Humor


‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

Author Unknkown

Copied from The Cuernavaca Outlook, December 4, 1998

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the casa,

Not a creature was stirring – ¡Caramba! ¿Que pasa?

Los niños were all tucked away in their camas,

Some in long underwear, some in pajamas.

While hanging the stockings with mucho cuidado

In hopes that old Santa would feel obligado

To bring all children, both buenos and malos,

A nice batch of dulces and other regalos.

Outside in the yard there arose such a grito

That I jumped to my feet like a frightened cabrito.

I ran to the window and looked out afuera,

And who in the world do you think that it era?

Saint Nick in a sleigh and a big red sombrero

Came dashing along like a crazy bombero.

And pulling his sleigh instead of venados

Were eight little burros approaching volados.

I watched as they came and this quaint little hombre

Was shouting and whistling and calling by nombre:

Ay Pancho, ay Pepe, ay Cuco, ay Beto,

Ay Chato, ay Chopo, Macuco, y Nieto!

Then standing erect with his hands on his pecho

He flew to the top of our very own techo.

With his round little belly like a bowl of jalea

He struggled to squeeze down our old chimenea.

He filled all the stockings with lovely regalos

For none of the niños had been very malos.

Then chuckling aloud, seeming very contento,

He turned like a flash and was gone like the viento.

And I heard him exclaim, and this is verdad,

Merry Christmas to all, and ¡Feliz Navidad!

For the last ten years I have been a graduate student in theology. Very academic, very rigorous, very challenging. My preaching has reflected that. Over the past decade, the feedback I have received from elders and members has had a common theme:

  • Good sermons but sometimes too complicated to follow.
  • Good preaching but sometimes gets off track, too many details, hard to grasp all of the information.
  • Great teacher but sometimes I have a hard time knowing what I am supposed to do as a disciple.

You get the idea.

About a year ago I completed my grad school training for ministry and started dabbling in some more popular books in sermon preparation. How to preach a parable, how to preach so people will listen, how to preach better sermons. The list is extensive.

I even joined a newly-formed group that promises to help me preach better sermons. It is a one-year program that offers coaching, resources, feedback, and other help. I am eager to learn from them.

One thing continues to jump out at me as I reassess my preaching. Whereas the academic world laid a huge emphasis on information, details, nuances, and intellectual rigor, the resources I am now considering recommend things such as:

  • Keep it simple: make sure the message is appropriate for 9th graders.
  • Keep it portable: make sure the main idea is memorable (can I put my entire sermon into a tweet?)
  • Keep it visual: tell a good story, use a vivid object lesson.
  • Keep it compelling: never simply give information. There must be a compelling reason that your hearers need to know the information. Tell them why they need to know what you are telling them, what they need to do in response, and how they can go about doing it.
  • Keep it focused: have only one main point to the message (a sword only has one point).

What is funny is that my sermon preparation is no less rigorous using this paradigm. If anything, it is more intense for a stuffy lug head like me. Creativity is not my strong suit.

But, what is a joy is the fact that preaching this way is a whole lot more fun. A simple sermon is much less complex and so I am less tied to my notes. Being less tied to my notes makes me look at the people more. Looking at the people more gives me immediate feedback on whether they are with me or not. And when they are with me they actually respond once in a while (I love to hear a good “Amen” now and then, don’t you?)

So, you can teach an old dog new tricks. The church deserves some kind of award for enduring preachers the way they do!

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who designed and constructed an automobile. He loved his car; he longed for those days on which he could hop in, put the top down, and take long drives through the country in it. He adored his automobile. He dreamed of it, designed it, and constructed it so that he could enjoy it and share his joy with it.

But something happened to the automobile. Storm clouds appeared; rain, lightening, and hail did immeasurable damage to the automobile’s appearance. Dust, neglect, and wear and tear rendered the car inoperable. The Designer was saddened—he could no longer take his cruises in the country. The automobile was broken.

A group of men and women gathered around the car and shared in the sorrow of the Designer. “The car is obviously broken. The Designer’s dream sits idle. We love the Designer, we want to please Him, we must restore the car. That will surely make the Designer happy,” said they.

And so the work began. But soon differences of opinion developed. What will bring the Designer the most joy? Some firmly believed that the Designer was most displeased by the car’s sloppy appearance. This group advocated a new paint job, buffing the chrome, and replacing the broken glass. They also argued for a protective shelter to be constructed so that the beloved car’s appearance could be preserved. “Preservation of outward appearance should be our top priority,” said they.

Another group agreed that the appearance was deplorable; however, they believed that the main purpose for the vehicle in the first place was not its outward appearance but, rather, its functionality. Sure, a new paint job would be nice but our first priority should be to replace the engine and get the thing moving down the road again. “Restoration to designed functionality should be our top priority,” said they.

And so the project stalled. A tarp was purchased and thrown over the car for protection. A meeting is ongoing to reach an agreement on the appropriate course of action. The car sits idle—appreciated, cared for, maintained—but idle.

warning_coffee_mug

Welcome to America, the land in which anyone can get sued for anything by anyone (who has the money for the filing fee). Much of the time these cases get thrown out of court. Sometimes the Plaintiff is forced to pay court costs and attorney’s fees; however, the case must be extraordinarily egregious for that to happen. And sometimes, the Plaintiff actually wins. Here are a few examples:

  • A man sued a Las Vegas casino for negligently allowing him to lose over 1 million dollars at the Blackjack table. He alleges that the dealer should have known that he was too drunk to be playing cards.
  • The parents of a drunken drifter are suing Sea World for the death of their son. He was found dead inside Shamu’s tank after drinking heavily and then slipping past security. They allege that it is negligent for Sea World to market Shamu (the killer whale) as a loveable stuffed animal. Is it any wonder that their son jumped in and tried to give him a great big hug?
  • Barney the Dinosaur sued the San Diego Chicken, a sports stadium mascot who, while doing a routine, pummeled a Barney look-alike. The judge threw out the case saying that the act was clearly parody and would not cause trademark confusion.
  • A New York City woman was awarded $14.1 million by a state supreme court jury after she was hit by a subway train as she was patiently laying on the tracks in an apparent suicide attempt. Later, the reward was cut 30 percent, to a mere $9.9 million, because of her “comparative negligence.”
  • In 1992, a seventy-nine year old Albuquerque woman (Stella Liebeck) bought a coffee from a McDonald’s drive through. Her grandson was driving and he parked the car so she could add cream and sugar to the drink. She put the cup between her knees and pulled the lid toward her – inevitably the coffee spilt in her lap. She sued McDonald’s for negligence because she claimed the coffee was too hot to be safe. The jury found that McDonald’s was eighty percent responsible for the incident and they awarded Liebeck $160,000 in compensatory damages. The jury also awarded her $2.7 million punitive damages. The decision was appealed and the two parties ultimately ended up settling out of court for a sum less than $600,000.
  • My personal favorite is the lawsuit filed by the high school baseball player against the maker of Louisville Slugger bats. He was pitching in a high school baseball game when the batter slammed a line drive and hit him in the head. He sued the bat maker for over $1 million alleging that they should be held liable for making a bat capable of generating that much ball speed.

We can laugh to keep from crying at these, and other, ludicrous examples of our so-called “system of justice;” however, if we think about it for very long we must conclude that there is something terribly wrong when these types of cases are permitted to enter, and sometimes prevail, in our courts. Many of these suits are filed by greedy lawyers with equally greedy clients and settled for “nuisance value.” This means that the client gets next to nothing and the law firm walks away with thousands, sometimes millions, in legal fees. It is a cancer within our society. There should be a clearer sense of right and wrong among our people, shouldn’t there?

The Bible (1 Corinthians 6:1-11) says that the existence of lawsuits within the community of faith is equally troubling. It too indicates that there is something terribly wrong with our understanding of who we are and what God expects from His people. There should be a keen understanding of justice, fairness, forgiveness, and righteousness among God’s people, shouldn’t there?    Brethren, we’re bound to have conflict; however, the commandment from our Master is to settle our differences “in-house” rather than taking one another to court before unbelievers.

nb_pinacoteca_unknown_flemish_or_french_xvii-xviii_after_hals_rene_descartes_louvre

As I tell my congregation all the time, I am the world’s worst joke teller. First, I have no sense of humor and, second, I almost always blow the punch line.

I bet my boys (the three who are still at home) a buck that they would not get my latest one:

Rene Descartes walks into a bar and orders a drink.

After he had finished his drink the bartender asked him, “Mr. Descartes, would you like another drink?”

Descartes replied, “I think not.”

And immediately, he disappeared.

Much to my surprise, my second son, Jett Harrison, a junior in High School, not only got the joke but laughed as well. Will wonders never cease? (I took the dollar off of the bill that he owes me. Teenagers!)

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

Author Unknkown

Copied from The Cuernavaca Outlook, December 4, 1998

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the casa,

Not a creature was stirring – ¡Caramba! ¿Que pasa?

Los niños were all tucked away in their camas,

Some in long underwear, some in pajamas.

 

While hanging the stockings with mucho cuidado

In hopes that old Santa would feel obligado

To bring all children, both buenos and malos,

A nice batch of dulces and other regalos.

 

Outside in the yard there arose such a grito

That I jumped to my feet like a frightened cabrito.

I ran to the window and looked out afuera,

And who in the world do you think that it era?

 

Saint Nick in a sleigh and a big red sombrero

Came dashing along like a crazy bombero.

And pulling his sleigh instead of venados

Were eight little burros approaching volados.

 

I watched as they came and this quaint little hombre

Was shouting and whistling and calling by nombre:

Ay Pancho, ay Pepe, ay Cuco, ay Beto,

Ay Chato, ay Chopo, Macuco, y Nieto!

 

Then standing erect with his hands on his pecho

He flew to the top of our very own techo.

With his round little belly like a bowl of jalea

He struggled to squeeze down our old chimenea.

 

He filled all the stockings with lovely regalos

For none of the niños had been very malos.

Then chuckling aloud, seeming very contento,

He turned like a flash and was gone like the viento.

 

And I heard him exclaim, and this is verdad,

Merry Christmas to all, and ¡Feliz Navidad!