Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas is..

The meaning of Christmas is not family. (Nope, it really isn't.)

The meaning of Christmas is not Santa Claus and gifts.

The meaning of Christmas is, in the (paraphrased) words of the Grinch, "something a bit more".

So while you gather round the tree to open those gifts (from Santa or others) tomorrow morning, remember that this simply wouldn't be, if it weren't for the plan that God set in motion at the beginning of Time when we Fell from grace.

Christmas wouldn't exist, and we would still be a "people crying out in darkness" and waiting desperately for God's promise of a Savior to be fulfilled.

Yes, Christmas is a season of joy for most, but even amongst all those cups of eggnog and all those roasted chestnuts and every single scrap of paper and ribbon, never forget the reason for which that blessed baby boy was born as one of us.

We cannot have Christmas without Good Friday and Easter, because without the cross and the empty tomb, Christ's birth means nothing.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Christmas is God for us, forever. It is one of the central moments in all of human history, and so it is fitting that we celebrate the birth of our most precious Savior with festivities and gift giving and lots of twinkling lights. But let us remember why He became man, and as we gather around Word and Sacrament tonight and tomorrow morning in our brightly light churches, that we receive Him, God with us, Immanuel.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Christmas traditions


Growing up, my family had a tradition of getting out the Christmas decorations on or around my birthday, November 29th, as that was near enough to Advent and also I have a history of being obsessed with Christmas, so it worked out well. There were certain things I did literally every year, such as dragging out the really old artificial tree and setting it up on the freezing cold front porch, lights, ornaments, and tinsel included. It was a closed porch, so there was no wind, but it was still super cold!

In my own house now, the decorating still begins around my birthday, but we our main tree is a real tree, from one of the places nearby, since that's what Nate's family has always done. With our wedding anniversary being on the 3rd, we try to structure going to pick out our tree around then. And then it's home to wrestle with the lights, which is my father's job back home but I definitely do it now because dear hubby doesn't want to deal with it, heehee. I do not mind, since Dad taught me how to get lights on nearly every inch of evergreen. Our tree positively glows with multi-colored Christmas cheer.

Christmas traditions can be fun, sentimental, or downright obnoxious, depending on you and your family. Over the month of December, I will share with you the history behind various Christmas traditions, such as the evergreen tree, the poinsettia, Santa Claus/Father Christmas, and others.


Monday, December 1, 2014

You're most likely not "keeping Christ in Christmas".

Happy December and blessed Advent to everyone! To kick off the month of December, I am calling attention to a meme that has been viral for many years now, even before memes were memes and the internet was prominent. I'm talking about the phrase" Keep Christ in Christmas" that everyone shares around this time of year. Sounds harmless enough, but there are many reasons why it is not.

  • When you say things like "keep Christ in Christmas" you are actually turning the sentiment back upon yourself, (there's an understood "you/I" at the beginning of that phrase; grammar FTW) turning it into a work. We cannot by any means "keep Christ" in anything, because we are poor, miserable sinners who will find every little detour to keep Him out.

  • If you profess to be a child of God through Jesus Christ, then why does family trump Christ? I'm serious about this one. I have known far too many churches to cancel their services if Christmas falls on a Sunday, in the name of family. Sorry, but that's not right. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are not about family, or parties, or alcohol and food, or gifts. They are about the birth of our precious Savior, the greatest gift we will ever receive. So please don't tell me you are keeping Christ in Christmas or that "Jesus is the reason for the season" if you do not go to church and gather around the Word and Sacrament on these Holy Days.

  • The absolute most important thing you can even do during this, the reflective season of Advent, is to attend a church that focuses on Christ and how He was long foretold. Truly confessional churches structure their services around the coming of Christ, all leading up to His humble birth.

That being said, I am not a scrooge. (See my most recent post!) Of course spend time with family, go to Christmas parties, and enjoy the food, drink, and gifts. But I challenge my readers to remember why we even celebrate during this festive season. Gather the family on Christmas Eve and find a traditional candelight church service nearby. If you truly want Jesus Christ to remain the center of our celebration, as you are implying with the sharing of that meme, then remember the reason He was even brought down to earth to be born and live as one of us.

This one is MUCH better.

O Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory, King of kings, and Lord of lords, the Son of the living God and Son of David, come. Come now to Your Church that you have purchased with Your blood. Come with Your gracious presence, that we may rejoice in You. Come and rule over us, that we may serve and follow You. Come with Your love, humility, and perfect obedience, and let Your lowliness become our glory. Come into the midst of Your people and bless us, for we are Your heritage. Forgive us our sin, and do not angrily cast away Your servants, for You are meek and gracious. Clothe us with the garment of Your righteousness, for You are the only righteous one and our helper. Satisfy us with the abundance of Your mercy, for You did become poor for our sakes, that by Your poverty we might be made rich. Hear us, Lord Jesus, for the sake of Your holy name. Amen.
~prayer for Advent, Lutheran Book of Prayer (CPH), page 120