Merry Christmas

As we have arrived near the peak of the holiday season at Christmas, packages that have been prepared and wrapped carefully are about to be torn apart to reveal the prizes that await their benefactors. I know I am excited to watch my kids check out all of the toys, games, and goodies that my wife and I have prepared and carefully placed under the tree. As much as we try and avoid the commercial aspects of Christmas, somehow it always sucks us in, and we look forward to the stuff waiting under the tree. 

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However, the “New” Hope that we don’t have to wait to open is the love of God that readily awaits us to accept and then pass along to all those with whom we come in contact. God has given this love to us fully. We don’t deserve this gift, our lives would probably place us on the “Naughty List”, but God sent Christ as an infant, taught us, and sent us a huge gift by dying on the cross for our transgressions. Through the life and death of Christ, we have hope, peace is upon us, joy is available, and by all of these God wraps us up in love.

On this Christmas, I wish you all hope and peace, joy and God’s love abounding in all of your lives.

Even Greater Gifts

Now that the holiday season is past and the gift giving has ended for a while, I looked back at one of my deepest joys was getting the opportunity to look at the face of my son as he opened his birthday gifts earlier in the season, and Christmas gifts. For his birthday I decided to give him a skateboard (with a helmet and pads), and I was filled with so much glee that he wanted to go out and immediately put on the pads and go ride his skateboard. That feeling was only to be topped by “Christmas” morning, and he woke me up to tell me, “I got a kitchen daddy, I got a kitchen!”, when the night before I was up until 2 AM putting it together, but his excitement made the sleep deprivation worth it.

Although I am not always the most astute person when it comes to getting people gifts, I knew what it was that would bring him a great deal of joy. Certainly, the excitement of getting gifts is enough to bring joy, no matter what the gift might be, but there is a certain gleam in his eye when he gets some particular gifts. I was overjoyed that the gifts I picked out for him were those special gifts. Even when “Santa” gets the credit for bringing the gifts.

However, no matter how good I was at picking out gifts, God is better at getting us just what we need at the right time. At the same time, God is pleased to give us what we need, and sometimes we also get those wants. We are blessed, we are bestowed with gifts, and God expresses love to us in diverse ways. God wants a relationship with us no matter what, and has gone to the cross to show us the extent of that love.

Jesus teaches us about God’s gift giving in Luke’s Gospel,

“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks fore a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:9-13)

One of those great gifts God blessed me with after Christmas was snow. On Sunday after church the snow started coming down, and it kept going until the next morning. I was just in awe of the beauty with which God has blessed us. Although I never would have thought to ask God for snow, I hope that the worship filled response I had toward the snow, allowed God the same joy I had when I saw the excitement in my son’s face.

 

Dear Starbucks

Dear Starbucks,

Christmas is not over, so why have you taken down all of your festive decorations and your “holiday” menu already? I thought that I could walk in and still see your red colors, but the brown and green of “ordinary time” has already returned.  The gift of Christmas is 12 days long beginning on the 25th. Therefore, I wished that you would keep up your decorations up until at least the first of January, if not the full Christmas until January 6th on Epiphany, or maybe even until the Sunday after the 6th.

I fully recognize that you, Starbucks, are not interested in maintaining the church traditions about Christmas, and that it is true most people are not going to buy that extra pound of “Christmas Blend” after the 25th of December, I don’t fully understand the need to revert so quickly. I walked into your friend, Target, the other day and they were already trying to get me to buy into the Valentine’s Day hype. I understand this is the commercial aspect of our Western holiday structure, but I don’t go into Target for the experience, I do go into Starbucks for the experience.

If we let the 25th of December be the end of the “Commercial” Christmas, and spent the rest of Christmas resting in the fact that it is Christmas, maybe we would all have a better perspective on what it is we should all be focusing upon during Christmas. Maybe we should all take a lesson from “A Miracle on 34th Street”, when we begin to understand that we all benefit when we work together and strive for a common goal of meeting the “needs” of the world.

Oh well, I guess I will have to settle for leaving my tree up until Christmas is over.

Wishing you a warm and merry Christmas,

ELPISANDSHALOM.COM

So Many Things To Do, So Little Time (Christmas Eve Edition)

It is here.

It has come like the kid playing hide-and-seek who has just finished counting, and has begun the search for those hiding, proclaiming, “ready or not, here I come!”

“Oh no, I never finished putting the decorations up!”

“I’ve got to get to the mall and finish my Christmas shopping.”

“This house is a mess, I have to get it clean!”

“Those presents aren’t going to wrap themselves.”

“There is so much to do, and I have so little time to accomplish it!”

These thoughts are the thoughts of a frantic person that has probably procrastinated on getting their Christmas tasks completed, and is now stressing out over their inability to complete the task list. This person is me. Maybe I am continuing the procrastination by taking time to write this blog, since I have not written any since the month began. (Another thing on the list that got pushed to the side.)

This stress level is proof positive that I have failed to keep perspective on the season. A season that started so promising, as we got the tree up the week after Thanksgiving. My son’s help was fantastic, as he made sure the candy canes were placed perfectly, and all of his favorite ornaments were in the same place. This was fun and helped me focus on the fact that I have been blessed with a marvelous 3-year-old, and watching the Christmas excitement in his eyes has been marvelous.

However, that was where the peace and time to just be in the season started to fade, as one thing led to another, and stress and to do lists began to take over. I don’t think it is unique to the time around Christmas, but it seems to be amplified by the fact that there is one day where everything happens, and judging by the way stores look the week after x-mas, the season ends, off to the next holiday.

Well here I am, trying to gain more perspective. This season is about the eager anticipation of the coming of the savior of the world: A savior who has come to us first as a vulnerable baby, a savior that remains with us to guide us through the Holy Spirit, and a savior who promised to come again! It isn’t about lists or calendars, it is about breathing in deep the breath of God, and allowing our hearts to let go of hustle and bustle, and rest in the fact that the Creator of the Universe loves you, and provides more joys, more presents, and more love than any man in a Red Suit.

So I wish you all a Merry Christmas, let us celebrate, and I encourage you to take a deep breath today!