Tag Archives: Christmas

The two Christmases #BeChristInChristmas

Sometimes I feel like there are really two Christmases.  There is the Christmas that drives our nation’s economy.  It gives us “Black Friday,” where retail stores turn red bottom lines into black ones.  It gives us a myriad of commercials, jobs, advertisements, tie-ins, door-busters, and TV specials.  It focuses on, at best, the joy of giving and gathering with family.  It focuses, at worst, on consumerism, materialism, and the illusion that stuff=happiness.  This is the Christmas that the vast majority of Americans celebrate, and it is only superficially linked to the birth of a Nazarene boy that would defend the widows and children, stand up to religious hypocrisy, break down man-made barriers, challenge the status quo of the powerful, and become the Savior of the world. It is an important part of our culture, and it is not going anywhere.

Then there is the other Christmas.  It is the Christmas that celebrates a child.  It celebrates the moment when God became flesh.  It celebrates the God that became a man so that we may know how to love.  This Christmas is about Jesus.  It is a reminder that Jesus came to change and save the world.  Jesus was anointed by God to…

“Proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’” (Luke 4:18)

For many, the desire to “Keep Christ in Christmas” is a backlash against the first Christmas I described.  They see that in many ways Christ has been removed from Christmas celebrations, and they mourn that.  I understand, but I think getting upset over someone saying “Happy Holidays,” or not finding a baby Jesus in a public park is misguided.  If you’re looking for Jesus in the secular, cultural Christmas, then you’re looking in the wrong place. In the past, I’ve written some pretty angry and pointed posts about this subject.  I don’t feel like being angry anymore.

Instead, I offer this suggestion.  The only way to keep Christ in Christmas is to be Christ in Christmas.  If you want to find Christ this Christmas, you can still find him.  If you think someone can take Christ out of Christmas by removing a statue from a park, then I think you underestimate the power of Jesus Christ.  No one can take Christ out of Christmas where the people of God are being the body of Christ.

If you want to keep Christ in Christmas, then spend as much money on others in need as you do on your family for gifts.   Work for justice.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with your God.  Love your neighbors. Love your enemies.  Forgive.

Happy Holidays

The United Methodist Committee on Relief offers a few suggestions, and resources to actually get it done.  I’d love to find out more ways that you are going to #BeChristInChristmas.  I would love to see this hashtag become active on twitter.  Share ways that you are being the body of Christ.  Are you volunteering at a homeless shelter? Donating to a clothes closet or food pantry?  Are you sharing your gifts and blessings so that other may be blessed?  Share it.  Tweet it.  Do more than wish someone Merry Christmas.  Be someone’s merry Christmas.

As Teresa Avila said, “Christ has no body but yours.  No feet on earth, but yours.”  So if you want to keep Christ in Christmas.  #BeChristInChristmas.

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Christmas Cover Photos

It would be awesome if at some point this Christmas season, #BeChristThisChristmas could trend on twitter.  These two cover photos could help people start thinking about how they can do something more at Christmas than complain about store signs and school plays that don’t proselytize.

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Waiting for the child

My perspective on waiting for Christmas was forever changed when my wife was expecting our first daughter.  During my first Advent as a  pastor, I was not only expecting the coming of the Christ child, but was eagerly anticipating the coming of my first daughter (who would be born in January).

Anticipating the coming of a child is like no other kind of waiting I’ve ever experienced.  We did our best to prepare.  We put together a crib.  We stocked up on diapers.  We were given clothes and books and toys and countless well-wishes and prayers.  We were overwhelmed by the generosity of our family and friends.  As we waited for the child to come we knew that we were surrounded by an entire church family that was eagerly waiting with us.

It was appropriate that the process of giving birth began in church.  At the end of a Bible study, surrounded by a few of our closest friends, my wife knew that the baby was coming.  About 18 hours later we were holding our daughter.

I held that precious, fragile, resilient little baby in my arms and I knew one thing: I was not ready.

There is no way to be totally ready for a baby to come.  There are certainly different levels of preparedness, but no one can anticipate, guess or even imagine what it is like to suddenly be entrusted with a child.  In that moment I knew that I would do anything – any thing – to protect that child and her mother.  She changed my perspective.  She changed my goals.  She changed my dreams, my hopes, my fears and my worries.  For the rest of my life my joy would be magnified by her smile, my despair would be multiplied by her tears, and my peace would depend on her safety.  A baby changes everything – and that is the message of Christmas.

The birth of Jesus changed everything.  The eternal Word of God was made flesh, and nothing would ever be the same.

At Advent we are called to prepare the way of the Lord.  There are many things that we can do to prepare the way of the Lord.  I’ve been tweeting #BeChristInChristmas with ideas and ways to work for the Kingdom of God during the Christmas season.  We can read the Bible, pray, study, worship, serve, and wait.  There are so many ways that we can prepare for the coming of the Christ child, but the fact remains is that we can never be fully ready.

The birth of Jesus changed everything, and as we move through Advent my prayer is that Christmas can break through the hearts and minds of all who would separate themselves from God.  Allow God to change your perspective.  Allow God to change your goals.  Open up and let Jesus change your dreams, your hopes, your fears and your worries.  Allow your Joy to be magnified by the glory of God.  Invite the Holy Spirit to weep with you in your times of despair.  May the peace of Christ – the peace that surpasses all understanding – be with you.  This Christmas, Jesus can change everything.

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Keep Christ in Christmas

I tell people, “Happy Holidays.”  Does that make me any less of a Christian?  I don’t think it does, but apparently some people do.  As we approach the holiday season, I am bracing myself for the onslaught of “Keep Christ in Christmas” slogans on facebook.  I decided to make a preemptive strike, and created this picture.

Happy Holidays

It seems to have struck a chord.  Maybe I’m not the only one that is tired of the righteous indignation of people that think that there is a war on Christmas because a department store puts up a sign that says “Happy Holidays.”

Believe me, I want to keep Christ in Christmas, but I’m not looking for Christ at JC Penny or Kohls.  If I want to find Christ in Christmas I will look to a local food pantry or a wardrobe ministry.  I will look to a homeless shelter or domestic abuse shelter.  If I want to find Christ in Christmas I will go to worship with my brothers and sisters in Christ.  I will sing the songs of the ages, and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to the world.  I will invite my neighbor to worship with me, or I will read the Bible and pray.

Nothing can keep Christ out of Christmas if I endeavor to be the body of Christ this Christmas.  So please, spare me the “war on Christmas” rhetoric.

Do you want to know who is waging a war on Christmas?  Do you want to know who is spoiling the birth of Christ?  It is not the people that have the gall to greet you with “Happy Holidays.”  The ones waging a war on Christmas are those that think greed and discrimination are Christian values.   They are the ones that think that performance fleece, ipads, diamond earrings, and flatscreens have anything to do with the birth of Jesus Christ.

And before I get too carried away with this rant, let me pause for confession.  I know that I can get caught up in the consumerism of it all.  I enjoy buying presents for my family and my daughter.  I enjoy receiving presents, and am already thinking about “What I want for Christmas.”  I know that I will enjoy a holiday in a warm home with plenty of food, and a few gadgets that I certainly don’t need.  But I’m going to try.

I’m going to try and live simpler.  I’m going to try and seek the true gift of Christmas – the peace of Jesus Christ.  I am going to pray more.  I am going to read more.  I’m going to give a little more.  I’m going to sin, but I’m also going to forgive.  My economic gain or lower prices will come at the cost of another, but I’m also going to do justice.  I’m going to be selfish but I’m also going to show mercy.  I’m going to be very happy if this little picture catches on and goes viral, but I’m also going to try and walk humbly with my God.

I’m going to do all of those things because that, I think, is the true meaning of Christmas.

On twitter use #BeChristInChristmas to share how you are working for the Kingdom of God this Christmas season.

11 Ways to Be Christ in Christmas

Be Christ This Christmas – Another poster for Facebook.

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The Longest Night

On Christmas Eve churches everywhere will be filled with happy people.  The lights will be on, the poinsettias arranged, the sweaters will be bright, and the smiles will be wide.  People will gather in the pews and sing the traditional carols, hear the Christmas story, and light candles.  Millions on Christmas Eve night will rise and sing “Joy to the World.”

Many of those same people that will rise and sing on December 24 will go to bed on December 21 and face the longest night of the year in despair. There will be many that lie down wondering, “Where is the joy?”  For people that are hurting, struggling, or mourning, the longest night of the year is so very long.

The bills have not been paid, the credit debt is mounting, and work is hard to come by.  The night is so very long.

My mother died at this time of the year.  Christmas won’t be the same.  I miss her smile.  I miss her words of wisdom.  I miss her so much, and the night is so very long.

For the last 53 Christmases I have been with my husband.  He held me in his arms as we watched the children, then the grandhcildren, open their presents.  He made hot cocoa every Christmas morning.  I do not even know the recipe, and the night is so very long.

The onesies I got for Christmas last year are put in a box in the attic.  Never worn.  Never held.  I miss my child and I never held him in my arms, and the night is so very long.

The night can be so very long.  The night can be so very dark and cold.

Some say that everything happens for a reason.  God is in control, and has a plan.  But what kind of God could plan such things?  Is this the God that I am supposd to celebrate?  Is this the God that I am supposed to worship?  How can I sing “Joy to the World,” when there is none in my own heart?

Christmas does not mean everything is okay.  Christmas did not end the sadness, the pain or the despair.  For those that are hurting at Christmas, I hope you know that you are not alone.  I do not offer you simple platitudes.  I do not offer you easy answers.  All I can offer you is my love.

I don’t think that everything happens for a reason.  I think there are terrible things that happen everyday that God did not plan. I also think that God gives us the power and the grace to overcome even the worst that can happen.  God gives us the chance to heal and be healed; to feed and be fed; to love and be loved.

The longest night can be so very long.  Christmas does not end the night, but it gives us hope for the dawn.

Liturgy for a worship service “For those that mourn at Christmas”

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Happy Holidays

A few weeks ago I read a letter to the editor which basically said that anyone who says, “Happy Holidays,” is a P.C., Christmas-hating, God-ridiculing, Communist.  Okay, so those weren’t his exact words, but he was clear that he was not a fan of the alliterative greeting.

I really do not understand why people do not like the greeting “Happy Holidays.”  I too celebrate Christmas, but if I want to say, “Happy Holidays,” does that make me less Christian?  Is saying “Merry Christmas,” really the badge of true Christianity?  When someone says “Merry Christmas,” are they then keeping the day holy?

The only reason most people care about whether or not you say “HH” or “MC” is because Bill O’Reilly made it a big deal.  Before he claimed that there is a “war on Christmas,” no one noticed said war.  “Seasons Greetings,” and “Happy Holidays” have been accepted greetings for years.  There is an old Christmas song, “Happy Holidays,” that no one seemed to mind.  The word holiday is a contraction of the words holy day, so in effect, we are saying “Happy Holy Days,” thus keeping Christmas holy.

Plus, this is simply the time of year when there are a lot of holy days.  Beginning with Thanksgiving, then Christmas, and New Years, this is considered the holiday season.  I’m not sure why acknowledging a coincidence of our calendar is somehow seen as “attacking Christmas.”  Another holy day in this season is Hannukah.  Hannukah is actually a minor feast day in the Jewish tradition, but has been co-opted for commercial reasons.  Much like Christmas was.

For many centuries Christmas was not a holiday.  Two of the four Biblical Gospels give no account of Jesus’ birth, and Matthew and Luke have almost no references back to the birth stories once they are over.  The birth stories were not a big deal to early Christians.  Christmas only became a holiday as a way to appease pagans in the Roman empire.  It is little more than a co-opted winter festival.

But today it has become an important holiday.  Not only in our religion, but more so in our culture and economy.  Many retailers depend on the holiday season to survive.  And mind you, not everyone buying a bunch of crap at Christmas time is Christian.  For the most part, Christmas has become a cultural holiday – driven by economic need much more than religious fervor.

So when people get angry when someone says “Happy Holidays,” I get angry that they are angry.  If you want to keep Christ in Christmas, worry about things more important than the signs and decorations at JC Penney.  You think Christmas should be about Christ?  Then take up your cross and follow Jesus – not into department stores, but into the prisons, the hospitals, among the poor and the outcast.  You get angry when someone doesn’t say “Christmas?”  Try getting angry over Christ’s children dying of malnutrition or AIDS.  Try getting angry over the fact that the Christmas chocolate you love so much was kept cheap on the back of the working poor.  Try getting angry over the fact that Christians are keeping people out of churches with their closed minds and closed doors.

You want to keep Christ in Christmas? Try putting Christ in your life first.  Then we’ll talk about how to greet each other.  And if you want a truly Christian greeting, one that makes no mistake whether or not you follow the Christ child, try, “the peace of Christ be with you.”

You brood of vipers.  You hypocrites.  Try getting upset over something that matters.  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.christmas meme 2

11 ways to Be Christ In Christmas

A Reflection at Christmas for those that mourn

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Blue Christmas

Yes, it is a cheesy Elvis song, but it is also the reality for so many during this season.  Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy and celebration; it is the time when the Word was made Flesh, when God broke through the darkness of night to reveal the power of grace.  Even if you keep only to the secular meaning of Christmas, it is supposed to be a time of laughter, of family, of giving.

For so many, Christmas is none of these things. It is simply the time when the pain, which is usually numb, comes back in agonizing sharpness.  For those that mourn at Christmas, for those who have lost loved ones in the past year, for those that are lonely and lost and seeking desperately for someone to cling to, Christmas can be a stark reminder of the emptiness.

It is not that they begrudge others of their joy.  It is not because they are jealous.  Often, the source of their sadness is the same source for the joy of others.  Christmas is linked to our childhood, to our memories.  The signs of Christmas are a seasonal reminder of what once was.  For some, this means joyful memories of happy gifts, singing songs, warm hugs and delicious foods.  For others, this means memories of abuse, empty chairs, meager tables.

Blue Christmas is a reminder that not all celebrate during this season.  Blue Christmas is a reminder that not all holiday memories are happy ones.  Blue Christmas is a reminder that those that mourn are not alone.

If you are mourning this Christmas, there is nothing wrong with you.  It is okay to be sad.  It is okay to be lonely.  It is okay, and you are not alone.  There are others that are struggling.  There are others that cannot face the depth of the cold black night.  There are others that do not want to wake.

Sometimes this knowledge is enough – not enough to lose the pain – but enough to get through it.  Sometimes it is enough to simply know, “I am not alone.”  So I offer you this reminder, you are not alone.

You weep, and I weep with you.  But more importantly, God weeps with you. 

You are not alone – never.  Not in the depth of despair.  Not in the darkest shadow.  You are not alone, and God has the power to break through the deepest darkness, even if you don’t.

For that, I hope we can all say, “Hallelujah.”  Even if it is a cold and broken Hallelujah.

And if you are in Chenoa on Thursday, December 18 at 7:00 p.m., stop by the United Methodist Church and be with us for our Blue Christmas service.

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