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Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

I know, it probably should be “Christmas and me”. Or is it “Christmas and I”?

You decide, as I talk about this unique phenomenon we call “Christmas” as seen through the lens of my heart.

There are questions within the community of sincere believers as to whether this event warrants nearly the focus it gets, especially when compared to the world-changing end result: our Savior’s blood being shed for our cleansing and to make a way for us to be saved, His rising from the dead and opening a door for us to have new life.  The joy that accompanies the recognition of Him pouring out His Spirit upon all flesh is the celebration of the Promise of the Father which was shed forth as prophesied, first in Acts chapter 2, then throughout the time of the Apostles, down through human history, and then in my heart.

It is, I understand, impossible to make a case for the way Christmas is observed being in the Word. But is there a place for it, or could it be seen as serving some purpose?  I know we are not commanded to observe it, nor do I personally find a place where it is clearly forbidden (I know that line of thought opens a whole other set of questions). I realize there are people who feel very strongly about this issue and would be well prepared to enlighten all on the dangers of the celebration as it now stands.  I believe sincerely-held convictions should be kept, and anyone has the right to explain and defend them as they see fit.

It is just not my intention here to enter that debate, and I respectfully ask that it not be carried out in response to this little presentation of my perspective.

Christmas?

It surprises some who are out of the mainstream of Christian thought that there would be any question about whether Christians would celebrate Christmas. Please note, again, that I am not using this platform to offend anyone who has sincere convictions against any aspect of this celebration. I get that there are people who go into debt to impress people who care nothing about them, just because the season “calls” for gifts to be given. I get that people get deeper into their shame and ungodliness because tradition “calls” for a bigger party this time of year. I get that retailers make huge profits off the mania that entices parents to buy the latest and greatest and biggest and best for kids and grand-kids.

I even get that “Christmas” is not in the Bible, as “Easter” is.  There is no recorded instance of its being observed, as the Apostle Paul spoke of traveling to Jerusalem in time for Easter. And I get that the “-mas” part of the word was referring to the Catholic mass, which is far away from my idea of “church”.  At the time it became a celebration, though, “mass” was the only recorded type of service being held, as the officially recognized church body (and the one that created the narrative of history in that time period) was the Roman Catholic church.

When the prophesied Gift was first given, it was, in fact, only recognized by a host of angels in the heavens who chose to reveal it to a few shepherds, and later by wise men from the East who followed a star. So why would someone whose faith draws the lines between herself and the world a lot further back than most people even consider dipping a toe in the pool of Christmas celebrations as they are today?

Why indeed?

Because HE CAME.

The God of Heaven, Who created all things by His Word, chose to robe Himself in flesh and come to the world: the frail, foil-able humans He made, who couldn’t seem to get it right no matter how hard they tried.  That was the moment that all of the world — all of history  — changed.  Forever.

The fact that He chose to keep the advent of His power-robed-in-flesh almost a secret in the beginning makes it all the more powerful. It would be easy here to review so many prophecies that were fulfilled by the way He came: the place, the time, the kings (wise men) coming to the “brightness of His rising”– the magi who followed the star — the wrath of Herod seeking to destroy Him and bereaving Rachel of her children in the process…

The balance of this post could cover those.  As I’m referring to my perspective, let me just say that studying how those things fell perfectly into place, whether or not it was understood that way at the moment by those involved, brings welling-up joy to my spirit.

Listing my favorite scriptures along this line would be a worth-while use of my time and yours. I’ll suffice it, though, with my very favorite, Isaiah 9:6:  For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Did you hear that? The Mighty God. The Everlasting Father.

I have elaborated elsewhere on where this scripture fits in our understanding of Who it was that came.

But my goal in the time I have your attention as a reader (if that hasn’t already run out) is to shed light on another aspect: what happens to the world at this time of year.  Yes, I said, the world.

It’s different at Christmas

We have the sense that special things happen this time of year.  To what degree that perspective is influenced by sweet stories thought up by writers like me is difficult to determine> But still, I believe special things do happen around Christmas.  If people are going to think of their families, make an effort to be with them by any means possible, and in some cases reconcile long-held differences, this is more likely to happen during this season.  In all fairness, if families are going to split over whose house the grand-kids go to first, or how much to put on the credit card, this is also more likely to happen.

Still, there is a moment in the year when some stop to think, even on a shallow level, of something, and Someone, they would not otherwise think of. I believe the divide between man and Heaven grows thinner for a few days at this season, and that hearts can be enticed to consider something they otherwise are not wont to think of.  I submit that even the inappropriate addressing of this season by some still serves to point to the fact that it exists, for better or for worse.

I submit that the most amazing thing about Christmas is that it happens, year after year.  Somewhere around Thanksgiving we begin to turn our hearts from the mundane of what our schedule requires to consider a wonder beginning to take place.  In the book that launches the Pevensie children into Narnia — The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe — a sad state of affairs where evil’s grip has imposed a cold so pervasive that it is “always winter but never Christmas” begins to subtly change as Aslan, the figure whose presence represents a redeemer, begins to make his influence known in that land.  Ice begins to thaw, snow turns to slush, and soon sunshine, green grass, and flowers appear.  That phenomenon parallels what I begin to feel as the season draws near, and I ponder the wonder of what happened when He came, and what occurs every year at the remembrance of it.

Is this okay?

So what about the weird, wild, or crazy things that people are doing in the name of Christmas? Is that okay? I somewhat believe people keep – or don’t keep – Christmas according to what’s already in their hearts.  Those who have chosen debauchery as a lifestyle, choose that at Christmas-time as well.  Those who are choosing to seek the Holy One the rest of the year are seeking how to honor Him best during this time.  And those who aren’t sure how to please Him, but sincerely want to know, are those who most are needing His touch. I submit that touch is best made transferred through the hands and hearts of those of us who know Him.  Whatever our choices are at this season, let them be made with a love and adoration that is a real and true reflection of the truth of God that will work in any month of the year.

I was blessed to get a degree in psychology and sociology for my undergraduate studies.  That didn’t qualify me to do a whole lot, but to observe how we tend to think and behave, both individually and in groups.  One of the most convincing aspects of there being a reality to Christmas is how we change at this “most wonderful time of the year”. You can’t deny people start to look at things differently; there’s some joy here and there, some kindness, and some caring.  Please know that I’m not such a Pollyanna that I only see the good.  I realize that losses and sadness and loneliness are much more keenly felt as well, but only (I believe) because there is so much joy that surrounds this season until the lack of expected joy seems so cruel to those who don’t have it.

Even efforts to stamp out the phrase “Merry Christmas” from the lips of employees calls attention to the fact that there is a “Christmas” to be celebrated at all.  It really doesn’t matter to me if they say Merry Christmas or “Happy Holidays”, as this most special one falls within a trio that runs from Thanksgiving to New Year’s.  Collectively it’s easier to wish someone joy for all than for each one separately.  Let each person say what fits their conscience.  They’re not going to damage Christmas, in my opinion.

The joy

There is much more that could be said, but it’s Christmas, and we don’t all have our presents wrapped yet.  Just think on this: in the midst of the self-imposed craziness — because we try in good faith to do more than we possibly have time to do — turn your heart upward for a moment, and say, “Thank you, God, that You came. Teach me to joy in your presence and to honor You with my observance of that awesome moment in history.”   I believe the God Who instituted seven separate times of feasting for His chosen people in the Old Testament will not necessarily take offense that we have a celebration over His coming to earth to redeem us from our sins.

I truly wish you and yours a most blessed and joyous holiday season, and especially a glorious remembrance that He came.

 

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Maybe I should have packed faster. Then I could have pleaded with Joseph to leave sooner. We should have had a room…

 

Maybe I should have asked those kings why myrrh was brought to my baby. People are buried, wrapped in myrrh. Maybe I should have sent that back home with them. It always made me wonder…

 

Maybe I should have pressed the man Simeon to tell me what he meant about that sword piercing my heart. If I had understood then, maybe I could have changed something, somewhere, somehow…

 

Maybe I should have spoken to those doctors of the Law my son was out-talking in the Temple. Three days it had taken us to find him once we’d discovered he wasn’t with our family on the way home from the feast. I could have told them that up til then he’d just been a good obedient boy; he was just a boy. But that strange reply when we rebuked him,that he had to be about his Father’s business… Still, maybe I should have explained more. Maybe I could have kept them from later growing so angry when the grown-up Jesus told them what they didn’t want to hear in front of those they’d been trying to impress. Maybe they wouldn’t have wanted him dead so badly…

 

Maybe I should have just let that wedding feast go down in dishonor. I knew what he could do, and I was anxious for others to know. He told me his hour wasn’t yet come. Maybe if I hadn’t pushed him…

 

Maybe I should have elbowed my way into that home the day he refused to come out and talk with me and his brothers. We’d heard the Pharisees were working on a plan to kill him. They were calling him a devil. I needed to talk to him, and I just wanted him to step outside. Just a private moment with his mother, to warn him, to talk with him about his teachings that were upsetting so many. If something wasn’t done, this wasn’t going to end well. But his words, “Who is my mother? And who are my brethren?” Then, pointing to those disciples in the room, he’d even gone on to say, “Behold my mother and my brethren. For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” I was so embarrassed and stunned. I just quietly left. But if I could have gotten over myself, persisted as some of those women who needed something from him had done, maybe it could have all changed right there …

 

Maybe I should have been willing to go and try again after John was imprisoned and killed. I should have understood these people would stop at nothing…

 

Maybe I should have died trying to tear him off that cross. They would have speared me and kept on with their mocking, never missing a beat. But wouldn’t that have been better that watching him die? There was nothing left for me to do, but to wonder over all the things that maybe I should have done before. The pitiful form with no resemblance to who he was; the groaning, the agony. From the glorious beginning with the angel in my room, how could so many things have gone so horribly wrong? The gift I was trusted to give life to, to nourish and to nurture, for God Almighty to be born in flesh: I must have been the worst failure God could have chosen for the mother of the man Christ Jesus. Somehow that day, through bloodied eyes, he had seen me there. He had given me to John, who took me home from that day. I had sons left. But John believed. Maybe I should have understood what he was trying to tell us all sooner…

 

Maybe I should have been the first one at the tomb on the third day. Mary Magdalene was there. She was with him at every opportunity while he lived. From the time her sinful wretched life was changed by his word, when seven devils had left her by his mercy and power, nothing could turn her away. I kept hearing he’d been seen by the disciples. I should have made sure I was with them at least once. I would love to have seen him more, before…

 

Now it’s been ten days since we saw him go up into the Heavens in a cloud. He told us to tarry for the promise of the Father, and I came with the eleven disciples and the other faithful women. I watched Peter and the others of the eleven choose a disciple to replace Judas who betrayed Jesus to the murderous crowd. We have prayed earnestly and fervently day after day, but most of the five hundred who were there on the hillside have already gone away. Maybe I should have done more to make them stay. There are only one hundred and twenty of us here now. Is there some reason we haven’t seen anything happen yet? What else I should have done…?

 

But now, what is this? Something is changing. I feel something inside that I’ve never known — or have I? It’s like what I felt whenever He was near me! What I felt when he spoke! When he healed! When he touched me! Tongues of fire are on each of our heads, and there’s a sound of a rushing mighty wind! Languages we’ve never learned to speak are pouring from all our lips! I don’t understand what I’m saying, but some in the crowd are beginning to understand — I’m speaking in their language about the wonderful works of God!

 

Oh, glory to God! This has to be what he promised, “I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you… He that believeth on me as the scriptures have said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water…” This is the Comforter he spoke of when he said,”…ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you…” He is here! He is in me and speaking forth! Oh joy and wonder!

 

This is why he came! I see it now — all of it! It was as it had to be. I was not failing him, I just didn’t understand why he came the way he did, lived the way he did, and why it all changed so when he began to preach. He died the only way he could die to take my sin and the sins of the world, and it was all for this!

 

Peter is beginning to preach, “…this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel, …In the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy…” He is showing them through the history of our people that Jesus answers all the prophesies about the Messiah!

 

The crowd is convicted; they see who it is they have killed, as Peter says, “God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. They ask what they must do. Peter is replying, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to them that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call…” Even his killers are being baptized in Jesus name and this Holy Ghost is filling them just like it has us!

 

This is what he came to do. This is what it all was for. This is why I brought forth my firstborn son and laid him in a manger…

 

And I can see the real story is just beginning…

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