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Posts Tagged ‘christmas’

The Offense of Holiday?

Remember the time when the Jews were about to throw Jesus over a cliff until Jesus smote them with fire from heaven? No?  Well, what about that time when the disciples wouldn’t stay awake with him to pray and he cursed them with boils on their feet? No again?  Well you must have at least heard about the time when he was arrested for blasphemy and treason, they sentenced him to a brutal death, and Jesus called out that they would all “rue the day” while shooting death lasers from his eyes? I’m guessing no once more.

Jesus was on a mission.  It was a mission to reconcile the world to himself.  It was not a mission to prove his rightness.  It was not a mission to prove his might.  He did not live defensively.  He never tried to argue a point.  He simply spoke and lived the truth of his mission.  Never once did Jesus get upset with the Romans for not wishing him happy birthday, or as we say, merry Christmas.

True, I think it is silly that someone would get upset if I wish them Merry Christmas.  I can think of much better things to get upset with me about.   However, just as much as I don’t think I am taking away something from someone when I wish them joy, I do not think they can take anything from me when they refuse to receive.

The way we get upset about this issue is quite interesting.  “I can’t believe that clerk didn’t say Merry Christmas!  Do you know that she actually said, ‘happy holidays’? That wretch!”  It is amazing that the person, the retail clerk, we have disregarded in our kindness all year, the one we barely look at when they ask ‘paper or plastic’, the one we quickly say no to when they ask if we would like save 5%; suddenly their opinion matters!  “Happy Holidays, sir.”  “What?! You have brought dishonor to my family!”  It makes me wonder what our mission is as Christians.

How do we tell of “what great tidings he brings us”?  How do we communicate, “comfort ye, my people”? How is Christ adored and lifted high by the faithful? How, when we are so distracted from our mission by the pettiness of an insignificant insult?

We have become so used to the comfort and respect our faith has had in this country that we have forgotten that our mission is to deliver a light, not defend it. What’s the difference?  We must defend a light when it is a little candle or match and we are walking across the room.  We deliver light when we carry the olympic torch from town to town.  When we quibble over our offenses we are defending the match light of our faith and not the torch we’ve been given to deliver.

We have approached the world as if it is already lit up with the love of Christ. We then find ourselves offended when we discover it is not. Christmas is about bringing light into the darkness.  The mission of Christ is about bringing life where there is none. There is darkness in this world.  There is misunderstanding in this world. There is heartache in this world.  A matchstick approach just isn’t going to cut it.  We have been given a torch.  We don’t need to be offended or arrogant.  We simply need to live as Christ in the mission of his love and light.

Perhaps, if instead of smiting those who are offended by our faith, we live our faith more clearly and graciously, we might hear and see more merry Christmas’.  It is also possible they will be even more offended.  But if Jesus can love his enemy all the way to the cross, I can probably bear a little disappointment when my well wishes are despised.  Live this Christmas, live your life, knowing that no one can take away the light Christ has given you.

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When I was training for the Augusta 70.3 Half Ironman this past summer (you know I have to slip that in from time to time), there was a repeated axiom; Don’t forget to breathe.  As mammals most of us know and can appreciate the importance of breathing.  If we stop breathing, well, we stop.  Oxygen serves to circulate our blood which, apparently, is needed from head to toe.

There is a tendency when exercising, to hold our breath.  Caught up in the moment of strain and exertion we loose sight of the big picture of what our body is doing and take hold of a false sense of strength by holding our breath and cutting off a vital source of life. Air.  This leads to quicker burn out in our workouts and impedes our fitness progression.  We end up serving our workout instead of our workouts serving us.

Our walk with God has a tendency to turn into something akin to “forgetting to breathe”.  We have established religion to give us an ordered way to follow God.  After the Hebrews were delivered from the Egyptians they were given a long list of religious laws, festivals, and rituals to follow.  The purpose was not for “religions” sake.  The purpose was so that the people would be able to organize their living in such a way that would help them encounter God in every aspect of their life.  The practices were done as a pathway that lead to a life with God.  Over time, God ceased to be the goal and religion became not just a means, but the ends as well.  This was what Jesus countered throughout the Gospels.  The religious leaders had forgotten that God was the goal.  They began to hold religion up higher than God.

This is not to say that religion is not good, but we must not make religion an idol.  There was an encounter Jesus had with the religious leaders about this very thing.  Jesus and the Disciples were approached by a man with a crippled hand.  Jesus healed the man.  Work was not allowed on the Sabbath and this amounted to work in the eyes of the religious lawyers.  They confronted Jesus.  Jesus asked the leaders who would not rescue a mule that fell in a hole.  He then told them that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

This time of the year we are bombarded with Christmas.  It is easy for stress to overtake us and grab ahold like a vice.  Did I buy the right gift?  Am I observing Christmas appropriately?  Can I afford this?  Do I have better Christmas lights than my neighbor (yes, I do)?  Is there enough room at the house for the in-laws, because I know there is enough room at the Holiday Inn (does not apply to my wonderful in-laws)? If you have found yourself in a place where you are serving Christmas, stop.  Breathe.

Christmas is made for man, not man made for Christmas.  God became flesh in the form of his son Jesus Christ so that we might have life.  In order to live, we have to breath.  In this case it means taking a moment, settling down, and gaining perspective.  We “deck the halls” so that we can enjoy a festive atmosphere.  If “decking the halls” has you contemplating manslaughter, perhaps it’s time to reexamine your life.  May your activities this season serve you in your enjoyment of your family and friends.  May your activity be a way in which you can encounter God in more ways than just asking him “to get me through this season”.  Allow this Christmas season to open you to the possibilities of life and joy.  Allow this season to serve you in a way that brings you life. Don’t forget to breathe.

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From Griswald to Hope

The house is trimmed with Christmas lights.  The palm tree is adorned with similar bright decor.  Candy canes are aligned in formation around the sidewalk with an inflatable Polar Bear at its charge.  It is a balmy winter wonderland in Florida.  But something just isn’t right.

About a month ago Amanda asked me what I thought about a fake tree.  Once I realized that she wasn’t being weird and wanting a fake fica in the living room and that she was talking about a Christmas tree, I was faced with a decision.  We ultimately decided on a fake Christmas tree.  It was put up with ease. The lights went on without a hitch.  I did not shock myself with a broken bulb and I did not have to twist and turn the tree until it appeared straight.

The same uneventful turn of events happened while putting up the outside lights.  I used a new tool that did not involve staples or a ladder.  I pulled nothing and I did not cut myself.  Nor did I face near death by twisting and turning atop a broken ladder in order to staple one more section of lights without moving said ladder over.  Yes, I’ve been called Clark Griswald more than once in the past several years.

But what’s not right about all of this?  Everything went smooth.  Not accidents. No incidents.  Why am I frustrated that I was able to put up my tree and light the outside in about 5 hours faster time than before.  I don’t miss the ladder. I don’t miss the prickly pine needles. I don’t miss having to water the tree. I don’t miss the aching back.  It’s weird, but what I missed was the disfunction of the set up.  I miss the accidents.  I miss the squirrel that tried to attack me last year. The chaos being enticing to a point where health seemed unreal and unnatural.

I see this happen in people’s lives all the time.  We want to get healthy.  We want to do things rights.  The reality, however, is that health is scary.  The crisis becomes a drug.  We forget how to function in health and therefor sabotage ourselves anytime we start to live “right”.  We generally take the initial step to make our goals, but we rarely use the tools necessary to get us there.

This Sunday is the first Sunday in Advent.  Hope is the theme of this week for our church.  Moving from Hope to Joy.  There is a difference in the beginning and the end.  Hope sets our sights on the thing we seek.  Joy is the celebration in its fruition.  What do you hope for?  What do you hope in?  Does what or who you hope in matter enough to change how you live?

Amanda and I wanted to spend less time setting up and taking down these decorations.  The only way to achieve that was to act differently.  Once I got over the trap of tradition and pratfalls, I really enjoy what we accomplished and how everything looks.  One other thing happened.  A strand of lights went out.  If I had set up the old way it would have been a decorating disaster to fix.  Living out of a new approach enabled me to fix the strand with ease as well as add to our overall design.  In our lives, living out of hope does not mean life will not diverge into the frustrating, but it can offer you a way to make that frustration work for you and not agains you.  If you want Joy in your life, start with Hope and allow that hope to change how you live.

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