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Archive for October, 2012

Sometimes I wonder who ever dreamed up Santa Claus anyway?  When you think about it, that whole concept is the absolute opposite of the real meaning and reason of Christmas.

I’ve been playing Christmas music on my online station for some time now, and occasionally a secular song slips into the mix by virtue of some mechanical slip-up.  So a little while ago when I was up to my elbows in soapsuds and couldn’t stop to delete the song, I had to listen to “You better watch out.  You better not shout.  Santa Claus is coming to town.”  Now those who know me are probably laughing out loud as they picture my eyes rolling back into my head with disgust.  Such stupid nonsense!

Now, I’ve never really given the whole Santa concept a whole lot of time and thought, but listening to that song a little while ago I realized how that whole idea has twisted Christmas to be the total opposite of what is real.  I guess I always thought it was innocent enough, but not the truth, so we opted out.  But think about this:

Santa concept:  Christmas gifts are actually earned by good behavior.  If you’re not good and are naughty, you will not receive gifts.  Christmas morning will tell whether or not you were good, and indeed, how good you were depending on how large the stash is under the tree.  Those packages are not actually gifts, they are earned by you with your behavior.

Truth:  No matter how wicked, how sinful I am Christ was born to suffer a horrible torturous death to take my punishment anyway.  It doesn’t matter how many good things I do, I can never be good enough.  But Christ was born in spite of me!  The Gift of Christmas was made available to me NOT because I was good and earned it, but because I am evil and need it!

Gifts under the tree?  They were NOT left by a fat man in a red suit that sucks it in enough to slide down a 12-inch chimney with a huge bag of gifts sliding down with him to reward me for all the good things I’ve done throughout the year.  Gifts are exchanged to show our love for Christ and one another.  The Bible says that God says to us:  “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matt. 15:40 NIV)  We should give gifts to one another to show our love for Christ!

We should be teaching our children the joy of giving and the truth about why we give gifts at Christmas.  We should be helping them see that the real fun in Christmas is not the receiving, but the giving!  I loved when our boys were small and the ‘arguments’ (if you could call them that) sounded more like “Open the one from me next!”  And when the secrets and fun of Christmas was what we could keep secret until the big day of celebration and finding just the right gift for each one we wished to gift.  What fun whisperings and paper-rattlings went on in our home!  And how many times I remember hearing on Christmas morning “Do you like it?” from eager little lips with wide-open eyes.

I find myself wishing we could somehow get the ‘Santa’ part completely out of Christmas.  Not only is it a lie that we should not propagate for the sake of teaching our children truthfulness and that they can always trust us, but it teaches that gifts are not really a gift, but a reward.  And one more subtle lie is that it teaches that good behavior is done for the reward, not because it’s the right thing to do.

Christmas is a joyful season and a time of great celebration.  Why?  Because of the best Christmas Gift ever given!  It had nothing whatsoever to do with Santa or chimneys, but a stable, a star, and a Saviour!

“So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.”  (Luke 2:16 NIV)  Celebrate with Joy!!!

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‘Tis the Season…

Sitting here wrapped in a warm sweater, listening to Christmas carols playing and smelling a spicy banana loaf baking, I smile.  I love this season when the nip in the air and the proximity of the holidays begins to stir the joy in my heart like none other.  The Christmas shopping is nearing an end, gifts are stacked in order of age in the wrapping room (I haven’t found just the right set of wrapping papers yet for this year), and I tingle inside at the joy of the traditional giving of gifts we’ve lovingly selected.

I have never encouraged the tradition of Christmas lists in our family because I want the focus to be more on the joy of the giving instead of the greed of requesting and hoping.  It makes shopping more intentional and exciting, and a whole lot less the ho-hum of trying to meet someone’s expectations (with the great possibility of failure lurking).  And I have to wonder…

Did God have this sense of excitement when the first Christmas approached?  With the first secret revealed to Zechariah, and then to Elizabeth did He watch closely to see if they understood the message that their soon-to-be-expected son, John, would ‘make ready a people prepared for the Lord’?  Did they understand that subtle message that the time was nearly there?

Was His heart nearly bursting when he gave the message to Mary, and then to Joseph?  Was there the same sense of hope that they would enjoy His wonderful Gift?  And does God watch each year with smiles and warmth when He sees us celebrating the best Gift ever given?  Or…does He sigh with regret when He sees the greed and competition and nonsense that has become part of our Christmas tradition?  Does He roll His eyes like I do when He hears ‘Happy Holidays’ instead of Merry Christmas? Does He sigh with some regret when He sees a fat man in a red suit taking all the credit and glory for His own Son’s birthday?

I love worship every day of the year, but at this time of year I look forward to the advent seasonal worship at church more than any other time of year.  I’ll never ever tire of the old Christmas carols and the new Christmas worship songs as well.  I love the joy it stirs in my heart; the reminder of why we celebrate this season.  And my favorite is the very first Christmas song ever sung—by Mary herself when she visited her cousin Elizabeth:

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.  From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.  His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.” (Luke 1:46b-50)  I will ever be tearful as I read that phrase ‘all generations’ and ‘from generation to generation’!  That’s us, folks!  That’s US!  And even though it’s only October, Christmas is just around the corner, so:  Anticipate!  Begin to prepare your heart and home!  Enjoy!  And Celebrate!  Merry, merry Christmas!  From the Creator of Christmas Himself!

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Autumn at my Window

Standing at my window today, I can’t help but worship our Creator God as I watch the beauty of autumn unfold around me.  The skies are overcast, the leaves blow merrily past as they dance their colorful autumn dance and finally rest in red and gold piles on the grass.  The dark clouds move steadily past the window, revealing a cold, white sky behind.

I’ve had a nasty bug this past week and still move slowly today, but I’m thankful that the fever is past and the aches are diminishing.  I was wondering this morning why we must be sick sometimes, and then as I stand and worship at my window for lack of strength and energy to take on a housekeeping chore I realize that sometimes God uses even the nasty parts of life to slow us down and keep us focused on Him.  And so, with no energy for much more than staring out the window, I smile.  And I praise.

There is a merry little dance going on at the birdfeeders.  I love watching Mr. Cardinal as he takes about every third seed he picks up over to Mrs. Cardinal, who opens her mouth and receives it from him and then goes back to finding her own.  Why does he share with her?  Is it the good seeds he takes to her?  Does he fear she is not finding and eating enough on her own?  Is it just his own endearing ways of loving?  And then I watch the colorful blue jays that selfishly grab seeds and peck at anyone that comes close.  The chickadees eat quickly and dart back to the tree branches above, then back for more as though they are not supposed to be there.  The beautifully colored chirping sparrows and white-throated sparrows are busy playing musical chairs at the feeders and on the ground below, with the mourning doves cleaning up all the leftover dropped seeds.  The titmice add their beauty to the mix and I even had an oriole earlier in the summer.  I keep two birdbaths filled with clean water and it’s fun to watch as they splash about in it after drinking their fill.  They become quite industrious with their baths, splashing out a lot of water in the process.  Such busy little creatures.  Do they ever get the flu?

As I watch all the colorful birds and feast my eyes on the beauty of the autumn colors around me, I am almost thankful for a sick day to slow me down long enough to just stand and watch.  This has really helped me to see that I have become way too busy.  As that thought enters my head I hear in my heart, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)  Yes, even if it’s the flu that does it, I am thankful to be slowed down today.  Thank You, Father, for autumn!

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