Christmas. Once a year we get together for 90 plus days in pursuit of the perfect gift giving, and getting experience for friends, loved ones, and ourselves. Think about it. Christmas has become an economical boon for businesses all over the world. None more so than right here in the good old U.S. of A. It is so much the case that we base the economic success of retailers solely on whether their holiday sales reach double digit profits.
To see this in action one only has to go into Toys R Us, Walmart, or one of many other shopping hosts during the Christmas shopping season. The shelves begin falling barren from the pilfering of the “must have” items, leaving behind the knock off’s or less appealing toys. People crowd the isles and load their buggies full of stuff that will be tossed to the side in no time at all.
And the cost of Christmas has become astronomical. My kids are in their mid 20’s now so I get a bit of a reprieve. But even shopping for my grandkids I was in serious sticker shock as to what this stuff cost these days. It is utterly ridiculous. I looked at my grand daughter’s list and calculated if I only bought half what was on there it would be somewhere around $800. And I’m a grandparent.
And then there is decorating. I remember as a child how thrilling it was to see just a few colored lights adorning the gutters of the many houses around us. Heck, even farm houses in the middle of nowhere had lights. There were none of these inflatable monstrosities that adorn the lawns of the extravagant few. But we did see lots of manger scenes, santas, snow men, and of course, reindeer.
Last night my wife and I loaded up the grandkids and drove around our little town to look at the christmas lights. I couldn’t believe how few houses there were decorated. We live in a small rural town too. I would have thought we would have had a lot more than we did. It was actually very sad. The houses on our street decorate. But the truth is that there is an event each year from Dec 21 thru 23 where our street is blocked off and thousands come to see the old houses lit up and get a taste of christmas music. My guess is that if not for that event, many of these same houses would not even decorate.
So, “Where Are You Christmas?” The song, from the ever popular movie “Grinch”, has the audacity to ask the question. Many view the film as a fun and entertaining modernized version of the Dr. Suess book, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. The main character, played by actor Jim Carey to perfection, scoffs and huffs at the people of Whoville. Year after year they run around half crazed spending all their had earned coin on presents that shortly end up at the local dump where he, “The Grinch”, resides along with his trusted dog Max.
For me the story is a sad statement about our society and the things that we have lost. As the famous line from another christmas classic, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” asks, “Does anyone know what Christmas is all about?”
As a christian Christmas is supposed to be a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Although it has been determined that Dec 25th is NOT the actual birth date of Jesus, we mark it as a memorial and testament of the greatest gift of all given by our one true God, sending His son here in the form of a human being, to offer us salvation.
Luke 2: 10-11 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master.
Of all the passages in the bible, this one has the most meaning to me. It cancels all the insanity of a modernized holiday into a single wondrous event. The birth of Christ is literally buried during this holiday season. Most churches still celebrate in some way. But the numbers of people who worship God during the holiday season has become smaller as time passes by.
But is Christmas hopeless? Even in the story of the Grinch the green grump realizes that Christmas isn’t about anything materialistic. It’s about love. What greater love has been shown to us than God giving His own son for the sake of our transgressions?
We have the power to change Christmas. It all starts with you, and a little love. “That’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown”.
No, I’m not talking about a drinking hangover. I’m talking about the “let down” many of us feel after Christmas has come and gone. There is so much build up and hype. The TV ads start in October. Decorations are up for months, not weeks. There are so many expectations. “Who do I buy for? How much money do I have to to spend? What will I wear? Can I make it to everyone’s party?”
The “Christmas Hangover” hits me every year. Our church has a big Christmas blowout every December. They invest thousands of dollars to reach people in the community and give those that are seeking the “true” meaning of Christmas far more than they could even fathom. But even being involved in that Christmas program is overwhelming. Maybe even more so. I mean, the truth be told, if I have “less” to do at Christmas I enjoy myself much better. I take very seriously reaching others for Christ. But sometimes I just bite off more than I can chew.
Of course then I get the guilt trip from everyone. “What, you don’t like my family? What do you mean you don’t want to go the three Christmas parties in three days? Where’s your Christmas spirit?”
To be really honest I love Christmas. I just don’t like what it has become. I don’t care for the pressure of fulfilling expectations. I do NOT enjoy running myself in the ground going from place to place. The perfect Christmas to me would be to spend a week with my immediate family just sitting around eating, watching Christmas movies, and relaxing while everyone else in the world is running all around going nuts trying to please everyone.
Christmas is like a fine Kentucky Bourbon (sorry Baptist friends). It must be sipped and savored, not guzzled and spewed. Some things in life are just better that way.
So what happens when it’s over? All of a sudden all the hype, the build up, the running yourself ragged, spending yourself poor comes to an end. All that’s left is the clean up and the bills. The emptiness inside grows as everything goes back to normal for another 9 months (Kind of like having a baby isn’t it?)
Well, I am not going to let that happen to me this year. The following is a list of things that I want to make perfectly clear to all around me this Christmas:
- I will not be traveling anywhere this Christmas ….. period
- I cannot afford to buy Christmas gifts for everyone – children come first
- It is acceptable to watch football or basketball on Christmas
- You can never get a big enough turkey
- There will be a fire pit rally in my backyard over the holidays
- Friends can bring gifts to my house. I also accept cash – make it 10’s & 20’s.
- I will pray at my house at any time I so choose especially during Christmas
- If I just sit and watch everyone, quietly, with a smile on my face I am not drunk or high. I am just ……..at peace.
- I will rough house and play with my grandkids as much as physically possible all day Christmas day. Lack of this ingredient will cause serious consequences to parents of grandkids.
- I will hug everyone who graces my door on Christmas.
So this Christmas I offer you this simple wish – That you may find peace and comfort at a slower pace, and that you avoid the things in your life that bring you down when Christmas is over. Quiet time is good time. And there is no better time for quiet time than Christmas time. See, even my sentence is redundant.
Aside from some of the other things I dabble in, I also run a Facebook page supporting awareness of childhood cancers. When I saw this post today it set me back and made me truly reflect on my own faith and inner strength. At the end of the day I can turn off my computer and retreat to the den. Or I can go crawl into bed and leave reality. But the daily struggles that parents of children with cancers face is their reality. This post was very humbling. I invite you to read her story, then visit and “LIKE” their Facebook page, Pray for Grey – The Journey Continues
I’ve stepped away from this page for a while, searching my own heart, seeking God and trying to make sense of life in general. I am human, I am weak and my faith falters at times. It has always been my desire to keep this page positive, uplifting, encouraging and hope filled… but in doing so, I sometimes wonder if I have created a false view of who I am as a person and as a mother to a child with such huge health challenges.
Our life is filled with ups and downs, strengths and weaknesses, rejoicing and heartache, trust and fear… It is a roller coaster ride of emotions that one cannot fully understand until they have walked this road themselves. Faith is built up and torn down, sometimes prayers seem to fade into the distance and silence seems to be their answer.
It is amazing how loud and overwhelming silence can be when that silence seems to be coming from the God in whom we believe and trust. Have you been there? Have you ever felt that God had walked away for a while… taken a stroll when you needed Him most? Have you ever looked up and asked, “Where are You and what on earth are You doing?”
When we find ourselves drowning in adversity or overwhelmed with heartache and brokenness, it is human nature to desire… no… to demand answers as to our sufferings.
When it comes to heartache and suffering there is no greater example than the man, Job. He had everything… God’s blessings had been upon him and he prospered immensely. But one day events unraveled and all that Job had was taken from him; all of his possessions, all of his livestock, all of his servants, all of his children… and then, even his own health. In his suffering, his friends accused him of wrong doing and turned away from him.
Who would have blamed Job for crying out in anger against the God that he had loved and served? After all… what kind of loving God would allow such heartache to fall upon one who had served Him so devoutly?
How many times I have heard this question posed… “What kind of God”… or “Where is God when…” It is Satan’s snare to trip us when we are weakened emotionally and spiritually… when life has beaten us down and we find ourselves worn and completely overwhelmed and we are at our most vulnerable… It is then that the enemy attacks and places doubts and questions in our minds and hearts.
This snare trapped Job’s wife. In the book of Job, chapter 2 and verse 9 His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” I can imagine that Satan was never so close to a smile than at that moment as he leaned in to hear Job’s reply, confident that Job would fall to his wife’s words and his current circumstances. Everything hung on Job’s reply to his wife.
Job’s reply is both magnificent and astounding. Job 2:10 records Job’s words… “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks”.
I’m certain that is not the reply she was expecting. How magnificent and inspiring that even in all of his misery and brokenness, as he sat there covered in sores not knowing if his life would ever change, Job stood firm and even posed a question back to his wife. “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity”?
Isn’t that our way? Every single day there are blessings in our lives. Some are huge and we cannot deny them, others must be sought out, but they are there. But how easily we accept those blessings, and even feel entitled to them or we credit ourselves for their existence… but the very second something doesn’t go our way we begin the blame game with God.
“Why? Why me? I live a good life; I go to church, tithe, I give to the poor, feed the hungry, care for sick children, help the elderly, and protect the animals; donate to a worthy cause… I’m a good person… I don’t deserve this!
But Job acknowledged that he served a God who had every right to do whatever He wanted to do, to allow whatever He needed to allow without obligation of explanation. Notice… I said ALLOW. I do not believe God to be the author of pain and suffering… these things come from Satan, but they are ALLOWED into our lives to shape us, mold us, grow us, restore us and even break us for the glory of God. God has no obligation to step into a hospital room and say, “Now let me offer you five reasons why this has happened to your son.” God is full of compassion and His heart breaks with ours as we face adversities, but His plan is beyond our comprehension.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts”. Isaiah 55:8-9
So we say, with Job, “God… I trust you. I don’t begin to know why I am going through this. But You see me, You know me, You know this hurt and Your heart breaks with mine. If I must walk this road, if there is something that I can learn, reveal it to me. If there is something someone else can learn, help me be what they need even in my brokenness. Lord, I give this to You, just get me through it. Hold me close. Deepen me. Change me and restore me”.
Job knew God was God, and that someday all that was mystery would be revealed. When we leave this life for eternity and we step into God’s presence… for the first time we will be given the panoramic view… We will see from beginning to end and then (and not until then) we will respond, “So THAT’S the reason! Now I get it!”
God is totally and completely and absolutely in control.
If you lose every single member of your family, He is in control.
If your marriage crumbles and you find yourself alone, He is in control.
If you finances crash and lead you into bankruptcy, He is in control.
If the test results are not what you had prayed for and things could not be worse, God is in control.
There is a greater plan behind it all. One day, that plan will be revealed and we will see beyond the pain and suffering and find purpose. How absolutely amazing and magnificent to see those who choose to trust Him to the very end of this vale of suffering saying;
“May His name be praised… I don’t understand it. I can’t explain it. Nevertheless, may His name be praised.”
May God enable us to raise our faith to such heights.
Covered in grace,
97 Oh, how I love your instructions!I think about them all day long.
You know, Lord, I have done enough complaining about the aches and pains of aging. But there are some terrific advantages to getting older.
I am far more patient than I used to be. I enjoy people more and accept them as they are. And I have grown to appreciate regular quiet time with your Word. I used to be too busy–or thought I was too busy–to read my chapter a day. Now it’s the best time of my day. “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart” (Psalm 119:97,111). My joys are now twice as big because I know that you sent them. My troubles are only half as big because I know you are carrying them with me.
Your Word explains the riddle of human existence. Your Word tells me the truth, comforts my heart, and gives me hope. Your Word reveals that you are actively managing affairs behind the scenes to work all things together for the good of those who love you. Your Word assures me that you will never stop loving me, that I have great worth in your sight, and that you still have a use for me.
Tell me in today’s reading how I may serve you best.