Posts tagged Christmas

One Night Forever

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It’s hard to let the reality of something that you’re so familiar with wash over you anew.
If, like me, you’ve grown up hearing the story of Christmas, seeing it’s imagery year after year, and hearing it’s story told and retold, the birth of Jesus can easily lose it’s earth shaking impact. But there has never been a more significant event in the history of the world. It’s a story that demands being told, sung, and shouted to all the world at all times. If you’re sick of hearing it then you may not fully understand it.

It’s a story of the all powerful God coming near to his creation in the form of a baby. Centuries of prophecies being fulfilled through the birth pains of a woman. The worldwide curse would soon see it’s undoing as this baby would grow into a boy, a man, and then become an all atoning and perfect sacrifice. The course of not just history but eternity would never be the same

So how do we recapture the awe and mystery of the glorious event of Christ’s birth that we remember every December?

Tell it again in January.
But don’t stop there.
Keep telling it in February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, and November.
Then scream it out even louder over the commercial and cultural noise of December.

That wonderful, mysterious night over 2000 years ago caused shepherds to leave their sheep. start a years long journey for wise men from foreign countries, and it should evoke a similar response in our hearts today.

What does the birth of Jesus cause you to leave behind?

What journey has it caused you to set out on?

As we remember anew the significance of that night I pray that the wonder, mystery, and majesty would stir our hearts as it has done in those of who have responded to it for generations.

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Christmas is about…

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Seven years and three kids into being a parent I’ve still got a lot of things to figure out. Some parenting lessons are fun to learn and some – if I’m honest – are a bit scary. Early on in our marriage my wife and I talked about the various traditions of our upbringing – and what elements we’d like to combine or new ones we’d like to create as our family grew. Inevitably most of the traditions that we reflected on had to do with holiday celebrations.

In American culture the Christmas season is the longest holiday season and as a result also the most packed with various traditions. So as our firstborn arrived we began to talk about things like Advent, how we should approach Santa Claus, and what to do on Christmas Eve. As we talked, we found ourselves sifting through three significant areas as it relates to celebrating Christmas.

  • How our culture celebrates it
  • How our families celebrate it
  • How our faith celebrates it

As you can imagine there are quite a few points of intersection in all three of these areas but there are also some pretty significant disconnects.

As a whole our culture (the United States) continues to move father and farther away from remembering Jesus birth and deeper and deeper into the consumer and commercialization of the Christmas season.  Many Christians families struggle with being overwhelmed by the culture while still trying to maintain some semblance of faith.

I can remember one of the first years of celebrating Christmas with our firstborn. Literally dozens of relatives had given our son presents for Christmas. Before we had begun to open the stack of presents under the tree he pulled out a small car from his stocking – and we could have stopped right there. The intense joy and satisfaction on his face from receiving that new car and his immediate energy in driving it around the house said it all.  After a few minutes though we actually interrupted his play to get him busy opening his mountain of presents. This ended up becoming a key event in how we would approach future Christmas celebrations.

My wife and I had some questions to ask.
- In a culture that is doing everything it can to ignore Jesus, how do we make him the center of Christmas?
- How can we use the very prominent aspect of gift giving as a selfless part of Christmas – not a selfish one?
- Is it OK to allow fun, silly, and maybe even allow non-religious aspects of the Christmas season be a part of our celebration?

As our family continues to grow and our kids get older, my wife and I have realized that it’s up to us to be intentional in how we aim the focus of this season. We have the immense privilege and responsibility to put the focus where it should be. And so as a family we have intentional conversations, we read stories, we promote generosity, we correct selfishness, and above all we remember Jesus.
Do we fail in our focus? You bet. Just because we’re adults doesn’t mean we’re not influenced by the culture. Our hope though is that someday when our children are starting families of their own, that their memories of the Christmas season will be packed full of Jesus, relationships, and generosity.

 

How about you? In what ways do you strive to make the reality of Christ’s incarnation a focus of the Christmas season?

Please share in the comments section below.

 

The Selfless Season

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As the year 2013 comes to a close I find myself running from holiday party to Christmas shopping, to more holiday parties, with barely a moment to spare. Besides the busyness of the season, one of the reasons I don’t have much extra time could have something to do with the upcoming adoption of my son which has definitely turned my world upside down – in a good way. In a season that is usually very focused on ourselves, my wife and I have found our perspective radically changed. To put it mildly, my focus has shifted. It has shifted from me to my new son. To a life focused on self to a life…well, a little less-focused on self (I still have a long way to go before I’m entirely selfless).

As a Christian one phrase I’ve often heard said during this time of the year is “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Christmas is a time to remember and celebrate his birth, a birth that would ultimately lead to the most important and selfless act, as Jesus later willingly gives his life. The challenge we face in our consumer driven society today is to actually keep the real meaning of Christmas at the center of our celebration. This is always difficult for me as I can get so focused on buying stuff and giving my family ideas of what to buy for me that I lose sight of what this the season is supposed to be reminding me of.

It’s no coincidence that two areas that are the biggest focus this time of year- gifts and relationships- are also the same ones that can cause people to dread the Christmas season the most. While gift giving will always be a main focus of the season, there are many people in our community that barely have enough money to buy food, let alone presents, for their kids. For them Christmas can be a time where the overwhelming commercialism serves as a constant reminder of their shortcomings.

Many amazing people and organizations in our community reach out during this time of the year to make Christmas special and help meet the needs of those in our community – selflessly giving and taking the time to serve those who have fallen on hard times. Because of their effort we also have an opportunity to partner with them. Whether it’s donating a gift or just dropping spare change in a bucket, your selfless act of giving has the potential to bring light and hope to someone’s life this year.

The second area that can be a struggle this time of year is in our relationships. For many of us this is a time of reuniting with family and friends and enjoying the blessing of the relationships that we have. Unfortunately this time of year also brings to the surface the pain of relationships that have been lost. Whether because of death, estrangement, or other circumstances – intense loneliness and even mourning is often a byproduct of the Christmas season. Our ability to fill the relational void in people’s lives requires more intentional individual action than simply donating a gift or money. Giving of ourselves and our time can be a far more sacrificial act. It may mean inviting someone to a family gathering that isn’t family, sharing a meal, or just listening to and acknowledging the challenges and hurts of life. I often find the hardest part of my life to be selfless with is my time. But giving time can be a gift far more valuable than a wrapped present.

As the hands and feet of Jesus, let’s take the time this season to let the universal message of Christ’s love speak through the commercialism and self-centeredness of our society.  Imagine what this season could like if we did?

 

Christmas Quiz and more…

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What do you really know about Christmas?

The music, decorations, and retail sales are the most poignant indicators that the Christmas season is in full swing. All of these things have become an integral part of our culture and the feeling of this holiday season. It’s a challenge for those of us who strive to keep Christ the center of Christmas to separate the true meaning of this season from all the cultural expressions that have nothing to do with it.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with embracing the fun and festive aspects of these weeks ahead as we go to tree lightings, Christmas parties, or other events. Here’s the funny thing though; whether we realize it or not the one story from the Bible that we think we know best – The Christmas Story – has actually been told to us more from songs, nativity scenes, and Christmas plays than from the Bible. As a result we may not have all of our facts right about what really happened on that night over 2,000 years ago.

So, how familiar are you with the Christmas story as it’s presented in the Bible? We’ve put together a fun little video quiz that you can take HERE. Check it out, pass it onto your friends, and take some time this Christmas to read through the Gospel accounts of Jesus birth found in the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke.

The Bible in 29 Seconds

If you were to explain the Bible to a friend in 29 seconds, what would you say? Check out our attempt to do this and tell us what you think. When we boil the Bible down to 29 seconds we just end up with the top Bible points: creation, sin, Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection and eternal life.

thanks for your feedback
Drew Haninger
President

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