Flags fly at half-staff...our national leaders pause for a moment of silence at the White House and on the Capitol steps...and even seasoned news reporters struggle with the pain and anguish of those devastating moments when a mall parking lot suddenly became a killing field.
Another one of those days. When our country is shaken by the shock and grief - and stories - of a single violent act. The barrage of deadly shots at the Tucson, Arizona supermarket lasted only seconds. The damage done will last for lifetimes.
I know Christmas is over. I can tell by looking in my wallet. And by looking in the room where our whole clan had our Christmas. I heard there are some great sales after Christmas. I'm looking for a bargain on trash bags.
We just gave our two-year-old grandson an early Christmas present - it's a charming children's Nativity. As soon as he opened it, he started arranging Baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the animals exactly where he thought they should be.When I looked at his finished work, I thought, "This little guy gets it."
There's no better time to have a baby boy than Christmastime. My parents did. And we did. No, not my wife and me. That really would be a Christmas miracle. It was our son and daughter-in-law.
And as of this past weekend, our family can say, with the ancient prophecy of Jesus' coming, "to us a child is born; to us a son is given" (Isaiah 9:6). And what a baby boy he is, charging into the world at ten pounds, ten ounces!
The little kid with the round head and the pitiful tree has become a regular part of America's Christmas. Our kids watched "A Charlie Brown Christmas" when they were little; now their kids love it - and their parents never stopped loving it.
I watched the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree this week. It's always heartwarming to watch those lights come on in the middle of the city where I spent so much ministry time.
And there was some good news coming from that big Christmas tree. Sure, we had the obligatory "bubble gum" songs about Santa and snow and toys. But I was impressed with the fact that Jesus was there, too. In beautiful presentations of "Silent Night" and "Away in a Manger" and "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen." There actually were a few relatively holy moments in the midst of the New York glitz.
Get up crazy early. Stand in a long line. Spend hours in bone-chilling cold. Try to avoid being trampled by a stampeding crowd.
Doesn't sound like my idea of a fun way to spend the day after Thanksgiving. Or any day, for that matter. But the weekend news is filled with the stories of countless Americans doing just that. As they hit the stores to scoop up the "door-busting" bargains offered in the wee hours of "Black Friday" (or is it Black and Blue Friday?).
Black Friday veterans have told me that it's not just a crunch - it's also a rush. It's all about recognizing short-lived opportunities and aggressively going after them before they're gone.
So is telling people the Good News about Jesus - that He can erase your sins, love you without strings and guarantee you heaven. It's all about recognizing the opportunities we all have to bring up Jesus. And realizing that those windows of opportunity won't last long. Oh yeah - and going after those opportunities aggressively.
I watched it as a kid. My kids watched it. Now my grandkids are watching it. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade has been around a very long time! And those Rockettes. The announcer said they've been around for over 50 years! Amazing they can still get their legs off the ground at their age.
As the balloons floated by on Thanksgiving, I kept seeing this one word on the store behind them - "Believe." I guess that's inspiring. Vaguely. Actually, "Believe" is a pretty popular message these days. Think positive thoughts. Have faith. In something.
This Thanksgiving, lots of air travelers are having to make the choice: scanner or patdown?
As I'm sitting here listening to all the opinions about Thanksgiving travelers' privacy, something in the Bible popped into my mind.