Thursday, December 10, 2015

Truth beyond the Tinsel

Good December morning! This time of year has always had such a "magical" sensation to it. It intrigues me, that even still to this day, there is something different about this season in our culture. Why is that? Why does our focus change? Why are people more willing to give? Why, in general, are people more selfless during this holiday season?

Track with me for a minute as I unpack some thoughts floating around in my head :) The general consensus and motivation behind this holiday season is giving. We give gifts and focus on family and others this time of year. A lot of people would point it to the man behind the secular screen of the holidays- Santa Clause. He gives to those who are "nice". As children, we're indoctrinated that our behavior will affect how our Christmas turns out. I think, to some degree, that same line of thinking trickles into our adult view of Christmas. People are so quick to be politically correct these days and use "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas". They want to remove any "religious" connotations to this season and simply put the focus on being kind to one another- being a modern day Santa (no religious strings attached). But allow me to enlighten you a little bit.

Where did Santa Clause originate? Do you know?

He wasn't always the jolly, big-bellied, white bearded giver of gifts that we see today. No. Over the years he has morphed into that. But the original "Santa", St. Nicholas, was a skinny, dark-bearded bishop that got his reputation from helping out a family with a dowry that they couldn't afford for their daughters. Over time, people have changed him into what he is today. The story of our modern day Santa is a far cry from the original one. Interesting. Even the motivation behind the character has changed. The original Santa loved God and gave because he saw a need- not because anyone had "earned" it. Our modern day Santa gives only to those who meet his standards of being "good". But yet people still look to him as the "savior" of this time of year- the motivation behind the actions.

Now let's compare that radically different story to the actual reason we celebrate this time of year. It's a story that is over 2000 years old (MUCH older than the story of Santa by the way) and has stayed consistently the same for that amount of time. Interesting. It's the story of the Creator of the world, humbling himself into human form to pay an enormous price- in order to rescue the creation that He loves so very much. He was FULLY God and FULLY man. He took on the most humbling form a human can have- a helpless baby. He lived and faced every type of struggle and hardship that a human can face. He spent his life teaching us how to live life the best way- the way it was created to be:

With Him.

He then, WILLINGLY took on the punishment that WE deserved and paid the price to bring us back to a union with Him for eternity. He paid that even for those He KNEW would reject it. Because He loves us all that much. Wow. Simply....astounding. And THAT story hasn't changed a lick since it happened.


I believe it's because it is absolute truth. Although the original "Santa" is a true story, he is not a savior. People are looking for a savior and therefore have morphed him over time into something he isn't. That can be said about a lot of different "characters" and people over time- changing to fit needs. But the ONE TRUE Savior hasn't changed since the beginning of time. He IS the answer for all of our needs and desires. All we have to do is surrender to Him. It's amazing that once you do, your desires fade and you are filled with His desires, peace, joy, and hope. It's absolutely transforming and the MOST precious and beautiful thing you will ever experience! So....where are you looking for truth? In a constantly-changing story of Santa? Or in the consistently same absolute truth of the Gospel?

Jesus really IS the answer to everything and the absolute reason to celebrate :)

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Redeeming Christmas

This year is different. My heart is heavy coming into this holiday season. I'm struggling to find joy in all of the upcoming gatherings and festivities. I find myself actually even dreading some of them. (Gasp!) I'm disgusted at the thought of things like Santa Clause, Elf on the Shelf, and other silly holiday traditions. I know that sounds horrible, but it's the truth. Why the 180 degree attitude change you ask? Well after some thought and processing, I think I know why.

It's not "Christmas".

It's our culture's version of a holiday season. And it has absolutely nothing to do with the real reason there was a celebration to begin with during this time of year. Nothing. At. All.

These things aren't inherently bad! In fact, a lot of things that are done this time of year can produce unity, fun traditions, and happy memories. But the unity fades, traditions are put away until next year, and the memories are stored away for another time and sometimes even lost. Then it's back to life as usual. Tell me, where is the true lasting joy in that?? Where is the Gospel?? Is the purpose of this time of year just for that?? That seems....empty. We've lost sight of why we celebrate during this season.

So I'm fighting back. I'm redeeming Christmas. I'm not saying we won't do our own traditions and even participate in holiday things, but the real emphasis will be put on the Advent season in our household. When I ponder about what God must think of how we celebrate this time of year, that makes me rethink things.

Christmas & Advent are about Christ.

Maybe it's because our world is at a state of unrest. Or maybe it's because God is really pressing this on my heart. Whatever the reason is, I feel the need to change things. As Christians, EVERYTHING we do should point back to Christ. He is THE reason we exist and have any reason at all to hope! The work on the cross should COMPEL us to do things that bring Him glory! ESPECIALLY when we gather as a church body, our intentions should be to unite together in Him and to remind each other of the incredible gift we've been given. Always.

I'm disappointed to see the lack of Advent celebration in our churches and homes. This is supposed to be a time dedicated to celebrating the birth of Christ AND looking forward to His return. When I think about that, it makes me rethink how we do things around here.

Now I'm not saying that we won't watch the fun movies, drink hot cocoa, and do some of our "secular" traditions. We will do that :) But, this year, our biggest focus is our Jesse tree, Advent celebration, and pointing it all back to Christ. I want my children to immediately think of the real reason for this season whenever they hear anything referring to it. I'm not being Scrooge, nor am I being judgmental about what anyone else chooses to do at their home. Please don't misunderstand. This "rant" was simply a depiction of my own "wake-up call" for our family. God is molding and teaching my heart to live a gospel-centered life (and it's often an ugly realization of self but also a transforming realization of grace!). This is just to share what He's been pressing on me. Will I do this perfectly? Definitely not. But that doesn't discourage me. It's simply an opportunity to receive God's grace and show it to others.

I hope and pray that this Christmas season will point your heart to the real reason we celebrate. And it's a year-round celebration! Christ isn't just for Christmas. He's for eternity! May your hearts be full of true joy from the only one who can give it! Blessings :)