Saturday, December 13, 2008

Serve Him Without Fear

He has raised up a horn of salvation for us… to rescue us from the hand of our enemies and to enable us to serve him without fear.

                        Luke 1.69, 74

Old Enough to Know Better

In a feat of literary bravado, Luke kicks off his Gospel with parallel plots: the conceptions of Jesus and John the Baptist. It’s conceivable he brings John into the picture to contrast Zechariah, his father, with Mary. Luke finds Zechariah, a priest getting on in years, alone in the temple. An angel tells him his wife, Elizabeth, is pregnant with a boy, whom he’s to name John. Zechariah asks, “How can I be sure of this? I’m old and my wife’s not much younger.” The angel ignores him and essentially says if he’s that old, he’s old enough to know better than to doubt God’s messenger. Before the priest can utter a word, the angel strikes him dumb until his boy is born. Six months later, while Zechariah remains speechless, the same angel visits Mary. She takes the angel at his word. “I am the Lord’s servant,” she says. “May it be to me as you have said.”

Time to Think

For nine months, Zechariah has time to think about how he messed up. But did he mess up? Before embracing her news, Mary asks a very similar question: “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Her response is no less mystified than Zechariah’s—or so it appears. Side-by-side, however, they’re radically different. Zechariah asks to be sure. Mary asks to understand. He’s uncertain of his possibilities. Her question rings with faith—how will this be, not how can it be. That’s the big difference Luke wants us to see between the old priest and the young girl. God’s promises aren’t for the hesitant and fearful. They don’t resonate with people who fall back on experience and precedent. But when we take His Word at face value and try to grasp where we fit into His plan, we find (as the angel tells Mary) “nothing is impossible with God.”

Where Doubt Leads

Doubt takes us one of two places: defeat or belief. Either we stick with our questions or we reach a place where we toss them aside. Zechariah chooses the latter. When John is born, family and friends rush to see the new baby, wanting to know what Elizabeth and Zechariah chose for his name. Everyone assumes he’ll be named for his father. When they hear his name is “John,” they draw back. “Nobody in your family has that name,” they say. Zechariah motions for a pad to write, “His name is John.” He’s sure this time. His written confession loosens his tongue and, having been trapped with his thoughts for so long, he starts to sing. He rhapsodizes about the imminent birth of Jesus, and his song remains thrilling to this day—especially coming from a fearful old man.

“God has raised up a horn,” Zechariah sings, referring to a symbol of strength, “so that people and circumstances that once inhibited our worship are powerless against us.” There’s no reason to doubt any more. There’s nothing and no one to be afraid of. God has rescued us from our enemies and enabled us to serve Him without fear. When experience and logic lead us to doubt, we can let it carry us away. Or, like Zechariah, if we take time to think about what our doubt signifies, it can lead us to faith. Others' opinions and beliefs about anyone’s right to follow Jesus are not our concern. Opposition from our family, church, and community isn’t our battle. Jesus is our strength. He has come to our rescue. He has enabled us to serve Him without fear.

Zechariah and the angel.

(Tomorrow: Before Birth)

Postscript: The Christmas Album

Well, actually, it’s a mix—and it’s really good! A number of you pitched in your holiday favorites to compile a “Straight-Friendly Christmas Album” as a gift we all can share during this season. In my appeal, I suggested it would also give us a musical snapshot of the fine, eclectic group of people who drop by. Well, fine and eclectic it is. Even the two different versions of two songs were too good to choose between. So I put all of them in. I know you’ll enjoy it—not just for what’s on it, but how beautifully it comes together! Here’s the list of songs and contributors:

  1. O Come, O Come Emmanuel – Joan Baez (FranIAm)
  2. Rejoice – Richard Smallwood & Vision (Tim)
  3. Baby, It’s Cold Outside – James Taylor & Natalie Cole (Annette)
  4. O Come All Ye Faithful – Nat “King” Cole (Cuboid Master)
  5. Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt (Annette)
  6. Joy to the World – Mariah Carey (johnmichael)
  7. Wildwood Carol – Holly Cole (Tim)
  8. Jesus, Oh What a Wonderful Child – Marva Wright (Tim)
  9. Jingle Bells – The Mexicali Brass (Cuboid Master)
  10. Breath of Heaven – Donna Summer (FranIAm)
  11. Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Alan Cumming & Liza Minnelli (FranIAm)
  12. O Holy Night – Josh Groban (FranIAm)
  13. Grown-Up Christmas – Amy Grant (johnmichael)
  14. Greensleeves – Vince Guaraldi Trio (Annette)
  15. Joy to the World – Whitney Houston (Tim)
  16. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – James Taylor (Border Explorer)

You can download it here. 

Straight-Friendly Christmas Album 2008

(File size: 61 Kb. Total run-time is just over an hour.)

Joy to the world, everyone!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Good Will to Men

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

                        Luke 2.14 (KJV)

When Jesus Comes

The NIV translates the song the angels sang to the shepherds like this: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Its drive for accuracy is admirable yet it totally strips the happiest melody ever sung of all its music. And I detect an overly stern grammarian in the cockeyed phrase “on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” That may convert Luke’s text word for word. But I can’t imagine it captures what he wanted us to hear the angels sing. It puts a lid on what the King James Version’s less fastidious translation conveys as an uncontained eruption of joy for all. Peace for all. Good will for all.

Isaiah 9.6 prophesies when Jesus comes, “the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” In short, a New Order goes into effect. The old standards that doled out God’s love and favor as rewards for good behavior are replaced by a lavish peace and good will for humankind. When the Prince of Peace reigns, good will to men is His modus operandi. This Monarch is not above the law—He is the law. As His loyal subjects, we are people of peace who obey His commandment to convey His good will through love for others.

Two Halves of a Whole

Peace and good will are two halves of a whole. Lose one and the other disappears. This is so obvious we should be baffled by how easily we forget it. When conflict supplants peace, everything goes up for grabs and all that matters is getting more than the other guy—territory, money, respect, status, and so on. When self-interest overwhelms good will, nothing is sacred—freedom, equality, tolerance, etc. Good will calls for understanding and understanding creates peace. Peace places the comfort of all over the desires of one or a few, which produces good will. Can it be any simpler? No.

Managing Conflict

Once Adam and Eve bit into the knowledge of good and evil, they developed an insatiable appetite to judge right from wrong for themselves. Regrettably, their craving has passed from generation to generation. Not one conflict, from the most terrible war to the most trivial spat, starts for any reason other than one person’s compulsion to prove another wrong. On the other side of the peace/good will equation, no conflict ends until one side wakes up and realizes the value of denying itself for everyone’s benefit. We describe such acts of self-sacrifice as “the Christian thing to do.” The description couldn’t be more apt, as the first proclamation on Jesus’s arrival was peace on earth, good will to men.

Conflict resolution experts and peace negotiators can invent all the highfalutin’ jargon they think we need to appreciate what they do. But, in the end, it still comes down to convincing one side to love its neighbor as itself. Anyone can do it and of all people, as Jesus’s followers, we’ve got no excuse for not managing conflict in our lives. If we’re entangled in tumultuous relationships and situations, we restore peace by offering good will. And we protect peace we enjoy by maintaining good will to the men and women with whom we share it. It’s so basic, if we think it’s easier said than done, we need to think again.

We may think that conflict management is as complicated as all this, but it isn't.

(Tomorrow: Serve Him Without Fear)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Keeping Watch

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks by night.

                        Luke 2.8 

In the Fields

I’ve said this so often I hesitate repeating it. But it’s so vital to us all, straight or gay, old or young, I’m compelled to keep stressing it. God created every one of us as we are and put us where we are for a purpose—for His purpose. We don’t arrive with detailed job descriptions or designated areas of responsibility. God is the greatest on-the-job-training advocate there ever was. He matches talents He’s given us with the position He puts us in. Why we’re as we are or where we are may seem random and inconsequential. But when the day comes for us to rise to the occasion as only we can, we get what He intended all along.

Look at the shepherds. Overall, shepherding is lousy. It’s shift work, all day or all night, day in, day out, far removed from family and friends, the latest happenings, and whatnot. It’s just you, co-workers as socially and intellectually deprived as you, and dozens of sheep that, darling though they are, make for dull company. Your only thrills come from predators and strays. Monotony is maddening out in the fields. Then the night sky lights up. An angel announces what generations have longed to hear, saying you’ll be the first people on the planet to worship the Christ. You’re catapulted to your feet by a stunning musical finale. You head into town, not looking back once at the sheep you’re leaving behind, and suddenly it hits you. I’ve been stuck out here all this time for a reason—for this reason.

Why Shepherds?

Once Jesus was born, the next order of business was third-party confirmation of His identity. Selecting shepherds to testify to His arrival was beyond brilliant. While everyone else slept, they were awake and alert, keeping watch; their account couldn’t be dismissed as a dream or drunken hallucination. Isolation from society’s political and religious wrangling exempted them from ulterior motives, discounting suspicions they hatched their story to raise their profile, because they were nobodies. Being completely out of touch, no way could they know Joseph came into Bethlehem with a pregnant wife, where they settled for the night, the birth that took place, or what the parents were told prior to that. The decision to abandon their flocks to greet the Christ Child was enough to make their story credible. They risked all they had to gain what they never imagined they’d live to see. Their testimony to God’s divine plan was impeccable.


Unless we’ve decided to plan our own lives and position ourselves accordingly, where we are is the best place to be. Whether or not we gather why, our responsibility is to stay alert, regardless how monotonous things get, because the time is coming when our purpose will be clear. In his prophecies of the Christ, Isaiah proclaimed, “The glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it.” (Isaiah 40.5) That’s exactly what happened with the shepherds: “The glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” (Matthew 2.9) The angel told them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.” (v10)

Our position and place in life may seem like the worst of all possible worlds. We may feel far removed from everything and everyone, stuck in lousy jobs, stranded with small-minded people or sheepish followers. But three different times, the Bible connects suffering to glory. 1 Peter 4.13 says, “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” When God’s glory is revealed, it may be so far over the top it scares us. But we have nothing to fear. It will be good news, great joy for everyone. We’ll have an amazing story to tell. Until then, our job is keeping watch over responsibilities we’ve been given in places we’ve been sent.

We keep watch over responsibilities we've been given where we've been placed. The moment God's purpose is revealed, His glory is revealed.

(Tomorrow: Good Will to Men)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


The gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David.

                        Romans 1.2,3

Two Fathers

As children of Reason and Science, comprehending the Virgin Birth is beyond the pale for a lot of us. That’s a blessing in disguise. If Jesus came to us in a rational fashion, we could rationalize everything about Him. And if we were able to do that, we’d give up a Savior to get a Nobel Peace Prize winner. So it’s no accident that the first thing we learn about Him demands absolute faith. His story starts there because that’s where the story of our relationship with Him must start. “Without faith it is impossible to please God,” Hebrews 11.6 says.

Still, it mystifies me why the Bible goes out of its way to trace Jesus’s earthly lineage through Joseph. Matthew starts with this. Then he abruptly pulls a U-turn and says emphatically that Jesus was conceived in the Virgin’s womb by the Holy Spirit. If it weren’t the Bible, I’d be prone to ask, “So why did you drag me through all those generations, if—technically—Jesus had no genetic commonalities with the likes of Aminadab, Roboam, and Eliakim?” I think the answer isn’t in who Jesus’s “real” father was, but in the fact that He had two fathers.

Reverse Adoption

John 1 tells us Jesus was in the beginning. He was with God. He was God. This means that, as God, He decided who His earthly father would be. We could think of it as a highly selective reverse adoption process, with God/Jesus looking closely at millions of candidates until, at last, They found someone whom They felt sure would provide the Christ Child with the love, discipline, and example that every father’s son needs. One of the qualifications clearly foretold by the Prophets was Jesus’s terrestrial dad had to be a descendant of David. In other words, he had to come from good people. From a theological standpoint there’s a lot more to it than that and I’m sure many pulpits are filled by “Rev. Dr. Smiths” who spent a good chunk of their lives researching and writing dissertations on this subject. But for us common folks, who haven’t the time or genius to tease through the technicalities, here’s something to consider.

Who’s Your Daddy?

In his salutation to the Roman church, Paul writes, “as to his human nature [Jesus] was a descendent of David.” Jesus opted to identify with the House of David. That was where He chose to put down His roots. While our circumstances are the direct reverse of Christ’s, we’ve been given similar options. We have no say about who our earthly fathers are. But there is no end of candidates to choose from when we decide to adopt a second father. We may decide to be children of Power or Wealth or Success. We may decide to descend from certain houses—minorities or orientations, religions or political persuasions, for example. The people and houses we identify with define our nature—i.e., our personalities. This most certainly was true of Jesus. In being, He was God’s Son. But in nature, He was Joseph’s boy through and through.

Of course, we should desire to be children of God. If that’s Whom we want to identify with, then we have to put down roots in Him. And we have to remain steadfast in Him to grow. Some of us want to claim dozens of fathers. We want to limit God to Sunday visitations and spend the rest of the week with our other dads—Popularity and Pleasure and Passivity and all sorts of other less demanding types. That’s why we don’t grow in God and why we’re always such a mess. We don’t know who we are because we won’t commit to choosing one nature to descend from. Obviously, choosing the best nature—namely, God’s—is essential. But deciding to choose is the first step toward making the right choice. So who’s your daddy?

The nature we adopt answers the question.

(Tomorrow: Keeping Watch)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Refiner's Fire

But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire.

                        Malachi 3.2 

How Soon We Forget

Not much is certain about Malachi, the prophetic book that closes the Christian Old Testament. Working from a few slender references to past events, scholars place it roughly 250 years before the birth of Jesus. The Israelites have returned to their homeland after a 70-year exile in Babylon and reconstructed their nation. As they’ve prospered, they’ve grown lax in worship, giving, and daily commitment to the things of God. In fact, they’re so complacent, they’ve taken to grousing with Him about not working things in ways and in timeframes they prefer. Malachi reads something like a transcript of six discussions in which God takes His people to task for their vain ideas about who’s in charge, as well as their neglect of His house and those in need.

How soon we forget where God has brought us from and what He’s carried us through! Yes, it’s healthy for us to put past miseries behind us—but not to the point of discarding memories of the grace and mercy that soothed our doubts, calmed our fears, and restored our souls. When we’re engaged in great struggles, we plead for God’s intervention, often plying Him with big promises of ways we’ll repay Him for delivering us. These aren’t always idle or manipulative gestures, either. After He answers us, we start out strong. Over time, however, urgency fades from our promises. Conflicting interests arise and new issues surface. Losing all recall of God’s past provisions, we ask, “Where is He? Why doesn’t He do something already?” Demands of this sort became so common with Israel God finally responded through Malachi. The answer wasn’t pretty.


Chapter 3 begins with what sounds like a shiny promise: “Suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come.” But a “but” immediately follows. “But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap.” This surely surprised Israel. God told them He’d do as they asked. Yet, true to form, He’d do it in an unanticipated manner. “When your Redeemer arrives suddenly,” He says, “rather than fix the problem for you, He’ll to fix you for your problem.” The prophecy goes on to explain rectification would work top-down, beginning with the priests. “He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness,” verse 3 says. Communication between God and His people had got so garbled with grumbling and chatter it needed cleaning up before anything else. Once Israel heard God’s voice clearly and approached Him in a more pleasing, humble fashion, the rest would fall in place.

Fix Me

One of my favorite spirituals is “Fix Me Jesus,” a plaintive, heart-melting appeal for Christ to do precisely what Malachi prophesied: refine me, clean me up, and purify me so I will stand righteously before You. The words are so basic they’re almost superfluous. The song’s meaning lives in its melody and tempo, which mysteriously pierce the mournful dirge of humble repentance with bright leaps of hope and faith. The whole of the refining process is there: sorrow for having forgotten God’s past goodness, shame in taking Him for granted, tremulousness while facing the discomforts of the refiner’s fire, and earnest desire to be cleansed. In its own way, “Fix Me Jesus” is as perfect as any Advent hymn can get by preparing us to submit to the purification that Christ’s coming brings.

Refinement and cleanliness are pretty. Refining and cleaning are not. They’re messy, laborious, and time-consuming. But we can’t bring God offerings of righteousness without passing through His refinery. We yield to harsh correction now to avoid far worse later. “So I will come near to you for judgment,” God tells Israel and lists offenses He will expel: sorcery, adultery, perjury, exploitative labor practices, oppression of the poor and homeless, and discrimination against outsiders. He ends this, saying, “Do not fear me.” The refiner’s fire is nothing to fear. The Refiner comes near to us to draw us nearer to Him.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: Fix Me Jesus

(Tomorrow: Roots)

Postscript: Last Call

A few days ago, I suggested we collect our favorite holiday songs or recordings for a Straight-Friendly Christmas Album I compile and post as a kind of shared gift for us all. So far, though, we’ve not had many takers. Maybe everyone’s too busy to add his/her personal faves to the list. Or maybe it’s just a lousy idea to begin with—all that pointing and clicking! But I’m staying optimistic that we’ll have a last-minute surge of suggestions. As I said earlier, we’re a lively, eclectic, terrific crowd and I believe the variety of songs/recordings we assemble together will be equally lively, eclectic, and terrific. So this is Last Call. Post your selections (one or two) by Friday and I’ll turn it around over the weekend. 

Monday, December 8, 2008

Servant by Choice

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus… [Who] made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

                        Philippians 2.5,7

The Reason

One of the more wearying aspects of the Advent/Christmas season for me is what I call the “church marquee cliché.” If you’ve done any driving down avenues or roads lined with churches, chances are you’ve already got your fill of them: “Wise Men Still Seek Him,” “Keep Christ in Christmas,” and “Peace on Earth.” It’s not that I object to their sentiment or meaning. In fact, it’s because I cherish what they say that I find them disheartening. These messages carry great power and we should take none of them lightly. Reducing sacred ideas to taglines cheapens them, dragging them down to the level of clever advertising slogans, and after a while, they start to ring hollow.

My all-time pet peeve is “Jesus is the Reason for the Season,” however. First, it sort of props Jesus up and leaves Him there without any further explanation. And second, it’s misleading. The birth of Christ is why we celebrate Christmas, but He came for one reason—us. If we lose sight of that, His nativity becomes no more than a terrific legend. The miracle of Christ, from Annunciation to Ascension, started centuries earlier when God decided to wrap Himself in human flesh as the final sacrifice to restore our damaged relationship with Him once and for all. This truth is so central to Jesus’s life that John spells it out before commencing His story. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (John 1.1,14) We are the reason for the season.

Stooping to Conquer

In Philippians 2, Paul takes this concept one step further. He says by stooping to conquer the powers of sin that estranged us from God, Jesus modeled humility in life as well as death. After we claim the inheritance of Calvary, we adopt the attitude and characteristics that Christ exemplified while He dwelt among us. Paul stresses that Jesus became a servant by choice. He just as well could have come on the scene as God Almighty and commanded humankind to straighten up. Instead, Paul writes in verse 6, Christ “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.” He relinquished His divinity and “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” While gestating in Mary’s womb, God was letting go of His supreme authority to transform Himself into a Child born to serve. It couldn’t have been easy to put Himself in such a lowly position. Yet He did it to present us with a perfect example to follow and subjugate Himself to the cross. “Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death,” Paul says in verse 8.

Living the Life

Following Jesus is living the life of Christ. “Your attitude should be the same as His,” Paul tells the Philippians. Because Jesus chose to humble Himself in service to others, we choose to do this as well. We let go of our pride, our self-consciousness, and our fear, and we take on the mindset and nature of servants. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves,” Paul writes. “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (v 3,4) He’s asking a lot of us here, more than we may be able or willing to do—especially at times when those we’re supposed to consider better than us mean us no good. But the servant’s chief responsibility is taking up the slack, doing what others can’t or won’t. Often it’s an ugly, thankless job and if we don’t do it, it won’t get done. As we continue to reflect on Christ’s coming during this Advent season, we should bear in mind His transformation from God to man required Him to set aside His nature and pick up that of a servant. We have every reason to follow His example, because the reason is us.

Following Jesus means we approach life via the service entry.

(Tomorrow: The Refiner’s Fire)  

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Joe the Carpenter

Joseph her husband was a righteous man.

                        Matthew 1.19

A Warm Morning in Late March

For the moment, let’s look at the Nativity as a domestic drama about teen pregnancy rather than an epic pageant about the birth of the Redeemer. We have two young people pledged to one another, both still living with their parents. Their families have agreed to—and possibly even arranged—their marriage. All of Nazareth knows about it. On a warm morning in late March, Mary comes by Joseph’s carpenter shop, without her mother, to speak with him. This is highly unusual for her and disconcerting to him. He’s not thrilled that Mary’s been seen walking alone and entering a male-dominated workplace, but her pensive manner troubles him. Joseph sets his plane aside to listen. Reluctantly, Mary describes the prior night’s events, trying her best to explain an inexplicable experience. As she relives the angelic visitation, informing Joseph she’s been divinely chosen to deliver the promised Savior, Mary’s words grow more assured and all signs of worry leave her face. Her story is altogether unbelievable, yet her conviction and confidence make it impossible for Joseph to doubt her.

By the time Mary finishes, reactions normally expected of a young man in Joseph’s position—outrage, anger, and feelings of betrayal—are replaced by far more complex concerns. Mary must be shielded from scandal. How best to do that, though, isn’t clear. If they go through with the marriage, the baby will come too soon and both of their reputations will be ruined. On the other hand, if Joseph deserts Mary—as he’s legally entitled to do—having conceived while engaged to him brands her with adultery, a capital crime. When her pregnancy becomes apparent, she’ll be stoned. Joseph will lose the love of his life. More important, and surely Joseph realizes this, the world will lose the life of its Savior. It’s safe to say no young man who’s dealt with unwed pregnancy ever confronted issues and emotions remotely like those Joseph faced.

Best Supporting Actor

Obviously, Mary is the star of this story. The enormous faith and obedience she brings to it are nothing short of spectacular—so much so, she nearly eclipses Joseph’s performance. Yet when we consider the gravity of his situation, it’s plain to see God’s casting of Joseph is as flawless as His selection of Mary. The way Joseph subtly handles his role earns his standing as the Bible’s best supporting actor. His willing sacrifice of personal pride and security for the safety of Mary and her Son is astonishing, particularly for one on the brink of manhood. And his daring walk with Mary into an unpredictable, momentous future becomes one of the most moving, least discussed aspects of the Nativity. Perhaps Joseph recedes into the story’s folds because he remains calm from start to finish, taking things day-by-day, and trusting God’s direction without hesitance. Still, without him, the birth and survival of Jesus are inconceivable.

Carpenter Mentality

As with every decision He makes, God’s plan to enter the world in human form accounted for every detail. So it’s no coincidence that He chose a carpenter for His earthly father. Pausing briefly to consider this reveals why. The carpenter mentality superbly reflects God’s mindset and methods. It combines creativity and vision with patience and deftness. A carpenter begins with raw material to slowly mold and assemble it into something useful, one step at a time. What he builds must be beautiful, but also strong enough to serve its purpose. In light of this, we see why Joseph played his role so naturally. He intuitively grasped God needed his help to build a beautiful thing and his primary job was making sure the pieces came together solidly and soundly.

While our stories lack the historical importance of Mary and Joseph’s, they—and our parts in them—are no less eternally significant. God calls us to do exactly what He asked of Mary and Joseph. Like them, we've also been cast to usher His presence and love into the world. We look at ourselves as woefully unqualified and poorly equipped for the job. Then we reflect on Joseph’s life and what he achieved. The hidden beauty in his story emerges as God takes the mentality and skills of a young provincial carpenter and amplifies them into heroic wisdom and effectiveness. What we have doesn’t seem any more special to us than how Joseph’s abilities seemed to him. When God decides to use us, however, the little we have becomes extraordinary.

Mary is the Nativity story's star but Joseph's performance makes him the Bible's best supporting actor.

(Tomorrow: Servant by Choice)

Postscript: Issues and Answers

Recently, I received an email from Jim Johnson, the editor of Straight, Not Narrow. While I’d seen his blog listed on several others I regularly visit, I regret to say I’d not made time to drop by. After finding his way to Straight-Friendly, Jim wrote that he thought it would be “mutually beneficial” if we cross-linked our blogs. His suggestion was spot-on.

Straight, Not Narrow’s focus is “advocating for LGBT equality in the body of Christ from a Progressive Christian viewpoint.” It’s an enlightening compendium of issues and answers that directly impact gay Christian inclusion in the Church. Yet—true to its name—it’s not so narrowly focused that it isn’t of interest and relevance to all believers who care about justice and equality. Furthermore, its spirit and objectives mirror those here, making it a perfect complement. While Straight-Friendly strives to stay focused on inspiring all of us to embrace our rights and responsibilities as true followers of Christ, clicking over to Straight, Not Narrow provides tangible reasons why it’s so essential that we do so. If you’re not yet familiar with Jim’s blog, I strongly recommend you give it a look.