Category Archives: Seasonal

It’s Time to Get Easter Right

“…the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen… Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 5-6; 18-20, NLT)

A sermon statement made by my first pastor on my first Easter as a newly born Christian was, “Any Easter in which Christ is not at the center is just another pagan holiday.” And then he said, “Make sure you don’t miss Easter.”  That was in 1980, and it still resonates despite the rather blunt language he used. 

Many of us are easily turned-off by blunt language (like suggesting that some people are contemporary pagans), except when we are the ones using the blunt language.  By the way, a simple definition of the word “pagan” is one who holds polytheistic religious beliefs (worships multiple gods)…but it also comes with the added connotation of being uncivilized and morally deficient.  I suspect, people, who might in fact be “pagan” in their values and views i.e., they are not exclusively devoted to the God of the Bible (or Koran) don’t want to be associated with that word because of its connotation, particularly on religious holidays, including Christmas and Easter.

There are a couple realities here that shouldn’t be missed.  The word Easter itself is a derivation of the Anglo-Saxon name of a pre-Christian goddess (Eostre) who was celebrated at the beginning of Spring.  Somewhere along the line, the term was appropriated for a Christian application.  There is this undeniable connection between a pagan celebration of new life in nature (flora and fauna) and the Christian Easter which celebrates the victory of Jesus over sin and death, made manifest by His resurrection, i.e. new life born from the clutches of death.  Some of us may not like this connection, but there it is.  Cultural appropriation (putting your brand on another peoples’ ideas  forms, and practices) is essentially a form of plagiarism. 

The second reality, at least from my vantage in the northeastern US, is that the purpose of Easter has become a justification for clothing and candy sales, particularly for children’s use and consumption. While it may not have the commercial clout of Christmas, the marketplace has coopted Easter for its own purposes and has been pretty successful. This money-centered emphasis doesn’t fit into a literal definition of paganism, but it could with a little effort.  If asked to participate in a word association test, I wonder how many randomly selected people would say bunnies, chocolate bunnies, or new clothes in response to the word “Easter.”   

My most recent reading has refreshed my thinking about the prophetic side of Jesus.  Like all the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) prophets before Him, His presence, words, and actions caused extreme discomfort within the established social, religious, and political order.  Those in positions of power and influence had a vested interest in keeping things as they were, and the de facto criticism of their status quo by these prophets and by Jesus constituted a dangerous threat.  How could what had benefited them remain in place if they listened to and aligned themselves to the words of these prophets?  

They and their message could not be allowed to take root.  In biblical and world history, we see repeated cycles of suppression of the prophetic word, over the course of many centuries.  Ways have been found to silence those voices.  With a few exceptions, the prophets’ challenges have been met with various forms of ridicule, ostracism, threats, and persecution, including exile and death.  It’s in our nature to do this.    

Here is where Jesus parted company with His prophetic predecessors and even more contemporary versions of those called to prophetic roles.  Their post-death legacy is in their words and actions which ultimately, did not have lasting power to significantly change human kingdoms committed, not to across-the-board righteousness and justice, but to maintaining and strengthening their established order.  The legacy of Jesus is in His aliveness.  

The resurrection of Jesus (Easter) is the ultimate rejection of this limitation.  In a manner, Easter is God’s declaration that He has taken it upon Himself to break this cycle, something so long hungered after by prophets of old and more recently.  The resurrection of Jesus is the final word. Attempts have and will be made, but nothing and no one will subvert Him.  He may be ignored for a time, but nothing and no one will undermine Him.  And that is reason to celebrate, even if candy and new clothes are a small part of the celebration.     

The commemoration and celebration of Easter is to remind us that in the resurrected, living Jesus, the pattern has been broken and that all human kingdoms of every kind will cease, and only those who are in Him, the personification of righteousness and justice will remain, forever.  The commemoration and celebration of Easter is to recall God’s promise that He has repaired what humanity has broken and has neither the skill nor the will to fix.   

It is up to us to believe by faith what has yet to be realized by sight.  Every promise God has made to me, He has kept.  I believe, and therefore I will wait (count) on God.   

Hope you didn’t eat too much candy!                                        

© Byron L. Hannon, 2022.  All rights reserved unless otherwise noted.

Counting My Blessings

This is my first post in several months, something those of you who read me regularly know.  This sabbatical from writing was unplanned initially.  One week, it just occurred to me that I didn’t have anything fresh to say, so rather than write something just for the sake of posting it, I rested.  This was after writing continuously for three and a half years, with the exception of missing a week here and there.  In the second week of not having anything to write, I gave myself permission to take a break, to refresh without having an end date in mind.  Quite frankly, I’m not sure if I will post much beyond this, although I hope to.

Today, however, I felt the need to share the experience of counting my blessings.  Some of you may know that old hymn by the same name and I believe it to be a worthwhile and easy discipline for any season.  As I was washing up the dishes left from the night before in the quiet of the early morning and, shortly after, as I settled into an easy chair with my Bible, other devotional reading and my journal for the purpose of meeting with GOD, it was impressed upon me how deeply blessed I am.  It was as if a gentle wave of awareness came over me.  I just sat in the quiet reflecting, taking it all in.   Then, I began to say, “Thank You” repeatedly to the One who sent the wave, the One from whom all blessings flow.  The psalmist said, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8) and I have tasted and it is so good.  

As we embark on this new year with its many possibilities and opportunities, I am deeply grateful for the love that has been there from the beginning before I was in my mother’s womb, for my parents who are gone but not lost, for my wife and life mate whose only other name besides her given one could be Grace, for my children with their distinct personalities, gifts and passions,  for my family in all of their iterations, for my dear friends and colleagues who make life so interesting, for all of those who have poured some portion of their lives into mine over the course of many decades, for the privileges I have been granted and the experiences I have had, and certainly for the love of GOD that I know and treasure because of Jesus Christ.

May this new year bring you and yours an abundance of joy and hope. 

                                     Chorus:

Count your blessings, name them one by one,

Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, see what God has done.
1

1 “Count Your Blessings by Johnson Oatman, Jr. (1897).  Copyright in the Public Domain.    

© Byron L. Hannon, 2022.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted. 

9.11.01 and Now

“GOD opposes the proud but favors the humble.” (Proverbs 3:34)

   Like most who were adults on September 11, 2001, I remember exactly where I was, what I was doing, and the sequence of events that constituted my day that day.  The horrific manner in which so many lives were lost was an incomparable experience for most of my generation and younger generations old enough to be aware of what had taken place. The physical and psychological boundaries of this nation had been penetrated.

Not surprisingly, houses of worship all over the nation were packed the following weekend as people mourned, sought comfort and, perhaps, confronted their own mortality.  Like most funeral and memorial services (and these gatherings were memorial services in the truest sense), the one-time visitors to these worship houses ceased attending once their immediate needs were met and places of worship settled back into their normal routines.

Annual anniversary remembrances have become the norm and here we are, 20 years later, having just done the same.  History, the good and the bad, needs to be remembered.  The people who died,  the spouses and children who suddenly experienced the loss of a wife, a husband, a mom, a dad, the first responders who sacrificed themselves, and those who subsequently died or have become incapacitated because of injuries or related illnesses should be remembered, not just in ceremonies but in tangible, material support for the survivors.

And…we need to be careful to not dirty-up the history by mythologizing it.  Myths can be an incredibly attractive ways of viewing the past, using rose-colored glasses to see only the positive and to hide/avoid the negative about ourselves and only the negative about others.  A result is self-aggrandizement.  The myths of a nation can have the same effect so that acknowledging and thinking only about the good-feeling parts of history can lead to over-inflated national pride and an attitude of hegemony rather than humility.  Hiding what we do not wish to see is nothing but a form of repression which will eventually bear its dangerous thorns.

As we remember history, let’s remember it in a way that is fair and true, and toss the rose-colored glasses away.  Our future depends on it.     

For it was GOD who created all nations. He determined when they should rise and fall and their boundaries (Acts 17:26).

© Byron L. Hannon, 2021.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted. 

Seasons

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens.

(Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Just about everyone who has ever worked a job outside of home knows about “life status changes.”  That’s the benefits category label for when you have…well, a life status change like a marriage or a birth or adoption or some other significant status change.  

We had one of those yesterday.  Our youngest child was married, and to a wonderful man.  I was blessed to escort her down the aisle and, with her mother, “give her away” (I smile at that because she’s been her own person standing on her own feet for a long time).  I was honored to pray over them and to dance with her.  For a few days this past week, all of our three children were in the same place at the same time, celebrating with family and friends and I was blessed to sit back and enjoy it all.  

The days of June LaDeece (the name of our eldest daughter’s doll) and “I’m going up the street to Tony Lorraine’s” (a near constant summertime refrain from our son as he ran out the door) and the My Little Pony books (one of our youngest’s first book collection) are long gone…except, in my memory.  There’s no more waking them up for school and Sunday School, brushing and braiding hair, picking out clothes for them to wear or making sure they ate breakfast before they left the house.  There are no more trips to pediatricians or to visit grandparents, the ones who lived close by and those who were at a distance.  There are no more parent-teacher conferences, report cards to review, band concerts, sporting events or recitals to attend.  There are no more prom dresses or tuxes to buy or rent, no more curfews to impose, no more driving lessons to teach.  There are no more tuition payments to make or advice to give (unless it is asked for).  Those seasons have passed, but they are alive in my memory.

The joy of yesterday is already tucked away in my memory, and like the rest, I will relive it from time to time.  It was a wonderful day.  

© Byron L. Hannon, 2021.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.                     

A Memorial Day Reflection

Today, the U.S. is celebrating Memorial Day in honor of those who sacrificed their lives on the various battlefields of the world of which there have been many.  Both supporters and dissenters of the politics of those wars still owe thanks to the men and women who made that sacrifice because they were called to serve or because they chose to serve.  One of my cousins is one of them.  These and all other honors are more than well deserved. 

Over the years it has become common to also acknowledge anyone who, currently or in the past, serve(d) in the armed forces.  These folks are often asked to stand to be acknowledged in public gatherings on this day and the weekend preceding it.  I’m proud that both of my grandfathers, my father, several of my uncles, another cousin, my father-in-law, two of my brothers-in-law, and my wife’s grandfather have all stood on such occasions.

I think there is still more room for remembrance and honors on Memorial Day for there are those who have sacrificed for the sake of the “good fight,” a phrase made famous by the Apostle Paul.  Their wars were and are being fought on a spiritual rather than a physical plane.  So many have sacrificed their time, talent and treasure to do the will of Him who called and sent them.  Many have sacrificed their comfort, and some their reputations and even their lives for the sake of this work.  Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are all beneficiaries of these soldiers, many of whom still fight on battlefields unseen by most of us who are far removed from these front lines.  

Remember all of them and give thanks.             

© Byron L. Hannon, 2021.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.  

Thanks Mom

“…Can a mother forget her nursing child?  Can she feel no love for the child she has borne…? (Isaiah 49:15)

Over the last 36 hours, even as I thought about my mother over this Mother’s Day weekend, I found myself in the presence of three other mothers: my wife, my eldest daughter (who we see irregularly because she lives on the other side of the country where we are now), and new friend  to whom we were introduced by our daughter.  There were no new motherly revelations opened while I was with them, but I listened closely to their talk (and occasionally contributed) as they shared their joys, some of the sorrows and the heartaches they’ve endured, the sacrifices they’ve made, and most of all, the love they had and still have for their children that is specific to their roles as moms.

Thanks to all of you mothers, grandmothers, aunts who acted like mothers, mother figures, and mothers-in-waiting.  When those times come when you feel forgotten or think no one notices, remember, there is a GOD who never forgets, who always notices and who’s love endures forever.  And some of the rest of us also notice and care deeply. 

Blessings, 

© Byron L. Hannon, 2021.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.          

But Wait! There’s Still More!

“To live is Christ; to die is gain. (Apostle Paul in his letter to the Church at Philippi – Philippians 1:21)

It doesn’t take long, when seeing some of those cheesy TV advertisements about some product allegedly not available in stores, to come to the catchphrase.  Near the end of the commercials, we are invariably offered an enticement to buy extra of whatever they are selling at no additional price when they say something along the lines of: “But Wait!  There Still More…”  

The thought that there is a good deal to be had is a cornerstone of consumer marketing.  The message that we can save money by spending money may seem illogical when framed as I just have, but it works well nonetheless.  As a consumer society, we are always ready to hear how we can get more for less…and there are always those who seek to convince us that they have a deal for us.  

I’m pretty resistant to those ploys, recognizing them for what they are.  That’s not to say I never look for a deal, but I try to be selective.  One that I have found that is real and has lasting value is my faith in Jesus Christ.  I have lived with Him for over 40 years, and I cannot imagine a life more rewarding, filled with contentment, and even miraculous (Man, the stories I could tell!).  

I’m on the backend of this part of the journey, but just having experienced another Easter, I’m reminded, “But Wait! There’s Still More.”  Easter celebrates the fulfillment of a promise that there is an eternal more for those who believe and follow (Job 19:26-27; Psalm 16:10; Isaiah 53:10-11; Daniel 12:2-3; Hosea 6:1-2; Luke 24:6; Romans 4:25; 1 Corinthians 15:5).  Initially it took some convincing (about five years worth), but I have bought in lock, stock and barrel.     

Paul argues (Romans 15:13-19) that without Christ’s resurrection, then bodily death really is the end, faith is futile, and those of us who have invested in this faith are to be pitied.  Apart from the resurrection of Jesus, the whole thing falls apart.  I’m betting the ranch…actually, I don’t own a ranch so to restate, I’m betting my life that my belief in these promises and my belief in Him will hold together.  I’m waiting because I believe there’s even more.  Anyone want to wait with me?              

He Is Risen!  He Is Risen Indeed!

© Byron L. Hannon, 2021.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted. 

Memories of Sand Hill

Driving on a rolling 9 mile stretch on Rt. 23 in Lancaster County on Sunday morning, it was hard for me to not notice the snow-covered hills and valleys that covered the landscape.  I also noticed there were no sledders anywhere on that stretch.  Perhaps it was the earliness of the morning and/or the fact that it was a worship day in a county in which church attendance is common.

I’ve made it no secret how much I’ve come to dislike snow.  The aggravations of shoveling walkways and driveways, cleaning off cars, driving behind partially clean cars that throw off hardened chunks snow on those driving behind them, walkways with snow melt that freezes overnight and the risks of slip falls, rock salt and sand that stains cars and windshields all accumulate to make snowfall something I can do without.

It wasn’t always that way.  When I was a boy, one of my favorite wintertime activities when it snowed was to spend as much time as possible on Sand Hill.  At age 10 and 11, Sand Hill looked more like a small mountain and when it snowed, the hill called to me to all of my friends.  We prayed for deep snow, and it seemed every season our prayers were answered two or three times.  

With our sleds, we would make our way to the top of the hill.  Whoever had the toboggans would go first to compact the snow.  When it was my turn, I would take a running start and leap onto my American Flyer and fly down the hill, maybe an eighth of a mile long, landing in a ditch that kept us all from sledding into the street.  And then I would climb back up the hill and do it again…and again…and again…  We all did until our fingers turned blue and we had no more feeling in hands or feet.  When we could stay no longer, we would slowly make our way home.  If it was a weekend or if school was still closed because of the weather, the next day would bring a reprise.  I loved it!

It is now mid-afternoon, and I am writing this from home many miles away from those snowed hills and valleys.  When the snow is gone, I won’t miss it, but I have to wonder if there are any kids climbing those hills with their sleds to do what only seems natural when it snows.

© Byron L. Hannon, 2021.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.                   

Hold On, Just For A Moment!

I was watching a college football halftime show and one of the analysts was lamenting to extent to which Covid-19 had upset normalcy in society and particularly its impact on the unencumbered play of college football.  Like the rest of us are impacted, all players, coaches, fans, and schools have been affected.  The schools with big-time programs also have experienced major economic hits as their football programs provide millions of dollars in revenue.  Taking a stab at humor, there was a paper shredder on the table and the analyst making the complaints started shredding pieces of paper with the year 2020 emblazoned in bold letters.

For certain, 2020 has been a tough year around the globe, but before it passes into obscurity let’s not ditch it before looking to see if there are lessons we can glean from it.  Here are a few thoughts:

  • It’s not 2020’s fault.  Sure, there is symbolic blame we can cast on it, but when the clock reaches 12:01am on January 1, 2021 we will face the same challenges as we did in March 2020.  It was only a year ago when we were looking forward to saying “Happy New Year” as 2019 came to a close.  While there may be light at the end of the tunnel because of the pending availability of vaccines, it may be mid-summer before we have universal availability in this country, not to mention other countries around the world.  The challenges of economic and emotional recovery will loom large well into 2021…and there are no guarantees, which brings me to the next point.      
  • If nothing else, this experience, hopefully, has taught us and continues to teach us that we don’t have the control over our environment we thought we had.  Scientific and technological advances combined with the relative wealth of living in a “1st world” country can create an illusion of sovereignty, unlimited personal agency and even arrogance.  Nope!  No matter how far advanced we become, there have always been historical events beyond the control of persons, individual and collective wealth, scientific expertise, and governmental strength that remind us that we are neither transcendent nor unlimited.  Perhaps it was just our time.  This alone should humble us…and keep us humble.
  • The only tests of resilience are difficulties.  Endurance is only needed when there is something to overcome.  This past year has required, of all of us, resilience and endurance.  For some, it has been more so than for others.  Still, I suspect it will continue to be so as we try to recover, adapt, and move forward.  And perhaps the resilience and endurance we’ve had to demonstrate in 2020 will give us confidence for whatever we may face in the future.

So, before we throw 2020 away into the dustbin of forgetfulness, let’s take time to see what else it might say to us that can actually help us in 2021.  May the new year give you clear eyes to see and fresh ears to hear what the Spirit is saying.  

Blessings.

© Byron L. Hannon, 2020.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.                

Advent Memo

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”                                                                                (Luke 2:11-14)

Asking the question, “Didn’t you get the memo?” or hearing someone say, jokingly, “I must not have gotten the memo” is a pretty common and light-hearted way of talking about instances of not getting a piece of information that everyone else seems to have gotten.  This passage from Luke is a memo of sorts sent, not to the elite of society (I suspect there was a shortage of elites in rural Bethlehem), but instead to some blue-collar outdoor workers assigned to the night shift.  

The message to them was one of peace.  I’ve always preferred to look at these words as GOD extending, by way of His Son, a peace offering to the humanity that was estranged from Him.  The relationship between GOD and His greatest creation was broken and dysfunctional.  The healing of relationships always requires someone taking the first step.  GOD took the first step and extended a hand.  

Many since then have taken the memo to heart and have made peace with GOD, through Jesus Christ, and have experienced the reality of a peace that is hopeful and which sustains through time or circumstance.  Quite a few are alive today; I’m blessed to know some. 

Still, we seem to live in an environment where harmony and benevolence (mutual peace and goodwill) is in too short supply.  Caustic attitudes, self-centeredness, anger, resentment and even worse, with the attendant justifications and confusion, seems the order of the day for enough folks that it’s impossible to ignore. Did they not get the memo?  If not, why not?  It’s not like anyone is hiding it.  It’s there for everyone.   If they did get it, are they ignoring it as if there is no downside to ignoring it?  What’s up with that?

One of the dynamics of peace with GOD is that it leads to peace with others.  GOD apparently values peace a great deal.  See Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God” i.e. those who intentionally seek and make peace with others bear a resemblance to their Father in heaven.  

I’m not speaking of false peace which is just an absence of visible conflict or where animosity is suppressed behind a false face.  The peace I refer to is rooted in and flows from such a deep reverence and regard for GOD (love) that it translates into a deep, unselfish regard (love) for everyone else’s humanity.  It makes no distinction.  Jesus spoke to this when He said that loving GOD with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength is the greatest commandment and second to that is loving our neighbor as ourselves.  

We can’t experience this if we don’t have or really want His peace within, if we didn’t read the memo or take it to heart.  It is there for the taking.  Take it!  Though others may choose not to, don’t settle for less than GOD’s best.    

As we approach the celebration day for the first Advent of Jesus Christ, let us recall what Paul, an   Apostle of Christ, said from his imprisonment: Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus…Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Read the memo.  Selah.

© Byron L. Hannon, 2020.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.