What’s part of your Christmas tradition? In the Philippines, a giant lantern festival is held on the Saturday before Christmas Eve. The competition is fierce as everyone pitches in to build the most elaborate lantern. In Venezuela, on Christmas eve, people head to church on roller skates. This unique tradition is so popular that roads across the city are closed to cars so people can skate to church in safety. Christmas remains a novelty in countries like Japan, however some quirky traditions are emerging, like feasting on Kentucky Fried Chicken on Christmas day. In Toronto, the annual Cavalcade of Lights marks the official start to the holiday season. A Christmas Tree in Nathan Phillips Square – and the whole Square – light up, usually accompanied by spectacular fireworks. You may have your own family traditions handed down over generations, or want to start your own. Whatever your tradition, we welcome you to join us for the weeks leading up to Christmas. We will take an often-quoted verse from the book of Isaiah and dig deeper into the meaning of the names of God listed there. What’s in a name? More than you could have ever imagined. Take this Christmas journey with us.
Sometimes it is hard to do the right thing. But over time, we usually see the benefits of having kept our integrity and managed our lives wisely, whether we are in a position of authority or not. We can’t ignore the reality though that there are times when doing the right thing brings dire circumstances. In our series on the book of Daniel, we see how God brings Daniel and his friends out of major trials and danger. Well, in part 6, we see Daniel in danger again. His good reputation brought him fame and a great job in the kingdom. But not everyone was happy about that, in fact, some felt threatened. So a plot was devised to put Daniel’s faith to a test again. Circumstances unravel to a chilling standoff. Who wins, but more importantly, why.
Company reorganizations happen regularly. Sometimes it is to take the company in a new direction; other times it’s to bring in new ideas from the outside. Whatever the reason for a change of manager, leadership or team, it can introduce a period of uncertainty as you adjust to new people or new ways of doing things. If you’ve had a great leader, it might be disconcerting to deal with someone who is vastly different. Daniel had gone through a lot of ups and downs with one king, but after several years there was a new king in town. And he seemed bent on doing evil. Once again, Daniel provided a warning, from God, but this king wasn’t moved. In fact, he thought more of himself than he did of God. He also did not learn any lessons from his nation’s history. In the face of wisdom and warnings, this king was defiant and he invited destruction upon himself and his kingdom. What’s the lesson for us today?
Managers are given coaching on how to offer direction and constructive criticism when evaluating an employee’s performance. Still, some managers do it well; some not. Regardless, it’s usually easier to say something nice to someone rather than raise something that you feel they could end up taking badly. Daniel was in a bit of a bind. Once again, he was summoned by the king to interpret a dream – there was something good to say…but mostly bad. The bottom line is that the king was given a warning about turning away from his evil ways. This time though, there was a very different outcome. What changed?
You go to a movie with friends and find that you’re probably the only one uncomfortable with certain scenes that depict gratuitous violence or sex. You sign up for a sports team and learn only later that they require everyone to attend their Sunday morning practice, when you’re at church. A mom in your neighborhood is struggling with her daughter’s decision to have an abortion and asks you what you think while you’re standing in front of her friends. It may be easy to read the third chapter of Daniel and assume that you will never be “thrown into a fiery furnace” the way Daniel and his friends were – but we encounter situations every day that place us squarely at odds with our faith and personal convictions, whatever they may be. What kind of biblical advice can we expect in those situations when we face our own Trial By Fire.
History (and superhero movies) are full of examples of villains who would deal ever so severely with their perceived enemies, without blinking an eye. As we continue in the book of Daniel, we become acquainted with a king who had a reputation of making impossible demands – and of destroying anyone who did not obey. This king’s best advisors could not do what he had asked them to do – interpret a dream that was bothering him tremendously. The main character in our story – Daniel – had a reputation too, but quite a different one – that of serving a God and a kingdom that this king was unfamiliar with. Daniel had also earned a reputation of being “ten times better” than all of the king’s advisors. So the king decided to consult Daniel. What can we learn from these dynamics that also reveals real struggles today between good and evil in our world, and what it means to uphold our integrity and convictions in difficult circumstances.