Christmas Letdown

Christmas is my favorite holiday. Even this year, as I adjust to missing a piece of my heart, I still love Christmas.

Sappy movies with happy-ever-after endings.

Hectic schedules punctuated by peaceful moments listening to Christmas carols in the subdued light of the Christmas tree.

Receiving cards from people I haven’t talked to all year and reconnecting as I read their Christmas notes and updates.

Most of all, celebrating the reason for the season—the miracle of God becoming human to enable humans to become sons and daughters of God.

So the days after December 25 had traditionally been a letdown for me. Christmas trees dumped on the curb, shreds of tinsel still clinging precariously to their branches. Bright lights unplugged. Traditional carols of yesteryear pushed aside in favor of contemporary songs.

Worst of all, the change of perspective fueled the letdown. From the heaven-sent Christ child to earthbound cares. From music and lights to bills and worries. And from silent nights to discordant days.

In many ways, the week after Christmas signifies the end. The end of the Christmas season. The imminent end of the year. And for me, this year, the end of a year marking my greatest loss.

But it’s not the end. The day after Christmas is a beginning.

The beginning of the time God stepped into His creation. A cradle leading to a cross. The beginning of our salvation, when a life was born for the purpose of death. A death that means life for you and me if we choose to receive it.

Strip the tinsel and needles from the Christmas tree and we’re left with a different kind of tree. Bare wood, just as the cross Jesus hung on was bare wood. Several New Testament verses speak of Jesus on the cross. In these verses the word for cross actually comes from the Greek word for wood. Some translations use the word tree (Acts 5:30; 10:39; 13:29; Gal. 3:13; I Peter 2:24).

No, December 26 is not the end of Christmas. It’s the beginning of Immanuel, “God with us.” It’s the beginning of the opportunity for an intimate relationship with the One who not only created us, but sent His son, Jesus, to die for us. It’s the beginning of a chance to be and have all God intended for us.

Christmas letdown? Not anymore!


Guest Post: The Simple Manger by Danielle Bouse

Christmas is less than a week away…five days to be precise! All of a sudden, we went from pumpkin spice, turkey, and pie and then WHOA! It’s lights, music, gifts, wrapping paper, bills, budgeting, more lights, parties, sweets, baking, making, and of course more sweets! It’s like a swirling dervish of lights, ornaments, cookies, and wrapping paper.

I don’t know about you, but it seems like life goes from 0 to 60 in only a couple of days. Calm to organized chaos! From I am so thankful for my family to ahhhhh! What am I going to get Aunt Cindy and Grandma for Christmas? And wait, what do you mean the lights from last year don’t work?

It’s a time of year when we’re surrounded by distractions and we’re pulled in just about every direction possible due to holiday and family commitments. And yes, I love those commitments. I mean, I’m not about to say no to the desserts that fill our tables this time of year.

But…I want to show you a picture:

Simple Manger

Simple, isn’t it?

It didn’t start out with lots of Christmas lights or wrapping paper. It started with straw. With a mom about to give birth in hay. And when the angels told Mary she was to give birth to a king, I’m sure she wasn’t thinking in a stable! But a stable and straw it was.

So amid all the shopping, cookies, and Christmas lights, find time to enjoy the simple, because the Savior of the world came by simple means.

Remember the Christmas carol?

Away in a manger

No crib for His bed

The little Lord Jesus

Lay down His sweet head

The stars in the sky

Look down where He lay

The little Lord Jesus

Asleep on the hay

Of all the people who deserve Christmas pomp, it’s Jesus. But our Savior humbly laid his little head on hay. Our Savior in such simple beginnings…all for His love for us.

So as we delight in the lights, family, friends, and saying YES to the amazing Christmas desserts, remember the simple manger.

Remember the Savior.

 


When God Does the Unexpected

Unexpected God

Christmas has always been my favorite season. After all, what’s not to like? But this Christmas season is a bit different, as my celebration is muted because of the loss of someone precious to me.

What about you? It may be difficult for you, or someone you love, to celebrate this year. Burdens of loss, financial pressures, health complications, or depression can build an impenetrable wall, brick by brick, separating you from the joy of the season. And yet, when you least expect it…

God has a way of showing up.

He did it for me last week.

Someone I didn’t know well took me aside at a holiday gathering. She shared how she had suffered from depression most of her life. When she attended my husband’s memorial service this summer, she heard the story of his battle with depression. She also learned how God had healed him—not of his cancer, but of the depression he struggled with for decades.

My pastor closed the memorial service by doing something unexpected. He sensed the Holy Spirit prompting him to pray for the healing of those there who might be suffering from depression.

In her words, “Who goes to a memorial service to be healed of depression?”

Indeed. Who does?

But that day, God showed up unexpectedly. And four months later she took me aside to share how she had not experienced a day of depression since the memorial service.

Two thousand years ago, God also showed up unexpectedly, this time in the life of a teenage girl. He showed up with news delivered by an angel—news that turned her life upside down, and then turned the world upside down. Or maybe a better description would be right side up! Still, the religious leaders of His day failed to see Him because they were convinced God would reveal Himself in a different way. They refused to consider the possibility that God might be moving in another direction.

God is still showing up unexpectedly. But if we’re laser-focused on what we’ve decided He should do, we’ll miss the work He wants to do in and through us.

Like my husband, you might be praying for healing in one area, only to learn God is at work in another area of your life.

Trust your heavenly Father to wrap you in His grace and surround you with His peace. Then trust Him to work sovereignly to fulfill His perfect purposes. You just might find He will give you what you need, when you need it.

Unexpectedly.


Do Your Traditions Affirm or Distract?

Have you ever practiced a tradition without knowing why or how it started? Does it matter?

One friend celebrates half-birthdays in her family. Another organizes an egg hunt every Easter for the children in her family. Still another friend serves pizza for dinner every Friday night.

The Christmas season overflows with traditions. Every year we sing the same carols. We attend a candlelight service on Christmas eve. Perhaps you open presents Christmas morning. Or maybe your family opens presents the night before. Is Christmas eve dinner traditionally a fish dinner at your house? Maybe your family would be horrified if you didn’t make the traditional Christmas ham or your grandmother’s apple pie recipe.

But does it matter?

Traditions

1988

Yesterday, I repeated a tradition I’ve been practicing with friends for several decades. A family of 3 children spent the afternoon decorating home-baked gingerbread houses. The first time I did this, 30 years ago, was with a family of 4 children. Those kids are grown with children of their own. Last year, we started the tradition with a new family.

As I think about the place traditions have in my life, I wonder how many annual Christmas traditions begin with spontaneous joy, only to transform into obligatory chores with each passing year. Does the thought of putting up the tree—again—leave you with dread? Is there a mound of presents in your bedroom that still need wrapping?

Churches have split and new denominations formed because of disagreement over traditions. Families have divided because individuals hold so tightly to traditions that they’re willing to sacrifice relationships. Marriages have ended because spouses place a higher priority on the traditions of their birth family than on beginning fresh traditions in their new family.

As we celebrate the birth of the Son of God who came to save us from our sin, will you take a fresh look at how you celebrate Christmas? Why do you attend a candlelight service? Or exchange presents? Why put up a Christmas tree?

Explain the reasons behind our Christmas traditions to your children and grandchildren. Help them appreciate, not just the how, but the why. Examine your own traditions. Maybe it’s time to change things a bit. Eliminate one or two that have lost their meaning, and replace them with traditions that affirm the “reason for the season.”

This is the season of joy. Joy to the world for the Savior is born. Joy for the relief that our sins have been paid for in full and our relationship with the Father has been restored. And overflowing joy for those who don’t just celebrate the birth of Jesus, they know Him intimately as Savior and Lord.

2016

As for me, I’ll continue to bake gingerbread houses and have children we love decorate them. Why? For the joy on their faces—and on mine!—and their giggles as they create works of art. For the twinkle in their eyes and the icing stains on their fingers as they craft edible works of art. Most of all, for the joyful memories we’re creating—memories that may last another 30 years or longer. Joy they will long-associate with building houses—and lives—on the foundation of Jesus Christ.

What traditions do you treasure that affirm the meaning of Christmas?       


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