Chaplain’s Corner: CXXX

“Do Miracles Really Happen?”

First, do miracles really happen?  And second, if they do, why don’t miracles happen to everyone-to every person for whom we earnestly pray?  Both questions deserve serious consideration.  Acts 3:16 is a guide.

When inquiring about the reality of miracles we need to know what we’re talking about.  We’re not focusing on something trivial (“after my third trip around the block, God answered my prayer for a parking spot right in front of Jack’s Donuts”).  Or something that can be explained psychosomatically (“and suddenly my headache just went away”).  Or the dramatic ending to a basketball game (Ball State won on a last second shot).

Instead, philosophy professor Richard Purtill suggests:  “A miracle is an event (1) brought about by the power of God that is (2) a temporary (3) exception (4) to the ordinary course of nature (5) for the purpose of showing that God has acted in history.  Luke who is almost universally credited with the authorship of Acts, was clearly trying to show by means of his reports of healing miracles that God is able and willing to act in history.

In his book, The Case for Miracles, Lee Strobel cites a 2004 survey of 1,100 physicians by HCD Research which reveals that three-quarters of them believe that miracles happen today; that 55% of them have seen results in their patients that they would consider miraculous; and that six out of ten of those doctors pray for their patients individually.  But do contemporary “miraculous events,” which we can now examine with rational inquiry and medical technology turn out to be compelling?  Strobel reports a number of such events, including the experience of a woman named Barbara.

Two of her doctors, Dr. Harold Adolph and Dr. Thomas Marshall were so astonished by her case they have written about it in books of their own.  “Barbara was one of the most hopelessly ill patients I ever saw,” wrote Adolph.  She had been an active high school student-an enthusiastic gymnast and flute player.  Then she began to lose motor control.  Barbara was diagnosed with progressive multiple sclerosis.  She deteriorated for 16 years.  One lung became non-functional.  She lost control of her body functions.  She became legally blind.  A tracheostomy tub was inserted into her neck.  She needed continuous oxygen and her muscles and joints were becoming contracted and deformed.  She was confined to her bed.  Her life expectancy was less than six months.

Then something remarkable happened.

In the spring of 1981 Barbara’s aunt and two other friends were reading aloud some prayers for healing.  That’s when Barbara heard a man’s voice speak from behind her-even though there was nobody else in the room.  The words were clear and articulate and spoken with great authority, but also with compassion.  The voice said “My child get up and walk-reminiscent of the words Peter spoke to the lame beggar.  Barbara began to move.  One of the friends plugged the hole in her neck so she could speak.  “I don’t know what you’re going to think about this,” she said, “but God just told me to get up and walk.  I know he really did!  Run and get my family.  I want them to be here with us!”

Here is Dr. Marshall’s account of what happened next:  “Barb felt compelled to do immediately what she was divinely instructed so she literally jumped out of bed and removed her oxygen.  She was standing on legs that had not supported her for years.  Her vision was back and she did not need her oxygen.  Her contractions were gone and she could move her hands freely.  That very evening there was a worship service at her church.  When the pastor asked if there were any announcements, Barbara “casually strolled toward the front, her heart pounding.”  The next day Dr. Marshall gave her a medical examination.  The intestine that had been vented in the abdomen wall was reconnected normally.  “This is medically impossible,” he told her.  “Go and live your life.”  That is what she did.

As a pastor for over 50 years I have been witness to a few stories like Barbara’s.  One even happened here at Westminster Village when a patient was admitted and was told after Covid he would never walk again. With our wonderful therapists, nursing care and prayer that man is walking, driving and singing in his church choir.  Let there be no doubt God uses doctors, therapists, nurses and prayer to do amazing things!

These remarkable stories are evidence of the power of God.  But then you ask why are there hospitals and so many funerals?  Why hasn’t God healed my loved one?  Why isn’t God healing me?   I will cover those questions in next week’s Chaplain’s Corner.  But the Book of Acts belongs to a different dimension of reality- namely that God is capable of the miraculous.



Ron Naylor, Chaplain

Chaplain’s Corner: CXXIX


We all know that a lot of smart people do really dumb things.  A fairly large slice of any day’s headlines turns out to be a recitation of missteps, miscalculations, and mistakes of people who probably should have known better.  Why do educated, knowledgeable people routinely make decisions that shipwreck their lives and reputations?

The answer, according to the Old Testament Book of Proverbs, is that it’s quite possible to know a great deal about stuff, yet not know how to live.  Standardized methods of identifying “smart people”-whether IQ tests, SAT’s or ending up on Jeopardy Tournament of Champions-are not to be confused with measurements of spiritual and emotional health.  Insightful and informed people, in other words, are not necessarily good-hearted people.

As psychology professor Heather Butler points out in her October 17 article in Scientific American (“Why do Smart People do Foolish Things?”), “The inventory of negative life events captures different domains of life.”  Or to put it another way, there are lots of different ways to look like a fool.

Straight A students can forget they have to write a term paper.  People who are great at math and history can fail to get around to dieting and exercise.  Know-it-alls can run up a huge debt on credit cards, decide to drive home after a few too many beers, or crash their marriages by cultivating a hidden life.  Geniuses can be fascinating people.  They can also be jerks.  Knowing a lot about a lot does nothing to prevent someone from being rude, callous, unforgiving, envious, or bitter.  And that’s a recipe for a disastrous life.  So what’s the need of the hour?

It’s Wisdom.  The Book of Proverbs has one central aim:  “Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom.  Though it cost all you have, get understanding.”  (Proverbs 4:7)  The context of Proverbs 3:16 is an extended personification of Lady Wisdom.  She is portrayed as the ultimate teacher, mentor, and friend.  We read:  “Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.  She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her.  Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.” (Proverbs 3:13-17)

What does it mean to be wise?  Wisdom is knowing how to do the right thing at the right time for the right reasons with the right attitude.  It’s essentially spiritual “street smarts.”

Notice in the text that wisdom, rightly pursued yields all the things that people say they value more than anything else:  riches, honor peace, and a life worth living.  Wisdom isn’t about getting a college degree or taking a few crash courses or experimenting with over the counter supplements to develop a better memory.

Instead, wisdom can actually be found.  It has a permanent address in God’s Word.  If we invest in reading, pondering, and reflecting on the pages of Scripture, we’ll discover that God has already passed along the insights we need to experience the lives we’ve always wanted.

The world says:  Be Smart.  Be Clever.  Be Impressive.

God says:  Be Wise.


Ron Naylor, Chaplain

Chaplain’s Corner: CXXV

“Tears in a Bottle”

When you think of an archeologist painstakingly excavating an ancient site, what kinds of objects do you picture coming into view? Coins, pottery, inscriptions, and shards of bone are valued finds. But one of the objects that frequently ends up in an archeologist’s bag is a tear bottle.

At least 3,000 years ago, people in the Mediterranean world began the practice of collecting their tears in small vials. Romans preferred glass. Jews tended to use small clay vessels. Tears of loss, bereavement, and pain-not to mention love and joy-might be captured and then treasured as a special way to remember a person or event.

A tear bottle-technically called a lachrymatory-might be offered as a tender gift. Archeologists have found thousands clustered around cemeteries. Sometimes they were interred with the deceased. Family members and friends were making a silent statement: “This is how much I miss you. This is how much I love you.” The tradition was revived during the Middle Ages and again during Victorian times. Today you can order personalized tear bottles from a number of online vendors. After all, there are just as many tears flowing in our own time as in the ancient world.

Lachrymatories are even mentioned in the Bible. David writes in Psalm 56:6 “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” This is extraordinary. God keeps track of our tears, recording them in “His Book” as if maintaining a ledger of our most private moments of pain. And our tears end up not just in our own bottles but in His Bottle. We know of no other statement from the ancient world that rivals such an intimate expression of God’s love for people.

There was a song a few years ago by Bette Midler about God watching us from a distance. But who wants a God who watches his messed up creation from a distance? When we are in trouble we want God “with us.” For the Hebrews, God was a God who displayed an astonishing emotional bandwidth. According to Scripture, He could feel frustration, regret, and deep joy. He could roll up His sleeves and go to work, hold His people tenderly in His arms like a nursing mother, or fly into a rage like a jealous husband stricken by the discovery of his wife’s unfaithfulness.

And He could cry.

In John 11, Jesus’ eyes well up near the fresh grave of his friend Lazarus. Jesus was saying, “This is what God the Father is like. He’s not on the sidelines of life, watching from a distance. He’s not neutral. He weeps with those who suffer. He welcomes our tears into his bottle.”

But what kind of God do you believe in?

You can be content with the philosophers, to stick with all the “omni’s”-that God is omnicompetent (can do anything), omnipresent (can exist everywhere), and omniscient (knows everything). Or you can believe this winter day that God is the kind of God who cries at funerals. And that God cries along with you as well in all your darkest moments.

Ron Naylor, Chaplain

Chaplain’s Corner: CXXIV

The Cost of Forgiveness”

It’s no surprise that author and pastor Tim Keller, who spent decades leading a congregation in Manhattan, often heard the question, “Does God really exist?”  But in his conversations with New Yorkers he heard another question even more frequently, “If God is a God of love why can’t he just forgive everybody?”

The Christian God, in the minds of many, sounds a lot like the vengeful deities from primitive times who demanded appeasement by means of human sacrifice.  Can’t God just accept us if we’re sorry for the wrong things we’ve done?  Jesus’ death on the cross-which he said was “for us”-seems outrageous.  And unnecessary.  A handful of contemporary theologians have even suggested that Good Friday reeks of “divine child abuse.”

As Keller points out, however, any time somebody makes a mistake, somebody has to pay.

If I back my car into your car in the parking lot and crumple your back door, you might graciously choose to forgive me.  But somebody has to pay for the damage.  Either you will pay for it or I will pay for it.  Let’s not fool ourselves for a minute by thinking that forgiveness means simply wiping somebody’s slate clean.  That doesn’t happen when real damage has been done.

The Wall Street bailout of 2008-2009 cost almost half a trillion dollars.  Washington largely chose to forgive the financial misdeeds of certain organizations because they were deemed “too big to fail.”  But someone still has to pay.  In this case it will be hundreds of millions of taxpayers, many of whom aren’t yet born, who will be paying for that season of financial malfeasance for a very long time.

Most people understand the damage from Wall Street recklessness and a certain pastor’s careless driving habits in the parking lot.  But they draw a line when it comes to what they personally might owe God.  What damages have they inflicted that would require something as drastic as the death of Jesus.

Here we need to ponder the Bible’s sober account of humanity’s standing before God.  What exactly does the Bible mean by sin?  Sin isn’t just doing bad things.  It is putting good things in the place of God.  Sin means elevating secondary priorities to first place, and thereby trying to find an identity and a purpose for ourselves apart from God.  That is the ultimate transgression, and all of us are guilty of it.  Our sins have done the real damage.  We have damaged ourselves.  We have damaged each other.  And we have damaged our relationship with God.

Again, sin is not simply doing bad things.  Sin is putting good things in the place of God.  If we don’t live for God we will most certainly live for something else.  And that will ultimately cause incredible damage to us and to everyone around us.  If Jesus is your center and Lord and you fail him, he will forgive you.  Jesus is the one Lord you can live for who died for you-who breathed His last breath for you.  If you receive Him, He will fulfill you completely. And if you fail Him,

He will forgive you eternally.

That’s wonderful news for those of us-and that would be all of us-who have run up a tab that only God can pay.


Ron Naylor, Chaplain


Chaplain’s Corner: CXXIII

Getting Down to Business with Prayer”

Say a prayer and do your job.  Those were the two things on Captain David Cronin’s mind as he tried to steer a seriously damaged Boeing 747 toward an emergency landing.

On February 24, 1989, United Airlines Flight 811 departed Honolulu on its way to New Zealand.  When the jumbo jet had reached an altitude of approximately 22,000 feet, the forward cargo door suddenly blew open.  Tragically, nine passengers were immediately sucked out of the gaping hole that was torn into the starboard side of the plane.

The two right engines were disabled by flying debris.  Flight 811 was now at least 100 miles from land and in deep trouble.  One of my friends was the navigator on that flight and when he walked down and saw the damage he was doubtful they would make it back to Honolulu.

Journalist William Diehl describes what Captain Cronin did next:  “To compensate for the lack of thrust from the right two engines, he struggled to hold the control column steady with his hands while using his feet to put pressure on the control floor rudder to stabilize the plane.  His stickiest problem, however, was deciding how fast to fly.  He slowed the plane as close to the stall speed as possible to keep the air rushing over the plane from further widening the hole in the fuselage.  Because the hole had changed the aerodynamics of the huge craft, the usual data regarding stall speed was no longer relevant.  The pilot had to use his best judgment.

Furthermore, since the plane had just taken off with 300,000 pounds of fuel for the long flight, it was too heavy to land without collapsing the landing gear.

That’s when he encountered a new problem.  The wing flaps that are essential to decelerating a large jet were not working properly.  Instead of landing at a normal speed of 170 mph, he was going to hit the runway at around 195mph.  At that moment the jet would weigh 610,000 pounds, well above Boeing’s recommended maximum stress load of 564,000 pounds.

Nevertheless, Captain Cronin made one of the smoothest landings the rest of the crew could remember, amid the cheers of the passengers.  Airline experts called the landing miraculous.

At the time of the flight, the captain was 50 years old.  Industry authorities had been clinging to the notion that older pilots would probably perform poorly in a crisis.  Instead, Cronin essentially wrote the book on how to handle a jumbo jet decompression-and he did so while experiencing one.

A few days after the incident, an interviewer asked Captain Cronin what thoughts went through his mind when disaster struck.  He answered, “I said a prayer for my passengers….and then got back to business.


Many of us feel anxious about the mystery of discerning God’s will for our lives.  What are we supposed to be doing today?

Diehl suggests that the greatest gift Captain Cronin gave his passengers was “his experience and good judgement…the critical issue was this:  Was he competent enough as a pilot to bring a damaged plane in safely?  He was trained to do a job.  Now he needed to do that job well.

Do you yearn to serve God today by serving those he has placed in your life?  Then pray for those in your life.  Entrust to God’s care the residents and staff here at Westminster Village you encounter daily.

mAnd be Competent.  Excel at loving your neighbor.  Calm the person who is having a bad day.  Say a prayer and do your job as a disciple of Jesus Christ.  Say a prayer and do your job.  The odds are very high you’ll end up doing exactly what God is calling you to do today.



Ron Naylor, Chaplain


Chaplain’s Corner: CXXII

Hope for a Culture of Contempt”

Noted marriage therapist John Gottman, who has observed thousands of couples in his Love Lab at the University of Washington claims he can predict with 94% accuracy which relationships are headed for divorce.

What is the number one predictor?  Gottman votes for contempt.

Contempt is anger mingled with disgust-the settled conviction of someone else’s worthlessness.  The telltale signs are sarcasm, sneering, hostile humor and the ultimate giveaway, eye-rolling.  When Gottman sees partners react to each other by rolling their eyes, he has come to have a high degree of confidence that apart from powerful course corrections, disintegration is on the way.

In his book Forgive Your Enemies, columnist Arthur Brooks suggests that our nation’s greatest challenge is navigating through a “culture of contempt.”  According to a 2017 Reuters poll, one in six Americans stopped talking to a friend or family member because of politics.  Contempt springs from the assumption that there is no possibility of finding common ground.  “My motives are based in love.  Your motives are based in hate.  Only a selfish and immoral person could believe what you believe.  And don’t throw your facts in my face.  Your news is fake news.”

Contempt goes beyond anger.  Anger says, “I care enough about these issues to get emotionally involved.”  Contempt says, “You aren’t even worth caring about.”  In anger, I may want to hurt someone.  In contempt, I don’t care if you get hurt or not.

The good news is that we don’t have to act this way.  There is hope for our culture-especially when we come to grips with the good reasons for leaving contempt behind.  Contempt isn’t just bad for those we are rejecting.  It’s seriously bad for US.  Contempt makes us unhappy, unhealthy, and unattractive even to those who agree with us.

Jesus doesn’t hesitate to address anger and contempt in his Sermon on the Mount.  He says, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “You shall not murder and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.  But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgement.  Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister,”Raca”. Is answerable to the court.  And anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell”.  (Matthew 5:21-22)

Words are serious things.  Words can wound and kill.  “Raca” is one of about 20 Aramaic words that appear in the New Testament.  Many of them have come into common English usage without being translated.  Think of “amen,” “hosanna,” and “abba.”

“Raca,” however, is a singularly fierce word.  It is an expression of contempt and is stronger than the “you idiot” that some translations prefer.  It is meant to represent the gathering of spit at the back of the throat-spit that I intend to hurt someone I consider worthless.

Jesus makes it clear that there will be serious consequences for people who unrepentantly set out to hurt other people.  Bible scholar Dale Brunner comments, “Anger carried and vented, according to Jesus’ astonishing assessment, is Last-Judgment-and-hell-deserving crime.”

Nobody ever said that loving real people would be easy.  And it may be that God intends to deploy us on the front lines of his efforts to transform our culture of contempt into a culture of his grace.



Ron Naylor, Chaplain

Chaplain’s Corner: CXXI


For the price of a $2 ticket, you can indulge in the ultimate fantasy.  Last week’s Mega Millions jackpot drawing was over 1.3 billion dollars.  This was the second largest prize ever and with  taxes, the winner will have to figure out how to spend $708 million.

The lucky winner was in the state of Maine.  Imagine– that person can pay off all their debts.  They can resolve all of their transportation and lodging needs.  They can order anything they want off the menu or buy a fast food franchise of their own.  With hundreds of millions of dollars they can bless countless other people and share the love with everyone they meet.

Does that sound like the best thing that could ever happen to you?  It’s not.

In fact winning the Mega Millions jackpot might turn out to be the ultimate Anti-blessing.

Let’s start with the opinions of actual billionaires.  Mark Cuban says, “If you weren’t happy yesterday, you won’t be happy tomorrow.  It’s money.  It’s not happiness.”  Warren Buffett says, “If you were a jerk before, you’ll become a bigger jerk with a billion dollars.”  Money, in other words, is powerless to produce either joy or character.  John D. Rockefeller:  “I have millions, but they have brought me no happiness.”  Henry Ford:  “I was happier when doing a mechanic’s job.”  John Jacob Astor:  “I am the most miserable man on earth.”

Since it takes more than a few Debbie Downer comments from some depressed rich guys to quell Mega Millions fever, consider the studies that have compared people who have won the lottery with people who have become quadriplegics.  For the first few months the lottery winners seem to be on happiness steroids.  People who are unable to move any of their limbs often yearn for death.  But within a few years there’s a radical reversal of fortune.  The degree of satisfaction with life becomes virtually identical for those with gobs of money and those with no mobility.  That’s because the experience of being blessed is, in the end, fundamentally independent of our circumstances.

Think about it:  Everything that belongs to you, and everything that IS you, is going to slip right through your fingers someday.  You’re going to end up losing it all:  Your favorite stuff.  Your car.  Your marketable job skills.  Your most precious friends and family members.  Your health.  Your beauty.  Your capacity to care for yourself.  Ultimately even your ability to take your next breath.

You can’t hold on to any of it.  So what does it really mean to be blessed?

The Scriptures of both the Old and New Testaments suggest that we are blessed when we grasp that even though everything is slipping through our fingers, we can never lose the blessing of being held by God.  Picking the winning numbers may actually prevent us from being blessed.  The curse of money is that it tempts us to believe we can be happy on our own terms.  But universal human experience has demonstrated that it never turns out that way.

We don’t need a billion dollars to bless others.  It doesn’t cost a thing to smile, offer encouragement, listen carefully and act compassionately.  We can do all those things a dozen times today.  For free.

There is nothing that can ever snatch us out of our heavenly father’s hand.  (John 10:29). That’s a blessing worth a whole lot more than $1.35 billion dollars.


Ron Naylor, Chaplain

Chaplain’s Corner: CXXX

“The Case for Kindness”

When most people think of Mary Poppins they smile.  They picture the warm-hearted and charming Julie Andrews starring in the Disney adaption of P.L Travers’ famous children’s book.  The English nanny, who is “practically perfect in every way”, is blessed with a magic compass, bottomless bag, and an umbrella that allows her to float effortlessly above London’s crowded streets.

If you read Tavers’ original volume, however, or any of its eight sequels, you can be forgiven for thinking that Walt Disney made a movie about someone else entirely.

The literary Mary Poppins is, to put it bluntly, not a very pleasant human being.  She is stern.  And cross.  And vain–never passing up an opportunity to admire her reflection in a mirror.  At the end of the original book, she doesn’t bother to say goodbye to Jane and Michael Banks, the two children who yearn for her attention and approval.  When she passes along her special compass to Michael, he is floored.  “There must be something wrong!  She has never given me anything before.”

Jane counters, “Perhaps she was only being nice.  But in her heart she felt as disturbed as Michael was.  She knew very well that Mary Poppins never wasted time being nice.”

She never wasted time being nice.

Truth be told, Travers’ portrait was entirely consistent with the behavior of parents and caregivers in Edwardian England, roughly the period from 1900 to 1930.  Edwardian parents (especially fathers) had a formal relationship with their children.  Love and affection were considered unacceptable and even dangerous.  Many Baby Boomers will remember that their grandparents grew up in low-touch, low-affirmation environments, and often reproduced that emotional chill in their relationships with their own children.

It is no surprise that many children who came into the English-speaking world during the three decades of the 20th century grew up famished for love.

Affluent parents in the Edwardian era customarily handed over parenting responsibilities to nannies.  Mary Poppins arrives as a welcome change from stuffy older women who have always shepherded Jane and Michael.  Still she is not exactly a warm pillow.  It took Walt Disney’s charm to talk Travers into letting him produce Mary Poppins as a feature film, complete with music, dancing and animated penguins–not to mention a little character who was  occasionally warm.  Travers was not amused.  When she saw the final product she refused to let Disney have the movie rights to the sequels.

We know for certain that sternness rarely wins human hearts.  But niceness often does.

Sociological studies reveal that nice people enjoy longer and stronger relationships.  They live longer.  Author Malcom Gladwell cites a study that correlates the niceness of physicians with a lowered likelihood of being sued.  Doctors who have never been sued turn out to be those who spend an average of three minutes with each patient.

The Apostle Paul writes:  “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”  (Colossians 4:6)

In other words, choose to be kind.  Choose to be gracious.  A great way to live our lives here at Westminster Village!


Ron Naylor, Chaplain


Chaplain’s Corner: CXXIX

“The Greatest Moment of Your Life”

The month of January is named for the Roman God Janus. Janus was one weird looking dude. He was customarily portrayed with two faces. One face was looking toward the past, while the other was pointed toward the future. Janus became the Roman God of doors, transitions, time passages, and change itself. He has been associated with New Year’s Eve.

The word “janitor” is derived from Janus, since the bearer of that title is usually responsible, among other things, for watching over building doors.

The first week of January invites a kind of two-directional fixation. We look back on the major news events of the year. We sigh and say, “Isn’t it a relief that 2022 is finally behind us?” We simultaneously look ahead into the fog of the future, wondering what the next twelve months
are going to bring.

So which of Janus’s faces is more important-the one that looks back (which helps us learn, but also may burden us with regret) or the one that looks ahead (the direction that compels us to plan, but often afflicts us with worry)?

The Bible answer is straightforward: Neither.

Neither the past nor the future is as important as a particular moment: this moment.

The most important moment of your life is not something that has already happened. And it is not something that is still to come. The greatest moment of your life is NOW-because frankly, this is the only moment you’ve got.

This moment it turns out, is the only one you can connect with God. It’s not that God is bound
by time. The Bible suggests that God is eternally present in every moment-past, present, and future-simultaneously. But while our finite mind can reflect on the past and ponder the future, the only place where we can directly encounter God is the present.

People may talk about grabbing hold of each passing moment: Carpe Diem! Seize the day.
But none of us is actually equipped to hold on to a moment. We’re meant to hold on to
something else: the God who at every moment is holding on to us. The good news is that God
is not somewhere else, in another place or time, waiting to be found. God is available right
here and right now.

Which means that this moment, and the next one, and the one after that, all the way through 2023, will genuinely count. And they will count forever.

Ron Naylor, Chaplain

Chaplain’s Corner: CXXVIII

“White Christmas”

Four centuries ago, a Swiss medical student noticed that soldiers fighting far away from home often experienced deep feelings of melancholy.  Since he couldn’t find a word that appropriately described the experience he coined one of his own:  nostalgia.  It was the combination of two Greek words:  nostos (homecoming) and algos (pain or ache).  Nostalgia is an almost physical ache to go home, or to go back to a happier past, or perhaps to go forward to reclaim something priceless that has somehow been lost.

White Christmas, hands down, is a nostalgic movie that makes my point about this time of year.  Listening to and watching this movie reminds us all of times past and feelings of good times of Christmas in years ago with snow and family.  What binds the movie White Christmas together is Irving Berlin’s famous song “White Christmas.”  Bing Crosby sang the song in public for the first time shortly before Christmas 1941, only weeks before Pearl Harbor.  Throughout the war, wherever he traveled to entertain American troops, “White Christmas” was the soldiers number one request.

They were stabbed by nostalgia–a deep longing to stay safe and alive and the longing to return to homes that would be more secure because of their sacrifices on the front lines.

For Irving Berlin, the author of “White Christmas” the date December 25 was a complicated day.  His infant son Irving Berlin Jr.–not even a month old, and the only son they would ever have during their 62 years of marriage died on December 25, 1928.  For Berlin, “White Christmas” evoked a yearning to somehow redeem and reclaim what was for him the most painful time of the year.

We yearn for a world in which everything broken can finally be healed or repaired.  Is the hope of heaven just a means of escape from the disappointment of the present world?

The Apostle Paul had a different take:  “All around us we observe a pregnant creation.  The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs.  But it’s not only around us; it’s within us.  We’re also feeling the birth pangs.  These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for the full deliverance.”  (Romans 8:22-23, The Message)

Our nostalgia for childhood, for the joys of past Christmases, for the former days of health and hope, is, at root, a nostalgia for our true spiritual home–the new creation that God is now preparing.

It’s a new world that by God’s grace, we ourselves can help bring about.  And tomorrow will bring us one day closer to its reality.



Ron Naylor, Chaplain