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'Dear Santa, All I want for Christmas is to skip church!'

Atheist billboard campaign for Christmas 2014, Dear Santa, All I want for Christmas is to skip church!  I'm too old for fairy tales - billboard (Credit: American Atheists)"Dear Santa, All I want for Christmas is to skip church!  I'm too old for fairy tales."  So writes a young girl to Santa on billboards appearing across the Bible Belt.  American Atheists have launched the campaign, which will run until Christmas Eve.

Their spokesman explains: "Today's adults have no obligation to pretend to believe the lies their parents believed.  It's OK to admit that your parents were wrong about God, and it's definitely OK to tell your children the truth."  Yes, but which "truth"?

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NFL player's amazing response to Ferguson

Benjamin Watson of the New Orleans Saints speaks during an interview on CNN about his Facebook post that he wrote in response to the Ferguson grand jury verdict  (Credit: CNN via Youtube) Benjamin Watson plays football for the New Orleans Saints.  After the grand jury in Ferguson chose not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in connection with the death of Michael Brown, Watson posted a response on Facebook.  His post has gone viral and led to national media appearances, including an extended CNN interview.

I urge you to read Watson's entire statement, as it expresses eloquently the pain, conflicted emotions, and confusion so many feel in reacting to this tragedy and its aftermath.  Here's how it closes:

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Why has Christianity tripled in Manhattan?

A view from the south corner of 5th Avenue and West 55th St of the 5th Avenue Presbyterian Church in midtown Manhattan, August 26, 2013  (Credit: Stephen Weppler via Flickr) We began the Advent season yesterday.  "Advent" translates the Latin word for "arrival."  This month we will celebrate Jesus' first coming and anticipate his second.  When he first entered our world, he came as a servant who would die for our sins.  When he returns, he will come as a conqueror who will rule the universe.

We are one day closer to the final Advent than ever before.  How can we be ready?

Consider what God has been doing in New York City.  In 1984, the city was in trouble.  A murder spree beginning that year culminated with 2,400 homicides 10 years later.  The church was fragmented and viewed as irrelevant by the larger culture.

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Christmas gift brings together Idaho boy and Filipina girl

Tyrel and Joana Wolfe, a newly-married couple who connected as children through Operation Christmas Child, brought their gifts to Samaritan's Purse international headquarters during national shoebox collection week (Credit: Samaritan's Purse) Tyrel Wolfe was a seven-year-old living in Idaho when he packed a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child, part of Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse.  He enclosed a picture of himself.  The box was eventually given to eight-year-old Joana in the Philippines.  Through the box, she heard a presentation of the gospel and made Christ her Lord.  Not long afterward, her father also trusted Christ and eventually became a pastor.

Joana wrote a letter to Tyrel, explaining how his gift had impacted her and her family.  However, he never received it.  Eleven years later, having kept Tyrel's picture, she decided to see if she could find him.  She eventually located him on Facebook, and the two began corresponding.  Tyrel saved up enough money to fly to Manila, where he and Joana spent 10 days together.  They began dating. 

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How to survive Thanksgiving

How to survive Thanksgiving concept: womans wearing apron screams as she reaches into her oven to retrieve two burning pies (Credit: Andrey Armyagov via Fotolia) "How to survive Thanksgiving" articles have populated the Internet this week.  Most assume that the problem with Thanksgiving is family members you don't see the rest of the year.  So contributors have these suggestions: feed your family lots of tryptophan-laced turkey and hope they fall asleep; treat them as if they were strangers; take a hike during the day to be alone for a while; and bribe the kids to hug their relatives and help with dishes.

I doubt this is what the pilgrims had in mind when they celebrated the first Thanksgiving 393 years ago.  Today was meant to be a day of worship and gratitude to the God who has been so gracious to us.  As we've noted this week, when we "give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thessalonians 5:18), we position ourselves to receive God's best.  Such expectancy is vital to a life of thankful joy.

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