Tag Archives: Christmas

Mary, did you know?

Christmas music, the perfect soundtrack to make everyone feel guilty for not loving their family and friends better, and so encourages them to go buy more stuff to make up for the lack of love. Or reminds everyone how the best way to show love is through giving stuff. Either way, it surrounds us right now.   It has taken over the airways.
Not the point. The point is that because I am surrounded by Christmas music, I was inspired to write the next bit:

I was somewhere recently and heard the new, gorgeous version of Mary Did You Know.   And I got to thinking that while, yes, Mary DID know there was something special about her son; that she DID know he was Messiah, she hadn’t a clue what that meant! She probably had no idea that the blind would see, the deaf would hear, the dead would live again, that he would calm the storm with his hand, the lame would walk again, that He would walk on water, etcetera.

Because, really, except for a couple old people hanging out in the temple, and one cousin who had only been born a few months before, no one knew.

But that’s true of every person born, isn’t it? I mean sure, Jesus is the Savior of the world, but to some extent, what was true of Him is true of every child born ever. Mother Theresa’s mother had no idea who her daughter would be. Neither did Martin Luther King Jr.’s father. No mother knows who her child will ever become. That’s true of all of us. We never know whose presence we are in. Even if that person is an adult, we have no idea who they will become by the time they are done on Earth.
So, this year as you get together with family – pleasant or not – keep in mind that you really have no idea what the people you interact with are capable of. You have no idea whose presence you are in. Your aunt who always has to bring the rolls and burns them every year might be the woman who one day knows exactly what to say to you when you need it most. Or might be the woman who discovers a cure for ADD or, well, who knows. Same goes for your Father-in-law, or your chatty cousin or nerdy brother. Each of us has our purpose and role to play, whether or not we realize it.
Remember this season, that you have no idea whose presence you are really in. It might give you a little more grace with your sister who thinks God loves her better than anyone else.

Merry Christmas!

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Christmas Sabbath

I’m done.   Every paper is turned in, every test taken.  It’s good. I felt such a crazy amount of freedom yesterday as I drove away from campus knowing I probably won’t be there again for a good six weeks. Don’t get me wrong, I love seminary and my classes, but breaks are needed and necessary!

Which is probably why God modeled Sabbath for us, and then decreed that we should do the same. Something I found interesting in my New Testament class this past semester is that often, Jewish holidays were treated as extra Sabbaths in their week. I love that idea. I love the idea of holidays being Sabbath.

Which is so foreign of an idea in Western Culture. We have presents to wrap, places to be, meals to prepare (or run to the store and buy and then arrange nicely), family to enjoy (or attempt to please), and church to attend (at the very least). It’s all very hectic.

But what if it wasn’t? What if, for Christmas this year, we took some time out and just enjoyed the tree, the people, the food, the presents. What if we just took time to be still? Or, since abiding and Sabbath are NOT just about being still, what in, in the midst of the chaos, we focused on God being our source of peace. He is supposed to be, after all.

It is possible, in the middle of garnishing the ham, to take a second and quietly give thanks (and I do mean a second), or in the middle of the presents, to simply soak in the joyous expression of a loved one. Sabbath and abiding, I have discovered over this semester, are usually found in the half-seconds, in reminding ourselves Who really Is the reason for all of this.

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Christmas, meet Thanksgiving

Christmas Tree

I was sitting in the living room this morning, eating my breakfast of yogurt and cereal, just enjoying the silence of the house, enjoying the beauty of the Christmas tree, enjoying the warmth of the kitten on my lap, enjoying the sun playing with the (frigid) sparkling snow outside.

And I began thanking God – for my breakfast, for the silence, for the warm-ish house I have been blessed to be sheltered by, for the privilege of living in a country where we could display a Christmas tree (and have the room for it, and the time to put it up – these are HUGE luxuries in some places of the world), thankful for the season the Christmas tree represents, for the beauty of the tree, for the purr-y kitten making it hard for me to eat my breakfast, for the sun shining (even if it’s WAY colder than it should be in Colorado right now).

I was reminded of when I worked with two year-olds, and how the things they’re always thankful for are “Mommy and Daddy and Bruder and Sissy and the kitty-cat and pizza”.  We smile and think they’re cute.  We smile and long for a day when our thanksgivings were that simple.  We deeply ache for when we COULD be thankful for “Daddy”, but now, with significantly more age than the precious babies we smile down at, we know what Daddy’s really like, and no one could be thankful for HIM, right?

Last week I went on a rampage about how those of us who live in the United States celebrate our Thanksgiving holiday with self-indulgence, with eating way too much when much of the world is starving.  I asked how this truly celebrates our thankfulness?  Shouldn’t our thankfulness encourage a spirit of giving, not of taking?

Well, this week, I set a proposition before you.
For the next 19 days (so, through Christmas), do your best to stay thankful.  Be thankful for the little things – like your shoes that don’t let the snow freeze your toes, or the way that snowflake landed on your cheek, or the fact the heater in your house works, or that your car worked this morning when you started it (because, you know, it didn’t have to).  Stay focused on the blessings you take for granted in your every-day life.

I have a hunch that in this season of crazy-busy, self-focus, insane-stress, present-buying, party-going, appearances-keeping, doing-waaaaaaay-to-much, that if we attempt to keep an attitude of thankfulness our priorities might stay in the right places.  Maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to remember what’s important this season.

Maybe, in our thankfulness that our bodies worked when we woke up this morning, we’ll become more aware of those around us who don’t have that blessing, and we’ll gain compassion for them.

Maybe, in our thankfulness for the coat-we-bought-three-years-ago-and-is-now-out-of-fashion-but-we-still-wear-it-until-we-can-get-the-cute-one-at-Macy’s, we become aware of the man on the corner of the street who is wearing a coat full of holes and that is way too thin for the sub-arctic temperatures outside.

Maybe, in our thankfulness for the last cereal in the box (even though it was only a quarter of a bowl – seriously, who leaves that little behind?  Just finish the box already!), we become aware of the needs of the children all over the world who didn’t get to eat breakfast today, or yesterday, or all the days in the week before that.

Now, hear me out.  I’m not trying to put a guilt trip on you.  I just think this Advent season might mean a lot more to us if we’re focused on the new born Baby that is the focus of every manger scene instead focusing on the parties, or the clothes, or the food, or even the perfect presents.  Those are great and fun, but they’re not the point.  By participating in those parts of the season, we’re not going to tell the world about that small, life-changing Baby through our actions.

But, if you figure out a way to get that guy on the corner a better coat, or even just a cup of coffee and warm meal, you will be telling him of Jesus – without saying a word.

If you take time to go donate ten dollars to Compassion, or Convoy of Hope, or some other responsible relief-agency, you will tell some child somewhere of that Baby – without saying a word.   You have no idea how much of a privilege it is to give…until you want to and have nothing in your bank account.

If you hold back the words you’d LIKE to say to your father, and give him a hug instead – you’ll be telling him of Jesus (even if your dad knows Him already) without saying a word.

So, summary (just in case my coffee-induced state of awakeness during this time of impending finals and papers didn’t allow me to write clearly):

Keep in mind what Thanksgiving is supposed to be about during the rest of this Advent season.  And, when prompted, live it out.  Staying thankful opens our eyes to the blessings and needs surrounding us.  Staying thankful keeps us in a posture that God can more easily use; a posture that hears His promptings more clearly (and quickly).  Christmas might just mean more to you this year if you celebrate Thanksgiving all December long.

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JOY

                Can you do something for me?  Focus.  Think really hard.  I need you to think of a moment in the past, and it might be hard to do.  Ready?  Okay. 

                How did you feel on Christmas morning?  Before you got out of bed, just as your eyelids were flickering open.  Just as you were realizing it was that day that only comes once a year – December 25th

                Were you excited?  Did you do a flying leap out of bed, squeal loudly in anticipation, and go find someone else to share the excitement with?  If not, think to a Christmas morning when that was the case.  Can you even remember one?

                What would you call that emotion?  Mostly I’ve heard it described as “joy”.

                I’m teaching Drama this semester to a bunch of middle schoolers, and yes, I’m super-stoked about it.  I assigned them a project last week, and I’m interested to see how well they’ll do.  I asked them to go take ten candid pictures of people, and describe the emotions being displayed.  I don’t expect a one of them to come up with a picture that they label “joy”. 

                “Joy” that elusive Christian word that no one has ever been able to describe or explain well to me.  I just know it’s a choice, like love.  That joy is something every Christian is supposed to feel. That it goes beyond happiness.  That joy is so much deeper than just feelings.   And I know it has something to do with God. 

                When I was a kid, we used to sing a song about joy in church.  It went something along the lines of “The joy of the Lord is my strength / the joy of the Lord is my strength / the joy of the Lord is my strength / the joy of the Lord is my strength”.  It has a couple more verses, all as simple as this one, but I don’t remember them as well.

                So I’ve always been taught that I was supposed to have joy.  That it was my Christianly duty to be joyful…somehow…whatever that means.  

                And I was thinking about that the other day.  I was trying to figure out what that meant. “The Joy Of The Lord Is My Strength”.  I mean, how can an emotion (or even a choice) be your strength?  And then I started thinking.  The song says the joy OF THE LORD is my strength.  Does that mean it’s not my joy (that I don’t understand anyway) at all that’s my strength?  But God’s joy?  What does that even look like?  How can GOD’s emotions, God’s joy, be my strength?  Actually, I like that better than it being MY emotion being my strength.  I know my emotions better than that – they change too quickly.

                So I looked up the verse that the wonderfully repetitive song is from, and it’s in Nehemiah, after he had just rebuked everyone for not fulfilling the law. He had just told everyone that they needed to shape up.  And when they repented, he told them to buck up, to go party, because “the joy of the Lord is your strength”.

                And as I was thinking about this, I remembered my college days, and how I loved pleasing my theater professors.  I worked harder for them than anyone else.  I was willing to put off sleep for them.   I was willing to skip meals in order to get done whatever needed to be finished.  Not because I wanted their acceptance, but because I loved to see them smile over my work.  I thrived on seeing their delight with every little bit of the show they envisioned coming to completion, that I had helped become a reality.  I loved being the little part of their grand scheme.  

                And I think the same is true with God.  I think it’s HIS delight in what we offer, HIS joy in us fulfilling our little part of His grand scheme that should bring us joy.  Whether it’s in being faithful to our duties at school or work.  Whether it’s loving someone hard to love –  the annoying classmate or hurtful co-worker, the mother that just doesn’t get you, or the father that’s too restrictive, or even just the jerk who cut you off on the road today.  Whether it’s persevering in a hard relationship, or job, or whatever God has called you to.  I think it’s HIS delight in our obedience in such situations that brings us strength.  Which kinda defines joy as God’s delight in us and our faithfulness.  I don’t know if this is scripturally accurate or not, but it makes a lot of sense with every scripture I’ve read. 

                So, I guess I’m asking you to remember when you’re in those hard situations, or in the wonderful ones that God’s enjoying right alongside of you, that the joy of the Lord is your Strength.  God’s joy is your strength.  God’s delight in your actions is your strength.  Remember that.  Remember that everything you do is for Him.  And I think joy almost makes sense then, it’s almost clear.  Almost, but not quite.

 

The Joy Of The Lord Is Your Strength today! 

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