus born around September/October (although we don’t know because the bible never said) and December 25 was just an appropriation of pagan religions? The early church have taken this day since AD 354 and used it to celebrate the birth of Christ. Although the beginnings may be controversial, this has been a practice for 1654 years of the Christian tradition. The question still remains then, do we celebrate it? I will attempt to give a few arguments towards why we should and why this is a practice that needs to be and can be redeemed.

In our current culture, something really sad has happened. We have cut ourselves out of history and focused on the individual experience. What happens to me right now is what is important. Let us forget the past and forget the future. That is why this so called ‘tolerance’ is also so rampant. Ancient cultures used to know who they are by knowing their roots. I personally have been subject to this idea. What matters now is now. However it is prideful to think this way, forgetting what is behind and neglecting what is ahead. That is why so many people do not even want children nowadays; they want to live out their lives for their own comfort! What a way to destroy a civilization! Another reason why this is prideful, is to think that we can now think for our own so well that we no longer trust or stand on the shoulders of past giants. The question is posed, “why do we celebrate a day when every day is God’s day?” I understand the merit of this question however I can also see that this stems from individualistic thinking. The reason why a day is set apart is so that the church as a collective can worship and focus on one particular important point of the gospel. Community worship and community experiencing God is the way God has made the faith to be like! Faith was never meant to be experienced by you but by being in a collective you are blessed and you bless. The church calendar has been set by early Christians who have over a millennium agreed to the importance of these traditions. As Christians, many of us find ourselves subject to other calendars but we are called to define our lives on a)The Word of God (Jesus, the Way the Truth and the Life) b) The bible which is our closest witness to Christ and c) the Church whom God has given authority to represent him on earth. As long as the latter is based on the former, then we are so called to follow such traditions. Now Christmas is a season set by the church to remember God’s gift to us (John 1:14) to reveal his glory in His meekness. Certainly celebrating the birth of Christ is not contrary to the bible and therefore my suggestion is that standing on a long tradition of Christianity we should celebrate Christmas with the multitude of believers in reverence to God for what he has done for us.

Having said all this, it is right to question the commercialism of Christmas and right to be excited at the new reflection of the never ending story of God’s gift to us by becoming flesh! This Christmas I have found a few references in the Bible to this miracle and one of them is found in Revelation 12. We are accustomed to singing “Silent Night, Holy Night”. This is a song that points to the fact that Christ has came on earth to bring peace on earth. This is true and respected however Jesus also says in Matthew 10:34,38-39 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword… And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Of course Jesus doesn’t mean he wants the nation to rage in war with one another, but what he means is the moment he’s come on earth there has been a raging spiritual war that began the day he was born and will continue until his second coming. Revelation 12 speaks of the story of Jesus’ birth and how there was a great red dragon (Satan) who was waiting to destroy him the moment he is born. “Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world- he has thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” (Revelation 12:7-9) After God has protected Jesus from being devoured by the dragon he “became furious with the woman (mother of the child) and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” The night Christ was born sure was holy, but it was not silent… heaven was waging a full out war with the devil!

What does this mean to us this Christmas? It was an exciting revelation to know that this Christmas season we are fighting against the deceiver of this world. Yes, Christmas should be celebrated and it needs to be redeemed from its materialism! We have from the text been given a mission to fight along with Christ against the devil who has deceived the mass. People are not free when bound to materialism, when they go take loans for money they do not have to give gifts that do not satisfy. What is our calling then? To point our fingers and shout and condemn? No, Christ has given us new hearts rather to live a different lifestyle, to preach the good news and to show by example what it means to be truly free. The cure to materialism is giving, we should as families start a new revolution and culture of receiving the good news and the gift of Christ and turn that around by being givers to those in need. In our household this year, we have decided that none of us need anything any longer because we have been so abundantly blessed… so instead of buying each other gifts we as a family are giving houses in need a goat, a pair of pigs, and relief funds to persecuted Christian brothers and sisters in Orissa. Now as a family, we will bless them and bless each other by praying in one heart for others and one another. This is gospel, this is salvation not only for others but our own souls. Yes, with Christ a new revolution and a new lifestyle can come! I share this with you all not to boast in our strengths, rather we are by far not a perfect family… but this is to invite you to join in a revolution that Christ set the day he was born to now and to imitate us as we seek to imitate Christ who has given up his heavenly home to become a child in a manger for our sakes (Philippians 2). Praise be to God, Amen.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

"Punisher: War Zone" is biblical

Actually, that would be a loose way of describing it... A better way to describe this movie is that it is "biblical." Hmmm, technically then, everything is "biblical" if described like that, but that's not the point.

I saw the latest Punisher movie two weeks ago and I thoroughly enjoyed it, because I believe that the story of Frank Castle is an escape for the part of the self that desires and craves for instant justice. Let me try to describe this part of the self (with my bias).

Bad things happen in this world. It is a given. However, when deplorable, vile events and/or circumstances happen in this world that is a result of intentional human activity against another human being, it infuriates the part of the self that considers these things to be wrong. For example, when I hear about things such as human trafficking, women and children forced into prostitution, thieves robbing a destitute family, people harming vulnerable members of the population (eg. elderly), corrupt government officials (or other people in positions of power), and other harmful things, I get mad. There is a part of me that wants to go off into a rage, bursting out screaming as loud as I can (think Dragonball, when they power up to go beat the bad guy), hunting the criminals down who have victimized the defenseless, and executing swift justice on them, because that is what they deserve.

Again, when I hear about horrible things like rebels/pirates/troublemakers in a troubled, war torn part of the world, stealing aid that is supposed to help starving children, there is a part of me that hurts deeply. There is a part of me that overflows with sympathy, empathy, and sometimes intense sorrow. What if that was me who was being victimized? Or someone I knew? It hurts so much that my anger starts to overflow, crying out for justice, asking why is there so much injustice in that situation and others like it. And I ask, what can be done? Evil in the form of hurtful human actions should not be triumphing this way. This evil needs to be quenched, by removing the human that commits the hurtful action. It needs to be punished.

It is in this sense the Punisher is such a great joy to watch. It is a delight to see him hurting other merciless criminals, blowing away baddies (literally), and killing law-breakers, punishing them for their bad deeds. Vigilante justice like the Punisher’s goes beyond what federal laws enforce, by removing the root and cause of the problem; the person who committed the wrong. A victim’s tears cry out for justice as they experience grief, fear, isolation, and loss. The actions of the Punisher dries those tears with maximum retributive justice and it is sweet.

So how is this all biblical? Um… give me a second… haha, just kidding.

I do not condone unnecessary violence. I do not condone killing. I do not condone vigilante justice (although, it is seriously tempting). These are all of course serious problems related to the Punisher’s lifestyle. The Bible explains in Romans 12: 19-21 (NKJV):
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
This must be extremely difficult for a victim to hear, because all they must think about is how they have been wronged. They want justice and revenge, but Jesus says to repay evil with good?! How will that help their situation?! A victim under many circumstances wants to hit their predator back twice as hard, as punishment. But here’s the beautiful thing; God has claimed vengeance because He is the ultimate Judge. Some day, Jesus will act out God’s will and pay out to evildoers what they deserve, just as the Punisher does (but, ahem, not in the same manner I presume). As Frank Castle cleans house (or maybe that should read, cleans a crackhouse), so too Jesus will pour out His justice on our enemies because that is what they deserve.

As much as the Punisher considers what he is doing is right, and likewise, as much as I want to maim my fellow unruly, ignorant, disrespectful and foul-mouthed public transit riders for their annoying and disruptive behaviour on the bus, there is a problem with that kind of thinking. I think during the movie, after a traumatic incident, the Punisher is asked by someone indirectly hurt by his actions, “Who made you judge, jury, and executioner?” I need to ask myself the same question, what gives me the right to judge others? Am I not the same flesh and blood, made in God’s own image like the next person, and who also sins and does evil against other people? Of course I am and of course I do. I am just as horrible, maybe even more. I and the Punisher, are on the exact same “level” as the people we thought we were better than and less deserving of mercy, but more deserving of justice. We deserve pure retribution and punishment as well.

And to conclude, since it is Christmas, this is where the beauty of grace fits; the gift of God that no one deserves so that no one can make claim of anything else and boast that they are better than anyone (Eph. 2:8-9). Despite a grim society and moral depravity, God makes the justice that He is going to pour out on those who deserve it (ie. everyone) escapable. He loves you and me (and if he was real, Frank Castle) so much that He sent Jesus to earth, born humbly in a smelly animal stable, and later to die the death of a lawless criminal, the death that I deserved for my own wrongdoings.

As a lame gift, here’s a new Spider-Man pose; he went and saw Punisher: War Zone too. In this picture, he’s watching the end credits (yes, when everyone else left).

Spider-Man goes to the movies

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snow is fun and so is sarcasm

I am so physically tired. Thanks to the snow, there were many delayed buses, fewer buses on the roads, and completely full buses that kept passing me as I waited at the bus stop. Because of all that, I estimate that I walked around 6km today (in the snow), although it feels like a lot more than that, maybe because some portions of that were uphill... and it was all in the snow. Maybe I should multiply 6km by 1.5, because I speculate that I was moving 1.5 times slower than normal, and I believe I exerted 1.5 times more energy to move. So wow, I walked almost 10km today. Phew.

Thank you Jesus for giving me two feet, a healthy body with sufficient energy, and rubber boots. There's so much whomping snow. I wish I was young enough to enjoy it, but for now I will just continue to stare at the vast whiteness, reflect on the beauty, and grumble at the inconvenience. In my mind, I'm debating if the weather we've had for the past week is worse more than a 40°C heatwave... So far the heatwave is winning. Snow is fun.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Pointless Post #17

It snowed last Friday. It's been cold since then. I had my last (and first) final exam yesterday. It was a cold morning commute to school. I ate candy while I wrote my test. On my way home, I did a jig on the sidewalk. It's snowing right now. Negative temperatures are predicted all through next week so that should mean Vancouver can expect a white Christmas. I can't remember the last time there was a white Christmas in the Lower Mainland. I plan to crank out two meaningful posts soon.

I saw gas for 76.9¢/litre one week ago and I've seen it between the high 70s and low 80s since.

What are Pointless Posts?

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Kraft's Delissio Rising Crust pizza is salty

Very very very salty!

I ate the 3 Meat variety. All of it. According to the box, it was 865g, but is that before or after it's cooked? Mmmmm.... 1.9lbs of pizza goodness.

It was a tad salty though. I finished it about two hours ago, and I'm feeling better now than how I felt about one hour ago. One hour ago, I felt STUUUUFFFED. Now I just feel stuffed.

According to the box, 1/6th of the pizza has 960mg of sodium, or 40% of the daily recommended(?) value. So since I at 6/6ths, I had 5760mg of sodium in this one meal, or 140% more than what I was supposed to have today.

These pretzels, I mean, this pizza is making me thirsty...

I think a lot of the saltiness was in the "zesty tomato sauce," because that was pretty salty (hehe, cogency...). Would I eat this stuff again? Probably yes, because the rising crust was actually quite nice. Would I eat this stuff again tomorrow? That's a tough question.

In summary, I guess this post could have been labeled as Pointless Post #17, but I think it's too long to be considered an official Pointless Post. Don't you have better things to do?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Spider-Man takes public transit

It's been more than two years since there were updates to the Spider-Man poses department. My apologies to the two of you who actually read this (yes, Driscoll, haha!).

Spider-Man rode the bus and skytrain last night. He also has beefs with TransLink, but politely posed for the camera. He is a good and considerate public transit rider.

Spider-Man rides the bus

Spider-Man on the skytrain