Published in Connections Magazine (Nov/Dec 2012)
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An Orange Christmas
by Marcus J. Carlson
Orange is not the first color you think of during the Christmas season. Sure, it’s a great color for fall and even for the pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving Dinner, but orange at Christmas?
Let me start by confessing that orange is my favorite color— to the point of a mild obsession. My car is orange, and my laptop keyboard, cover, bag and iPad case are orange. I have several orange shoes and orange shirts (including some orange clergy shirts), and sundry other orange items. I also love all things pumpkin, especially those things that have both pumpkin and caffeine. Living in Colorado, youʼre almost expected to like orange, at least if you are a football fan. As someone who has a ton of Christmas decorations, I cannot say that any are actually orange. So why orange for Christmas?
Recently in our church we have begun an important conversation we hope will shift our church community and culture. There is a movement that started out of a church in the South called think orange. The concept is pretty simple, but the application is challenging and varies widely.
If you remember back to elementary school, you may recall combining the colors yellow and red to create orange. Red represents the heart, which is the family. We know that what constitutes family varies widely, but we are all aware of who we know to be our family. Yellow represents the light, that Jesus is the light of the world, and his bride—the church—is to be a light to the world. Yellow represents the church, both
the church universal and our local church communities. The two forces often operate separately, sometimes overlapping or interacting. However, when the two forces come together, they create a new, more powerful (and rather bright) force— orange.
In our church we are seeking to think and be orange. We want to look at how the church and the family come together as one, and also to consider how the various generations in our congregation come together. We have created great division in our church between the generations—partially through specialized ministries—at a time when we desperately need each other. For the first time in the history of the church, we have at least six generations coexisting together. Thinking orange for our church also means building much needed intergenerational connections. Our hope is to rethink how we operate and to examine our current and future ministries in light of this idea of thinking orange.
In an increasingly complex, isolated, fast-paced and broken world, we are in need of radical change—not only in culture, but in the church as well. We have become complacent, seeking our own comfort instead of transformation. This is understandable because for many individuals and families, life is such a constant struggle that we are just trying to find a way to survive. While this is understandable, Jesus did not go to the cross so that we may be comfortable. Christ desires more for our life than survival; instead, the desire of the heart of God is that we would have abundant life.
As I listen to individuals from each generation, I am discovering that while each generation is very different from the others, we have much in common. As I listen to children, teenagers, those in middle age and our seniors, I hear some of the same challenges. Each generation feels isolated, ignored, misunderstood, lonely and overwhelmed. As I talk with families I find that so many children, youth and parents are feeling overwhelmed, insecure, and alone.
While these challenges are great, we already have the answer and it’s not hard to understand. We need each other. The church and the family (whatever your family looks like) must come together. We need each other. People from every generation, from the greatest generation to those just entering the world, need each other. We do not need another worship service, small group, ministry program or event to attend. We do not need to try to overthrow government or culture; we need individual transformation. Whether the challenges are economic, relational, emotional, physical or spiritual, we are facing immense challenges as individuals, families and communities. The amount of pain, anger, worry, fear and hatred that exists around us and in us today may be the most significant that it has ever been. It is time for transformation.
I believe that while our challenges are great, the fruit is ripe for the harvest. In this time of great need, there is great potential. As we come to the end of this calendar year and as our families gather in the midst of chaos to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas, I believe that something new, something amazing, something miraculous can begin.
As we reflect on the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, this tiny Christ Child who entered the world under such surprising circumstances, I believe that through the power and grace of God, Christ can surprise us once again. It is time for the church of Jesus Christ to think and to live differently, to think and live orange. It is time for each of us as individuals and in our own families to join together with the Church of Jesus Christ, each and every generation, and lead the world. Transformation starts with each of us, and as we are transformed once again by the love and grace of Jesus Christ, we can be made new.
As we celebrate Christmas, we can be reborn once again. We can renew our trust in Jesus Christ—not only for our salvation, but for new and abundant life. The church cannot see the family as an entity to be entertained, and the family cannot see the church as another activity to participate in. We must see each other as partners in a greater mission, a big, beautiful, simple and difficult mission that can transform the world.
Each week in our church service as we pray the Lord’s prayer, we utter the phrases “thy kingdom come” and “for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever amen.” As this hectic Christmas season draws near, as the Christ Child comes to us once again, perhaps these words can be more than something we utter each Sunday.
Perhaps they can become the primary thoughts of our minds, the deepest desire of our hearts and the focus of our lives.
May our families and the church come together this Christmas season and think, live and be different. May we come together and become one, experiencing transformation as we think orange. May each and every generation join together so that the church of Jesus Christ may be all that it was created to be. As a result, perhaps this new, big, bold thing that we create may bring about the change in the world that is so desperately needed. This Christmas, I invite you to think orange.
May we all find new life in the Christ Child this Christmas.
Marcus J. Carlson
is a pastor and spiritual director who has worked in youth and children’s ministry for over 13 years. He serves as Associate Pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church, Colorado Springs, CO. Marcus and his wife, Jessica, have two children.